TIME TO FINESSE:
It was Rob Johnson of NM&Co’s long-term partners Classic & Sports Finance that summed up a significant factor in today’s collectors car market: “Clients are saying to me that they have five or six really nice cars, but they would quite like one ‘special’ one’.”
Nick concurred. “We’re seeing more part-exchanges than simple cash purchases. Owners are refining their garages so that they can trade up in the most efficient way. It’s good for those new to the market, as they have the opportunity of buying well-cared-for cars from genuine enthusiast owners.”
Rob, Nick, Neal, Ed and myself were gathered round the boardroom table at the Brackenbury Garage. It was annual Market Review time, an opportunity for everyone to have his say and, as usual, no one held back.
First off was a general discourse on the state of the market. ‘Stable’ best describes it, and as Neal put it most succinctly, “No one is under any illusion now that buying a classic car is a one-way trip to dramatic short-term profit. As a result, we’re seeing enthusiasts coming back to the market who appreciate the cars as fine-driving works of art, with good potential for medium to long-term financial appreciation. It’s a 10-year cycle.
“They are younger too, and internet savvy, the ‘generation of the forums’, if you like,” he added. Ed agreed: “We’re seeing more focus on the later cars rather than the established ‘hero models’ of the 1960s. Those expecting to make money were never really car people.”
“Now prices have stabilised, the real buyer is back in play. They want originality and a car they can use,” said Rob. “And unlike Ferrari, the ‘overs’ market for new limited-edition Aston Martins trading way above list never really took off, so there’s little fall-out from it softening, and that can only be a good thing.”
Nick agreed (and he’s observed the ebbs and flows of the business far longer than most). “The Aston Market of every era is steadier, particularly compared with Ferrari and Porsche. It’s not prone to the peaks and troughs of either the ‘overs’ market or a craze for the latest must-have model, previously overlooked, that everyone over-hypes.”
And Aston owners – congratulate yourselves here – maintain their cars better. “A buyer of a modern Aston Martin will look after his car, there’s no doubt about that,” said Ed. “We are always very careful with the cars we offer, but most we see do come from a good home. It’s reassuring for new buyers to realise that.”
Finally, speaking generally, all were agreed that the recent cars from Gaydon, now over 10 years old, are no more ‘complicated’ than a modern £80k BMW or Mercedes. The hi-tech hybrid supercars will prove a challenge, but a DB9, DBS or new Vanquish is straightforward to work on and that is a big plus when considering future values.
But back to the classics and, era by era, what’s been happening in 2017 and how do things look for the New Year?
perennial story of Feltham cars being ‘undervalued’, ‘good value’ and
‘underrated’ – particularly compared with the equivalent Ferrari –
carries on. In the summer edition of FullBore, Neal and I drove a DB Mk
III and we both really enjoyed it. When the plethora of ‘barn-finds’
bought at auction come out of restoration, owners are going to want
top-dollar for them. Which bodes well for the future, but the team does
not see any short-term appreciation.
The classic DBs, the 4s, 5s and 6s from Newport Pagnell, are likewise fairly static, with few coming to the market. “These are ‘special occasion cars’, something a businessman might buy himself to celebrate the sale of his company,” said Rob.
“But owners of DB5s and DB6 Volantes are keeping them,” noted Neal. “DBs might not be selling at a big premium right now, but those who bought them five or so years ago are sitting on a profit. They’ve also got a lovely car that’s earning more for them (even with running costs) than 1% in a bank account.” And there are few “fire sales”, according to Rob – people are simply holding onto the cars.
As far as William Towns’ V8s are concerned, the V8 Vantage remains ‘the one to have’. So much so that values of non-Vantages are looking attractive. “They are good to drive, some would say better in many ways than a raw Vantage, certainly every day, and appeal right across the age spectrum of buyers. Park a late-model V8 in Mayfair or Chelsea and watch well-heeled bystanders of all ages ad sexes stop and stare,” said Nick.
“They are cars to buy today but, again, few owners are selling,” he added. “The ‘Vantage premium’ is disproportionate now, it make the regular cars look affordable. X-Packs have probably stabilised. ”
In this same room 12 months ago ‘one to watch’ was the supercharged Vantage. Twelve months on the team reports that interest in them has certainly hotted up, with the V600s and Le Mans (of which only 40 were built) at the top of the tree.
“They are 90s supercars,” said Nick. “Look at how a dotcom billionaire Hoovered up the low-production Porsches last year. Or think about Ferrari’s 288 GTO (£2.2m, 272 built) and F40 (£1.1m, 1,315 built).” If anything ticks the box marked ‘generational shift’ it’s the Vantage Le Mans.
Not so far removed, but better bracketed as ‘its day will come’, is the V8 Vantage Zagato. “These cars should be valued at a multiple of a regular X Pack V8 Vantage,” said Nick. “Right now, they are not.”
And so to Newport Pagnell’s last hurrah, the mighty Vanquish. Ed is a fan: “In ten to fifteen years’ time these will be appreciated as a real classic.”
“You’ve got to maintain them. If any car warrants a bulging history file, a Vanquish is it,” said Neal, adding a note of caution.
On the New Era
front, Aston Martin’s global expansion can only be good for the brand. A
new dealer in Japan, its largest in the world, will spread the word,
creating interest in the famous winged-badge and demand for cars for all
decades. Aston had just launched new Zagato versions of the Vanquish
and Neal felt that would stimulate an interest in the V8, DB7 and V12
special-editions: “We’re looking forward to having them in our new
So, come on guys, crystal ball time, what’s going to be hot in 10 years’ time?
Ed Barton-Hilton: “Newport Pagnell Vanquish. I’m surprised they have not taken off the way a Ferrari 500 Maranello has.”
Neal Garrard: “A Vantage Le Mans. £400k today and surely a £1million Aston in the future.”
Rob Johnson: “I’ll go with Ed on the Vanquish. Underrated, incredible presence and hard to find a good one. There won’t be many to choose from in years to come”
Nicholas Mee: “There seems little doubt the DB9 GT will ultimately be a good investment as the 'last of line' of one of the most significant and successful products from Aston Martin's 104 years.”
For me, it would have to be an early, ‘bolt-on’ V8 Vantage, perhaps with a 6.3 conversion. But over to Nick for the final word:
“First off, when asked about ‘investment’, we always recommend clients to take the long-term view, ten years or so. Look back to 2007 and you will see how prices have taken off, even if there has certainly been ‘consolidation’, if not ‘retrenchment’ in the last 24 months. Away from equities – on a roll today, but with risks – and with deposit rates still at all-time lows, it’s hard to know where to park significant sums of money.
“And as to where we came in, it’s true, activity this year has been less frenetic, with marque enthusiasts preferring to refine and reduce their collections by trading in, and then up to the ‘best of the best’. Market commentators speak about a ‘flight to quality’ – I call it ‘finessing’. That means more trade-ins, it also means new buyers can find outstanding cars once owned by the really top collectors.
“But enough of all this; never forget the reason why we all love these cars and why we bought them – they are great to drive. So get out there and enjoy them!”Steve Wakefield, motoring and lifestyle journalist talking to the NMC team December 2017 - www.stevewakefield.co.uk