Britain’s largest privately owned classic car collection, spanning 80 years of automotive history and including Winston Churchill’s Austin and Lord Mountbatten’s Mini Traveller, is up for sale to the highest bidder.
The collection, which has a reserve price of £100m, belongs to Dr James Hull, who began collecting the cars 35 years ago. He made his fortune as the founder of a chain of dentistry practices.
The UK’s £4.3bn classic car industry has witnessed a surge in business over the past few years, with British marques such as Jaguar, Aston Martin, Bentley, Alvis and Austin attracting aficionados and investors.
The total value of all classic cars sold last year by the RM Group, one of the world’s biggest classic car auctioneers, was $442m (£260m).
In the UK, classic cars are exempt from capital gains tax and – in the case of models built before 1974 – also from vehicle excise duty.
Dr Hull’s collection, which he is selling because of health problems, will be sold intact through a private bidding process. It includes 365 replica miniature pedal cars as well as industry memorabilia.
“There is a huge amount of interest, from individual bidders and consortiums,” Dr Hull told the Financial Times. “This bull run in classic car values is unprecedented and incredible, but it is due. The market started from such a low point.”
He said there had been bids from overseas investors, as well as from local enterprise partnerships in the UK. Dr Hull is keen for the collection to remain in Britain.
“Whether it’s to a national exhibition venue in the UK, or to a foreign bidder, I will insist upon it being kept together,” said Dr Hull. “Hopefully, it will end up staying here.”
Interested parties have been approaching Dr Hull since late last year about the collection, which includes a 1961 Jaguar E-Type, two 1954 Bentley Mulliner Continentals and even a Sinclair C5, the one-seat electric car launched in 1985 that failed to take off as a mode of transport but entered automotive folklore.
“I am merely a passionate custodian of this hugely significant part of British history,” said Dr Hull. “Each car has its story and all have played a part in the history of British motoring. It is part of our heritage.”
The winning bidder for the collection, which featured at the Queen’s 80th birthday parade and has been exhibited at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Geneva motor shows, is expected to be announced soon, Mr Hull said.