Classic World’s Andrew Everett questions the accepted wisdom at the top end of the car market.
This time, I shall mainly be berating the values of old cars, some genuine classics, others just old. But let’s start with something to put it all into perspective. We’ve all seen The Battle of Britain haven’t we? Many of us have been to an air show and seen our favourite, a Supermarine Spitfire both in a museum and up in the air.
The shape, the history, what it achieved in World War 2 and the sound of that Merlin. Two million quid to you Sir although early Battle of Britain era stuff and those flown by aces are worth a fair bit more: think £3 million plus. You can even have a new one built from the frame number of a long-dead Spitfire. Keep it at a local airfield, make the arrangements and one day you can jump in it and fly down to Duxford (it won’t take long cruising at 250 mph), a spot of lunch and then back again. Now that’s worth two million pounds. If you were really flash, you’d have a Boeing B17 bomber as well and take a few mates although you’d need a fair old runway.
So why is a Ferrari 250GTO worth £25 million quid? It beats me. Of course Ferrari never made many, it won a few races and it’s not a bad looker. But it doesn’t have 2000 horsepower, and it won’t do 300 mph plus either.
One 250GTO, or a squadron of Spitfires. Think about that for a minute and agree that it’s just ridiculous. Bragging rights down the pub? ‘Yeah, I’ve got a 250GTO”. “Really? How nice. I’ve got four Spitfires including a bubble top and a Griffon powered one, a BF109E and a P51 Mustang plus a Jumo powered Heinkel HE111 I use for stag weekends. And an old Fifties MiG jet fighter for when I’m feeling suicidal”. Who wins?
It’s not just the 250GTO. The 275GTB be it a long nose, short nose, four cam or whatever is the Daytona’s older, tubbier sister and it’s apparently worth 3 million quid. To my eyes it’s not an especially pretty car and it was once described to me as having the proportions of a fat Labrador. Look at the rounded bulbous body versus the small glass area and tell me it’s prettier than an early FHC E Type or the sharp, finely detailed and simply stunning Daytona (a mere £600,000) or the hyper expensive (well, they were 2 million four years ago) but exquisite 250GT Lusso, one of the few occasions that Ferrari really got the styling right in the Sixties.
Back down to earth, is a Peugeot 205GTi worth £43,000? The market in the UK seems to think so and so will whoever buys it and pays the full whack but were they really that good? Yes, it was small, went well and was pretty feisty to drive. In the Eighties it was an alternative to a Mk2 VW Golf GTi (the real classic cheap and cheerful hot hatchback) but they weren’t very well made and after a year of squeaks, rattles and the spectre of lift-off oversteer you were ready to trade up to something better. So £10,000 maybe, £15,000 at a push but more than that? I don’t see it myself but God loves a trier!
Some cars are still undervalued and are waiting to be ‘discovered’. Nothing by Ford though, not when a Mexico is forty grand and even a Cortina Mark 3 is considered to be worth ten grand in tidy condition. A really nice early Clio 16v can still be picked up for five grand and they were a much better deal than the 205GTi. An Avenger Tiger is worth a third of a Mk 1 Mexico and is as fast as an RS2000 and so is an E30 BMW 325i Sport which, with 171bhp will just streak away from both – £17k will buy a really, really good one, or maybe less.
But going back to supercars for a minute, there are two to think about, one still relatively cheap, one expensive and both very, very good. There are no end of old Maseratis, Ferraris and Seventies and Eighties Lamborghinis waiting to break down, leak fluids, rust and generally be a bit rubbish at being a car and old 911s have gone stupid in value as well.
One is the Honda NSX. Developed by Honda with input from Ayrton himself, this finely crafted exotic was developed at around the same time as the original Lexus LS400 with the brief of tearing up the rule book and beating the best, and both succeeded. With incredible dynamics, Honda reliability (sorry, what is an oil leak?) and show stopping looks without the Ferrari stigma, you can buy a really nice one for fifty or sixty grand.
Was it better than the equivalent era 911 or 348TB Ferrari? You’d better believe it.
The other is the BMW M1. Rarer than most Ferraris and as pretty as a 308GTB in its own Teutonic way, the M1 was a commercial failure but a staggeringly good road car that despite the best efforts of Lamborghini who had a hand in development was practical and reliable. Half a million, or a quarter share in that Spitfire. If I had the money to buy absolutely anything, I’d walk past a row of 250GTOs to nab myself an M1 in Alpine White or Henna Red, a dark blue metallic NSX with the dark grey wheels, a black 300SL Gullwing Mercedes, a 365GT4 BB Boxer in any colour or anything else that’s just within the realms of reality, where values are about the same as a really nice house as opposed to an entire town.