Buying classic cars as an investment

Bonhams has a number of major sales coming up soon, which typically attract bids from serious classic car buyers from across the globe. This year, they expect to see records broken again for values achieved ? with some exceptional lots, including racers with impeccable pedigrees, on offer at their 20th annual Goodwood Festival of Speed sale.

Highlights include a rare Maserati 300S Sports-Racing Spider, an Austin-Healey 100 special test car, plus the most important historic racing car to have ever been offered at a public auction ? an F1 car that the legendary Fangio won races in.

But which classics are the manufacturers, and models, that we should be looking to add to our collection today? Bonhams Group Motoring Director James Knight is keen to highlight renewed in interest in veteran cars, sports racing cars from the 1950s, classic Ferraris including the iconic Daytona,  Aston Martins, and a number of Porsches, particularly the early 70s 911RS.

Jaguar E-Types are also still a perennial favourite?, Knight continues, ?but be wary of conversions, such as LHD cars from the US being converted to right hand to be driven here. Also, Bentleys with pedigree and impeccable coachwork are still realising high prices. Bonhams has the world record for the Berkin Bentley which sold for just over £5million?

Aston Martin

With 2017 being the company’s centenary anniversary, and a host of commemorative events being held worldwide, Aston Martins? are at the forefront of people’s minds at present as highly desirable cars to invest in.

Knight confirms this is indeed a good manufacturer to consider. He and his colleagues recently looked at past catalogues and compared the prices these cars sold for at a Bonhams sale back in 2000, to what they are worth today. Forty Astons that sold then returned around £2million, those same cars today are now valued at more at the £8million mark ? over three times the value.

An indication of this surge in value can be seen at the forthcoming Aston Martin and Lagonda sale at Newport Pagnell on May 18th, where a multi-award winning 1960 DB4GT Bertone ?Jet? ? the only one of its type ever built, is expected to realise between £2.8 and £3.8m, a staggering amount.

Veteran Cars

A resurgence of interest in the dawn of motoring has resulted in a new demand for these special cars built between 1886 and 1904, who are performing better now in recent years than for quite some time? says Knight.

People have seemed to have had less of an affinity, a connection with these veteran models than sportscars from the 50s, 60s, 70s ? the cars that they remember being around during their childhood. Things have changed ? maybe due to the presence of these stately cars in hugely popular historic dramas such as Downton Abbey, but also due to a revival of veteran runs and other events you can actually take part in with these cars now?

Knight advises you invest in models from well-known manufacturers ? not from the numerous, often rather obscure ones that sprung up overnight and went out of business or stopped production after just a year or two. ?Wolseley, MMC and Panhard Lavassor models are amongst the most desirable, and go for those with at least twin cylinders and as original a body as possible. It’s about preservation rather than restoration?

Wolseley Motors

Wolseley models may be not the ones to invest in for those interested in purity of line and performance, but in terms of ground-breaking innovation and heritage, they don’t come much better.

Wolseley Motors Limited was a British motor vehicle manufacturer founded in early 1901 by Vickers and Herbert Austin. The company made a range of large luxury models that dominated the Edwardian era, and went on to become the largest motor manufacturer in the UK, producing 12,000 cars a year. But it is this over-expansion that is said to have led to the company being forced into receivership in 1927, when it was bought by William Morris as a personal investment, and years later moved into his Morris Motors empire.

Panhard et Levassor

A car manufacturing company founded by René Panhard and Émile Levassor in 1887, Panhard Levassor launched its first model three years later, which was based on a Daimler engine licence.

These first vehicles set many of the modern standards in car engineering. In 1895 Panhard et Levassor is credited with developing the first modern transmission. The company offered its Systeme Panhard model in 1891 for 3500 francs, complete with a front-mounted engine with rear wheel drive, and sliding-gear transmission.

Despite being hardly aerodynamic, Panhard et Levassor cars were also raced. In 1895, 1,205cc Panhard et Levassors finished first and second in the Paris?Bordeaux?Paris race, and these cars went on to win numerous more races from 1895 to 1903.

The Panhard et Levassor Company became one of the largest and most profitable car manufacturers on the planet before World War I.

1950’s Sports Racing Cars

Iconic, stunning looking and still decent to drive now, it’s easy to see why 1950’s Sports Racing cars are proving hugely desirable at present to buy as an investment or simply hire for the weekend. As with the veteran cars, an emergence of revival events enable people to not only see these cars in all their glory, but, race them too, should they wish.

James Knight says ?In collecting terms, Sports Racing cars of the 1950s are the most coveted of all. The competition between the great marques from this period ? Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, Maserati ? is as fierce today as it was then. The Maserati 300S is right up there among the greats. A car equally at home on road or track, offering impeccable handling and, crucially, able to accommodate two in comfort, it is the perfect all-round vehicle and eligible for all the great historic events, including the Mille Miglia, Le Mans Classic and Goodwood Revival?

At Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction, we’ve a superb Maserati 300S, we expect to reach £3.5 ? 4million, plus an Austin Healey Works which should realise 500K?

Austin Healey Test Car

This model –  ?NOJ 392?,  is the lightweight Austin-Healey 100 Special Test Car that was the Works team entry into the 1953 Mille Miglia and Le Mans 24 Hour Race. The sixth built at Warwick in early 1953, the second of four racing models, and the only one to remain in its original form, this important car is highly original and offered in exceptional condition.

Knight comments ?having handled the sister car, NOJ 393, that achieved a new world record for any Austin-Healey in December 2011, I am naturally delighted that Bonhams has been asked to handle the sale of NOJ 392? This car uniquely remains in Special Test Car configuration, the specification that it ran as a Works entry at the 1953 Le Mans 24-hours and Mille Miglia races. It is the sole survivor in this form as NOJ 391 no longer exists and NOJ 393 evolved into the 100S.

Maserati 300S

The Maserati 300S certainly has its fans ? including Dire Straits? frontman Mark Knopfler, who’s been a long term owner and racer of this stunning model.

Produced by Maserati of Italy between 1955-58, the 300S successfully competed in the FIA’s World Sportscar Championship. Twenty eight examples were produced of this racer, which was powered by a 3.0-litre, 245 bhp engine based on the Maserati 250F’s Straight-6 . After an unremarkable first season it won at the famous Nurburgring in 1956 and finished second in the Championship overall.

Another fan is Sir Stirling Moss, who described the 3-litre, 6-cylinder-engined Maserati 300S as having been: ?…one of my favourite front-engined sports Maseratis ? one of the easiest, nicest, best-balanced sports-racing cars ever made…?.

The 300S on sale at the forthcoming auction is chassis no. 3053.This cracking example of the coveted model was the third 300S ordered by the great American collector, Briggs Swift Cunningham, for his old friend and team driver Bill Spear.

Upon delivery ?3053? was co-driven by Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston in the 1955 Sebring 12-Hours race, the American round of the FIA Sports Car World Championship. They enjoyed a fine debut, finishing third, beaten only by a Phil Hill driven Ferrari and the winning Mike Hawthorn Jaguar D-Type.

After racing ?3053? widely throughout the USA, Bill Spear sold the car in 1956 to Joe Giubardo of Valley Stream, Long Island, who owned the car until 1964. Subsequently preserved by prominent Maserati authority Joel Eric Finn, ?3053? was acquired by leading German Maseratisto Dr Thomas Bscher in 1986. After some twenty years in his care ? during which it was maintained in highly original order while being campaigned successfully in historic racing ? the car passed from Dr Bscher to its present vendor.

Ferrari Daytona

Ferraris continue to realise high amounts. ?The Daytona is a potential good buy at the moment though? Knight reveals. ?In 1989, they sold for around the £300K mark, but they?re not reaching this at the present time?

A model on many a bucket list, the Daytona ticks boxes for looks, performance and investment desirability.

Officially known as the Ferrari 365 GTB/4, this Gran Turismo model was produced from 1968 to 1973. It made its debut to universal acclaim at the Paris Auto Salon in 1968, and quickly replaced the 275 GTB/4. It continued to be snapped up by the A-list set until the introduction of the mid-engined 365 GT4 Berlinetta Boxer in 1973. The Daytona name is said to have been coined by the media after Ferrari’s 1-2-3 finish in the February 1967 24 Hours of Daytona.

Designed by Pininfarina, many considered the look of the 365 GTB/4 to be a radical departure from other Ferraris, with its sharp lines and wedge shape more akin to those of a Lamborghini.

The first racing version of the 365GTB/4 was prepared in 1969 and entered in the Le Mans 24 hour race that year, although the car actually crashed in practice.

Porsche 911 RS

The original and the best Porcshe 911, say many. One of the world’s most recognisable and iconic cars, the 911 made its production debut back in 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and is often cited as the most successful competition car ever. James Knight cites the early ?70’s 911 RS as the one to look out for.

The 911 model most collectors are interested in is indeed the 1973 Carrera RS, built to enable Porsche to enter racing formulae that demanded that a certain minimum number of production cars were made. Compared with a standard 911S, the Carrera 2.7 RS had a larger engine, stiffened suspension, a “ducktail” rear spoiler, more powerful brakes, wider rear wheels and rear wings. 1,580 were made in total, exceeding the 500 that had to be made to qualify for the vital FIA Group 4 class. 49 Carrera RS cars were built with 2808 cc engines producing 300 PS.

Whichever of the classics you decide to buy or sell, originality is still key, with an emphasis on preservation if needed, rather than restoration. Beware of conversions, and for models such as Bentleys and Rolls Royces, coachwork really needs to be as pristine as possible.