Nicholas Mee: Managing Director, Nicholas Mee & Co
Neal Garrard:Commercial Director, Nicholas Mee & Co
Steve Wakefield: Classic car journalist and Editor of K500.com
2020 kicks off with a buzz in the air.
There’s no doubting 2019 was a momentous one for Great Britain. Political turbulence and uncertainty spread into every corner of public life, business decisions and big-ticket purchases were put on hold, the pound remained weak and the market for classic Aston Martins subdued, after the 2010 to 2015 boom.
Five years after the beginning of a plateau in prices generally and with last December’s general election over, the air is clearer and a level of certainty now returning to UK markets. With interest rates remaining at all-time lows, asset class investments will in all likely hood gain some traction. Apart from the favourable tax position, the enthusiasm for genuinely classic cars is strengthening, A plethora of classic car events having mushroomed in the intervening period, gives some clear evidence of where classics stand, as a means of enjoying life and celebrating cars.
Whether now is the time to add an Aston Martin to your garage we’ll address shortly. But first a few words from Nick, when asked to comment on the performance of our favourite cars at public auction, over the last 12 months.
“Auction figures realised for collectable Astons during 2019 and prior, have been disproportionately affected by three factors, all of which have contributed to a perceived – but not necessarily true – downturn in values of cars.
The uncertainties precipitated by Brexit, affected confidence in bidders at UK and European auctions, across all marques, including, Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley etc, Aston is of course not immune.
The dominant market for classic Aston Martins is now not necessarily the UK. Dealers in mainland Europe and the USA have been very active, particularly for LHD cars. Way more than most other brands, Aston Martin until the 2000s was predominantly a maker of RHD cars, with only 20 - 25% built in LHD and exported. Unlike Jaguar and Ferrari who’s production has always been predominantly LHD cars. The legacy of this, is that overseas buyers, buying in the UK had to be prepared to accept RHD cars to drive in LHD territories, crucially knowing they could return them to the UK to resale, when they became surplus. In recent years buyers concerns over potential import taxes when returning those cars to the UK post Brexit, have impacted with many a European buyers holding back, until there is some clarity on post Brexit regulations. This rings true for any RHD car, but with scarcity of older LHD Aston Martin’s, the impact has been felt harder than in other marques.
“Now with some certainty on the impact of Brexit, I see these worries receding’.“Last but by no means least, has been the steady release through auctions and some dealers of poor-quality cars from a single Middle Eastern collection, during the last couple of years. Very often without correct paperwork or ‘matching numbers’ and little to no history documents, many are liable to import tax if registered in the EU. Many are also badly prepared to standards unacceptable in todays market. Sometimes described as ‘having had a restoration by the factory’ many have not actually been ‘restored, just inspected and some recommissioning works. This minefield has caused a dragging effect on the heritage Aston Martin market, which cannot be underestimated.
Fortunately, this supply is now to some degree diminished and the distorting effects, correspondingly so.
Before being tempted, buyers should make use of the network of helpful specialists, before finding out too late, that the dream car at an affordable price, is in reality a nightmare waiting to unfold.
Conversely, If evidence were needed of the strength of heritage Aston Martin’s, two determined bidders at a recent auction, took the price of an original Bond film DB5 all the way to $6.385m including premiums. There’s little to no doubting, the brands following and commitment from classic car investors, regardless of market adjustments.
We can learn from what’s happened to other marques say’s Neal who speaks from the coal face.
“Take a brand like Ferrari. Values for older, more traditional pre ‘80’s V12s have softened, yet younger enthusiasts are steadily building collections of ‘best-of-the-best’ more recent cars. We know of multi-car garages that contain a 360 Stradale, a 430 Scuderia and a 458 Speciale, for example – three limited-edition, mid-engined and naturally-aspirated V8s. Ferrari will always build very fast cars, but it won’t produce these types of car ever again. Now automated, hybridised and electric new technology vehicles invade the space and they will never offer the same interactive thrill and driving experience as before
“You can look at Porsches and see the same thing happening: multi-car garages of more recent cars. All the recent GT3 RS cars for example, from 996 to 992.
“Here at Essendonbury Farm, we’ve seen similar evidence, of collections of limited edition Aston’s on DB9 and the V8 Vantage platforms, as well as the ‘Ultimates’, a personal favourite. As an example, If your DBS enthusiast, you might want a UB-2010 edition DBS in your collection. Limited to 40 cars (20 coupés and 20 Volantes) and all were signed off, by the man who took Aston Martin into the 21st century with a great mix of cars.. There are several limited editions of new era cars to choose from.
