'It remains a car buyers’ market. Vendors shouldn’t be too bold'

The classic car market remains strong but vendors shouldn't be too bold, says The Market's Tristan Judge

Tristan Judge
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Cockney comedian Micky Flanagan does a famous skit on whether you’re going ‘out’ of an evening, or whether you’re going ‘out-out’ – the former being a semi-genteel evening partaking in a few beverages, while the latter of course equates to a night of absolute excess.

How does that relate to the classic car world? Well, as some semblance of normality returns, I feel that it’s currently in the ‘out’ phase. I recently competed in a 24-hour Citroën C1 race – rising to a lofty 12th place, before a coolant sensor glitch and resultant seven-lap penalty saw us finish a respectable 22nd of 56 entrants – while, by the time you read this, I’ll also have attended the E-type 60 celebration at Shelsley Walsh and be preparing for the London Classic Show and, of course, Goodwood. Events are, thankfully, happening once again.

For me, unlike Mr Flanagan, ‘out-out’ in our world doesn’t equate to a heavy, but memorable evening. Instead, it’d be the complete removal of remaining restrictions and a full return to all that we love – events, races, auctions, meets and everything else in-between, but with capacity crowds and all the ensuing joie de vivre that they bring. Is normality coming back? We can but hope.

“There are some who think you can still demand any price you like. You can’t”

Meanwhile, the strength in the classic car market continues. Yes, we’ve had elements of a large recession but, just as with the housing and financial markets, the classic car market too remains buoyant.

A note of caution is, however, necessary. There have been some good auction results – including notably, Bonhams’ Bond Street and MPH auctions; the former even achieved a 95% sale rate – but that’s not been replicated across the board, with some blips elsewhere.

It does remain a buyers’ market. Vendors shouldn’t be overly bold because ultimately, they’ll be disappointed, and their vehicle will stay with them if the price is set too high. There are still some that believe you can demand any amount you want – you can’t.

Perspective helps. Just 18 months ago, we were talking about a softness in the market. If we return to the Bond Street sale, its top seller –a lovely 1968 Aston Martin DB6 Volante that sold for £425,500 – might, at the Aston Martin price peak of not too long ago, have been nudging £1m at a dealer.

Just because things are strong now, I’ll reiterate that it’s certainly not a case of ‘name your price’, because it’s the enthusiasts in charge and they are only paying what they think a classic car is worth. Ultimately, that’s bringing some of the older, very desirable marques and models back into the realms of ordinary beings. And that can only be good news for enthusiasts.

Back at The Market we’re now seeing the joys of being a part of the Bonhams group, with some lovely consignments coming through our door. We remain very much the new kids on the auction block, but both buyers and sellers intimate that our new owner’s seal of approval has added an extra lustre to our already hard-earned credibility.

From a personal point of view, my return to a racing cockpit described previously has simply proven that I’m not as fast as I think I used to be. It was, though, joyous and well overdue – and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Many of you, like me, will be salivating at the thought of upcoming events. The journey to and from – in a suitable choice of period vehicle – will only make the main event(s) even more memorable.

The only other thing that is left to consider this summer is whether we’ll be going ‘out’ or ‘out-out’. For all our sake, let’s hope it’s the latter.

Tristan Judge is director and co-founder of The Market, the online auction platform for classic and collectible cars