As rare as they come: a 1930s Jensen Ford prototype, of which only three were built. Picture: BRIAN BRUCE
As rare as they come: a 1930s Jensen Ford prototype, of which only three were built. Picture: BRIAN BRUCE

Integrity is the most important single aspect of buying a classic car, says Brian Bruce, custodian of one of the major classic car collections in the Southern Cape.

Speaking at the VCCM (value in the classic car market) Conference at The Capital on the Park hotel in Sandton, Bruce was a keynote speaker at the second annual event organised by Historic Automobile Group International, which drew classic car collectors from around the country.

"Classic or vintage cars can generally be described as artefacts, rare objects from the past that are handmade. And in the acquisition of these artefacts, the process we follow needs to be rigorous," says Bruce.

As an example of the type of automotive integrity he is after, Bruce cites the case of one of his favourite cars, a 1934 Jensen Ford prototype, one of three produced, and one of only two that exist today.

"This car has total integrity. Everything about the car is correct. It came with all its original correspondence, documentation and advertising material from 1935, when the production Jensen Ford was produced.

"The car was bought by a man for his 18-year-old daughter and has since passed through three generations of the same family. The last custodian passed it on to her uncle, and when maintenance of the car became a problem, he contacted a mechanic who had last worked on the car in 1966.

"This car for me defines the concept of integrity, as regards old motor cars. It is not in concours condition, but it is mechanically exceptional and original. Once a car has been modified, you cannot re-install integrity back into a car."

Bruce cited examples of restorations that he and his team in Knysna have undertaken, operating out of the old Mitchells Brewery that he bought to house his burgeoning classic car collection. He says he is wary of buying a car that has been "restored". He told of two associates who had extensive restorations done on their classic British sports cars, and had to have all the work redone, after the initial poor restorations totalled in excess of R1m.

He refers to the oft-repeated saying in classic car circles "that we are mere custodians of these artefacts". But he pointed out that in a changing world, enthusiasts would have to accept that certain classics would inevitably be modified and updated with modern mechanical elements.

"We refer to this process as repurposing, and it is gaining increasing popularity. It enables younger people to drive a classic with all the design beauty of the original, but with the reliability of a modern car."

The focus of the conference was on the economic benefits of owning a classic car as a fast-appreciating asset. Organiser Tommy Roes says classic-car collectors are bound by their love for old and collectable cars that goes far beyond monetary value.

"We try to create a balance by addressing various aspects that influence value in a South African setting. Restoration, maintenance, storage, insurance, import/export and related subjects all play a major role in the financial aspect which cannot be ignored."

Classic Car Africa publisher Stuart Grant says his monthly enthusiast publication tends to focus more on the human interest side of the classic car field and spoke of the most popular editions of his magazine.

"Interestingly, despite the fact that we have had cover pictures ranging from American muscle cars to exotica like Dinos and Lamborghinis and Ferraris, the bestselling magazine to date featured a humble 1970 Renault Gordini, and attracted no less than 46 letters from readers, a record for a cover story."

Grant says social media has played a big role in certain modest classic cars appreciating massively, citing examples of VW Kombis, Alfa GT Juniors and VW Beetles that have been the subject of huge social media exposure and corresponding huge price rises.

On the subject of realising big percentage gains on classic cars as investments, classic car collector and race driver Paolo Cavalieri makes a case for classic racing cars as one of the best investments that can be made.

"If you look at the highest values realised internationally at recent auctions, some 50% of them are racing cars," says Cavalieri. "The highest values were in fact returned by racing cars. So my question to delegates here today is this: why not consider a racing car as your next classic car investment?"

He highlighted SA’s rich racing heritage and pointed to 1979 World Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, Ferrari Formula One designer Rory Byrne and McLaren designer Gordon Murray as shining examples of what SA has produced on the global motorsport stage.

He also brought up a racing German-built Zakspeed Ford Escort which won the Kyalami 1,000km race in the mid-1970s, a replica of which has been built in SA by the Piazza-Musso family, and made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The third Historic Automobile Group International VCCM Conference SA is scheduled to take place in the first half of 2019, details to be confirmed.

For more information, contact organiser Tommy Roes tommy@thecarfinders.co.za, or visit www.vccm.co.za

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