Vintage and Classic auctions - the inside line

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An occasional feature where we invite the experts from BCA’s Classic and Historic Division to shine some light on the auction scene

In this month’s column Robin Lawton & Peter Bourne from BCA’s Classic & Historic Automobile Division take a look at some of the issues affecting the classic car marketplace.

With several good sales under our belt this year, at both our Blackbushe and Bridgwater Centres, as well as the prestigious Brooklands Museum in June, we have had the pleasure of seeing many cars, from the early part of the twentieth century right up to some from its final decade, find new homes. In October we widen our scope again with the first classic sale at the all-new BCA Bedford Centre. Ideally located adjacent to Junction 13 of the M1 this brand new £12.5 million greenfield development covers 25-acres and is the largest UK auction development for over a decade. Following a theme from recent developments in mainland Europe, this new centre boasts the best of everything that BCA has learnt over almost 60 years of business, from state-of the art auction halls to a restaurant with an upstairs viewing gallery.

There’s little doubt that 2005 has heralded increased interest in the broader classic car market and values for certain cars at auction are hardening. While demand can seem quite widespread almost irrespective of period be it vintage or later classic there appears to be one constant and that is originality.

There is no doubt that buyers want genuine and original cars wherever possible. Enthusiasts place great value in a vehicle that has its original fittings, instruments and trim. Similarly, properly and authentically restored cars where the craftsmen’s work has been sympathetic to the original are also sought after. Interestingly, older restorations that have mellowed with age will always attract great interest from buyers as well. This means, however, that the halfway house car is very hard to place in the current market. Restoration that has been completed on a make-do basis, or has disturbed the patina of age so the car ‘just doesn’t feel right’, can be a real turn-off. What is evident is that buyers are more discerning and have done their homework and that is also true of the practical classics market where even later models are pored over for authenticity.

In the vintage and 1930s sector, the mellow well-preserved car is clearly coming into its own. When totally correct and complete such examples are most likely to be at least the equal in value of the car that has had many thousands of pounds spent on restoration. This appreciation of patina is more evident now than it has been for some time and as always the older the vehicle the more informed the buyer. Recent BCA sales have indicated renewed interest in the pre-war sector, after a little while in the doldrums. Our Summer Sale at Blackbushe saw great interest in cars from the 1920s and 1930s, with the 1937 Alvis Charlesworth Sports Saloon arguably being the prettiest car in the sale and selling for £22,050 incl premium.

The 1926 Morris Cowley Bullnose 2-Seat Tourer, 1928 Wolseley 16/45 Tourer, 1929 Rolls-Royce 20 Limousine by Park Ward and 1933 Morris Minor Saloon all sold strongly, underlining this interest. At the other end of the spectrum, certain quality cars of around 20-25 years of age are coming to the fore with enthusiasts. But these must be prime examples with extensive service history and provenance. Examples include Jaguar XJS and XJ6 and certain Mercedes models, but once again the rules of originality come into play — over-restored or wrongly painted examples just will not catch the buyers eye. At BCA’s Classic & Historic sales we are seeing the increasing influence of the younger buyers, who are drawn to cars that they remember from their own childhood. Well-preserved examples of sixties and seventies family and sports cars feature high on their lists and are not necessarily expensive to acquire or maintain. Nostalgia comes in many flavours and these new entrants to the scene are the lifeblood of the classic vehicle movement for the future.

We at BCA look forward to seeing many of you at both our new Bedford and Blackbushe sales over the coming months and are always happy to advise on all aspects of buying, selling and owning motorcars of all eras. Please contact the BCA Classic & Historic Division Information Helpline on 01252 877317.  You can email us at [email protected], or visit our website: www.classic-car-auction.co.uk.

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