Classic cars – Talk to the organ grinder, not his monkey!

Classic cars – Talk to the organ grinder, not his monkey!

The matter of classic automobiles is highly complex and the market is fragmented due to the variety of market participants. The selection of the best vehicles requires a lot of experience, extensive knowledge of detail and expertise, and not least an excellent, international network of other enthusiasts and model specialists. Owing to these conditions, we increasingly observe the importance of working together with the recognized brand and model specialists in your segment for the selection of the right vehicles, especially for historic vehicles in the upper price segment. This, in turn, presents interested parties as well as cross-brand collectors with the challenge of directly identifying relevant specialists in their respective fields.

One of the highlights of my year is the Goodwood member meeting in April. Apart from the Retromobile in Paris and the Retro classic in Essen, at this event, similarly to the Concours d’ Elegance at Villa d’Este, you have the possibility of meeting the real factors (collectors, brokers, editors, and many more) to gain a full update on what has been really happening, across the board, in the car market.

The classic car world seems to be in some turmoil: on one side, impressive US auctions; on the other, not quite so smooth European ones. Pre-war cars are coming out of the woodwork and doing well, and at the same time some newly-found classics are hitting the headlines.

European auctions may still be the darlings of the press this side of the pond, but with lower estimate prices and the hammer going down at that level or even below, it is clear that, recently, the quality of what’s on offer has not been the best. In fact, one could venture that, in some cases, the shop floors have been having a clear-out.

The smaller auction houses may have been making news, doing well even under the radar and functioning profitably at the lower end of the market, but larger outfits are struggling to get the real show-stoppers. As it is so often the case, ‘new kids on the block’ are hitting the headlines: we spotted some great results in Essen and, we are told, more surprises await in the pipeline.

 Total sell-out of classic cars events are continuing: as always, a great turnout and glam event at the 77th Goodwood Members’ meeting, and the 90th Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance, ran some real head-turner entries. More and more rally events around the globe are taking part. As for the classic car shows, a new Essen layout heralded this year, with talks of future plans for extensions. It is still a great show, but a lot of the usual faces were missing. Is this the first sign of change? We do not think so, and long may the growth continue.

We have noticed a fall in some headline hits compared to past bullish crowing; perhaps dealers are not too sure about the stock they hold, although this tends to be transient.  Tapping into the dealer network’s gossip, the main focus seems to keep the classic car world busy. Clearly this is still happening, and classic cars are still the best investment, with values going up, so our advice is not to wait for the market to change.


By Flippo Pignatti (Classic car collector, market analyst on tangible and emotional assets)

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