Hagi Top index

Recent activity in historic car sales has served to drive home the value of history, originality and reflected glory in a market that, though the assets may be worth millions, is still the playground of enthusiasts.

Overall, most sectors of the market, as measured by research house Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI), were down in February after a strong month in January. The HAGI Top index, a weighted measure of rare collectors’ cars, was down 0.84 per cent in February from the previous month, and the HAGI Ferrari index lost 1.9 per cent.

However, in a year-to-end-February comparison the Top index logged a 2.33 per cent rise, taking its value from a base of 100 at the end of 2008 to 141.21. The Ferrari Index rose 4.19 per cent in the first two months of 2012, taking it to a value of 132.98. By comparison, the S&P Global 1200 index rose 4.5 per cent in February over the previous month, or 9.33 per cent in 2012.

The glitttering exception to February’s monthly movements among the rare classic car transactions monitored by HAGI was Porsche, with a rise of 4.4 per cent. Last year, however, the Porsche index was the lowest performer among the indices. So despite the Top index being driven higher last year by some exceptional cars, including a Mercedes 300SL gullwing and an Aston Martin DB5, part of last month’s movement in the marque’s values can be seen as a correction.

A reason for the robust pricing in January, seen in the Scottsdale Auction and dealer transactions, was dealers and collectors wanting to position themselves at the start of the 2012 season. That, in turn, reflects a substantial upturn in interest for investment-grade cars worth $50,000 or higher, with good provenance and quality.

One of the key events in February was Retromobile in Paris. That event included two auctions of big collections, and American collector Peter Mullin exhibiting 10 prewar French cars brought over from California, including the winner of last year’s Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. Mullin even flew over from his automotive museum in Oxnard the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one of the world’s most prominent historic vehicles, which sold in 2010 for about $34m.

The Ferrari Index, though down in February, would have been lower had it not been for the sale in the month by auction house Artcurial of a long-wheelbase 250 California Spyder formerly owned by Roger Vadim, movie director and ex-husband of Brigitte Bardot. The car, despite a condition long past its prime, sold for €4.5m, more than €1m higher than any comparable car. But the value achieved was a tribute to publicity and marketing that were certainly not harmed by the car’s connection to French showbiz royalty.

The Porsche trend is likely to be continued into March following the sale by auction house Gooding in Florida in early March of the Drendel collection of mainly racecars. A Porsche 550 Spyder – the type made famous by the US actor James Dean – sold for $3.865m. This was almost double the prices seen in recent sales of these cars, of which only 70 were manufactured, despite this car not having a racing history. However, the degree of originality was very high. And, as all experts agree, you can restore mechanical components, but you cannot recreate originality and history. – Rohit Jaggi

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