Rob Widdows

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Fast moving money

Do you have any spare money? No? Then this month’s musings might not be for you. You do? And you love racing cars? Read on.

Perceived wisdom says that what you need for your hard-earned savings is a balanced portfolio. By this your ‘financial adviser’ means some stocks and shares, some property, some cash and maybe some government bonds. Not very exciting. Some vintage wine, paintings and rare books might be more enjoyable. But if your passion is historic racing cars, you might want to consider investing in some racing machinery.

Nick Mason is one man who has put his money where his mouth is. He who made his fortune playing drums for rock group Pink Floyd found himself with both the passion and the wherewithal to indulge. And he has, it must be said, combined the two rather successfully. Somewhere on the dark side of the moon he keeps, among others, a Ferrari GTO, a Birdcage Maserati, a Type 35 Bugatti, a McLaren F1 and a Ferrari 512S (top).

So would he recommend an investment in this particular asset class?

“The answer is yes. But a very qualified yes’,’ he responds, carefully. “You need to know very clearly where your interests lie and you need to know your subject. There are cars that have shown incredible rises in value, but also cars that seemed to be good news but have shown no increase. There are Ferraris that have made 300 per cent over two years and there are others that have not moved at all during the last 10 years.

“Single-seater racing cars, even a 250F Maserati, are relatively ‘cheap’ compared to sports cars like the Birdcage because, although they have great history, they are only of interest to people who want to go racing. A good way of considering this question is to look at the McLaren F1, possibly the most similar car to a GTO in the present day. It has scarcity value, it is very useable, it’s a beautiful thing and, like the GTO, you can drive it to the supermarket One drawback is that it’s expensive to maintain. You do have factory support but one of the most creative aspects of McLaren is its ability to knock out a bill.. And just leaving a nice shiny supercar in the garage is not good enough. On a Ferrari F40, for example, you need to change the bag tanks after 10 years whether or not you’ve used the car And of course there is no income from these cars”

What would Nick be looking at now?
“I would be looking for cars that are useable on the kind of ‘comfortable rallies’ that are organised these days. Ask yourself: what do you want to do with your car? Do you want to sit in the pits and watch it go round a track? Or do you actually want to drive it on something like the Mille Miglia, where there is a social element involved? If you don’t want to do anything with the car, then you’re probably better off investing in Chateau Petrus or something like that. Racing pedigree — who drove it, who won races in it — is important and a Le Mans winner always has more kudos than any other event.”

Did Nick buy his cars purely as investments or because he just loved them?

“I absolutely bought with my heart,” he says without hesitation. “One of the nicest things about the GTO is that, after 40 years and various billionaires acquiring them, almost every owner has to take a big breath before they buy one. It’s a commitment When I bought mine I was the young, rich kid. Of course the cars I bought make me look clever now but at the time I was seen as a complete idiot. If you want to invest in cars, get some advice from a good dealer who has a long-term view. Much as car dealers can be a tricky lot, some of them have an incredible depth of knowledge about the history of each individual car.”

If any of this tempts you, you could start by turning to the pages at the back of this magazine.