The classic car market is now worth over £6 billion in the UK, employing thousands across the country as demand increases. This growing market falls in line with the fact that more motorists are turning to classic cars as their vehicle of choice. For some, the decision is driven by nostalgia, while for others it may be the desire to stand out from the crowd.
Owning a modern car can be frustrating, as its value depreciates rapidly within the first 12 months of ownership. Comparatively, a classic car is more likely to retain its value – it may actually increase if restored and maintained to a high standard.
As the classic car market takes pole position, the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index recently noted that classic cars have beaten everything from art, watches, gold and coins over the past one year, five years and 10 years.
These strong returns have pricked the ears of many eager investors looking to benefit, but which classics are leading the way?
Which classic car should I invest in?
Choosing which classic car to invest in can prove costly – particularly as the market is becoming increasingly lucrative. Big name Ferraris and Lamborghinis are likely to set you back a hefty sum. Last year, for example, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $34.65 million at auction – making it the most expensive car in history.
Owning such a pricey vehicle takes the fun out of classic car ownership, as there’s no way you can take this million dollar supercar for a quick spin without instantly depreciating its value.
Classic car investment needn’t be so costly, as current market trends point favourably in the direction of more affordable ‘modern classics’.
Cars from the 1970s-90s are beginning to make up ground on their predecessors, with classic Aston Martins, Ferraris and Porsches inevitably holding their own. If you’re looking for a solid, long-term investment, however, one marque stands out amongst the sea of its competitors – Jaguar.
When we think of a classic Jaguar we arguably think of the iconic E-Type, which continues to set investors back a large sum, without much of a return on investment. Its somewhat lesser known, younger siblings – the XJ-based models of the 70s-90s – are making a well-deserved resurgence, as their value begins to increase in line with growing demand.
The stand out investment of the moment would have to be the Jaguar XJS, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Throughout its life, the XJS was a car that confounded critics, but won over enthusiasts and succeeded in returning its investment to the company. Considered by many as an unworthy successor to the E-Type, it proved its worth by achieving a longer production run and outselling its predecessor by 43,000 cars.
In recent times, the XJS has arguably become more desirable than ever, and even at 40 its price continues to soar. Autocar & Motor hit the nail on the head when it said: “The XJS has suddenly become very desirable and more of a driver’s car than ever before”.
Taking into account data collected from Classic Car Buyer, many XJS models in A1 condition have increased in value by up to five times since 2013 , and the XJS continues to be named as one of the hottest modern classics to invest in right now .
With prices of XJ-based models increasing and stock declining as demand grows further – now’s the time to invest in a classic Jaguar. Not only are they a more tangible alternative to other classics, with sensible use they can actually be driven, unlike a multi million pound Ferrari, which remains under lock and key.
How to source a top quality classic
It’s first important to consider that sellers – in particular garages and dealers – will have gone to some trouble to make the car look pristine on the outside. A perfect-looking car is often in much worse condition than one with visible rust, which has not yet been ‘tarted-up’.
As with all cars made of steel, the most important area to consider is rust, both the less visible painted areas and, more importantly, the hard-to-see underside and hidden cavities. The most expensive part of a restoration is usually the stripped re-spray. If you are careful in selecting a low-rust car, you could save around £10,000.
In order to counter these restoration costs, it’s important to examine a car extensively – inside and out, top to bottom. You will need to look underneath the car for any signs of decay, ideally on a vehicle lift or on axle stands. It’s even possible to form a reasonable judgement by kneeling down and looking at the important areas
City cars are often in worse condition, as they are usually only used for shorter journeys. A seemingly low mileage vehicle may have completed a lot of shorter journeys, which can lead to worn out brakes, door hinges, leather and carpets.
Don’t be tempted by the lure of a cheaper vehicle. Initially you may save on upfront costs, but in the long term, you are likely to spend more on restoring the car.
How to maintain your classic
One of the most costly aspects of classic car ownership is maintenance, and in order to retain value it’s important to preserve your vehicle appropriately. This is particularly important during the cold winter months, as the drop in temperature and icy conditions puts an extra strain on the vehicle.
One of the biggest potential dangers to your classic car’s wellbeing is rust. Rust can cause the structure of any car to become weakened and unstable, making it unsafe to drive and liable to fail MoT testing. This build up of corrosion usually progresses from invisible areas until it becomes visible through the paintwork or is spotted during an underside inspection – by which time remedial action can be very expensive.
Rust is often more likely to take hold of your vehicle if it’s dirty and mud is allowed to accumulate underneath. When washing your car pay special attention to the wheel arches and sill ends. When using your vehicle in the winter months, mud combined with road salt can become trapped within crevices around the wheel wells and under body. Mud tends to retain moisture, therefore contributing greatly to rusting.
The best cleaning method is to use a concentrated spray from a garden hose to dislodge mud from inside the wheel arch lips, and the sill ends. A high-pressure washer (e.g. Karcher) is too powerful and can lift off the protective underseal. Ideally, keep an eye out for exposed and rusty steel in these areas, get them thoroughly dry, prime with zinc-rich paint and apply brushing underseal such as Waxoyl underbody sealant.
Some people believe that you shouldn’t use your classic car in the winter because of the unfavourable weather conditions and salt on the roads. In reality, leaving your vehicle unused in the winter can do more harm than good. Ideally, you should aim to start your car at least once a month, taking it for a short drive in dry conditions to bring the engine up to full operating temperature have the aircon on and using the brakes frequently. This will ensure that the brake discs remain rust-free, and moving parts remain ‘freed-up’. It is important to get the engine thoroughly warm so as to evaporate the harmful acidic moisture that can build up in under-used engines. Keeping the aircon on all year round can reduce leakage from the pressure seals.
How you store your classic car is also very important, particularly in the winter. The best place to store your vehicle is within a dry and airy barn, garage or large carport on a concrete or other dry base. Wood or brick garages are preferable to pre-cast concrete units, which tend to ‘sweat’ in very cold conditions
The objective is to keep air flowing around the car, but not let rain fall on it. There should be no damp coming up from the ground, so parking the car on grass or earth is not advised. One way to avoid the damp problem associated with storage is to use an inflatable plastic tent, with fans to keep air moving inside, or a portable frame garage tent. Disconnect the battery and, if the car is under cover, open the windows a little to keep the inside aired.
Where to get your classic car restored
It’s important that you consult a classic car expert or engineering specialist before restoring your classic. By researching online and finding positive reviews, you’re more likely to make an informed decision.
Classic car experts have a passion for what they’re doing, and this will, more often than not, resonate with their work, which will be of a higher quality and finish – building upon their many years of experience in the sector.
Newbury-based KWE Cars, for example, specialises in the restoration of 70s-90s classic Jaguar cars. Chris Knowles, managing director, states why it’s important to seek expert advice: “Shoddy workmanship will depreciate the value of your classic, and can lead to serious engineering problems.
“An engineering company that specialises in classic cars is more likely to take pride in its work, and therefore add value to the finished product. Advice is important too, particularly in the classic car world, and an expert engineer will offer you on going guidance about what’s best for your car. It’s an exciting time for the classic car market, and it’s brilliant that cars like the Jaguar XJS are beginning to receive the attention they deserve.”
For more information about KWE Cars and for a full list of its services, please visit www.kwecars.com.