headline vehicle of the year was the 1936 Bentley 4½ Litre Vanden Plas Tourer. This was an enormously special car. One of just six such cars made, it was remarkably original and had just two owners from new. That said the 1930 Brough Superior SS100 which established an outright world record at £425,500 was equally memorable. Ridden by F.P. Gentleman Dickson (a personal friend of George Brough) in the International Six Days Trial, it oozed history and attracted global interest.
The biggest and most remarkable H&H Classic auctions this year in terms of turnover were held at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. H&H went there three times in 2019 selling the catalogue cover car on each occasion: a 1936 Bentley 4½ Litre Vanden Plas Tourer (£454,250), a 1957 AC Ace Bristol (£225,000) and a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246GT (£310,500).
Two of our biggest surprises this year were cars entered into our Live Auction Online sales. The first a 1978 Ford Fiesta 950 that had covered 141 miles from new made £14,950, the second a 1993 Toyota Corolla 1.8 GXi was a non-runner but fetched £5,750. The Toyota attracted brickbats from some of our customers but as a one-owner example sparked a bidding war among younger enthusiasts a sign of the evolving marketplace.
Damian Jones, Head of Sales at H&H says: The consignment that has been my personal favourite was the 1934 Alvis Twin Eagle 6-cylinder Special that I had shared with my father for twenty years. I entered it without reserve in our November 27th Buxton sale and was gratified that it drew bidders from throughout Europe and the UK. I already miss it!
Notable trends in 2019
Damian Jones adds: If a vehicle is fresh to market and sufficiently appealing in terms of originality, condition or provenance (and preferably able to boast all three) then there are still plenty of buyers and record prices are still being achieved. However, overall I would classify the market as cautious and increasingly selective. Some blue chip cars are worth more now than they were five years ago (Lamborghini Miura), while others are fetching less (Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona). The collector car market is a complex beast and values are never uniformly going up or down. Prices for, and interest in, certain Youngtimers and JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Classics is on the rise, whereas certain pre-WW2 cars are in a steady decline (especially if they struggle to keep up with modern traffic).
Predictions for 2020
The collector car market does not operate in isolation. I do not see the Global Economic Outlook improving much in the next twelve months and so I expect old cars and bikes to continue trading in a cautious and selective manner with the gap between the best and the rest continuing to grow.
Predictions for next year? Much the same with buyers remaining cautious and selective in their outlook for the most part. Prices are not plummeting towards the earth but some are drifting slowly downwards as global economic growth remains weak and environmental / usage concerns grow. However, others are riding a strong thermal of new interest and enthusiasm think Youngtimer performance machinery and iconic JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) models.
State of the Market - 2019
The global economy was decidedly sluggish in 2019 with stock and property markets proving similarly unenthusiastic. Increased monetary policy accommodation kept the cost of borrowing at historic lows but there was no stampede towards spending. The collector car market does not operate in isolation and this year saw a continuation of existing trends. Truly remarkable examples, whether that be in terms of provenance or condition, performed strongly at all price levels. There is an increasing understanding that values may have dropped for certain blue-chip models in the past half-decade but the cost of restoring them has not.
The collector car market is a complex beast and prices are never uniformly going up or down. Usability remains a key factor be that at an internationally renowned blue riband event or a local car show. The more you can do with a car the more sought after it will typically be. California remains wedded to its zero emissions agenda and Bristol is set to become the first UK city to ban diesel cars. Focusing purely on what comes out of an exhaust pipe takes no account of how environmentally friendly most collector cars are in comparison to their modern counterparts. Many predicted that the advent of the motorcar would signal the extinction of the horse but enthusiasts won through. If you think owning a collector car is expensive try looking after a racehorse!
The two best sellers under the hammer during 2019 were a 1994 McLaren F1 to LM specification and a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta making $19,805,000 and $19,256,750 respectively. Both had been tipped to make more but although ultra-collectible neither was a paradigm. At the more everyday level smart MG B Roadsters are now routinely fetching over £20,000 (and more on forecourts). If you can say of a motorcar go find another and it is fresh to market then the ability to surprise is still there. The 1936 Bentley 4½ Litre Vanden Plas Tourer that we sold in March 2019 at IWM Duxford was the most original of just six such cars made and had only had two owners from new. A genuine garage find in need of total restoration, it attracted global attention and obliterated its pre-sale estimate of £150,000 - £200,000 to make £454,250; a world record for a RC-series car.