The insider's guide to buying a classic car

The insider’s guide to buying a classic car

What to look out for when buying a classic car? Scarcity and legitimate provenance are obviously the key factors. But there is something more important. “Buy the one you’ve always wanted,” says Iain Tyrrell, a Chester-based classic car fortune teller. Iain presents his Tyrrell YouTube show Classic Workshop as he leans over the gorgeous V12 engine – checking the sound of one cylinder against the other in his workshop. “We are too focused on investments. Of course, do your research online, select a model, and get an expert appraisal from a classic car expert. But don’t let your head control your heart; every purchase should be 50 percent head and 50 percent heart.”

Porsche 356. All vehicles photographed at Goodwood Revival 2022 © Julian Broad

I could fall in love with any of the cars photographed for these pages at this year’s Goodwood Revival, but if you put me on the spot, the BMW 3.0 CS coupé is a great starting point. Graceful and nimble, it really is a BMW and not one of the Italian rarities of the 1960s designed by a coachbuilder like Carrozzeria Scaglietti. The BMW 3.0 CS coupé, or E9 Clubsport, is one of the most elegantly shaped two-door coupés BMW has ever produced. Its designers Wilhelm Hofmeister and Manfred Rennen drew inspiration from the 3200 CS designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The 3.0 CS body was built by Karmann and gave rise to the lightweight road CSL and the highly successful race-ready version of the CSL. The six-cylinder M30 coupe CS engine produces 180 hp, increased to 200 hp in the CSi. A BMW expert should look for cracked gaskets leading to head cracks. All struts and suspension bushings may also need to be replaced. If the steering is slow, a worn camshaft may be to blame. Inspect the comprehensive brake system for oil leaks and rust. Today, a nicely preserved 3.0 CS coupe will cost around £120,000. If you’re seduced by looks and image, the smaller 2.5 CS coupe can be had for around £50,000.

Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang © Julian Broad

Porsche 911 with Cibié hood lights

Porsche 911 with Cibié bonnet lights © Julian Broad

Jaguar XK150

Jaguar XK150 © Julian Broad

Classic Alfa Romeo Junior (above)

Classic Alfa Romeo Junior (top) © Julian Broad

“The classic car market is volatile,” explains Tyrrell. “One minute there’s an MGB star driving in a Hollywood movie and everyone wants it. Cars come and go in favor.” He points out that a car with flair and beauty is a good choice, but he has strong opinions about quirky creations. “Quirky cars can be a double-edged sword.” So what would Tyrell suggest as a great first classic that will be quite reliable? “The Porsche 911 is very attractive. Parts are easy to come by and the car should rarely depreciate.”

Working on a BMW 1800 TI/SA

Working on the BMW 1800 TI/SA © Julian Broad

Perhaps you long for a sprinkling of enchanting beauty? Consider Maserati’s Ghibli coupe, which takes its name from the Egyptian desert wind. The 15.4ft Ghibli and Ghibli SS were produced between 1967 and 1972 and were again designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Here we have a two-door 2+2 coupe powered by a 4,719cc V8 engine that produces 330bhp – or 5bhp more for the larger 4.7-litre model found in the SS trim. Drive one of these today and expect a non-stop whistling sound as you drive past. With its sleek cabin, five central clocks set into the dashboard, and a long hood that rises and falls as you accelerate, it’s the most beautiful car. When considering, make sure it has a fully documented history detailing chassis, body and engine maintenance from new. Opt for the 1969 version with four Weber 42 DCNF carburettors as it turns out to be easier to maintain. An example of a car with ZF power steering, which is useful when handling such a large car at low speeds, is also worth placing. Ubiquity isn’t likely to be much of an issue as Maserati only built 779 examples of the standard car and only 425 of the SS model. The sensational and very expensive Spyder is even rarer, 125 of them were produced. Expect to pay over £200,000 for a good Ghibli coupe and closer to £300,000 for a pristine one.

1972 Porsche 911S 2.4 Targa

1972 Porsche 911S 2.4 Targa © Julian Broad

BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW 3.0 CSL © Julian Broad

1954 Aston Martin DB2/4

1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 © Julian Broad

Sam Hancock's Ferrari 246S Dino

Sam Hancock’s Ferrari 246S Dino © Julian Broad

Maybe you’d like to take your classic passion to the track? Official Alfa Romeo 1750 GTA cars were built by Autodelta in Settimo Milanese, which was incorporated into Alfa as its official racing manufacturer in the 1960s. It was powered by a Spica 1,985cc twin-spark four-cylinder that produced 210bhp at 7,500rpm and reached a top speed of 230km/h. The small racer weighed only 940 kg and was a continuation of the GTA model. At full revs, the GTAm growls and barks like a cornered wild animal. It’s easy to tell the car apart from the GTA version as it has added beefier wheel arches riveted to the steel bodywork for fatter racing tires. Only 40 of the original GTAm cars were built, which would change hands for an exorbitant amount of money, but rebuilt examples offer a good bridge to track racing for under £100,000. If unquestionable provenance and history are essential to you, an original Alfa Romeo GTAm from Autodelta would be an extremely prized possession.

1980 Ford

1980 Ford © Julian Broad

“Be as pragmatic as possible when buying,” advises Max Girardo, a British and Turin-based expert on buying cars for global clients. Girardo worked with RM Sotheby’s for ten years as head auctioneer as well as head of European operations before starting his own classic car brokerage in 2016 – Girardo & Co. Girardo has seen rarities change hands for colossal sums of money at auction. Yet his advice is encouragingly egalitarian. “Always buy the best you can afford—whether it’s a Fiat 500 or a Ferrari California Spyder.” When it comes to letting your heart influence your head, he’s a bit more circumspect than Tyrrell. “Never get emotional about it,” she says. “Perhaps you wanted a Fiat Dino in blue and rushed to buy it, only to find that the engine knocks or won’t run.”

And a BMW 2000

BMW 2000 © Julian Broad

1977 Lamborghini Silhouette P300

1977 Lamborghini Silhouette P300 © Julian Broad

Ferrari 246 Dino GT

Ferrari 246 Dino GT © Julian Broad

Citroën SM from the seventies

Citroën SM from the 1970s © Julian Broad

I ask him what’s hot in the market right now. “The biggest movement in the market is cars from the 1990s and 2000s. A Renault Clio Williams could be the car you wanted when you were 18 with a new license and couldn’t afford it.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, he also points to Ferrari as a perennial investment favourite. “Ferrari is an ambitious brand. You’ll even get your money back for a Ferrari 348, while a 599 Fiorano or 612 won’t break the bank. The hottest ticket now is modern supercars – the Ferrari Enzo or the Porsche Carrera GT, whatever you want.”

Girardo points out why now might be a good time to hunt down your dream classic. Fears of a recession with rising interest rates are holding prices tight for now. “The market is super stable,” he says. “Prices are not rising, but they are stable.”

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