2017 Concours of Elegance
When we were chosen to participate in this year’s Concours of Elegance held at the magnificent Hampton Court Palace, we knew it was going to be a lot of hard work. It would also be the first time that the company had really come out into a world occupied by so many contemporaries that we admired and therefore, everything had to be perfect, reflect how we operate as a business, small, nimble and very bespoke.
We were to be one of only seven classic car dealers chosen to be in the Specialist Showcase avenue, so therefore choosing what cars we wanted to exhibit was not an easy task given the rarified sector that the Concours appeals to. Let’s not forget that some of the cars seen there may never have been seen in public before, and had come from all over the world. Given the location being a Royal Palace, the ex HRH Prince of Wales Aston Martin Virage Volante 6.3 seemed a natural choice. Next, we selected a Jaguar E-Type that had been specifically restored to suit its owners exacting requirements. Finally, our third car in our “Best of British” line-up was the very rare Arnolt-Bristol, one of less than 85 known to exist, and whom many of our visitors admitting knowing very little about, but were fascinated by its heritage.
Logistically, the cars proved difficult, with the Aston Martin residing in the north of Scotland, to the Arnolt-Bristol only having finished its long and painstakingly perfect restoration the week before, but by the Thursday evening, they were there in place ready for the doors to open on Friday.
We opted to showcase not just our cars, but also our carefully-chosen Brand Partners who supported us brilliantly over the 3 days. Matthew & Penny from Matthew Humphries Design Watches were on hand to discuss their latest creations on the Friday, along with Tim from our media partner, Private Motor Club. Hospitality was catered for by the Surrey Wine Cellar who had furnished us with some exceptional English sparkling wine for our guests, and lastly, Adam Redding, who had not only created the Jaguar, but had restored the Arnolt-Bristol, made himself available to discuss his work with many visitors, and even offer advice on their own classics.
And if this wasn’t enough, we were blessed with owners and customers alike who spent so much time with us, making the time just fly past. How refreshing to be able to discuss cars with potential buyers with their actual owners present, giving confidence to not just the cars, but to Abbeyfield Sports & Classics as their chosen representative.
Although the weather started to cool off on the Sunday, the atmosphere certainly didn’t as we were then invited to take to the live stage in the centre of the action with the stunning E-Type to engage with Peter Wallman from the esteemed Kidston S.A to discuss the car and also the business itself. A very rare honour.
As weekends go, it was exhaustingly fantastic. We have met so many wonderful enthusiasts who shared their passions for fine, classic motorcars with us, it would be impossible to pick out a dull moment. Was it worth it all? Of course it was, and we thank everyone who made the effort to come over and talk to us about the cars, our services and our business. This truly was a world-class event, and Abbeyfield Sports & Classics Limited certainly made their mark on it.
Bryan & Liz
Most of you will be aware of our monthly e-newsletter, Light Throttle. Now, however, we have just published the first issue of our larger, more informative Full Throttle, our bi-annual newsletter packing lots of features and articles about all things we are passionate about here at Abbeyfield Sports & Classics. If you haven’t seen it yet, click on the link below and settle back with a coffee.
2017 – What can we expect?
I’m not sure that I know of anyone who doesn’t share the belief that 2016 was, frankly, an unbelievable year. From many well-loved public figures leaving us too soon, to Brexit, and finally, just as we thought it couldn’t get more surreal, that shock USA election result, I think it would be fair to say we are glad to see the back of it.
The classic car market in 2016 gave us quite a few surprises too. From disappointing sales results at last year’s Retromobile, the frankly ridiculous values of those air-cooled Porsches at the RM Battersea sale to the simply staggering array on offer at the Milan sale in November we thought we had seen it all. I’d like to think that we have, if I’m being honest. A little stability this year would be good.
Certain cars have peaked, and whilst I don’t believe they will go back down, I think they have found their level. The DB Astons, Lamborghini Miura, Porsche 911 RS and some Ferrari models will remain where they are. The only deviation will be significant motorsport/ownership provenance. That will never change as people still love to buy history.
I also think that the 1970/1980’s supercars such as the Countach, Boxer/Testarossa, V8 Vantage, 930 Turbo, et al have also stopped appreciating at double-percentage figures, and rightly so. I think that the auction houses struggled to fill their catalogues last year and so took too many examples of these on to fill their sales and have now capped their growth in value by doing so.
