Rising values, worth vs. drivability, and the fact that high-value collector cars are too-often seen today as precious commodities rather than classic automobiles meant to be enjoyed – these were the overarching themes of Thursday’s second annual Sports Car Market Scottsdale Insider’s Seminar.
“As you heard, we are all slightly saddened that collector cars are being looked at primarily as investments,” moderator Donald Osborne said in summing up the panel discussion held at the Gooding & Company auction tent in Scottsdale.
Osborne, a well-know collector-car expert, writer, appraiser and commentator, both emceed and took part in the seminar, which provided a look at some of the leading trends of the classic car market during Arizona’s famous auction week. Plus, the witty banter between the panelists drew lots of laughs from the crowd of several hundred.
Osborne was joined onstage by four of the top collector-car experts in the business, all of them regular contributors to Sports Car Market magazine: Carl Bomstead, writer, collector and concours judge; Colin Comer, classic car dealer, author, editor and prolific commentator; Simon Kidston, top-tier auction expert, car-collecting consultant and concours host; and Steve Serio, Aston Martin dealer and unflagging aficionado of European sports cars.
The rapid rise over the past few years of auction results for classic cars, especially for Ferraris, Porsches and other key vintage rides, is both exhilarating and worrying, Serio said.
“This is a like when the stock market first started,” he said. “This is relatively new. It really has become an asset-based marketplace.”
The discussion was wide-ranging but focused on eight European sports cars that represent various aspects of the collector-car market:
1960-63 Ferrari 250 GTE – “This is the runt of the litter,” Kidston said in dismissing the desirability of the four-seater that has been dragged up in value by more important Ferraris. “They are a ‘poor man’s Ferrari’ worth $400,000 to $450,000 today.”
1960-61 Jaguar E-type Series 1 convertible – “The devil’s in the details with these cars,” Bomstead said, noting that they are expensive to restore and become considerably less valuable with just minor flaws. They have seen a strong surge in overall value, he added, which will most likely continue.
Kidston called it, “The iconic supercar of the ’60s.”
1964-64 Porsche 356C and 356SC coupe – The $80,000 to $100,000 value estimate for 2015 by the SCM price guide is “wildly outdated,” Serio said. “For a great driving ’65, it would take $150,000 to $175,000 to get into one now.”
1968-76 Triumph TR6 – Values for these have stayed flat, in the $20,000 to $25,000 range, the panelists observed. “They are not an investment,” Kidston said. “They don’t have that ‘wow’ factor.”
But Comer took a more positive stance on the TR6, that they are fun cars that most people can still buy without breaking the bank.
“Not bad to have a British sports car that people can still afford and then have fun with them,” Comer said.
1965-68 Porsche 911 – “The explosion in value of 911s is quite incredible,” Kidston said. “I do find it troubling and somewhat baffling.”
But values for 911s are expected to remain strong, Serio added. “It’s a shape that appeals to all generations.”
1955-58 Lancia Aurelia convertible – “They have had a fairly solid run up, but these cars have arguably fallen back a bit,” Kidston said of the value. “This is a nice car to drive and to go on events, but it’s not the best (Lancia).”
1954-57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL gullwing coupe – “They continue to be the gold standard,” Bomstead said as he noted the expected 2015 value range of $1.1 million to $1.5 million.
“The gullwing is one of those cars that have a worldwide market,” Kidston added. “It is also one of the most usable of classic cars.”
1960-62 Ferrari 250 GT SWB coupe (steel-bodied) – Noting that the SCM estimated value for the short-wheelbase 250 GT has risen sharply to a very exclusive $9 million to $10 million, Comer said, “As for the values (for top Ferraris), when will they stop? They seem to be endless, but we all know better than that.”
After that discussion, the five experts engaged in a competition of choices called The Perfect Pair, in which they picked two collector cars that could both be purchased in three price ranges: under $50,000, under $500,000 and under $5 million. Each also picked a “wild card” of whatever they wanted.
The choices were revealing. Bomstead’s were all pre-war classics, Kidston’s were somewhat add Europeans (including a Fiat 600 Multiplia, a model that he said most often were seen in Italy driven by Catholic nuns), Comer’s were quirky and clever, Osborne’s were essentially all Lancias, and Serio’s were a thoughtful group of exotic sports cars and drivable classics.
Osborne took a vote based on a hand-held volume gauge to measure applause, and Serio’s range of picks was the winner hands down, although Bomstead, Kidston and Comer each received respectable applause.
Not so for Donald Osborne. By far the biggest laugh of the morning happened when Osborne’s turn for applause came around for his choices.
And absolutely nobody clapped.