Buying and owning a Formula One car

By CSF Team | Buying a Classic | 1 Comments

Just a few short weeks ago the air in Sussex was heavy with the smell of high-octane fuel, heralding the start of the historic motor racing year, as the 74th Goodwood Members meeting got under way and historic Formula One cars were amongst the machinery to be let loose on the Goodwood circuit. It is one of the most evocative sights and sounds in motorsport – and something that more and more enthusiasts are getting involved in.


Little wonder – driving an F1 car is the ultimate goal of pretty much any racing driver and the experience is realistically accessible to enthusiasts. With a little help from historic F1 expert James Hanson of Speedmaster Cars we take a look at what it is like to buy, own and run one of these incredible machines.

The Historic Formula One Experience.

Let’s start with why you might want to consider buying one. James sums it up nicely: “These cars aren’t just good to drive – they are amazing. In fact everything is amazing!”. He reports that they are in fact reasonably easy to drive, ”after all, they still have four wheels and a steering wheel just like a normal car. Last time I checked, Lewis Hamilton only had two arms and two legs…..” Forget the video footage of drivers stalling modern F1 cars in the pits, historic cars are more user friendly.

“These cars aren’t just good to drive – they are amazing”


Manufacturer development programs such as Ferrari’s XX Programme and Aston Martin’s Vulcan offer similar thrills for a lot more money but the secondary market for these modern track-only hypercars is arguably not as strong nor do they offer the emotional involvement of a historic race car.

Aston Martin Vulcan - more expensive than a historic F1 car and residuals are likely to be less appealing. Image: Top Gear
Aston Martin Vulcan – more expensive than an historic F1 car and residuals are likely to be less appealing. Image: Top Gear


As James succinctly puts it, F1 cars “are the most fun you can have with your clothes on” and the recent success of James Hunt biopic Rush combined with the opportunity of driving at circuits such as Monaco, Silverstone and Goodwood have fuelled interest in the market.


Where can you use historic F1 cars?


Historic F1 cars run at historic Grand Prix support races at locations including Monaco, Silverstone, Le Mans, Goodwood, Zandvoorte, Spa, Monza and various locations in the US. The FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship have a full calendar on their website.

In terms of numbers around 40 cars run at the Silverstone Classic and around 70 at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix  – so a larger grid than Formula 1 itself.

F1 cars can be driven on demonstration or test days (of which there are plenty), but as a rule not on a track day!


Buying an F1 Car.

Price guide.

£150,000 for a starter, a good competitive car with nice history will be around £250,000 – £600,000 depending on the constructor and you are likely to pay around £3m for something like a Ferrari. There are deals to be found though and you could potentially pick up a package of driveable team cars and spares for £500,000 – it really does depend on the team, constructor and history.

Schumacher/ Piquet/ Brundle 1991-1992 BENETTON-FORD B191/191B available at Bonhams' 2016 Monaco sale - estimate £170-220,000.
Schumacher/ Piquet/ Brundle 1991-1992 BENETTON-FORD B191/191B available at Bonhams’ 2016 Monaco sale – estimate £170-220,000.


1984 TYRRELL 012 -03 F1 WITH COSWORTH DFV – proven & competitive car in the Masters series. Available from Speedmaster at £250,000


Primary pricing considerations.

The history of the car, marque and/or driver can clearly make a huge difference. The condition of the engine and mechanicals and the availability of spares and parts also have  a significant effect on price.

Ex-Schumacher championship winning 2000 Ferrari F1-2000 Chassis no. 198 sold for $1,804,000 in August 2014 by RM Auctions
Ex-Schumacher championship winning 2000 Ferrari F1-2000 Chassis no. 198 sold for $1,804,000 in August 2014 by RM Auctions


Driver size.

This can be an issue particularly for Ferraris. 70’s cars are generally quite spacious but it will come as no surprise that these machines weren’t built for comfort – however if you want to drive it badly enough you will make yourself fit!!!

Where should you buy?

Specialist dealers with knowledge of the market such as Speedmaster or Hall & Hall. Auctions can be a good place to buy cars (provided you really know what you are buying) partly because auctions are not necessarily the best place to sell them…

Running costs & ownership challenges.

One of the first questions in most buyers minds is how much will an F1 car cost to run – and rather unhelpfully the answer is “ how long is a piece of string.” Broadly speaking this will depend on how often you use it and what type of car it is.

Speedmaster recommend that owners budget for an engine rebuild every 1200 miles which will cost approximately £15,000 –  but this could mean two or three years running. Overall you should budget for £1000 per weekend if you run it sensibly over 12-36 months.

V12 Alfas and Ferrari F1 cars can be expensive to repair and it can take a long time to get parts and make any necessary repairs – there is no real supply chain and only a very limited demand for parts. The ubiquitous Cosworth DFV-engined used by a myriad of teams are easier to run and maintain which lowers the cost of ownership & enhances the value as well as improving the overall ownership experience if you can live without a Scuderia shield on your nose cone.

Cosworth DFV-powered Williams FW07. Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Lothar Spurzem
Cosworth DFV-powered Williams FW07. Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Lothar Spurzem

Support infrastructure is good in the UK with many specialists and historic race teams enabling owners to go racing.


Historic Formula One market & values.

This is a relatively complex market and although prices are stable there can be wild variations in prices for F1 cars depending on what they are.

A race-winning history and superstar driver makes quite a lot of difference to the price and  Championship winning car could be three times the price of an also-ran. Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, and Williams are the most desirable marques. Cosworth DFV engines powered cars are easier to run and maintain which enhances the value.

Eras: the 60s are less popular now and 70’s cars are currently the most valuable – it’s a generational shift caused by the “Rush Effect” according toSpeedmaster with cars driven by the likes of Hunt, Lauda, Fittipaldi and  Andretti commanding the strongest prices. Cars eligible for the popular Masters race series are between 1966-1985 – newer cars are are more complicated and there are not a lot of races open to them. Turbo-charged cars (1980’s onwards for some cars) are more challenging to run and Nineties F1 cars are generally considered too modern.


Values haven’t shot up but have experienced a steady rise since. Speedmaster believe that historic Formula 1 cars are undervalued – to put that in context you can buy a Grand Prix  winning car for less than a Ferrari Daytona and £2 million is the most that has been paid up to now for a Ferrari F1 machine. We see them as a good, secure long term purchase – prices are stable.

The cars to buy.

Ferrari, Lotus, Williams, McLaren, and Tyrrell were some of the most successful at the time and remain icons of the era. Buy what you like and enjoy driving it!

The Future.

It is quite possible that the modern technology in recent F1 cars could spell the end of “civilians” using them which means that there really is a limited supply of cars to purchase. Currently any Ferrari constructed after 2000 needs to be run by Ferrari themselves and Williams also have a historic factory program but this expertise always comes at a cost.


There’s nothing quite like a historic F1 car and whether you plan to drive it (which you should) or keep it in a collection they are the ultimate automotive icon for petrolheads. With truly limited numbers, iconic liveries and racing pedigree these cars are instantly recognisable to millions which means that in our view at least they make a fine automotive collectable which could make a canny long-term buy.


Many thanks to James Hanson of Speedmaster for his expertise and input.


For further information on the finance packages available for historic Formula One or any race car please contact Rob Johnson on 01869 351 512.


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