There has been much talk in the press in recent months about ever increasing classic car values. Time, therefore, to get the NM&Co team into the meeting room for an appraisal of what has happened this year and how things are looking for 2015. They didn’t hold back.
Nick started the ball rolling. “Let’s look at it this way: it’s around 40 years since the mainstream ‘classic car market’ came to be clearly defined. And 20 years since the last crash in values. We have to answer the question ‘is it all getting overheated?’
“In my opinion ‘no’ – but I’ll qualify that later on. For brands such as Aston Martin, we’ve only seen such massive growth in the last 10 years or so. Values of a DB5 probably trebled from 1994 to 2004, and from then onwards appreciated by perhaps another 10 times.
That’s a 3000 per cent increase since 1994, the bulk of which has happened in the last ten years.
“And I put that down to the growth in the awareness of Aston Martin as a brand, due to the higher volumes of cars coming out of Gaydon, all enjoying the benefits of a worldwide marketing campaign. Buyers of new Astons, who love their cars and are perhaps new to the marque, are researching its history.
Far from being the preserve of traditional European, or East or West Coast American buyers, new Astons are now being sold into emerging economies such as China and India.
“Those new buyers won’t be sure exactly which classic Aston they want, so will opt for the most famous. They do their research and discover that only 898 DB5 coupés were built, with very few left-hand drive.
There will never be more than that made – the market is capped. So, numbers built — low, and verified — and a massively increased awareness of Aston Martin have made them outperform most other classics. And I don’t see that situation changing.
“For those getting a little carried away investing in other prestigious marques that were built in volume, perhaps today’s prices are due for a correction. But I don’t see that happening with Aston Martin. Perhaps there might be a ‘drawing of breath’, no more.”
Away from the famous 1960s, ‘DB’ Newport Pagnell cars, the conversation moved to Astons from other eras. Neal and Ed wanted to know Nick’s thoughts. Pre-War Astons aren’t usually on the menu at Brackenbury House, but all agreed that the early cars have style and are a useful entry to events such as the Mille Miglia.
“Unlike many other badges from that era, Aston is still around and operating in the same exclusive market. Buyers of Alfa Romeo 8Cs in the 1930s wouldn’t recognise the manufacturer today. Pre-War Astons traditionally attracted an older buyer who lovingly maintained one for many years, but nowadays its very much an ‘event car’ and prices have really taken off.
“And don’t forget that with all Astons the Owners Club, and Heritage Trust, maintain some of the best records of any one-make club in the world. A collector is unlikely ever to be in a situation of mixed, swapped, duplicate or ‘cloned’ chassis. You know where you are with an Aston – and this has added to the attraction of collecting the marque as a whole.”
And going post-War, how about the Feltham cars? Neal felt they represented a route to Aston ownership that could yet see a growth in prices.
Nick’s take: “They are not well known enough and, to be honest, fall between two stools, lacking the obvious charm of the pre-Wars and the recognition, glamour and performance of the 4s, 5s and 6s. You can still buy driveable Felthams for reasonable money – although it’s always better to stretch your budget to get the best you can afford. Let someone else pay for the restoration.”
The iconic 1980s and 90s V8 saloon has gone from strength to strength, but prices vary wildly depending on condition. The car is the last of the ‘chrome bumper’ Astons and probably marks a line in the sand of true collectability, with supercharged Vantage prices remaining static, despite their still limited numbers.
“We know we can find buyers for V8 Vantages all year round,” said Nick. “The V8 as a model might have been in production for l7 years but the Vantages, ‘X pack’ in particular, were produced in low numbers. Good ‘Oscar Indias’ in attractive colours have been carried along on their coat tails. “
“And we tipped them last year!” chips in Neal.
“Never underestimate the cars of your youth: the Aston V8 Vantage, Ferrari 288 GTO and Lamborghini Countach were the supercars to have then, and are now being purchased by their teenage fans thirty years later,” said Nick.
Much has been said about the famous ‘barn-finds’ and Pebble Beach Preservation Class cars, with regard to value, what’s the inside line on condition?
“Most buyers want either a ‘project’ they can take great enjoyment in following over the course of a two-year restoration or they want a very good car, mechanically in excellent condition with good paint and a light patina in the cockpit,” said Nick. “Cars in the middle ground, traditional ‘owners club’ fare, are less favoured and priced accordingly.”
Looking at the more recent Aston, it’s over to Ed and talk moves on to limited editions such as the V12 Vantage Zagato, the DB7 Zagato and various low-volume variations on the DB7. In truth, the mood with these was probably that it’s more a case of holding, rather than gaining, value.
The Vanquish might be another matter, with early non-S cars probably at the bottom of their depreciation curve. They look fabulous and have performance that stands up well to today’s cars – Ed is a big fan, commenting on the hardening of Vanquish S prices and how it makes the first cars look such good value.
Concluding, Nick commented: “The market is underpinned by low interest rates and people looking for alternative investments, that’s true. And we know that’s unlikely to change in the short to medium term. But what’s driven the Aston Martin market to maturity is an increasing number of people collecting a finite number of cars.
“Once they have bought one, and leant about the marque, they might want another, different Aston. So the hitherto underappreciated cars will rise – look at the six-cylinder DBS! They can be compared to works of art – and the winged badge is the signature.
“I’d say there’s still time to buy a DB6, but that might not be the case for too much longer.
“Right, that’s enough about values, these cars are meant to be driven. Where did you say that meeting was this weekend…?”
Steve Wakefield, motoring and lifestyle journalist talking to the NMC team December 2014 - www.stevewakefield.co.uk