More than wealthOctober 23 2020

Undented: The unexpected acceleration of the classic car market

2 mins read

As revealed by the latest UK Hagerty price guide – which has tracked more than 40,000 classic car values showing a total worth of £570m – the post-lockdown UK classic car market far from crashed. In fact, the guide shows the market is in a healthy state with well regarded enthusiast classics climbing upwards, especially at the sub-£100,000 level and the top of the market, above £1 million.

After its corona-induced postponement, Gooding & Company’s first London auction took place on 5 September at Hampton Court Palace during the Concours of Elegance. From the world’s first production Land Rover and the second Ferrari 250 GTO built, to the Le Mans-winning Porsche 917K and not one but two McLaren F1 GTRs, the Concours of Elegance comprised of an exemplary assembly of cars.

While only 15 cars were on offer, the sensational results included six world auction model records, two marque records and eight cars sold for over a million pounds, with a recorded average price per car of £2,432,064. One, a 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV Speciale, sold for £3.207m, almost £1.5m over the top UK Hagerty Price Guide value.

Without a doubt, the star of the auction was the highly publicized 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports, previously owned when new by King Leopold of Belgium which became the most valuable Bugatti ever sold at auction for £9,535,000 (over $10 Million US Dollars). The second of three Bugattis was met with resounding applause from Concours attendees when the beautifully preserved Type 35C Grand Prix sold for £3,935,000. The 1937 Bugatti Type 57S served as the grand finale for the collection, achieving £7,855,000. In total, the three Bugatti cars set new world auction records for the French marque’s respected models and accounted for over £21 million of the entire sale.

Unlike many other industries, data has shown that there is actually a noteworthy increase of market activity, especially when compared to 2019. Since classic cars are predominantly an emotional purchase, and given the emotional release of buyers re-emerging from a prolonged period of lockdown, perhaps it is not surprising that, according to data from auction results, statements from dealers, and anecdotal evidence from enthusiasts; the market for classic cars has proven remarkably resilient.

However, time will only tell whether the post-lockdown boom is sustainable. As the UK, along with a number of other countries, return to some form of lockdown and the headlines are concerned with second spikes and faltering Brexit negotiations, it remains to be seen whether the market will soften.

One thing is for sure – it will be a while until we return to bustling sale rooms and thrill of a live auction. With Bonham’s holding its Goodwood SpeedWeek sale at the hangar usually prepared as the Earl’s Court Motor Show on 17 October – minus the public – it was an eerily quiet occasion. Equally worrying was the fact that a number of outstanding cars failed to sell. Whether this is a sign of things to come, or a blip based on short-term economic uncertainty remains to be seen.