Identifying Future Classics

BY : Ian Kilburn

Many of the classic and collectible cars on our wish list today have become totally out of reach for us mere mortals. They weren’t always looked at in this light; in fact, many of the cars that are now gaining traction in the classic and collectible market were once looked at as oddities, the features that once deterred buyers now adding massive value in the resale market.
With all the variation in the collector car market, how can one ensure that you are making a good investment? Are there any tell-tale signs that a car is soon to increase in value?
While there is no formula cast in stone to identify which market is next to heat up, there are a number of things to look out for while shopping for your next classic that can help ensure the long-term appreciation of your car.  These “things” are generally optional specifications that are now either obsolete or well on their way to becoming obsolete in modern cars.  As modern cars technology, becomes less and less engaging, Cars that offer a raw, challenging, and rewarding driving experience are likely the safest bet as far as maintaining their value in the long-term.

Porsche 911_Click to Enlarge

The Porsche 911 market is a perfect example of this. In the mid to late 2000s technology that was previously reserved for upmarket luxury cars, things like satellite navigation and hands-free device syncing, began to trickle down to the more affordable, base model cars.  People began to realize that driving as they knew it was undergoing a massive technology change, which led to an upswing in the value of the best “driver’s cars”, the Porsche 911 being right at the top of the list. 
So you missed the boat on the Porsche 911 trend. There are a million other classics out there bound to appreciate in value. 
I won’t bore you with a list of cars that I speculate will be future classics; I’ll leave that up to your own intuition. There are five key features that should be kept in mind when in the market for a classic or collectible car.

Porsche 928_Click to Enlarge

Five Things to Consider When You Are Making Your Next Choice.

Transmission: Gear Box.
I’m starting off with an obvious one. As the percentage of cars on the road with manual transmissions declines, people who prefer a manual will be forced to pay more for cars with manual transmission. It is generally a good idea to steer clear of transmissions that were ground-breaking at the time the car was launched. There’s exceptions of course For example, look at Ferraris of the early 2000s, the public was so blown away by the seemingly instant shifts the paddle-shift gearbox provided that many people opted for the “F1” transmission, the latest and greatest technology available. However, fifteen years later, those F1 gearboxes seem to shift as slow as molasses, also take into consideration that for every ten F1 gearbox cars made only one manual version was made hence the desirability and price difference between the two.

A unique or rare original paint scheme is likely to help make a car stand out in the collectors’ eye, much of what sets certain cars apart from the rest is in the interior.  In the 1960s and 1970s, manufacturers experimented quite a bit with a variety of interior materials and patterns, which made for some phenomenally interesting factory-prepared cars. The Porsche 928 comes to mind.  Porsche’s “pasha” interior was, and still is too many people, an absolute eyesore. It was a psychedelic-looking black and white checked pattern that was plastered all over the interior of many Porsches of the late 1970s.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

In the world of classic and collector cars, originality is king. The cars that command the highest value are the examples that are closest to original spec and condition.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, modifications that detract from the originality of the car are going to hurt the value. When buying a modified classic car, the modifications should be looked at closely to determine if they are period-correct, meaning that they are modifications that an owner would have done as an upgrade at the time the car was new. 

Click to Enlarge

 Engine Size:
There’s no replacement for displacement, so goes the saying.  Tying back to my point of automatic transmissions pushing manual transmissions into extinction, much of the same is happening under the bonnet. Governments across the world are tightening emissions restrictions on new vehicles, automotive manufacturers are scaling back production of their naturally aspirated motors and investing in development of much smaller motors that utilize forced induction, turbos or electric variants. Companies like Ferrari and Aston Martin, once made famous by their glorious V12 engines, are now developing V8s and utilizing forced induction. What does this mean from a collector’s point of view?  Cars that are the final iteration of higher-displacement motors are likely to appreciate in value.  For example, let’s say the Ferrari F12 ends up being the final front-engine V12 Ferrari ever produces.  From a collector standpoint, that carries serious potential .Unfortunately it never came with a manual gearbox.

Less is More:

These three words can be applied to the collector car market in a handful of ways.  As you would expect, less mileage, fewer previous owners, and limited production numbers will all play a role in making a particular example more valuable than the rest. The more analog a car is, the better it will age. Everyone has their own soft spots for certain makes and models; whether that be due to nostalgia or the intangible attraction we petrol-heads feel towards cars.