The classic car market in Australia is booming, the sharp rise in value is being fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and awareness of the money being made in the emerging asset class is growing.
Cars that weren’t exactly loved when they were released or considered the pinnacle of automotive excellence are now selling at multiples of their original cost as savvy investors look for money.
In some cases, vehicles that would have sold new for a few thousand dollars in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s are attracting well over $ 100,000 today, with a number rising even higher.
Even a Holden Kingswood can fetch around $ 50,000, a Ford Cortina $ 70,000, and a Ford Escort around $ 30,000.
Vintage all-wheel drive also attracts big dollars, with something like a 1971 Toyota Landcruiser FJ40 valued at nearly $ 120,000.
Right in the middle of the action is Mark Haybittle, an experienced classic car investor and managing director of Supercar Secrets, a specialist agency with an established and exclusive network of private collectors.
Mr Haybittle said that with the pandemic outbreak last year, things could have gone in a number of ways, including the potential for depreciation.
But it turns out the opposite has happened as prices in Australia have increased 40 percent or more.
“Aussies have been diverting the money they would otherwise have spent on vacation into this booming classic car market and taking advantage of it,” he said.
“They tell us what to spend and we’ll put them in cars that will be booming in six to nine months.
“From the customer’s point of view, they have the satisfaction of investing wisely and with passion.”
And that’s also part of the appeal for Mr. Haybittle, a longtime car enthusiast.
In addition to buying and selling vehicles, his group takes on all necessary restoration work and brings classic models back to their exhibition state.
“If you look out the window now, everything you see on the street looks exactly the same,” he said.
The story goes on
“They’re all white or silver. There’s no shape change, no differentiation between cars these days.”
The cars of his collectors, on the other hand, have “everything to tell a story” that distinguishes them and gives them a glimpse of the “excitement of the past”.
So what’s the secret to picking the next big thing?
Origin is important, keeping track of the car’s ownership history, but other things are crucial, including the right engine size, the right gearbox, and even the right interior and exterior color combinations.
Of course, the number produced is also a key. The less that is left on the streets, the more likely prices will skyrocket.
While some people are in it primarily for the healthy returns, and some are real car enthusiasts who enjoy the opportunity to get their investments on the road, Haybittle said many of his clients consider themselves custodians.
“It’s like a work of art,” he said.
“You’re just the steward for the time it’s with you, and then it goes on to someone else.”
As the market continues to boom, institutional investors, including pension funds, are also getting involved.
With impressive returns over the past 30 years, Haybittle said he believed values would continue to rise even if the number of cars available in Australia fell.
The pandemic helped here too. With somewhat stagnant returns in Europe and elsewhere, which makes it more attractive to source vehicles from overseas.
His group currently handles about 200 cars each year and he admits “doing a few wrong”.
“But if we get them wrong, it just means they didn’t go up as much as we expected, but they didn’t go down,” said Haybittle.