Recently I expressed my frustration at the professional investors who were looking to milk as yet untouched areas of the classic car market.
This week I have more positive advice to offer. I’m thinking, given that you might have a bit of time off over this festive period, this could be the perfect opportunity to get in before them.
Said investors are right in as much as that, while the classic car market has gone soft in the head recently, there are still areas that haven’t yet gone completely bonkers. The key is knowing what those are.
And I reckon it’s the relatively modern classics – from the 1980s onwards – where those little nuggets lie.
Not that everything from that era is going to go well, or hasn’t done so already. I wouldn’t ever expect to make money out of a Mazda MX-5 because there are just so many of them, while, conversely, BMW E30 M3 prices are already touching the moon.
But if you had your head delved deeply enough into car magazines at the time, those models that struck a nichey, enthusiast-orientated chord then are the sort of thing that, I suspect, might serve you well now. Stuff like the Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, for example. It never quite held the acclaim of its contemporary BMW M3 rival, which is why they only cost into the low teens now.
Official UK-imported Honda Integra Type Rs are already worth a couple of quid more than they were a few years ago. And I remember car magazines telling a youthful me that the Renault Alpine A610 – about £10k now – was as good to drive at the time as the Porsche 911s that now cost five times that.
All seem to me to have some way to go before they reach a level of cars that they are fundamentally better than. The theme’s the same, I suppose. They were good then and, because not many people knew about them or bought the more obvious choice, there aren’t many of ’em. They’re my tip, anyway.
Your investment may go down as well as up, of course, and it’s probably worth noting at this point that I have never made money on a classic car, or on any other car for that matter, despite what I may have told various Significant Others at the time of selling.
I nearly bought a Fiat Dino Coupé (then about £8000) in the early 2000s but instead bought a Ducati 748 that was far too fast for my bravery and which I sold a year later at a £2500 loss. A Dino Coupé is now £60,000. I’d considered a Dino Spider, for a few grand more, but it wasn’t as pretty, so I dismissed it, and they now make £165,000. Still, nice bike, while I had it.
And another thing... Remember automated manual gearboxes? You have to look pretty hard to find one on sale these days because most cars use extremely good torque converter automatics or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes instead.
Part of the problem with single-clutch automated manuals is that they take a long time to shift, and you’re not doing anything at the time, so you’re continually waiting… waiting… waiting. They take no longer than a manual shift – in fact, they’re probably quicker – but at least in a manual you’re doing something.
Just been told a good story, though, by an engineer who worked on them. During the development of an automated manual gearbox, engineers noticed that, as passengers, their heads would nod forward at each upshift as drive disengaged and then re-engaged.
So they put in a dummy gearlever on the centre console, which the driver reached for at every gearshift. Same gearshift time, same deceleration and acceleration in the car – but sensing the driver reaching for the gearlever meant that the passenger’s head nod completely disappeared. As with lots in life, preparation is key. I should try it sometime.
And finally... Thank you, as ever, for reading Autocar this year. I’m happy that you read us wherever you find our content – in print, reading our words online or watching our videos. I’m extremely grateful to you.