A month or so ago, the Wall Street Journal published what was basically an obituary for the classic car market, saying in a nutshell that classic cars were a dying market.
I was stunned when I read that. I had just returned from Amelia Island and before that from Arizona and honestly feel that the article was simplistic, inaccurate, did not have nearly enough data points, and was borderline irresponsible.
I wrote last month that the market has not dropped, but has actually leveled out. The idea of a continued rapid increase of classic car values is not realistic or sustainable. Instead, what we have is a stabilization of car values with decreases in some areas that desperately needed to decrease and an increase in others. The rest of the market is level and secure.
In the last couple of weeks, Barrett-Jackson and Auctions America held their annual Florida sales and both enjoyed some very strong numbers.
Let’s start with Barrett-Jackson. Just to kick a bit more at the WSJ, 42 percent of the bidders at Barrett-Jackson were at there for the firest time. This does not sound like a dying market to me.
Further, American muscle cars offered at the sale showed an increase in sales prices just about across the board. Some notables included a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 that sold for an astounding $550,000, a 1967 Corvette roadster for $181,500, and another Bloomington Gold-certified Corvette 427 convertible for a strong $154,000.
Modern supercars did well as well. A pair of Ford GTs were offered. One went for $467,500 and the other for $412,500. These are strong prices for such cars.
Some other impressive figures on more common cars included a 1986 Ferrari Mondial convertible which sold for $49,500, a 1961 Triumph TR3a for $37,400, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, a car we thought was past its prime, for $73,700, and a 1979 Pontiac 10th anniversary Trans Am for $55,000.
By sale’s end, Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach Auction sold more than $23.2 million in cars at a 96.2 percent sell-through rate. Obviously, there is no need for CPR.
Auctions America also had numbers that flew in the face of any notion of a dying market. Forty-percent of bidders were new. I cannot say enough about how these new bidder numbers are reflective of a growing market.
Auctions America also had some very strong numbers for special cars. These include a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona which sold for $649,000, a 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300S for $506,000, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at $404,250, and a 1965 Shelby GT350 which sold for $314,600.
By the end of the sale, Auctions America’s Fort Lauderdale sale totaled $20 million with a 70-percent sell-through. Part of the reason for the lower sell-through than at Barrett-Jackson is due to the fact that most cars at Barrett-Jackson are offered with no reserve and many cars at Auctions America had reserves.
As soon as sellers become more realistic about their reserves we will see that sell thru rate increase.
Interesting to note that Ferrari 308 and 328 cars showed that while they are not often six-figure vehicles, they are still very stable. Barrett-Jackson got $68,200 for a 1983 308 GTSi QV, $63,250 for a 1981 308 GTBi 2-valve, $63,800 for a 1981 308 GTSi 2-valve, and $71,500 and $64,900 for a couple of 328 GTSs.
Not surprisingly, Porsche 911 prices are still soft, with a number of no sales for early long-hood cars that are hovering around the $160,000 mark. This has been the trend and if you ask me, that is the money you’d expect for the average long-hood 911S. The 930 market is a bit off as well, with a number of cars no-sales at more than $100,000.
Remember that up until 18 months ago you could buy a 930 for as little as $35,000, so I feel this is an example of buyers wanting too much for cars that are in average driver condition. The market for these cars should realistically be around the $100K to $120K mark and the market continues to show that with owners rejecting bids in the $90,000 range.
So what do I see for the future of the market for the remainder of this year? As I said earlier, the 911 market is stabilizing at the level it should be, and so are the 930s.
More modern cars like the Ford GT, newer special-run Ferraris, and other iconic cars from the 1980s and ’90s are going to continue to increase in value this year. On a side note, if you have always wanted a early 928, you had better buy one now as they are getting hot. The same holds true for the Aston Martin Vanquish. Both of these care are poised to jump, so buy before that happens.
As to the state of the rest of the market, I honestly feel the market is stable and in a very good place for continued but reasonable growth.
As always, my advice is if you want a classic car, buy one you have always wanted to own and buy a nice example for a market-correct price. That way no matter what the market does, you will have your dream car in your garage. Buying a car for investment purposes only is a very risky proposition and something I have always avoided.