The vintage car market is booming in Australia, with the sharp rise in values fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing awareness of the money to be made in the emerging asset class.
Cars that weren’t necessarily loved or considered the pinnacle of automotive excellence when released are now selling for several times their original cost, as savvy investors seek to cash in.
In some cases, vehicles that would have sold new for a few thousand dollars in the 1970s, 80s or 90s are now attracting well over $ 100,000 and a number are pushing even higher.
Even the likes of a Holden Kingswood can fetch around $ 50,000, a Ford Cortina $ 70,000 and a Ford Escort around $ 30,000.
Vintage four-wheel drive also draws a lot of money, with something like a 1971 Toyota Landcruiser FJ40 valued at nearly $ 120,000.
At the heart of the action is Mark Haybittle, a veteran classic car investor and managing director of Supercar Secrets, a specialist agency with an established and exclusive network of private collectors.
Mr Haybittle said things could have turned out a number of ways with the pandemic onset last year, including the potential for values to fall.
But the opposite turned out to be true with prices in Australia increasing by 40% or more.
“Australians redirected the money they could have spent on vacation to this booming classic car market and reaped the benefits,” he said.
“They tell us what to spend and we put them in cars that are going to explode in six to nine months.
“From the customer’s point of view, he has the satisfaction of investing intelligently and with heart.
And for Mr. Haybittle, a longtime car enthusiast, that is also part of the appeal.
In addition to buying and selling vehicles, his group takes care of all the necessary restoration work, returning classic models to showroom status.
“If you look out the window now, everything you see on the road looks exactly the same,” he said.
“They are all white or silver. There is no change in shape, there is no differentiation between cars these days.”
In contrast, the cars its collectors seek all “have a story to tell”, something that sets them apart, offering a glimpse into “the excitement of the past.”
So what’s the secret to choosing the next big thing?
Provenance is important, tracking the ownership history of the car, but other things are crucial including the right engine size, the right transmission, and even the right interior and exterior color combinations.
Obviously, the number produced is also a key. The less left on the road, the more likely prices are to skyrocket.
While some people are there largely for healthy returns, and some are true car enthusiasts who relish the opportunity to take their investments on the road, Mr.
“It’s like a work of art,” he said.
“You are only the keeper for the period of time he’s with you, and then it passes to someone else.”
But as the market continues to explode, institutional investors, including pension funds, are also getting involved.
With impressive returns over the past 30 years, Mr Haybittle said he believes values will continue to grow, even amid a decline in the number of cars available in Australia.
This is also where the pandemic has helped. With somewhat stagnant returns in Europe and elsewhere, which makes the supply of vehicles from overseas more attractive.
His group currently operates around 200 cars each year and he admits “he was wrong”.
“But when we’re wrong, it just means they haven’t gone up as much as we expected, but they haven’t gone down,” Haybittle said.
Associated Australian Press