Classic Cars Column — What to buy and what to sell in 2011
It's the time of year when magazines usually publish their collecting recommendations for the year ahead: who will be smiling come 2012, your bank manager or the seller?
My day job tends to focus on cars with lots of zeros behind the price, and quite frankly, here it's easier to predict what's going up and what's going nowhere. Buy the very best, the general rule says, and long term you won't go far wrong. That's great for those who can afford it, but if like me your tastes forever seem to exceed your means it gets trickier. So what's around that's worth a punt, and what carries a health warning? Here are some tips to suit every pocket.
You'd be hard pressed to have more fun with your clothes on than in a '60s FIAT 500 or a Mini Moke. They're cheeky, cheap to maintain and will help you 'blag' access to the paddock in even the smartest events. If you prefer Timberlands to Tods, maybe a WW2 era Willys or Ford Jeep is more your thing. Either way, these just keep going up in value and won't look out of place when surrounded by the red car collection which you'll probably build up in mid-life (after buying a Harley).
At the risk of flattering our young editor Mr Bell, I'm going to suggest you follow his lead and look for the very best fixed-head Series 1 E-Type your fifty grand will buy. The original 3.8 litre version, complete with torturing seats, scary brakes and crunchy gearbox is the one to go for as it's the E-Type in its purest, groundbreaking form. Its 50th birthday celebrations this year won't suddenly see values rocket, but the media interest won't hurt either. If Jaguar had built just dozens instead of thousands, they'd be worth more than most Ferraris: that's the flipside to success. A FIAT Dino Spyder, preferably the 2.4, is another one to consider, but with only 424 2.4s built and a costly rust habit, you'll have your work cut out.
It's hard to find hidden value amongst the usual Latin exotica, so you'll need to be clever. Regular readers will know I've fallen for the charms of a late '80s Aston V8 Vantage, the so-called X-Pack variant (even more horses to overwhelm the '60s-designed chassis: great fun), and I'd recommend these big GTs to anyone with a family, although a disregard for greenhouse gases and fuel bills will also help. If you want something more chuckable, but still useable, early Porsche 911s are great cars. Go for a 2.4S: it's got more grunt than the first ones without the flashy add-ons or the price tag of the 2.7RS. It would be my recommendation for the classic to drive every day. If you're jockey sized, very brave and think well ahead, buy a 1970s or early '80s F1 car. When we're all legislated off the roads, these will become hot property for track use, and tomorrow's TV-fed collectors will remember the Ecclestone F1 era far better than Fangio in his 250F Maser. Sad, but true...
Which leaves one question: what to sell in 2011? If it's big, heavy or intended to be chauffeur driven, you're probably too late already. If it's got 16 cylinders, four turbos and 1,001bhp, I hope you're buying it second hand. If it's new and there's a waiting list, get out whilst you can and don't be greedy. And the Golden Rule? The car to sell in 2011 is the one you didn't take out once in 2010.