So what can we expect? Well, as cars age another year, certain examples are now falling from the category of just “old” into “classic” territory. Those rare Porsche 993s being case in point. I’m also a firm believer that as a marque becomes stronger with its modern line-up, it strengthens the case for it’s back-catalogue. Look at Land Rover and its continued success globally. Prices for Defenders and those first series Range Rovers have been climbing due to the growth of its new models, despite the relatively high numbers built. Perhaps good, clean series 1 Discovery 3 doors will be a safe bet this year as a relatively cheap classic in which to put some money into? Just a couple of years ago these were just another old car. In fact, I wonder how many fell victim to the Government’s scrappage scheme? This was the car that pushed the company into a new marketplace, taking on the flood of the Japanese with their Shoguns, Land Cruisers, Patrols and Troopers by offering Land Rover capability with individual styling and a Conran-designed interior. And the added benefit is these are still useable as everyday cars.
Also from the JLR stable we have seen a steady climb in the values of another one of my favourites, the much maligned Jaguar XJS. With E-Type values rocketing, its replacement now looks incredible value, and find a good facelift 4.0 Celebration model and you have a car that exudes quality and class for not a lot of money. And don’t rule out this car’s successor, the first XK8/XKR as being any different. You can now see a crossover in the values between the last of the first cars (especially 4.2 litre XKRs) and the first of the new car from 2006.
On a visit to Italy last year, I was reminded of just how passionate that the country is about anything home-grown. Whether it is food, decent wine, football or cars, they are dedicated to their history. The renaissance of brands such as Alfa Romeo and Maserati with new models in 2017 will again see interest in what has gone before. The 1960/70’s Maseratis have always been desirable, but look to the 1980’s Biturbo and Quattroporte cars for the value, especially the later 222E, Spyder, Ghibli and (if you can find one) Karif. Rare, luxurious, quick and still relatively affordable if you can find a good one. Just buy with mechanical caution. The same applies to Alfa with the Alfasud, GTV6, pretty Spider and the beautifully ugly Zagato-styled SZ/RZ. And most of these can even be maintained at home if you know one end of a spanner from another.
With these brands the success of their new cars brings a new interest from people who have never had the experience of the older cars before and now want to “invest” in a reasonably inexpensive classic. This year also sees the rebirth of the famous Alpine brand by Renault with the launch of their new dedicated sports car. I have long believed this brand to be underrated, so perhaps now we will see the tide turn. Success in rallying with the legendary A110 (which along with the Lancia Stratos must be the prettiest car ever to grace a rally stage), to the sheer presence and fine performance of the A310 and GTA/A610 models, gave Alpine the credibility so desired in a performance car, yet they remained completely overlooked. Will 2017 be their year? It certainly deserves to be.
There can also be another effect from modern success, and that is the wedge that is driven between the practical modern customers and the enthusiastic older customer. Porsche is a fine example. I’m willing to bet that the majority of Cayenne, Macan and Panamera customers have absolutely no knowledge or interest in Porsche’s almost unrivalled motorsport pedigree. This means that there is more out there for the more traditional Porsche drivers that they have probably never considered before, and especially those with their engines in the front. The Club Sport variant of the 968 has seen its value rocket, but now the standard car and its predecessor, the 944 have jumped onto its coat tails and are being dragged up. Try and find a good 944S2 or Turbo under £10,000 and you will be found wanting. Even the 924 (especially the Turbo and 2.5S) have climbed steadily. And just look at where the 928 has ended up; over £50,000 for the last-of-the-line S4 GT with manual transmission. This makes earlier S4 Autos and S2s look value – for now.
The relaunch of TVR this year should also be an interesting one to watch. Fiercely protective, the traditional TVR owners have always kept the values reasonably buoyant, and I don’t see this changing. My own personal favourite, the Griffith 500, is now a bona fide classic with good examples hitting £30,000 and with good reason. A proper, powerful front engined British roadster in the same vein as the Big Healeys and AC’s, the like of which we probably will never see again. Will the new model from the new company spark a rise in values again? Perhaps, perhaps not, but even so, the Big Griff deserves your attention nontheless.
Over the next few months, the big auction houses will start their year and trends will be set. I still believe that there are a huge number of great cars overlooked by buyers that really do warrant closer scrutiny. Hindsight is a great thing, but sometimes being ahead of the game is difficult, even for us dealers. My advice, however, is simple. There is no magic to this. I am reminded of a wonderful article about wine written by a top sommelier: find something you enjoy, and just drink it. I concur, find a car you love, and just buy it to drive it.