Classic car market reaps better returns than property, fine art

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March 19, 2013 | BY AFP

Classic cars are proving to be a better investment than property or even fine art, as evidenced by stellar sales at recent auctions such as this month's Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Florida

The Aston Martin DB5's value is slowly rising

At this month's Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance auction in Florida, five classic cars each sold for over $1 million, while the top 10 sold for a whopping $13.7 million in total.

But for anyone with a vested interest in cars or a good eye for investment, these numbers should come as no surprise. 

While tracking different asset classes over the past 10 years, the Financial Times discovered that while a premium New York property had increased in value by 72 percent and a similar one in Hong Kong was now worth 220 percent more, neither could match the gains made in the classic car market – which grew in value by an estimated 395 percent over the same period. Even the fine art market cannot compete with that kind of growth.

These figures correlate with those of Knight Frank, a UK firm which this month launched its own Luxury Investment Index to help high-net-worth individuals navigate the different investment markets.

"I believe we are seeing a marked shift in attitudes to investment," says Historics' auction director, Edward Bridger-Stille. "But for its rising value as a precious commodity, it's perhaps difficult to get passionate about the possession of gold, whereas ownership of a classic motor car is a truly engaging, ‘head and heart' experience, aside from being a fast-appreciating asset."

Knight Frank's Andrew Shirley adds: "Our research shows that HNWIs, particularly those from the burgeoning economies of Asia, Latin America and Africa, are becomingly increasingly interested in ‘investments of passion' such as classic cars. This is helping to drive values ever higher."

The car that appears to be driving this enthusiasm more than any other is the classic V12 Ferrari. In fact, in recent times, no well-established classic car auction is complete without a Ferrari and it is usually a prancing horse that is the star of the show. So much so that Ferrari claims it has become standard practice for a 250 Testa Rossa to sell for $12 million and for a 250GTO to sell for $20 million.

It is now commonplace for a Testa Rossa to command a price of $16 million at auction

The demand for these rarest of 1950s and 1960s Ferraris is having a knock-on effect in that other Ferraris are also quickly gaining value. The Amelia auction was no exception, with a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB selling for $1,375,000 this month. Likewise, a 1959 250 GT long wheelbase Berlinetta sold in 2012 for a staggering $6.7 million, breaking the record set in 2003 when a car in the same condition sold for $1.19 million.

But it's not just Ferraris. Over the past 12 months, the value of 1950s and 1960s Mercedes has been on the rise as have the prices of Aston Martin DB5 and DB6 coupes. Maseratis from the 1960S, such as the Ghibli, are also gaining. But none of these marques is yet to cross the million dollar threshold.

However, 2013 is only three months old and there are at least six premium classic car auctions, including the Don Davis Collection in April, the Villa Erba in May, and of course Pebble Beach in August yet to come. Records will be broken.

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