The Insider’s Guide to Buying a Classic Car

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What should you look for when buying a classic car? Scarcity and legitimate provenance are obviously key factors. But there is something much more important. “Buy the one you always wanted,” says Iain Tyrrell, the Chester-based oracle of classic cars. Iain hosts his Tyrrell Classic Workshop show on YouTube as he bends over a gorgeous V12 engine, comparing the sound of one cylinder to another in his workshop. “There is too much focus on investment. Obviously, do some research on the internet, select the model and get a specialized evaluation from a classic car expert. But don’t let your head rule your heart; every purchase should be 50 percent head and 50 percent heart.”

A 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 Coupe is a wonderful starting point. Sleek and agile, it really is a BMW and not one of the 1960s Italian rarities 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 made. Its designers Wilhelm Hofmeister and Manfred Rennen were inspired by the 3200 CS designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The 3.0 CS body was built by Karmann and spawned the lightweight road-going CSL and the successful race-ready CSL version. The CS coupe’s M30 six-cylinder engine produces 180 hp, rising to 200 hp in the CSi. A BMW expert should look for broken gaskets causing head cracks. All suspension struts and bushings may also need to be replaced. If it feels sluggish to drive then a worn camshaft could be the culprit. Check the complex brake system and for oil leaks and rust. Today a very well preserved 3.0 CS coupe will sell for around £120,000. If you’re seduced by looks and image, a lesser 2.5 CS coupe can be had for around £50,000.

a ford mustang

A Ford Mustang © Julian Broad

A Porsche 911 with Cibié hood lights

A Porsche 911 with Cibié lights on the bonnet © Julian Broad

a jaguar xk150

A Jaguar XK150 © Julian Broad

A classic Alfa Romeo Junior (top)

A classic Alfa Romeo Junior (top) © Julian Broad

“The classic car market is fickle,” explains Tyrrell. “One minute a star is driving an MGB in a Hollywood movie and everyone wants one. Cars go in and out of favor.” He emphasizes that a car with style and beauty is a good choice, but he has a strong view on eccentric creations. “Fantastic cars can be a double-edged sword.” So what would Tyrell suggest as a great first classic that’s fairly reliable? “A Porsche 911 has a lot of appeal. Parts are easy to come by and the car should rarely lose value.”

Working on a BMW 1800 TI/SA

Working on a BMW 1800 TI/SA © Julian Broad

Perhaps you are interested in a dash of mesmerizing beauty? Consider Maserati’s Ghibli coupe, which takes its name from an Egyptian desert wind. The 15.4-foot Ghibli and Ghibli SS were produced between 1967 and 1972 and were again styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. What we have here is a 2+2 two-door coupe powered by a 4,719cc V8 producing 330bhp, or 5bhp more in the larger 4.7-litre found in the SS version. Drive one of these today and expect the continuous sound of low whistles as you pass. With its laid-back cabin with five central clocks set into the dashboard and a long bonnet that rises and falls with acceleration, this is a most beautiful car. When considering one, make sure it has a fully documented history detailing chassis, body and engine maintenance since new. Opt for the 1969 version with the four Weber 42 DCNF carbs as it will be easier to maintain. An example of the ZF power steering car is also worth locating, which is useful when driving such a large car at low speeds. Ubiquity is unlikely to be a major concern, as Maserati built just 779 examples of the standard car and just 425 of the SS model. The sensational and very expensive Spyder is even rarer, with 125 produced. Expect to pay upwards of £200,000 for a nice Ghibli coupe and close to £300,000 for a pristine one.

A Porsche 911S 2.4 Targa from 1972

A 1972 Porsche 911S 2.4 Targa © Julian Broad

A BMW 3.0 CSL

A BMW 3.0 CSL © Julian Broad

A 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4

A 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 © Julian Broad

Sam Hancock's Ferrari 246S Dino

Sam Hancock’s Ferrari 246S Dino © Julian Broad

Maybe you want to take your classic passion to the track? The official Alfa Romeo 1750 GTA cars were built by Autodelta at Settimo Milanese, which had been taken over by Alfa as its official racing manufacturer in the 1960s. It was powered by a 1,985cc four-cylinder twin spark indirect injection Spica setup. which generated 210 hp at 7,500 rpm and reached 230 km/h at full speed. The little racer weighed just 940kg and was a progression from the GTA model. At full throttle, the GTAm growls and barks like a cornered wild animal. It’s easy to tell the car apart from the GTA version, as it added thicker wheel arches riveted to the steel bodywork for the thicker racing tires. Only 40 genuine GTAm cars were produced and would change hands for sky-high amounts of money, but rebuilt examples offer a good bridge to track racing for under £100,000. If undisputed provenance and history are essential to you, an original Alfa Romeo GTAm built by Autodelta would be a uniquely prized possession.

A 1980 Ford

A 1980 Ford © Julian Broad

“Be as pragmatic as possible with your purchase,” advises Max Girardo, the UK and Turin-based authority on car sourcing for global customers. Girardo worked for a decade with RM Sotheby’s as head auctioneer and also director of European operations before establishing his own classic car brokerage, Girardo & Co in 2016. Girardo has seen rarities change hands for colossal amounts of money in the auctions. However, his advice is encouragingly egalitarian. “Always buy the best you can afford, whether it’s a Fiat 500 or a Ferrari California Spyder.” As for letting your heart influence your head, he’s a bit more circumspect than Tyrrell. “Never get excited about it,” he says. “You may have wanted a Fiat Dino in blue and rushed out to buy it, only to find it has a knocked-up engine or is not running.”

a 2000 bmw

A BMW 2000 © Julian Broad

A 1977 Lamborghini P300 silhouette

A 1977 Lamborghini Silhouette P300 © Julian Broad

A Ferrari 246 Dino GT

A Ferrari 246 Dino GT © Julian Broad

A Citroën SM from the 70s

A 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 one.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, he also singles out Ferrari as a perennial investment darling. “Ferrari is an aspirational brand. You’ll even get your money back on a Ferrari 348, while a 599 Fiorano or 612 won’t lose value. The most popular ticket now is modern supercars: a Ferrari Enzo or a Porsche Carrera GT, as everyone wants one.

Girardo points out why now might be a good time to seek out the classic of your dreams. Fears of a recession with rising interest rates are keeping prices firm for now. “The market is super stable,” he says. “Prices are not rising, but stable.”

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