I’m wondering how many classic car buyers finally get their dream car – be it a Ferrari 250GTE or an Austin A60 – and are a bit let down by it? Never meet your heroes as someone might have said once, and don’t pay through the nose for the disappointment either.
That brings me neatly onto the thorny subject of classic car values and the apparent insanity that drives them ever upwards.
Let’s go back to 1980 when there were just a couple of classic car mags, one decidedly thoroughbred and another freshly launched. Back then, a Jaguar Mk2 was just an old car and you could buy one for £50-100 in a ropey state. They’d been out of production for thirteen years, but you could see nice ones at classic car shows (not that there were many) and unlike a thirteen year old Jag now (so a late X308 or an S Type), folk stopped and pointed at a really nice 3.8 as it growled down the road.
Minor 1000s had only been out of production nine years yet were already being touted as classics with an expanding owners club and restoration scene going on. That’s like a 2004 Clio today. They weren’t rare at all but there was something about these cars – early Minis, Minors, Jaguars – and none were much money. E Types were still £2000 for a clean one, XK120s were attainable, and £1000 would buy a pretty sorted Escort RS1600 or Mini Cooper S. That’s £4000 in today’s money.
A lot of the problem now is classic car dealers trying it on, and on, and on. The NEC show in April showed that a very nice straight and genuine Cooper S Mk1 was worth £40,000. Still too much – who can afford that on a whim? – but not as much as some chancers are asking. We’ve seen them for twice that and more with very dubious provenance that can be quickly unravelled by visiting a suitable classic Mini forum. £100,000 for a Mini? Really?!
Then we get into the silly season – £25,000,000 for a 250GTO and £5million for a 300SL Gullwing. £3.5million can buy you a 1944 Messerschmitt BF109G if you wanted to own something Germanic and whilst a Gullwing is indeed a staggering bit of kit, it doesn’t have wing mounted cannons, a V12 DB605A V12 Merc engine and it doesn’t do barrel rolls or 380mph.
Nostalgia is a great place to go, but you can’t really live there. So, that 1956 Harley Armstrong 12/56 is just a toy if you can call it that because daily use will ruin it very quickly – the very reason most of them went around Essex Arena in a fight to the death with Mk7 Jags and Westminsters a few decades ago.
No, I’m more of the mind to enjoy a really, really nice modern car now and make your own nostalgia. A car you’ll look back on in 25 years and remember how fast it was, and how great you felt driving it as opposed to the 420G you liked the look of but actually hated driving, as someone I knew did. When I say a ‘really nice modern car’ I don’t mean a Mondeo Titanium or an E Class Merc, but something that was touching 100 grand new and that you thought you’d never own.
Lots of cars are in that sub £20,000 sweet spot right now, the price of a well-loaded Nissan Juke or some miserable over-optioned Astra. Let’s have a look – how about an approved used 2012 BMW 640i Coupe with 21,000 miles? Pale gold is a bit of a downer, but it’s such a handsome beast and it has a twin turbo 3-litre straight-six and an eight-speed auto box. And it’ll probably have stuff on it that you’ve never really experienced – xenon lights, for example, so you can actually see at night, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, an aircon system that would freeze the whotsits off a brass buddha, a very serious sound system and a general completeness as a very desirable car indeed. Pack a suitcase, chuck it in the boot, we’ll be in Biarritz this evening because we have the car to do it.
I love old cars – there was something about sixties and seventies cars that has never really been recreated but let’s not get carried away and fuel the fire by paying utterly insane prices for the privilege. Imagine paying a grand for a 1973 GEC telly because it’s Old Skool…..exactly.