There is a school of thought that investing in classic cars is morally wrong as rising prices can prevent the average enthusiast from indulging in their passion for old cars. It’s a view I can sympathise with, even if I don’t agree with it.
I can’t see anything wrong with a hobby that allows you to invest in a car that you’ve always fancied driving; if it happens to be under-valued then you then get to enjoy owning and driving it for a year or so before selling it on, hopefully in a rising market.
If you get it right, you’ve had the free use of a car for a while, and if you get it very right you’ll have managed to pay for a holiday to apologise to your other half for all the time and attention you lavished on it.
I’ve managed to pull it off a few times (and managed to get it wrong many more…), so here are my top tips to help you do the same but please do remember: Only death and taxes are guaranteed.
I’ve recommended it before as a sure-fire starter classic but the thing is, the little Mazda drop-top isn’t just brilliant to drive, it’s still seriously undervalued. It also happens to be the default car of choice for the typical motoring journalist, which speaks volumes for just how good (and cheap to run) it is.
To get the best possible price when the time comes to sell, you need to buy a UK-spec car rather than a Japanese import. It also needs to be rust-free, completely original and have a full service history. If you budget £3,000 to buy one, running costs shouldn’t top £500 a year including tax, servicing and insurance.
Treat it well – but don’t be afraid to use it – and I’d be surprised if you didn’t manage to sell it on for £5,000 in three years. Not a huge profit but then you’ll have three years of fun to look back on too.
The MX-5 Owners’ Club should be your first port of call for advice and access to the very best cars.
Car review: Mazda MX5
The Porsche 911 ship has already sailed over the horizon, rising on an illogical wave of sentiment fuelled by the nonsensical belief that it is a car that sorts the men from the boys.
The Porsche 944, on the other hand, is a genuinely well-engineered car that is almost criminally undervalued.
Rust is the enemy, so it’s worth paying a bit more to have it professionally inspected by one of the many Porsche specialists that are out there. Or you could do the sensible thing and buy one from someone in the owners’ club: Porsche Club Great Britain has a dedicated 944 section.
You can buy a non-turbo 944 for well under £5,000, with the turbocharged version going for anything up to £25,000 with cabriolets being worth more than coupes.
Without trying too hard I found a 1984 normally aspirated coupe with a comprehensive service history for a shade under £10,000, which is probably the sort of car I’d want to put my money into.
Six must-see car shows
Yes, I’ve got one but no, I’m not trying to drive the market up because I’ve got no intention of selling it any time soon.
Famously developed by Ayrton Senna, the NSX was also used as the benchmark car for the development of the McLaren F1, a car that is still widely regarded as the pinnacle of automotive engineering.
Again, you’re looking for a UK car in original condition, although the aluminium body does mean that rust isn’t an issue. After years in the doldrums, many owners have tried to run them on a budget, so beware of cars that have been cheaply “restored” to take advantage of a market that is starting to rise, albeit slowly.
You won’t find an NSX that you would consider buying for less than £30,000 yet the very best are still available for under £50,000. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but with the recent release of the new NSX, values can only go one way. Well, that’s my theory, anyway.
The NSX Club Britain is the place to go for spares, advice and access to some wonderfully obsessive people to repair it if it goes wrong.
Five simple tips to keep your car healthy
Yes, it’s another Porsche but it’s a real peach that you can use as your daily driver and still have a realistic chance of getting your money back, or even a small profit if you’re lucky. Lucky, in this case, means buying a car in perfect condition and with an impeccable full Porsche main dealer service history from an obsessive owner.
An early Cayman S with a manual gearbox and the flat-six, 3.4-litre engine can still be found for under £12,000, which is astonishing. I predict that prices will continue to fall to around £6,000 before slowly rising as customers who buy the new four-cylinder 718 cars come to realise what a brilliant package the original six-cylinder cars were.
Yes, it’s a long-term sleeper, but you’ll end up being the cool old guy who keeps a classic Porsche in the garage; and who wouldn’t want to be known as that?
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Alfa Romeo 156
The achingly beautiful Alfa Romeo 156 suffers from an entirely unwarranted reputation for unreliability and rusting and while build quality can be patchy, the reality isn’t half as bad as the internet would have you believe.
If you’re going to buy an old Alfa, then you might as well buy a V6. The saloon is pretty but I’d plump for an estate, or Sportwagon in Alfa-speak, and emulate John Malkovich in Ripley’s Game. (Well, not all of him, obviously.)
Prices start at well under £1,000, which is madness, on every level. You can join fellow optimists via the Alfa Romeo Owners Club.
Saab 900 turbo
No, not the one based on a Vauxhall, I’m talking about the original built between 1979 and 1993. Uncannily good build quality means that the Saab 900 can shrug off 200,000 miles in the same way a normal car deals with 50,000, so it might be a classic but it could still be used as an everyday car if necessary and probably won’t demand much of you other than routine servicing.
Late-model cars offer the best investment potential, with the Carlsson (named for the late, great rally driver of the same name) limited edition being especially revered. Prices start at £1,000 but £5,000 will get you behind the wheel of something you can be proud of. Outstanding value and the one car on this list I could easily be tempted into.
The Saab Owners’ Club is the place to go to meet like-minded Scandi fans.
On a broader note, any limited edition, high-performance car from a respected manufacturer will always be a safe place to put your money.
The Porsche Cayman GT4 sold new for £65,000 and some owners have already sold theirs on for a smidgeon under £100,000 within days of taking delivery.
It’s a similar story for the lucky few who managed to get their hands on a BMW 1M. It would have cost them around £40,000 back in 2011 and they are still worth £50,000+, even after five years’ of careful use.
Worth thinking about, eh?
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