Readers (sixteen now, with Margery Smith our token Victorian) and friends, the full impact of the pandemic Which-Must-Not-Be-Named has only just become apparent. Last Friday night the Sultan left the I. M. Pei-designed (in the late Chinese American’s normal modernist style with significant cubist themes) Global HQ of Michael McMichael Motors (BMW and royal art specialist for 30 years) to walk along lonely street to the hotel of lost companions with heated pool and bar. Yes, after a hard day on the tools including the Escoda Optimo paintbrushes handcrafted from the best Kolinsky Sable bristles needed for his other specialty, royal nude portraits, Mick was looking forward to relaxing over a Coopers vintage ale, some house-made duck spring rolls, lemon aioli, dried ricotta, basil oil sweet potato, salmon and corn fritters ($16) and discussing the major issues of the day with like-minded confidants who are even to the right of Premier Steven Marshall’s current ruling elite.
As he strolled down Thorton Street to Regent Street his spirits lifted when the bright, welcoming lights of the Kensi Corner Bar came into view. He strode straight up to door with a saunter suited only to the King of Kensi, went to push the gateway to heaven open, when a rather large laddy with a six-pack like a cobbled city street, a chest like a suit of high-quality steel armour, biceps like basketballs, subcutaneous fat like a Kleenex tissue, hands like legs of lamb and onkas bigger than those on an eastern lowland gorilla stood between Mick and the door. “Sorry mate,” the giant said. “We’ve reached the Corona limit and there’s a queue running all the way down to the parking lot. You can’t come in.”
Readers and friends, you know this was like stopping Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio pushing open the nondescript doors of the Baccio Pontelli (known for his massive machicolations) designed Sistine Chapel but without the Swiss Army having your back. Naturally, unlike Jorge (who is definitely not a petrol head and whose personal motor is a 30-year-old 1984 Renault 4 which Dog & Lemon Guide’s Clive Matthew Wilson describes as dreadful and dodgy and chronically unreliable, and worse, Jorge even knocked back a free white-painted, special edition Lambo Huraca in 2017), Mick used words only suitable for the emails to your correspondent from the normal run of misogynists about last week’s column on women in motorsport.
So, sober as a priest on Sunday, the old bloke headed home but he did ring me to question what effect the pandemic has had on classic car values and is now a good time to sell part of a collection.
Well, for a change, that’s not a bad question and one that many of you have been asking as the virus has forced auctions online and the postponement of showcases like the Peeble Beach Concours d’Elegance for only the second time in its 70-year history. The short answer is that great cars are still bringing great prices but as with the last financial pandemic, the GFC, prices held but jumped. So, if you don’t have to sell, hold off; if you do have to sell you should probably do it now.
Our friend Hagerty appraisal specialist, Dave Kinney, says: “High-end automobiles have finally been accepted as both art and as an asset class and are increasingly being recognised as collateral for loans and even as legitimate elements of an investment portfolio.” But taking a cue only from auctions really does distort your view of values. Dave’s boss McKeel Hagerty told the New York Times that far more transactions take place in dealer showrooms, through print or online listings or in direct private treaty negotiations between buyers and sellers.
On Thursday, RM Sotheby’s final day of its first-ever European online auction saw a two-day sell-through rate of 91 per cent with the limited-edition, delivery mileage 2020 Porker 935 Martini going to a rich and I hope happy punter at $2.1m. Presented in ‘‘as new’’ condition, the 935 Martini is the German manufacturer’s modern interpretation of the immortal 935 Group 5 racer. The second of only 77 examples produced and now virtually unobtainable, the car was delivered new to a Monaco-based collector in desirable Martini livery wrapping and fitted with a twin-turbocharged Type MA173 alloy-cased water-cooled six-cylinder boxer-type engine. Nicely done especially with no capital gains tax to pay.
Also on the block was an elegant 1939 Bugatti one-off Type 57 Cabriolet by Gangloff making $1.2m, a 1997 Porker RUF CTR2 Sport, one of two originally built for $1.1m, and a very pretty and useful 1981 Lancia 037 Stradale for $747k. This month’s Shannons auction saw a project (ie rebuild yourself) 1955 MG TF 1500 sell for an incredible $40k. A very, very pretty, restored TF 1250 sold for $37k on the same night.
Knowing how much you love snakes in and out of cars stories, former Ford exec David Hosking emailed to say that a relatively new dealer principal was seated at his desk getting to grips with the machinations of a rural Ford dealership, when six or so brown snakes fell on to his desk from the overhead air vent. His staff reported that his speed out of his office defied belief, as he was a very big bloke. Apparently mother brown snake had got into the ventilation system and given birth. The babies then sought freedom and adventure via the ceiling air vent.
Finally, Pete Jones reminded me that a great way for women of all ages (from 12 up) to get into motorsport cheaply and safely is through Motorkhana, which is basically a time trial through soft obstacles on a flat piece of bitumen. Best of all you can use your own car and licences are cheap, Just Google Motorkhana in your state.