Matters of moment, September 1965

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The prices of historic cars

We have not reported on recent auction sales of old motor cars because we are of the opinion that, delightful as they may be for speculators and the used car vendors who have over the years become very rich trading on the keenness of true enthusiasts, they are a bad influence on the sport of actively using vintage and other historic cars, because the recent elevated prices put old cars beyond the reach of most of those who appreciate them most.

The rarer and more exotic old vehicles now fetch ridiculously high prices, if deliberately publicised and sold to induce same. Those people who are prepared to bid enormous sums for untried pre-war vehicles, often in need of mechanical overhaul and body renovation, should remember that, unlike more traditional objets d’art, ancient motor vehicles require costly stabling if they are not to depreciate and that, in future, abnormal prices are likely to be far harder to obtain and then only if mechanical, body and tyre condition can be demonstrated to be close to perfection. The cure for rising prices is quite simple—don’t pay them. To do so is justifiable, surely, only in order to save a truly desirable British car from leaving this country.

In normal circumstances the values placed on most vintage and p.v.t. cars are ridiculously high. It seems unlikely that they will be tolerated much longer. The Editor of the 12/50 Alvis Register Circular has expressed the opinion that only a really exceptional 12/50 Alvis is worth more than £250 (which means around half this price for one in average condition, quarter the price for one needing some renovation), while the Austin Seven Register asks its members to try to keep the prices of Austin 75 within reasonable limits, drawing attention to “a slightly tatty non-vintage Swallow saloon” sold recently for £135 but “valued by most of the experts present at £40.”

If interesting pre-1919 cars are to remain in the hands of amateur enthusiasts it is essential for prices to be controlled. This can be done by buying where possible from private owners and by offering a fair price and no more to the specialist traders, no matter how high are their published prices. Few of them can afford to stock unsold cars indefinitely and a cash offer well below the asking price will often be accepted, especially when it becomes evident that the limited supply of customers for such cars (and surely the boom years of vintage and p.v.t.-car buying are over?) is tired of exploitation and won’t pay inflated prices.

Diamond Jubilee of the Brighton Speed Trials

Seaside speed trials are a typically British institution (having written which we await letters from readers in France, Germany and other countries listing the resorts where such took place in Europe), although today somewhat at the mercy of the more spectacular drag-contests.

On September 11th, at 9.15 a.m., the first cars are due to set off up the Madeira Drive kilometre at Brighton, where the first speed trials took place in 1905. Whatever criticisms may have been justified of the Brighton Speed trials in the past, this Diamond jubilee fixture merits support. All morning and afternoon saloons, sports cars, GT cars, sports/racing cars and historic and modern racing cars, and motorcycles, with special classes for Bentleys, will race in pairs up this famous course, without preliminary practice. This year drivers will start in their own time, thus removing one past criticism of the Brighton & Hove M.G.’s organisation.

This new timing apparatus and over £1,000-worth of trophies and awards augurs well for this year’s Brighton Speed Trials, and it is to be hoped that at this Diamond jubilee meeting competition will be keen between the vintage and historic racing cars (classes 15 and 16). In the past everything from 500 c.c. F.3 racing cars to the Napier-Railton and Sydney Allard’s dragster have had a go over this historic course and enormous entries have been achieved although, apparently, starting money isn’t paid (racing car entry fees are returned to those who start).

It would be a pity if these long-established speed trials fizzled out due to lack of support.

New German cars

The strength of Germany’s Motor Industry is consolidated by new models from Mercedes-Benz and V.W. Mercedes-Benz announced a range of 17 new cars, consisting of a series of relatively inexpensive models and improved versions of their quality cars. We shall have more to say about these next month, after driving them on the Hockenheim circuit. Volkswagen have introduced subtle technical improvements to the “beetle,” including raising its engine size to 1,285 c.c. and have announced the new 1600TL, with 1,584-c.c. 65 b.h.p. engine, “fastback” saloon body and disc front brakes. We await news of new British cars to combat this strongly mounted challenge from Europe.

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