Buying a collectible car can be one of the most enjoyable ways to invest one’s excess income, but the secret is to choose one more for love than money.
Owning a classic car is one of those rare hobbies in which one actually gets to appreciate his or her investment in a far more engaging manner than merely looking at something hanging on a wall, sitting on a shelf or stuffed into a safe deposit box.
Collectors of various financial means are driven to vintage cars these days, both for visceral appeal and their potential appreciation as investment vehicles. “There’s a lot of people out there who love cars and feel more comfortable putting their money in automobiles than leaving it stagnate in a bank account or handing it over to their brokers,” says Donnie Gould, president of Auctions America in Auburn, Ind., which is expected to sell upwards of $75 million worth of cars in a half-dozen events in California, Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania this year.
At the top end of the spectrum, the company recently sold a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette “Big-Brake” fuel-injected convertible for $148,500 that was probably optioned up to a then-costly $5,000 when it was new, with a vintage 1930 Packard 745 Dual Cowl Phaeton fitted with the desirable “Super 8” engine going under the hammer for a whopping $198,000.
Of course there are a slew of desirable older cars for entry-level enthusiasts that are can be had for far less money. Recent Auctions America events facilitated the sale of a 1969 American Motors AMX sport coupe for $9,900, a 1959 Cadillac Sedan DeVille with missile-like tailfins for $10,890 and a 1966 Chrysler Imperial Crown four-door hardtop for just $2,750. “These are all mainstream cars that modest investors can afford to buy and drive and still have the opportunity for appreciation,” Gould says.
For maximum value and investment potential, Gould advises anyone entering the market to buy the rarest model in the best condition within a given class that he or she can comfortably afford. At that, he says it’s best to choose a particular model more for its personal and emotional appeal than strictly as a venue for profit. “Choose what you like – something you’ll enjoy driving and owning – and if there’s a dividend down the road, congratulations.”
While American muscle cars have been hot in recent years, Gould suggests other genres are beginning to come into demand and could be worthy purchases for future appreciation. These include European sports cars from the 1950s and ‘60s – Fiats, Triumphs, MGBs and the like – as well as the original Datsun (Nissan) 240Z and 260Z coupes from the 1970’s, all of which tended to have a low survival rate. A few vintage SUVs are also beginning to emerge as sought-after collectibles, particularly the original Jeep-like Toyota J-40 Land Cruiser SUV from the 1960’s and ‘70s. “Ten years ago people were scrapping them, now we’re selling them for near six figures in top condition.”
As is prudent advice when buying any used car, always buy a collectible auto from a reputable source and be sure to have an expert mechanic thoroughly check out a model under consideration. Also, make sure the technician is well versed in the peculiarities of the particular genre of vehicle, as a British sports car can be often quite different mechanically than, say, a 1970’s American muscle car. “The mechanic needs to appreciate how these cars were designed and built and how they’re supposed to be maintained and repaired,” Gould says.
Otherwise, owning a collectable car requires little more than garage space, insurance, routine maintenance and the ability to take the vehicle out for the occasional weekend excursion, which Gould strongly encourages. “Even when stored properly cars deteriorate when they’re not driven – by ‘exercising’ the cars they stay in shape,” he says. “One of the best things you can do for a collectible car is to drive it.”
“There’s no other investment that allows that kind of enjoyment.”