Rob’s Opinion Piece for The Private Motor Club’s Reference Book

Rob’s Opinion Piece for The Private Motor Club’s Reference Book
8th January 2024 CSF Marketing

Rob’s Opinion Piece for The Private Motor Club’s Reference Book

Tim Hutton’s latest publication is the Reference book, Volume 1 for The Private Motor Club, featuring auction data, race results, and opinion pieces from a selection of industry leaders. Our own Rob Johnson offers his opinion piece as the Finance Specialist on the state of the classic car market in 2023

Biggest moment of the year for you?

I always measure milestones in our commercial year by what we are asked to be involved with rather than what we achieve as such. In an environment which is seeing high value historic cars under pressure in terms of sales, being asked to transact a very rare and high value ex Royal Aston Martin followed by a fabulous historied Vintage WO Bentley in the following month was a high point of the year. Each car was sold in excess of seven figures, demonstrating that there is still appetite for high value cars of significant interest and good provenance.

Favourite event of the year?

After 25 years in the industry, I have to say there are a few events in the automotive world that I still find crucial to attend and find little difference to all the key events each year. Only motorsport seems to offer variety these days and even these are becoming repetitious. Instead, I opt out to a totally different discipline and always look forward to a non-work visit to the Game Fair at Ragley Hall. It’s the only place I can go and not see or have to meet people from my industry. It is truly an alternative weekend for me, my wife and the dog away from cars. But we do get to paw over a few tractors!

Most exciting marque of the year?

In our finance business, I am always watching the activity around the Porsche product. Of our total loan book this year, 24% of the cars we have funded have been from the Porsche marque in some way or other with a good mix of both classic, later era and new cars being bought. The brand is and always has been interesting, reliable and strong in terms of consumer interest. Good residual values and the sheer longevity of the cars keep the marque at the top of any enthusiast bucket list.

What car or marque do you wish you had bought this year?

I’m not convinced anything has moved up in the market significantly for me to regret not buying myself. In fact the prices of my type of classic are softening slightly and it is not a question I’m concerned about at the moment – next year may be a different story though!

Where would you put your money right now?

This is a great question which always falls back on people thinking that every historic car purchase should make money. Buy a car you like, have some kind of personal relationship with or have always wanted. There is a much greater selection of all sorts of cars coming to market at all price levels, both through the auction’s platforms and the normal dealer network. Anyone has access to a classic car now of some shape or form which can be used at so many events now.

Where is the market going?

I’m not sure that our historic car movement should be called a market. This insinuates prices and car values again and maybe should be measured in terms of interest in the historic movement and gaining more enthusiasts, especially amongst the young, maybe a better way of measuring what is changing and are more people becoming interested in and where this is taking the market. Without continued and growing enthusiasm there will not be a so-called market at all.

Should I invest or wait?

I honestly don’t think the automotive sector should be considered an asset class or commodity sector where an investment can be confidently made. Cars are pieces of history from a period of time in the evolution of transport and should be purchased solely as someone wanting to be a custodian to a certain part of that history and realise maximum fun from it. My advice to all my clients is buy with your heart but make sure economics align for you. Buy what you want because you want it and if its available buy it now to enjoy and not for any potential financial gain or loss.

Overall state of classic and young-timer market?

Again, I am inclined to measure the state of any market in terms of the interest there is for people to want to be involved and make a contribution to it. Certainly, the desire to own a car from the older classic era is rapidly changing and the subsequent generation of enthusiasts with disposable income are looking for something different and clearly more modern. I think a new class of classic car is about to be categorised by pre or post ECU unit rather than naturally aspirated or injection as with older classics. We must accept that the next 10 years will be a different landscape to the one we see today.

How old is money versus new money changing the market?

In general terms, old money wants something with patina that will provide the ability to compete at events such as Goodwood and turn heads at classic car shows. New money wants to be seen in something that is perfectly restored, perhaps even over-restored. Both operate in different parts of the market. The bigger change in markets is young money verses old money – if someone had told me ten years ago that 2—year old Nissans would be achieving double the hammer price of a DB6 I wouldn’t have believed them.

Will we continue to see the blue chip 60s car market slow against the modern classics?

I think this is almost inevitable and should not be considered just a blip. My own view is that not only is the appetite for ECU cars becoming greater, but there are also so many more typical classic cars that have been restored and entered into the system making certain models less rare and of less interest. I think the age of a typical 1960’s classic owner has increased and has probably been there and done it plus the ownership costs are now too great to make it worthwhile.

History shows major adjustments in challenging financial times. Do you think we could ever see those huge price drops in values again?

I’m not sure this is true. The last time that classic car values hit seriously bad times was the late 1980’s and I remember that the movement was in the very early stages and not a truly established market at all. The overall circumstances were quite different. The strong growth over the past 10 years is actually a positive outcome of the last financial crash where enthusiast removed capital from stocks and shares placing their money into safer tangible assets. This really kicked started the whole investment craze, driving car prices up and underpinning the whole restoration and supporting services sector. The pressures on the sector today are quite different.

Is there genuine concern for the vintage market?

Yes, I think so. I have been very active over the years in the Vintage and even Veteran car sector which has undoubtedly significantly changed in the past 3-5 years. My own thought on this is the lack of interest that the younger generation have in raw engineering and unless a marque has a racing pedigree it attracts very little interest. We live in an age where most people can’t change a flat tyre let alone lift a bonnet to fiddle with the connections on a magneto to finish their journey. This, I feel, is one of the most concerning issues at the moment as the only home left for many of these cares is a museum and if cars are not your thing, then are very unlikely to visit one. I fear these works of motoring art will suffer drastically in the future.

To request a copy please contact