Enthusiasts and collectors are looking south for the next big thing in classic car collecting
Ben Dillon is a classic car journalist and automotive consultant based in Australia.
Finding a restoration project that doesn’t begin with hours of bodywork treatment before you can even think about starting on the mechanicals is a tough ask, with prices for classic cars spiralling ever out of the reach of most enthusiasts. On the other side og the same coin, cars that need no work are usually exorbitantly priced because they have already been through expensive restorations from which the owners are looking to recoup as much of their investment as possible.
There is one auction house in Australia that has noticed this trend and is looking to the vast supply of rust-free European classics in Australia to restock the UK. Lloyds Auctions holds classic car auctions every week at its Gold Coast location and over the last two years has set benchmark records for V8 Australian muscle cars such as the Holden Monaro and Ford Falcon GT but also noted the growing interest in European classic from the 1950s to ‘future’ classics from both local and international buyers. As such Lloyds recently held its inaugural European Classic Collection auction, featuring a Rothmans MG Metro 6R4, 1957 Porsche 356 and Porsche 356 Convertible D as well as a selection of Ferrari Testarossas, Jaguar E-Types, Porsche 930 Turbos, a Jensen Interceptor, Mercedes-Benz 190SL and 560SL among the varied and various marques and models on offer.
The added bonus for buyers in Europe was the offer of free shipping, customs and VAT to one of three ports in Europe, an offer that many bidders took advantage of with the more than half of all lots offered in Lloyds’ auction heading ‘home’.
Top five stand out sales
1957 Porsche 356: £200,385
1984 Porsche 930 Turbo Wide Body: £129,015
1987 Ferrari Testarossa: £115,290
1959 Porsche 356D: £109,800
1985 MG Metro 6R4: £90,592
“At Lloyds we’re seeing huge demand Australian-delivered rust-free European classics,” Lloyds’ head auctioneer William Freeman said. “Escort, Capri, Jaguar, even more exotic cars like Lamborghini and Ferrari, our overseas buyers are telling us that our dry climate cars are the ones they want.” said Mr Freeman.
Australia’s status as the driest continent on earth is a positive when it comes to classics, as its climate is conducive to keeping cars rust-free. Snow is confined to the most southerly parts of the continent, and where it does fall the roads are not salted as they are in parts of Europe and the US. This means that cars which were Australian-delivered new, or came to the country when relatively new, have enjoyed the best possible climate for preservation. Allied to this is that many Australian states insist on annual road-worthiness checks, regardless of the age of the vehicle, meaning that cars with rust are unable to return to the road without significant work carried out to rectify the issue.
Given that Australia has had its fair share of race drivers who’ve become household names, it’s probably not surprising that there’s a huge amount of historic race cars locked away in sheds as well as those which have been restored and are used on track. Lloyds Auctions sold a Brabham BT21B with a very rare SCB Cosworth engine for a record-breaking AU$240,000 (£130,000) in early 2017 and have continued to offer race cars from a variety of disciplines to customers who see the value in such cars having enjoyed Australia’s climate.
With the interest in rust-free European classics only getting more intense it seems many enthusiasts and collectors are looking to Australia for rust-free cars – besides a general lack of corrosion they are also remarkable value. They are much cheaper to buy than their European-based counterparts with many prices paid in dollars the same figure you would pay in pounds for a car which would not be rust-free.
Mr Freeman explains “Most Australians are loyal to either Ford or Holden and the pool of ownership for European models is not as great, so while we see prices in the hundreds of thousands for Aussie V8s, cars like the Jaguar E-Type or a Ford Capri can be had very cheaply.”
The fact that Lloyds has seen this emerging market and is catering to European buyers with free shipping goes to the core of its car enthusiast roots.
“We’re sending these cars home for free because we are enthusiasts ourselves and know what it means to be able see, touch and enjoy these pieces of automotive rolling history,” said Mr Freeman. “We’ve all got petrol in our veins here and a lot of the staff are classic car owners themselves so if we can give back to the classic car community and keep these cars on the road, we’ll be very happy”.