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The classic car market is a thoroughly international affair and that’s not just about the automotive jewellery at the top of the tree – from the UK, Tim surveys the current state of the market.
Words: Tim Nevinson

New Zealand obviously has its own tweaks to the international market, mainly concerning locally-built product, and a wider interest in Americana. My view from afar comes from the British market, which is definitely one of the hubs of the international scene, and since the whole of New Zealand has a market the size of a substantial British city, and similar tastes in cars, there’s a large degree of cross-over, it would be interesting to see some responses from those trading in old cars.

There are some interesting things going on in classic car trading at the moment. It seems to have completely bucked the trend as a whole when it comes to the effect of Covid.

Instead of depressing the market it seems that people had time on their hands and money to spend, and during the most serious times of the pandemic they were turning increasingly to internet sales, without actually sighting the cars. Sight unseen seems to be a risk worth taking these days, which mirrors the new car and recent second-hand markets where you can just choose a car on the internet and have it delivered without so much as talking to a bona fide car dealer.

One thing that is also clearly happening is that early post-war and pre-war cars are not selling well, unless they have a particular provenance, or evergreen status such as that enjoyed by Bugattis and the like.

A Model A, Y or T Ford is suffering, as are everyday offerings from marques such as Morris, Austin, and the Rootes Group. Even Jaguar, Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars from this era are now slow sellers. MGs are just about holding their own, as are Alvis.

The people who were holding values up for these cars are shedding their collections, and there’s no one out there of an age that takes an interest. These are sweeping generalities I know, but the picture is there. What you find in the showroom is that many people of an age to take an interest in classic cars are also suffering from stiff joints, bad backs, or unbendable legs.

This means that cars with short doors (MGA, Midget, TR2-3, XK120-140) or big steering wheels that hinder exit and entry are being shied away from, as well as older vehicles that are harder to drive and can’t easily keep up with modern traffic. E-Types had a similar problem as their wide sills and big steering wheels make entry a difficult process for many would-be buyers. The answer with an E-Type is to go for a V12 with their longer doors and smaller steering wheel, and prices of these are now shooting up after too long in the doldrums. A 2+2 is an answer, but that seems a step too far.

Big Healeys are OK because the shape of their door is better located with regard to their seats. American cars like-wise, and they are big enough and high enough to slide into. Buyers are also increasingly specifying electronic power steering, which has matured as a feature such that it doesn’t spoil the character of the car and can be ‘unfitted’ if required.

The MGB and C have also remained strong, as one of the evergreens, with people at last seeing the cloud rise from the MGC. This is actually a very good car with the right tyre pressures, and since most people use their classics for touring, the ‘C’ makes more sense. Much underrated and still undervalued. There are very few parts you cannot get for the MGB and C, which makes them very tolerable as an entry.

Continue reading in our September/October 2023 issue of Classic Driver Magazine - Out Now!

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