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Classic car market – 2014 review and 2015 predictions
2014 has been another amazing year for the UK classic car industry which is now estimated to be worth over £6 billion.
Who did well in 2014?
Ferrari classics – unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last 12 months, you’ll know that an awful lot of Ferraris have come to market and many of them have done extremely well at auction. 275’s have done particularly well with some astonishing (and record breaking) results propelling them firmly into £million+ territory. The Testarossa is also having something of a revival and still looks like good value compared to some of their other 80’s counterparts. The relatively obscure 365 GTC/4 has also made its way into the hearts and minds (and wallets) of buyers.
Classic motorcycles – the popularity of classic bikes has reached a new high as have values. Interest in “modern classics” is now an important part of the classic motorcycle market, just as it is in the classic car market as new buyers come of age.
Good E-Types – When you factor inflation into the equation, you could argue that E-Type values haven’t really moved much over the last two decades but the best Series 1 cars (generally restored) have undoubtedly had a good year, regularly fetching over £200,000 at auction.
Air-cooled/ early 911’s – classic Porsches have had a great year with almost all RS variants doing exceptionally well as well as early 2.0 and 2.4 litre 911’s, and hot 993 and 964 models.
Lamborghini Countach – 2014 was the year that the Countach became a £million car. The stampede to buy early Countachs in Monterey has set a precedent for the later cars.
The 80’s - 80’s cars received a lot of media attention in 2014 and interest in cars from the era of Miami Vice has gone into overdrive – the Financial Times called it “bedroom wall syndrome”. It’s worth noting that 80’s car generally look better from the outside…
Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS - the 2.7 RS benefitted from being named as the best investment car of the last decade in a clever bit of PR by the Discovery Channel to promote the Wheeler Dealers classic car show. They may well be right, but the rest of their list didn’t look quite so convincing.
Land Rover - with the end in sight for the Defender later this year, early Land Rovers and first generation Range Rovers have seen a spike in interest and prices. There can be no doubt that we’ll miss that iconic design when it has gone.
Auction Houses – Auction houses had a bumper year in 2014 with many a record smashed including the total value of cars sold up to $1.3 billion in 2014 – less commission, of course.
AC Cobra – although there have been some very strong results in the States for particularly important cars, the demand in the UK seems to have gone off the boil. Maybe it’s the weather?
Lamborghini Miura – the Miura has always promised much in terms of price increases but hasn’t delivered on that potential – when compared to the Ferrari 275, at least. The SV has performed better than the cooking variety LP400 and 400S, and no doubt a surge of these coming to market in 2013/14 after the relative absence of Miura’s in the marketplace from 2010 has meant that prices remain strong but stable.
Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona – this opinion might be a little controversial, but despite some strong auction results in the US in the UK market we have seen less enthusiasm for the Daytona than in previous years with cars remaining on the market for extended periods and transaction prices lower than some glowing auction results might have you believe.
Bentley R-Type Continental – Prices for these beautiful and rare cars have risen steadily since 2011 but in 2014 we have seen prices begin to plateau with cars not making their estimate or simply not selling at auction.
Aston Martin DB5 – more of a gut feeling than scientific fact, but it feels like good honest DB5’s have reached their zenith. No doubt in 2015 a few will slip through the £1 million net, but £500-600,000 is about the mark for the gentleman’s GT.
Jaguar XJ220 – we’ve been willing these to leap up in value for years but they steadfastly refuse. Beautiful, historic and iconic – what else with this pedigree could you buy the very best of for £250,000.
Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS - the latter part of 2014 saw a 2.7 RS sell at auction for £370,000 + premium and another go unsold. Condition and provenance is vital for achieving the best prices on these cars, but have we seen them peak?
What classic car buyers wanted in 2014 – our most popular cars.
The number of cars of any given type that we take enquiries for and/or finance is a fantastic indicator of where the market is at any given time. In 2014 we’ve seen “seasonal” interest in a variety of marques and models, but below are the most popular.
- Ferrari 308
- Ferrari Testarossa
- V12 Ferrari – £100,000 to £400,000 (yes, they were out there….)
- Aston Martin DB
- Jaguar E-type – S1 roadsters with V12 cars becoming increasingly popular
- Air cooled Porsche – in fact, Porsche in general…..
- Rally cars with competition history
2014 trends in the classic car market
Price increases slowed.
Values are still going up in many sectors, but the trajectory levelled off in the second half of 2014, in some cases experiencing a seasonal dip.
This abounded in 2014; in fact over-enthusiasm might be more accurate. Over-enthusiastic auction estimates meant that nearly 70% of the thousands of auction lots we monitored sold under the median estimate or did not sell. Dealer prices developed a habit of leaping up like a scalded cat – Porsche RS variants were a good example – and some very enthusiastic buyers gave some of them new homes. And the enthusiasm is still there.
Pre-war cars losing momentum.
The biggest and most obvious shift in 2014 was the move away from pre-war cars. They didn’t perform as well as predicted at auction and offer what we believe is relatively good value for money in many cases. Remember – they don’t make them like that anymore – and are now often a good buy and may be even more so in the future.
More cars on the market.
