One of the most enjoyable ways to see your money grow is to combine investing with a hobby. Find out which of today’s cars could be worth a mint tomorrow. And if you’re not driving a future classic yet, read our expert buying tips
A rusty 1936 Bentley, which had been locked away in a Stockport garage for 30 years, recently sold at auction for £450,250. While you’re unlikely to have anything similar hidden away, you could potentially own a future classic car.
Alternatively, if you wish to buy a car that will actually appreciate in value you might like to consider buying a future classic.
But what attributes make a classic car and which models are likely to become future classics?
The Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI) has created the iconic HAGI Top Index, which tracks the 50 most investible cars in the world. These include cars such as Ferraris, Bugattis and even two Aston Martins. A left-hand-drive version of the DB5 — the car that first appeared in the James Bond film, Goldfinger — can trade at more than $1 million now, which is approximately six times what it sold for 10 years ago, for example.
Dietrich Hatlapa, the founder of HAGI, explalins what makes a car a classic.
“It is a combination of the following: rarity and type – a convertible or a race car is more likely to be collectible than a limousine – originality, documentation, provenance, technical condition and accessories,” he says.
Of course, this index represents the absolute top end of the classic car market. Yet, with the index showing more than 12.5% annual growth over the long term, it provides an indication of how good an investment the higher-value segments of this market can be.
Graham Eason has been hiring out classic cars as a business for 12 years and also collects them (see below). He believes that what makes a classic car of the future is “heritage, rarity, desirability and innate capability”.
Commenting on his list of future classics, he says: “The DB7 has the right badge, while the XJS is all of these things plus a car that is fundamentally very useable. The Golf is a part of many people’s youth and, unlike later models, is very capable. Rarity comes into play at different stages – there were a lot of Golf GTIs and XJ6s, but very few remain in good and unmolested condition.”
In terms of car marques, he argues that Jaguar is the undisputed ‘gold’ of classic cars.
“These are the cars people want to drive. MG is also popular for the same reason.
“Sports cars, particularly convertibles, are also strong contenders. People reach a certain age, have some money to spend and want a car they can enjoy. A convertible delivers that, hence why I think the MGF will eventually take off, like the MGB,” he adds.
For anyone thinking of buying a car in the hope that it will appreciate in value and become a future classic, Peter Gascoigne, a director at auctioneers Barons, has a word of advice: “A classic car is something that the original owner bought as a pleasure to drive, not as something to get from A to B.”
Asked to pick a car produced in the past 20 years that is likely to achieve classic status, Mr Gascoigne suggests the Peugeot 406 Coupe.
“You can buy them for a couple of grand, styled by Pininfarina in Italy; it has all the bells and whistles and drives really nicely,” he explains. “Unfortunately, it says Peugeot on the front. At the moment, it is going almost for nothing but eventually someone will want one and will pay a lot of money for one, as they’re very pretty and there will be none left.”
Over at Brightwells auctioneers in Herefordshire, consultant Will Daniels explains that the company looks for a few key characteristics in a modern classic.
“Essentially, is it interesting? Is it a rare or high-power version, low mileage, with unique spec, colour or history? And do we think it might have legs for future growth in value and desirability,” he asks.
Mr Daniels advises buyers to do their research and understand the difference between models because that is a crucial factor that makes one car more collectable than another and will also ensure buyers don’t overpay.
He explains: “For example, a standard BMW 3-series is much less likely to become a modern classic than, say, the M3 version, or a 330Ci Clubsport, a rare higher performance version of the standard car, which was built in fewer numbers.”
How to buy?
There are various ways to buy one of the future classics mentioned above. The safest way is probably to buy from a franchised dealer although that is also likely to be the most expensive.
If buying elsewhere, check the car out for issues, such as rust and mechanical problems, and ensure any paperwork proves that it is what it purports to be. Ideally, the car will have a full service history but failing that, some evidence that it has been well looked after, such as repair bills.
Buying privately is probably the cheapest way to own one as you won’t pay dealer or auctioneer fees. That said, you will need to do more online research to find a bargain.
Mr Gascoigne argues there are bargains to be had at auctions but advises that you do take the time to check out any car before the auction begins: “You need to look at the car beforehand and decide if it is worth buying, as if you buy from auction there is no comeback.”
If you don’t have a friend who is a mechanic, the AA and RAC both offer pre-purchase inspections. Prices start from £128 at the AA, which will inspect vehicles up to eight years old. With an RAC basic inspection (from £99), the vehicle age limit is 10 years, while RAC’s comprehensive (from £189) or advanced inspection (from £239) has no age limit.
While the services of a competent mechanic are useful, you will also need to ensure that you look after your car, regularly servicing it and taking care of the bodywork. Ideally, you would have a garage to keep it in, but it may be going too far to wrap it in blankets and hide it away without driving it.
As Mr Eason explains: “The advantage of an appreciating classic is that you have something you love and enjoy, which has the potential to pay you back at the end. You also have something that other people increasingly want and admire.”
“‘Fast Ford’ is a relatively reliable future classic”
Graham Eason, who runs classic car-hire firm Classic Cars, bought a Ford Mondeo ST200 for £800 just over a year ago.
“I had several Mondeos in the 1990s as company cars – they followed a Sierra and were a total revelation. I’ve never forgotten just how good they are and always wanted to drive one again. That is really why I started looking at the ST200, not because I saw an investment opportunity,” he reveals.
Nevertheless, he does believe it will be a future classic. “It is a ‘Fast Ford’ – all quick Fords go through a value curve because so many are made. This means that for a while they are common and therefore not valued” he says.
“Eventually most get scrapped, leaving a small number – and there is then increasing demand for that small pool of cars. In recent years, the Ford Capri, Sierra Cosworth, XR2 and XR3 all went from being sub-£1,000 cars to now being five figures and beyond. There are no guarantees, but a good Fast Ford is a relatively reliable future classic.
“I think it takes about 20 years for a Fast Ford to begin to appreciate – Capris were sub-£1,000 until 10 years ago. They began picking up in this decade, and now they are £10,000 or more for average condition,” he adds.
In the meantime, he feels free to enjoy it but is careful with the mileage.
“It will need restoring over the next few years as its value increases, but for now I don’t have to treat it with kid gloves. I also garage it and it is maintained in my own workshop.”
Top 10 future classics
from Graham Eason at Escape Cars
- Aston Martin DB7
- Jaguar XJS V12
- Ford Focus ST170
- MG ZT V8
- MGF ZT V8
- Ford Mondeo ST200
- Alfa Romeo GTV V6
- MK2 Golf GTI
- Ford Mondeo ST200
- Jaguar XJ6
HPI’s list of future classics
Jeremy Yea, senior valuations editor at HPI, says: “With this selection of future classics we’ve identified 10 models that not only perform well but also represent excellent value for money, making them a hot prospect for motorists looking to gain a healthy return on their investment.”
- Range Rover Sport SVR
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio Speciale
- BMW 1M Coupe
- Honda CR-Z
- Ford Fiesta ST200 (16-17)
- BMW Alpina 5 Series 18
- Ferrari F430 coupe (05-10)
- Audi TT Coupe Quattro 3.2 V6 (99-06)
- Toyota IQ 1.33 VVTi (98)
- Volkswagen Phaeton W12
Top 5 future classics
from Will Daniels, a consultant at auctioneers Brightwells
- BMW E31 series 840 and 850
- BMW M3 E46
- TVR Cerbera
- Renaultsport Clio 182 Cup
- Mercedes C43 from late 1990s
CHRIS MENON is a freelance journalist and runs the Safestocks blog