Auto enthusiast Simon de Burton takes us back in time with a look at the top-tier classic cars on the market
Anyone who remembers how the classic car boom of the late 1980s ended in a dramatic bust might justifiably be inclined to steer clear of sinking their savings into a collection of old cars. However, a look at some of the prices commanded for models today that could have been bought for considerably less money just 10 or 20 years ago, shows that the market currently is at an all-time high.
A prime example of the buoyancy of the collector car hobby was seen at a recent sale of around 60 classics held in Paris by French auction house Artcurial. Known as the “Baillon Collection,” the cars had been abandoned for decades among outbuildings of the grounds of a historic château. Most had suffered the ravages of rust and rodents, but that didn’t prevent them from fetching a total of €25 million — the top lot being a 1961 Ferrari 250GT short wheelbase California Spider (pictured bottom right), that alone, despite needing restoration, commanded €16.2 million.
There is little doubt that the dramatic upturn in values throughout the last decade can be attributed to the fact that people are looking for a home for their money that is both safer and more interesting than leaving it in the bank. But the financial aspect isn’t the only factor at work — in recent years, the number of events held for veteran, vintage and classic automobiles has grown exponentially. Instead of just polishing your pride and joy and taking it for an occasional weekend jaunt, collectors actually can use their cars for anything from an organized tour with a group of like-minded enthusiasts to an all-out, seat-of-the-pants circuit race.
One of the most appealing facets of old cars, however, is that you can have as much fun with one that costs $15,000 as one that retails for $15 million, or any range between. To prove the point, we’ve selected six classics across a (very) wide range of values.
Created by former aircraft designer Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar’s E-Type was the fastest production car on the market when it was first unveiled in March 1961. With a top speed of 150 mph, a 3.8-liter, 265-horsepower engine and jaw-dropping good looks, it was declared by none other than Enzo Ferrari to be “the most beautiful car in the world.” And, at the time, priced at little more than £2,000, it was less than half the price of a comparable Ferrari or Aston Martin. More than 72,000 were built during the 14-year production run — the majority were sold in the U.S. The most popular, however, are the “Series 1” models, made until 1968, with the best open-top “roadsters” currently commanding around $250,000; the fixed-head coupes go for half as much.
Ferrari 250 GTO
Said by many to be the most coveted car ever created, a mere 39 examples of the legendary 250 GT “Omologato” were produced between 1962 and 1963. Originally built to contest the FIA GT World Championship series in the three-liter class, the “250” in the title refers to the 250cc capacity of each of the engine’s 12 cylinders. Although designed as a pure racing machine, the GTO is renowned for its ease of use as a road car and its suitability for covering great distances at speed. Few members of the car’s legion of admirers are likely to get the chance to own one, however. They now change hands for up to $50 million.
Launched in 1962, the MGB became the world’s most popular sports car; 514,834 examples were built during an 18-year production run. Huge numbers of the MGB were exported to the U.S. where they remain well-loved and very affordable classics. Powered by a dependable, if not exactly electrifying, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, the “B” can be found as a wind-in-the-hair roadster or in more practical coupe format as the “GT.” In either case, you get classic 1960s looks, a great owner’s network and the extensive availability of spares (everything from carpets to entire bodyshells are available as new). And, with prices for a decent example starting at just $5,000, they remain a remarkable value for money.
Porsche 911 Carrera RS
The Carrera 2.7 RS of 1973 was intended purely for racing, but Porsche had to build 500 road-going examples to qualify the car for inclusion in the Group 4 GT category. But it proved so popular as a high-performance street machine that production stopped after an additional 1,008 had rolled off the line. Much of the appeal of the RS lies in the fact that it combines 150-mph performance with reliability and surprising economy, making it an all-around practical vehicle. The model was mainly sold in “touring” trim, although 200 “lightweight” versions also were built, featuring bare bones interiors and other special components. The best now fetch more than $1 million.
Shelby Mustang GT350H
An American icon, the Mustang has been in continuous production in myriad versions since 1964, but the most valuable examples are the tuned models produced during the late 1960s by legendary racer Carrol Shelby. The GT350 typically featured a 289-cubic-inch “Hi-Po” V8 engine, a four-barrel Holley carburetor and the choice of manual or automatic transmission. The most celebrated of these is the “H” model, which was built for Hertz. Legend has it that they were frequently rented on Fridays, raced throughout the weekend and returned to the Hertz fleet on Monday morning — leading to the term “rent-a-racer.” A top model Shelby Mustang GT350H, with all its original extras, now costs around $150,000.
Made famous in the opening scene of the movie “The Italian Job,” the Miura was the first mid-engine, road-going supercar when it was launched in 1966. According to legend, Lamborghini engineers designed it in their spare time, as company boss Ferruccio Lamborghini was more interested in grand tourers. Featuring a 12-cylinder, four-liter engine crammed in behind the two-seater cockpit, Miuras are known for their brutal power, weighty gearshift and over-light front end. But, on a twisting mountain road with a good driver behind the wheel, thrills are guaranteed. Add to that a range of wild color options and a list of past owners ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Shah of Iran and you can see why values have risen from $800,000 five years ago to more than $2 million today.