Steady as she goes, lack of high-grade cars maintains stability:
'Go find another, Sir!” We laughed – it’s an old auctioneer’s saying, but all too true in 2016. Nick, Neal, Ed and I were sitting round the boardroom table for FullBore’s annual take on the state of the classic Aston Martin market.
Despite political and economic uncertainty, the feeling was that it’s in good health due, in part, to the scarcity of or really good quality cars. Nick sums it up:
“We have not offered one DB5 in 2016. Last year we handled the sale of four ‘Prince of Wales’ V8 Vantage Volantes – this year none. The market is drying up at this level: owners of really good cars are under no pressure to sell, what else can you do with the money?”
Four months after Brexit, the sales team are now benefiting from the effect of the weak pound and receiving a lot of interest from buyers outside the UK. And the merits of owning a classic Aston – the badge, the heritage, limited-production, a worldwide appeal to all, pride of ownership, a recognisable shape, ‘analogue’ driving experience – are as strong as ever.
We looked at Aston Martin production over the years, starting with pre-War and Feltham cars, not a speciality at Brackenbury House. In 2015 and 2016 there were one or two big auction sales of significant pre-War cars and although the genre is more specialised, it’s worth noting that compared with equivalent Bugattis, Bentleys and Alfa Romeos, Astons are both more affordable and better documented. On the Feltham front, prices remain static for a model still with a ‘pre-War feel’, the one exception being the DB Mk III Convertible, trading strongly at DB6 Volante levels.
Which takes us to more familiar ground. We’ve made the point that it’s been hard to source really good cars in 2016. What will be interesting will be the effect on the market of freshly restored barn-find DB 4s, 5s and 6s bought at auction over the last three or four years once they come out of the workshops. As Neal said: “With bills of £250k+ they should be good – but they won’t be cheap.”
The DB6 remains the ‘entry level’ classic DB, with the DB5 at the top of the tree and the DB4 slightly overlooked in the middle, many buyers “preferring to wait for the right DB5 to come along.” Still expect to pay double for a DB6 Volante over the equivalent Saloon, a fact that puts values of V8 Volantes in the spotlight.
“A regular V8 Volante today trades at only 50 percent more than a Saloon,” said Nick. “Which leaves them behind the curve, if you look at the way convertible straight-six DBs are priced. The market has been ‘confused’, if you like, by the number of Federal cars coming back from the US, with odd colours, big bumpers, side-repeaters and emissions equipment.
“So there’s always quite a few to choose from, but far fewer really nice cars: Euro spec, dark greens, greys or blues. We like them, and we think buyers priced out of the market for 1960s DBs or V8 Vantages should give them some consideration.”
So what’s the state of play on 2015-2016’s hot property, the V8 Vantage X-Pack? “They have already taken the big leap, up to £450k, and we now believe this price has stabilised,” said Nick, continuing: “What does make you think, is how a really nice standard V8 Saloon can still be bought for a third of that – barn-find DB6 money.
“Buyers want a V8, then realise they want a V8 Vantage, then focus on an X-Pack. A model that is expensive, and will remain so, always out of their reach. Why not look at the best possible V8 Saloon? And with values rising we’re seeing some excellent cars from right across the 17-year life-span of the V8, not just Oscar Indias.”
Moving on, Neal has a word to say on the supercharged Vantage. “There’s been significant interest in these, and we can see why. They are exceptional cars built to a high standard. If 2015 was the ‘year of the X-Pack’, we see 2016 as the time when the market at last appreciated the final – most expensive and most powerful – hand-built V8s to come out of Newport Pagnell.”
And the Vanquish, the last hurrah for car manufacturing at Aston Martin’s spiritual home? Over to Ed: “Again, it’s down to quality – there are a lot of cars out there. But only the right cars sell; we’d put an excellent late Vanquish S at £150k now. It was £100k not so long ago.
“And you know what our most requested model was in 2016? The Gaydon-built DBS. The last two on the website lasted only 48 hours before they sold. Look for a manual 2+2 with Bang & Olufsen sound – that’s the one to have, perhaps in ‘Bond’ grey.”
Values of good pre-owned Gaydon cars in general are not going down, so annual costs are limited to maintenance rather than depreciation. But don’t get too hung up on the plethora of special editions, as Neal said, “There are so many of them, only enthusiasts can tell one from another and there’s little additional value.” Do, though, look at cars that Aston built in low numbers. The DB9 Manual Sports Pack is a good example – if you can find one, an alternative to a Ferrari 550 Maranello for a third of the price.
It’s just possible to buy well-maintained, low-mileage Gaydon DB9s and V8s for less than £45k. And the evergreen DB7 Vantage is always in demand, its ‘classic’ Aston looks married to relatively modern technology finding favour with many searching for an older-looking car yet wanting modern conveniences.
The new cars from Gaydon, such as the turbocharged DB11, finally mark the end of an era for the old-school, analogue cars of old – even ones still in production. The manual V12 Vantage will be a future classic, and is still one of the most exciting cars available new today.
While Aston’s habit of mixing and matching wheels, spoilers and paintwork for its Gaydon special-editions adds little to values, the genuinely low-numbers cars with Zagato bodywork are something else. A modern V12 Vantage Zagato is now a solid £600k car, which makes the price of 1986 V8 Zagato (number nine of just 50 built) sitting in the showroom somewhat illogical.
“Today, these can be bought for a little less than a V8 Vantage X-Pack, yet they have the same engine as standard and are the fastest V8s Aston has ever produced, real drivers’ cars. They are hugely undervalued,” said Nick.
The team finished the discussion with this, apposite conclusion: “With the scarcity of good cars keeping prices solid, perhaps now might be the time for those UK collectors owning a model with genuine worldwide appeal, who have been considering a sale, to bring it to the market.
“The buyers are certainly there. They’ve certainly got the currency in their favour; cars sourced in the UK by buyers in mainland Europe or the USA have never been more affordable.And, as we’ve said, the market is craving high-quality examples. It’s win-win all round, particularly with worldwide financial markets still in a state of flux and interest rates at rock-bottom for the foreseeable future. UK property has done well in the recent past, but look at the price to entry now...”
Steve Wakefield, motoring and lifestyle journalist talking to the NMC team December 2016 - www.stevewakefield.co.uk