“Do ask us for advice. If you don’t know your N400s from your N420s, N430s and AMRs, we’re here to help. By producing buyers’ guides, as we did for the V12 Vantage in last summer’s FullBore, we’re injecting some clarity, into all the special editions sometimes a confusing picture. Clarity equals confidence, equals greater demand, with a subsequent increase in values. Buyers are generally willing to invest in a ‘known quantity’. See our comments on the Newport Pagnell V8 family later in this piece.
“Sales rates have been slower for most of last year, that’s true. But that’s been more due to the lack of confidence pre-election, than prices. Since the day after the election, December 13th 2019 things have been rapidly changing. Closed over the Christmas period, one impassioned client had travelled up from the New Forest on family business, stopping near us he contacted us to a view a car. Having opened up especially, he now has a lovely Aston Martin V8 in his garage, and we have a very good trade-in. That’s probably not something that would have happened mid-year, after a viewing the likely response would have been a ‘let me think on this’”Something else think on. The attractive finance deals on new cars being pushed by main dealers have led many new car buyers into hair-raising finance deals, with one customer of an ‘unregulated finance agreement’ hitting the tabloid press last year. On that occasion, the buyer became liable for not only the massive new-car depreciation, but having to double his monthly payments at the end of a two year fixed term. He couldn't even hand the keys back at the end of a fixed term, without making a significant payment, of way over it's market value, all because of depreciation!
Contrast that level depreciation, with buying even an 8 - 10-year-old New Era Aston Martin, on say a Classic & Sports Finance agreement. The ‘big hit’ of new-car depreciation is by then history.
Purchasing a well-looked-after and still looking fabulous car, say 8, 9 or 10 years old with low mileage, there is little to no depreciation to factor in to a finance agreement, as the car has probably reached the bottom of it’s depreciation cycle. Cosset it, enjoy it’s performance and the pleasure it brings. It will become an asset and possibly an appreciating one, but definitely not losing it’s value in the same manner as new cars do.
Something else to consider is 70’s and 80’s AM V8’s. The very recent publication of a limited edition book from Palawan Press on the Aston Martin V8. Describing in detail the 30 story of the cars that bore Tadek Marek’s glorious V8 engine, from early prototypes, to the final short-chassis Vantage Volantes. Expensive one-model books are in vogue today and are known to have an effect on car values, owners and would-be owners love the details and sense of order they bring to the subject. Similar works on the Ferrari Dino 246, the 1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 and Bentley R-Type Continental, have transformed the way these cars are valued and viewed. Once the word is out and story read, I can see 90’s Vantages supercharging their way ahead in the market, from today’s low point. You heard it here first.
Finally, two for the road. Nick and Neal choose a brace of Astons they’d like to own this year.
“For me, I just love the first Gaydon DBS Volante,” said Neal. “They look a million dollars – even better as an Ultimate – are great to drive and I can’t think of anything better for the money, in which to enjoy a summer’s motoring. With such great looks, are they so different from a new DBS at three times the price? I don’t think so – ‘timeless’ certainly sums up the DBS.”
Nick goes for an old favourite, the Newport Pagnell Vanquish. “It was such a significant car and essentially just one model, with only two variations other than the final Ultimate’s. The engine was all-new and a charismatic V12 – free-revving and seriously powerful and refined.
“Its top speed of 200mph has only recently been cracked by the DBS Superleggera. Development of the first Vanquish coincided with the arrival of Dr Ulrich Bez, bringing his trademark German engineering disciplines to AM. This caused some fireworks, but it was a ‘dry run’ if you like, for the ground-breaking move to Gaydon and the development of the New Era DB9. There’s a real sense of occasion when starting and driving a Vanquish; with effortless performance and good practicality, the Vanquish’s styling, is undeniably gorgeous and a with the small numbers produced it’s a genuinely useable classic.
“Getting a good one now is not so easy; but get the right car and it gives so much pleasure every time you look at and drive, in it. A masterpiece in many senses and still relatively affordable for many”.
So, should Aston aficionados close that 0.75% online savings account and put the money into something tangible in their garage? Predictions are notoriously difficult to make, so do the groundwork on any prospective purchase first and weigh up the possibilities. For now, the days of double-digit annual appreciation may not be guaranteed, but with enjoyment there usually comes a cost. But depreciation on this model and early car issues are now a thing of the past. In short, the money in a 8+ year old classic or the bank! We’ll, there’s certainly a lot more fun to be had from a classic and there’s a good chance, from today’s low price points, that you might even get a better return on your money, than it being left in the bank. All dependant on timing of course, which brings me back to where we started. We’ve seen a 5 year downturn and the tide feels now, like it’s turning.
Buy wisely and the downsides will be kept to a minimum and there could well be some up-side, from the last 5 years low point.