19/05/2023 General News
Nick Harding says that the continuing interest in classic cars and motorbikes is mainly driven by a nostalgia for our younger days.
In the auction house, you see a demand for antiques from pretty much any era, from centuries back to really quite recent. But one type of auction tends to attract those who are looking to secure a purchase from their own generation – classic cars and motorbikes.
It is perhaps important to make the distinction between vintage and classic. For me, vintage cars and bikes are those which you have never seen on the road in your lifetime, but which you might see at rallies - models from the very beginning of automotive history, their age being the thing which makes them stand out.
But classic cars are more difficult to define, because it is much more personal – one man’s banger could be another’s desirable classic. It is what makes classic car and bike sales so interesting. In essence, a classic car or bike is probably one you saw on the road, but you couldn’t afford to own one.
They don’t have to be top-of-the-range glamorous models. Yes, of course the Rolls Royces, Ferraris and Bentleys are in demand, but you might be surprised at what makes a car or bike a classic.
One factor is motors which were ahead of their time when they first came out, either in terms of technology, reliability or performance. That means they can be used confidently today, as a weekend treat or even a regular runabout.
A good example of such a vehicle is the Kawasaki H1 Triple, a two-stroke 500cc sports bike produced between 1969 and 1975. It was claimed at the time of launch that the bike was ‘the fastest and best accelerating road machine ever produced, being capable of 124 mph and 12.4 seconds for the standing start quarter mile’.
A classic bike then, still relatively affordable. Keys has three beautifully restored versions in its forthcoming Classic Cars, Automobilia & Vintage Sale in June, each with a very accessible estimate of £9,000-£12,000.
Another thing which can make a car a classic is, curiously, because it had a bad reputation. This generally happens with ordinary hatchbacks made into ‘hot’ versions, with very powerful engines – resulting in many being crashed by drivers unused to the performance. The result is a scarcity of supply, driving up prices. Cars such as the Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 come into this category, as does the Ford Escort Mexico, one of which featured in a sale at Keys last year with an estimate of £45,000-£50,000.
Rarity will always drive up demand, and cars which were technically brilliant but which were marketing disasters at launch are always in demand. For example, Renault’s innovative Avantime, of which just 8,557 were sold, is now a real classic.
Of course, drop-dead gorgeous looks, combined with intoxicating performance, remain great ingredients for making a classic. Who doesn’t want to own an original Jaguar E-type? The answer is obvious from the prices these cars are achieving – up to and beyond £100,000 for a really good one.
But actually, for most people the route to classic car ownership is more prosaic. Few of us can afford the glamour of the E-type, but most people are in fact looking for the cars and bikes they hankered after in their youth, when they couldn’t afford to buy or indeed insure them. So we see big demand for cars such as early VW Golf GTIs and Ford Capris.
Pleasingly, most people who buy classic cars and bikes on the basis of nostalgia tend to drive them, rather than lock them up in a garage as an investment. So those shiny new models from our youth are being given another lease of life as classics, driven by a new audience for whom they were out of reach when they were first made.