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Through the Expert Lens: The 2016 Classic Car Market in Focus

By Steve Wakefield

Confused? You're not alone. On the eve of another 12 months activity in the auction arena, here's what our analysts at www.k500.com can reveal.
Although K500 gathers data from all salerooms, our focus is on the top international houses for year-on-year comparisons and analysis of trends. In a recent feature, we explained that despite a near 20% increase in overall sales - to just over $1 billion - the number of cars sold by Artcurial, Bonhams, Gooding and RM below low estimate (as a percentage of the total number sold) at their top events in 2015 grew from 46% for the first six months to 54% for the second. By December, only 13% were beating top estimate.
This hard fact backs up in black and white the previously difficult-to-prove impression that "it's not as easy as it was", and underlines yet again the need for recalibrating the balance between vendors, and their expectations of guaranteed double-digit-plus percentage profit, and the full-time experts in the auction houses. Next week's Scottsdale sales (with around half the cars at 'No Reserve') are generally still priced at 2015 levels. We suspect that might prove to have been the top of the recent market for many models.

They made 1,858 of these: the 300 SL roadster is as good an indicator of the market as any. Watch this one in Scottsdale
Smaller, sleeker, rarer: one of five Fiat 8V 'Elaborata' Zagatos, estimated at $2m in Arizona

We've introduced several new features on K500 for 2016. One of these, 'Performers', enables members to see at a glance the real winners and losers over 12 months. Disregarding one-offs and 'barn-find' sales following concours cars, it's interesting to see what has sizzled and what has slumped.
Thanks to a record sale during Monterey week, the Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America has gained 987 points. The Maserati Khamsin is another winner (+733), like the Maserati Mistral Spyder (+506). Looking at the losers, it's little surprise that a past darling of the market, the Toyota 2000 GT, has dropped 575 points, nor that the Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Cabriolet S2 has slipped 168, and the plentiful Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster 146.
We should stress, though, that a degree of over-familiarity at auction and comparing tired 'trade' cars with truly exceptional examples will skew the trend-lines, as proved by RM's excellent 2.7 Carrera RS doing well in New York only last December against a backdrop of shabby ex-racers and Frankenstein bitsas just creeping over the finishing line all year, at perhaps two thirds the price. The model itself remained static, opening at 2163 and closing at 2204.

Nice work: $506k in March 2013, $891k March 2015 - the recent classic car price boom in one graphic

The effect of so many Ferraris and their ilk becoming progressively unattainable has resulted in a trickle-down effect on hitherto 'second division' marques and models. We've used the new 'Multiple Collection' feature on K500 to compare 1960s Maseratis with 'DB' Aston Martins of the same period -  both have outperformed the K500 index by over four-fold, with the Italian marque the more affordable.
Looking at Ferrari 365 GTB/4 'Daytona' performance vs. Maserati Ghibli over 10 years, the big V8 from Modena has put on 1151 points compared with the classic Maranello V12's 636... yet a decade ago the average price of a Ghibli at auction was $22k against the Ferrari's $110k.
In a market of consolidation, high sales volumes yet often softer selling prices, it's more important than ever to be armed with the best insider knowledge and background information on what's really happening out there: the information the others either don't know, or don't want you to know.  We've even introduced a search-by-chassis function, that will also pick up double sales, for those "I wish I'd bought it then" moments

The one everybody's waiting for: Ferrari 335S heading for Paris and hoping to set the 2016 auction record. Will it? Won't it? We'll tell you first.

The merry-go-round continues to turn, perhaps at a slower pace and to a different tune, but it will still allow canny, well-informed collectors to climb aboard (or dismount) in a way that best suits them. We have an interesting year ahead of us - let K500 be your guide.

Steve Wakefield is the Managing Editor of K500.com. K500 recently published a definitive analysis of over $1 billion traded at top-tier car auctions last year, '2015: 12 Months in Hard Numbers, the K500 End-of-year Report'.
www.k500.com will be reporting live from Scottsdale and Paris to update members on the market and its backstory in real time. For details on K500 membership, visit https://k500.com/subscribe.

Fresh to market, great provenance (Jerry Seinfeld's collection) and widely useable: Porsche trio coming up in March at Amelia Island should do well. This is what the market wants
Red Hot Rivals: The Ferrari's still worth more, but look which one has appeciated twice as fast over the past decade