More cars have been offered than ever before through the auction houses and dealers in 2014 as owners are lured by the promise of high prices. The Ferrari 308 is a great example – 2 years ago there were a handful on the market and there are now literally dozens to choose from – and the 328 is going the same way.
There are very few cars now that are now “unobtainable” – a quick scan through the classifieds should do it.
Prices rising even when supply outstrips demand.
One of the most interesting features of the classic car market in 2014 was that the laws of supply and demand were turned on their head. The more cars that came onto the market, the higher the prices seemed to get. Could the sellers hand the market to the buyers in 2015?
Difference between the best cars and the rest gets wider
Quality became the real differentiator in the market towards the end of 2014. As the media focused on the value of classic cars through the rose tinted spectacles of auction house press releases, the reality was that in the second half of the year buyers exercised more discipline in their buying and a proportion of cars remained unsold or failed to hit their estimates at auction. On average nearly 30% of auction lots failed to sell*, and of the ones that did around 30% sold under the lower estimate (compared to 12% that sold above estimate). The spread of values definitely grew in 2014, due in part to the sheer volume of cars available.
The Domino effect.
We’ve referred to “bandit pricing” before – the practice of aggressive pricing which does not reflect the market value. In 2014 we saw cars going up in price even when they remained unsold for months – every time a car sold for strong money at auction or disappeared from the classifieds, prices were “corrected” and we’re not talking by a few thousand. We recently spotted a car that went up by £100,000 after a strong auction result – even though it had been on the market for 6 months already.
Dealers at auction
Quite a lot of dealer cars found their way to auction in 2014 and in our eyes there is usually only one reason a dealer sends a car to auction – because they can’t sell it. We even saw dealer collections on the block. Some also bought quite a lot from auction as well with some vigorous buying which was often widely broadcast on social media before the cars arrived in showrooms with a significant mark-up – which didn’t seem particularly sensible.
The rumoured opening up of the Chinese export market for classic cars still doesn’t appear to have happened in 2014. Small numbers of cars appear to be getting permission to enter at a provincial level, but do the Chinese really want classic cars?
There is much talk about the global market for classic cars and how buyers in emerging economies in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America are snapping up cars. On the flip side, we have seen a large number of cars coming into the UK to be sold from EU states with faltering economies, Australia and Japan. The US continues to provide a good source of sensibly priced classic metal and and plenty is coming directly into UK sales rooms and auction houses after a quick pit-stop at the restorers. Eagle-eyed dealers have been scouting for cars in Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Philippines amongst. Are there more cars coming in than going out?
2014 – the big news
Most expensive car ever sold at auction
The sale by Bonhams of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT0 for just under £23 million was the big news of 2014 although the speculation that is could hit $100million nearly spoiled the surprise. It broke the all-time record for an automobile sold at auction at their Quail Lodge auction in August.
The media catches up
2014 was the year the the media really caught on to the boom in the classic car market – although realistically they are probably about 12 months behind. Classic cars were global news with the BBC, CBS, Financial Times, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and media organisations from Ireland to the Phillipines reporting enthusiastically on rising prices and investment potential.
The rise of the classic car index
HAGI have made a name for themselves by giving us an investors-eye view of the classic car market – 2014 saw the launch of several other classic car price tracking indexes (indices is also acceptable) including classiccarprice.com and K500.com. These indices will no doubt have a knock on effect on pricing in the market but it is very important to remember that cars sold at auction represent only a fraction of the classic cars that change hands each year so their results cannot be solely relied on for valuation purposes.
Barn find of the century
The discovery of the Baillon Collection in France was described as “the greatest barn find ever”. In reality the relatives of M.Baillon had waited for decades to call Artcurial auctions in Paris to cash in, so not much finding was involved…..
What to watch out for in 2015
Prices will continue to stabilise in 2015 and some segments of the market will see subtle price corrections – while the very best collector cars will continue to rise in value although not as quickly as in 2013/2014.
We predict that we will see some separation in prices between the best cars and the rest in 2015 due to the sheer volume of cars in the market – particularly at the top and bottom ends of the market (£1 million+ and sub-£100,000). The prices of the very best will float to the top and prices on cars that have remained unsold in the market will come down.
The explosion of export markets
We’ve been waiting, and we’ll keep watching – perhaps things will really get moving in 2015.
This great marque has lagged behind Ferrari in terms of interest and values and we think we’ll see a healthy increase in values 2015.At the affordable end of the market, four cylinder Porsches have had a good year and we expect to see further growth in values.
Cars from the eighties and nineties
The market for these warmed in 2014 and we expect to see this continue, particularly on later cars. We still think the Testarossa has a way to go when you compare it to prices of the other two cars in the holy trinity of eighties supercar excess – the Porsche 930 Turbo and Lamborghini Countach. The Lamborghini Diablo is also worth a look although prices have already risen in the last two years. We’re also not entirely convinced that 90’s hot hatches are going to go up in value dramatically as the best of them are already well through the £10,000 mark.
Here’s to another good year for all involved in classic cars.
The auction action starts afresh mid-January which should give us a good idea of which way the market is really headed.
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