In 1967 Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The Medium Is The Message.” In the ensuing years, various interpretations of this phrase have been offered, but the one I like the best roughly translates to “The media doesn’t control what we think, but it controls what we think about.” I am not immune to that.
Values of collector cars are a hot topic, and the media (newspapers, magazines, TV, cable TV, and even smart phone apps) brings us 24-7 real-time coverage and analysis of collector car auctions where record prices seem to be set on a weekly basis. This is no longer limited to the Monterey Peninsula in August, or the Arizona desert in January. At almost any time, you can tune to any number of cable stations and find a live auction taking place somewhere.
So, rather than write about the market again, I thought it might be fun to look at the values of some collector cars, and how they have performed over the past year. Some might surprise you.
Generally speaking, the values of quintessential collectible American cars did not change much throughout 2015. These include staples of the American collector car market such as ’57 Chevys, 55-57 Thunderbirds, Shelbys, Chevelles, Mustangs, Camaros, ‘Cudas, Challengers, and Corvettes. This lack of movement in values extended to most American collector cars. Of course, there are exceptions for some very specific models. An example might be the 1963 “Split Window” Corvette, which saw significant appreciation - particularly the fuel-injected version.
Values of European collectible cars varied dramatically. The Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing (1954 – 1963, exclusive of racing versions) is the cornerstone of many collections. Values of these cars rose dramatically through 2013 and 2014, in most cases at least doubling. But 2015 saw a leveling off - and even a slight decrease in values. The same can be said of the Mercedes Benz 190SL, as well as the 230SL, 250SL, and 280SL, all of which had seen tremendous appreciation in value going into 2015.
Air-cooled Porsche 911s, and all of the derivatives, did extremely well during 2015. Some Porsches such as the 959 more than doubled in value. But the 356 line of cars in all of its variations, long the darling of Porsche collectors, tended to level off in value.
Generally speaking, British collectibles tended to level off in value as well.
As has been the case for the past few years, many Italian cars continued to show strong appreciation in value during 2015. This is particularly true of just about any Ferrari produced from the mid-50s through the mid 60s, and especially true of any model that starts with the numbers 250. The cost of entry into this car club is often measured not in the millions of dollars, but in the tens of millions of dollars, although bargains (bargain is a relative term) under $5 million can still be found. Early Maseratis and Lamborghinis saw substantial appreciation during 2015 as well. Maserati Ghiblis, particularly Spyders, have doubled, and even tripled in value in the past year.
Value trends are often generationally driven. Older collectors leave the market and younger ones enter it. That helps explain the decrease in values of all but the most extraordinary pre-war cars. It may also explain where some of the most consistent and dramatic value increases have taken place. For lack of a better term I will call them “modern supercars.”
This genre would include cars such as the Jaguar XJ 220, the Ferrari F40 and F50, the McLaren F1, the Bugatti Veyron, the Saleen S7, the Koenigsegg CCXR, the Ferrari 288GTO and the Lamborghini Countach. None of these cars were produced before 1980, and most found their way onto posters that graced the walls of millenials, enough of whom have sufficient interest, desire, and money to acquire them.
Over the past year, the values of these cars have appreciated at a rate that could only be described as anywhere from good to shocking. None have decreased in value.
Perhaps the most shocking of all was the 2005 Ferrari Enzo that sold at auction in August of 2015 for $6.05 million. Prior to that date, the record sale price for an Enzo was a mere $1.925 million, and that was just one year earlier. What could possibly have led to such a result? Did I forget to mention that this particular Enzo was the very last one built and it belonged to Pope John Paul II?
Previously a 1999 Volkswagen Golf owned by Cardinal Ratzinger sold for $244,000 and a standard 2013 Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide sold for $330,000. So, for those of you looking for the next great classic car investment, you might want to look for cars with “Pope provenance.”