The digital verus analogue debate:
The enduring attraction of the ‘analogue car’ fuels demand for powerful classic Astons. It’s been a year since the NM & Co team last took time out to discuss Aston Martin values in FullBore. Then, it was reflection on the steep rise in prices of Newport Pagnell ‘DBs’, and whether this trend would continue.
Plus, of course, a glimpse into the future, when models such as limited-edition DB7 Vantages and Zagatos were tipped for the top. So, how has 2015 worked out? “There’s no denying that transactions of cars at the very top end have levelled off, unless it’s something very rare and special” said Nick. “The demand is there, and the figures are holding, but the values are at a point where the number of potential buyers is more restricted, by the sheer amount of money needed. “A DB5 in particular is serious money and with the current economic backdrop and the very limited numbers of cars built, across the DB4-5-6 range they will always be expensive.
The cost of entry has got that little bit higher and the market has reacted.” So the way the market works is changing a little at the top, with new buyers coming in, and not always from the established ‘enthusiast’ route of long-term ownership of a classic. Neal explains: “We are finding that new supercars are seen as just too fast to use on a regular basis, with electronic everything taking away the joy of driving. And a big loss come trade-in time. “For those interested in recapturing the thrill and adventure of driving, a classic Aston Martin is still a quick car, but more to the point it really feels fast.
And it has that ‘I’ve got to have and drive one’ appeal.” Which is time for Nick to talk about the enduring appeal of ‘analogue cars’, those designed and built in the days when the engineer and designer were king: Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati made exotic motor cars in an era before Federal safety laws and emissions regulations stifled creativity. “They built the ones they wanted to build, each with its own personality,” said Nick. “Those cars were the ultimate expression of the manufacturers’ art, pre legislation cars all simply gorgeous to look at and exciting to drive.
That does not happen today, although if you go back only a few years you can see that ‘personality’, if you like, coming through. “I’m thinking of the limited-edition DB7 Vantages, the GTs and of course the Zagato.” “The word is certainly out on these,” chips in Ed, “It’s hard to find a good ’7 Vantage, and I’d say with £35k cars 12 months ago now trading nearer £40k, it’s a 10 – 15% increase over the year.
A potential scenario we spoke about 12 months ago. “Buyers like the ‘classic’ appeal of an older car with the conveniences of a new one. ABS, climate control etc. Nothing demonstrates that better than the DB7 Zagato: limited numbers , overt coachwork by a renowned Italian styling House with long connections to Aston and stunning performance.
Prices for these are at record levels.” And looking at even more recent Astons, there’s the V12-powered DB S, but Neal prefaces this subject with some words on the original classic Vanquish: “Owners love them. They look stylish, are modern and are practical, yet are still 200mph cars.
Prices are all over the place because buyers want really good ones – and will pay for that reassurance. It’s a 10-to-15-year-old car, so always buy the best. “The V12 DB S is interesting too as the values of these overlap with some Vanquishes. It’s an ‘007’s car’ and people want them in Bond colours, they’ve terrific road presence and big performance.
They only produced around 3500, it’s well made and one of the last of the manual V12 Astons That’s the one that to have, it’s stunning to look at and a quick old car.” Speaking of which… demand for the 1980s V8 Vantage is as strong as ever. “Yes, as we predicted, and we’ve also seen good V8 saloons and Volantes gain in value as a result of this.
The fact that 1960s DBs are now at such heights, helps” said Nick. “We are often asked about ‘originality’, and perhaps this is a good time to say a few words on the subject. There is a definite point around the time of the last boom in prices, the mid-1980s, when V8s were bought to keep. They were better made, buyers had paid a lot for them, prices were strong and car collecting as a hobby that made money had arrived. So, it was in the owner’s interest to look after them well.
Those cars today are mostly original in content as they were never run on a shoestring, they were powerful with good brakes, working a/c and all the rest, in other words ticking all the ‘buy’ boxes. “Values of earlier V8s have increased to the point that it’s now economic to restore some of the first cars. Which is great, as they make exciting, practical and comfortable classics, in the great tradition of Newport Pagnell Astons. But buyers should not get hung up too much about originality, they should want a car that’s great to drive and look at, a proper ‘chrome bumper’ Aston.”
Warming to the subject, Nick continues: “And if one were to ask our tech team, about ‘matching numbers’, original colours and original interiors on the straightsixes, without exception they’d say condition was far more important, if enjoying the car is primary. “You think back to when road cars were raced at Brands or Silverstone in the 70s and 80s.
The engine blocks were almost throwaway, with gearboxes coming from then valueless DBS 6s. Today, I’d like to see a car that’s had a rigorous inspection by one of the experts and in the best possible mechanical condition – you can’t compare what’s happened with classic Astons over the years with other marques, Ferrari in particular.
The market has to have a sense of proportion. And the Club racing history of some cars is terrific, it shows they were being used.” While Feltham-era models have still to capture the market’s imagination, ‘DBs’ are at the top and good V8 saloons and Volantes around the £200k mark – more modern cars excepted – what’s happening at £100k? “For those wishing to dip a toe in the water, there are still cars to be had, but we can’t emphasise strongly enough the difference between examples that are restored and ‘on the button’ cars, with ones ‘only just OK’.
For years, the late-1960s DBS 6 and AM Vantage of the early 70s were the most affordable classic Astons. “Try buying a good DBs now for less than £150k! But you can have the world’s best Virage for two thirds of that. First of the impact bumper Astons, built in small numbers, an attractive Volante, big Newport Pagnell hand-built V8, easy and reliable automatic (with some manuals), mod cons such as a/c and electric seats – they are certainly undervalued. “I’d say the same for the supercharged cars, but they are obviously priced on a different level.
All of these cars are powerful machines that reward good driving and were created before today’s era of electronic controls and governance. “Real ‘analogue’ Astons. Like DB5s, they don’t make them anymore and never will, value-wise look what’s happened to them.”
Steve Wakefield, motoring and lifestyle journalist talking to the NMC team December 2015 - www.stevewakefield.co.uk