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Collecting cars for fun and profit

Collecting Cars

If you have an interest in cars and have thought about taking it further you should first ask yourself some very serious questions.

Understanding your own motivation is probably the most important factor to consider. Followed by a frank assessment of your budget and technical skill set.

I spoke to Mark Behr from Shannons about motivation at some length. Mark is clearly a committed car enthusiast with an extensive collection of his own. And from my perspective he expressed a deep understanding for not only the market but key elements of successful collecting.

In discussing why people are drawn to collecting he spoke at length of the power of memory. Be it a childhood moment or some remembered and much loved car in an old TV show. “Generally there needs to be an emotional connection, either for a specific car or a strong passion for cars.”

However practicality underlined much of what we discussed and his very sensible advice was simply “buy something you like and you can live with”.

Understanding your motivation is important in making the next step. Like the old Choose your own adventure books the answers along the way will tend to affect your collecting focus.

Personal interest will undoubtedly steer you towards a specific type or class of vehicle. But you should be very frank about whether you are collecting for pleasure or profit or somewhere in between.

If you have a large budget you will naturally have more options. But as with any big expenditure you should do your homework. The market price for specific makes and models does vary over time, the availability of parts and qualified mechanics can range from plentiful to scarce and this can be very dependent on where you live.

Mark’s key advice was that if you are new to the game, “try and get involved with the car club of your respective make and model. That way you can get an idea of the pros and cons and enlist the help of the car club to do your research.”

Finding the right car club is pretty easy. As a starting point Shannons has an easy to use car club directory, although a quick Google search will also list hundreds of clubs and associations. Car clubs are also a great place to find out about respective changes to legislation that allow collectors to use their cars more freely and any issues relating to importing, left hand drive conversions and other arcane topics.

For car enthusiasts the internet offers a host of resources from general information, fan sites, manuals, tips and tricks, guides and how to’s. And there are also large quantities of auto video guides and reviews on sites such as YouTube. An understanding of value can also be gathered by viewing the various online markets and auctions.

Your own level of mechanical aptitude is also an important consideration. If you have the skills, time, equipment and space to work on restoration or maintenance then your options are considerably wider. The downside is that too many well intentioned rebuild projects end up on bricks slowly gathering rust. Obviously the more work you can do in either rebuilding or general maintenance means that that your return on resale will be higher.

If you are considering buying a collectable vehicle for an SMFS, very specific rules apply. It is strongly suggested that you obtain professional advice about your options.

So what’s next?

If you have worked out your motivation, budget , technical capabilities and done your homework then you are ready to take the next step.

When asked about a first step Mark’s suggestion was to avoid the more obscure marques and start with something popular like a Ford Mustang, one manufactured before 1971 and ideally between 1964 to 1968.

He noted that for a vehicle like this the “availability of spare parts and a low level of complexity is an important consideration”. And depending on how you use it the general challenges of depreciation can be held at bay.
However you really need to “look at your own practical needs”. He noted that a collectible vehicle will generally not be used for the daily drive to work. However if it is a lovely day, “I’ll drive my car for something different”.

High maintenance costs for some models, particularly European ones can and do affect resale values. Newer models in particular can hold a reasonable resale value but as they progressively age increased maintenance and repair costs means the value drops. Although the changing perception of collectability means that there are exceptions, such as with the BMW 6 series coupes.

A general rule when seeking a good collectable car is to seek popular models that had small production numbers and high performance. A good example being the Ford XY Falcon 351 Cleveland V8, which is a far more sought after option than the standard 6 cylinder model.

A model's survivability rate is also an important consideration. The HSV Commodore "Walkinshaw" SS Group A with a production run of 750 was initially seen to be a fairly common model compared to previous production runs. But as the attrition rate has proved to be quite high they have become rarer and correspondingly more of a collectable item today.

Collectors need to be aware that the market also has its ups and downs. Like the stock market, prices can widely fluctuate based on popular appeal. And of course while it is rarely good to buy on the rise of a market, if your motivation is more long term than short term, price changes will matter less to you. The E-type Jaguar market took a big tumble from record highs during the 1980’s but has since recovered well over time.

Of course there are always niches in any collectables market. The Ford Edsel and the Leyland P76 being good examples of "orphan" vehicles that have their own small but dedicated fan base. On a very practical level when buying a collectable car, follow the standard guides and common sense, particularly if it is a rebuild project. If in doubt hop on the net and seek advice from organisations such as Fair Trading NSW, the NRMA or RACV. Also be aware of your insurance options. Companies like Shannons offer a range of insurance products that are tailored to collectors needs, particularly around limited use and choice of repairer.

Happy collecting

Image: © Can Stock Photo / seewhatmitchsee

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