How to make money on cars: debut them in Geneva
Some entirely unsound financial advice, coming up
Geneva 2020 may have been cancelled due to a global pandemic that’s killing thousands and threatening to unravel the very fabric of society, but, as a terrible Oliver Stone sequel once said, money never sleeps.
And in this vein of insomniacal currency, let’s turn to a bit of tone-deaf folderol from a car financing business, which has decided to play an inverse Chicken Little and engage in some blue-sky thinking while it falls down around us.
In this case, it’s the mega amounts of money that tanned men in chino shorts have made from buying cars that have debuted at the world’s most important motor show. Want to follow along and see where you should have put your money? We agree, that doesn’t sound at all like a depressing venture at all. Let’s begin.Advertisement - Page continues below
Debut year: 1949
Price then: £3,000 (about £105,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £800,000
They say: up 26,566%
We say: what utter cobblers
Well, the jig is up already. If you adjust for inflation (which they didn’t – but we did, using a helpful banker who wasn’t in the process of shorting pensioners or investing in hand-sanitiser stocks), you’ll see that £3,000 was an absolute load of cash back in the days of tweed and rickets. So our unnamed and un-shamed vehicle financier has fundamentally misunderstood how money works (always a good sign) and has chalked up the meteoric rise in value without taking into account the simple reason why pints of beer cost more than £5 (at least in London) when they used to cost half that.
Still, let’s not set aside the frankly absurd titan that is classic car values – even at adjusted money, we’re still talking about a 660 per cent increase in value. And a Porsche 356/2 to drive around for 70 years.
Debut year: 1966
Price then: £15,000 (about £280,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £1m
They say: up 6,566%
We say: up 257%
Maybe another way to ensure future values is just to rely on the sheer prettiness of an object. Hey, don’t mock – it worked in the case of the Miura. Even in the Sixties, the era of all things beautiful (and as safe as an iron maiden if you crash them), the Miura stands out. That might have been because of its then-outlandish shape, which set a course both for Lamborghini and for supercar manufacturers from then on. Or it could be the revolutionary mid-engined set-up, complete with a transversely mounted V12 and motorbike-style (or original Mini, if you’re curious where Lambo might have got the idea) conjoined engine and gearbox.
Another helpful future value tip? Ensure that the people who worked on the car become household names, like Giampaolo Dallara and Marcello Gandini. How exactly you manage this is beyond our best guess, but it probably involves time machines.Advertisement - Page continues below
Debut year: 1970
Price then: £1,528 (about £24,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £80,000 (well, for a good restored one)
They say: up 5,135%
We say: up 233%
Finally, a decently priced Geneva debut! And about the most reasonably priced new Land Rover product in any TG staffer’s memory, now that we think of it. We bet that Rangeys wouldn’t just be for the Knightsbridge set if they cost as much as a Fiesta ST-3.
We have a pretty big soft spot for the original two-door Range Rover. And, as our hapless car financiers suggest, we should have given into those feelings long ago. What they don’t mention is that you can pick up a Suffix A in great condition for £35,000 without trying. Which makes our estimation of the markup about as fanciful as the financiers.
Debut year: 1972
Price then: £11,000 (about £148,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £250,000
They say: up 2,172%
We say: up 69%
Do trifling things like speculative value, appreciating assets and ‘money for rent’ really matter when there’s something as truly magnificent as the 246 GTS in the equation? Well, if you’re anything like our landlord, that answer is threefold: ‘yes’, ‘that’s a spurious argument’ and ‘get your things out of my house’. So it goes.
Maybe our next landlord will appreciate things like flat-plane-crank racing V6s, designed by the son of Enzo himself, Alfredo ‘Dino’ Ferrari and F1 engineer Vittorio Jano. We could have long talks about the relative merits of the smaller engined but lighter 206 vs the heavier, more powerful 246, instead of trifling things like the thousands of pounds we owe him in back rent.
If that sounds like you, do get in touch. Preferably if your house is in the Holland Park area; we’re still trying to run into Jimmy Page down at the local cafe.
Alfa Romeo SZ
Debut year: 1989
Price then: £35,000 (about £88,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £70,000
They say: up 100%
We say: Whoops
Yeah, there’s no easy way to put this: the SZ is a bad investment, and pretty much always has been. But you kind of knew that anyway, didn’t you? When is an Alfa – barring the seminal 33, TZ or Disco Volante – ever a really good starting point for speculation? Still, only losing 20 per cent real-world value from new over the course of 30 years is nothing to be ashamed of, especially for an Alfa. And more especially for one that, upon its release, was immediately nicknamed ‘the monster’.
We love Zagato, as much for its wilful difference as its deference to performance. You just know, given enough rope, Zagato will try to make a road-going race car. Bless ’em.
The SZ never yields easily to the eye. The SZ never, ever rests easy on the mind. But we’ll be damned if we don’t want one. And – good news! – it seems they’re a bit of a bargain.
Debut year: 1995
Price then: £350,000 (about £680,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £1.5m
They say: up 328%
We say: up 120%
OK, now this is an investment we can get behind: an F1-derived 4.7-litre V12 and six-speed manual out back and the prancing horse badge out front. Is it fast, in modern terms? Sure, fast enough, but a Mountune-chipped Golf R will match it in a 0-60 sprint. And a Ferrari 488 will be long gone, to say nothing of a Tesla Model S. But who cares? It just means more time to appreciate the sound of, and we’ll repeat ourselves, a Ferrari F1-derived V12, spinning up to its 8,500rpm redline. Oh, and it’s worth a mint, so consider investing, or something.Advertisement - Page continues below
Porsche Carrera GT
Debut year: 2003
Price then: £330,000 (about £525,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £650,000
They say: up 96%
We say: up 24%
Sometimes, failures are just a path laid to a different kind of success. No, we’re not starting a new side-gig in cliche-riddled motivational speaking – although, as money for old rope goes, we’ve seen worse ways to be paid – we’re talking about how the Carrera GT came about.
The truly wonderful V10 in the Carrera GT was meant to race. But, due to complex business reasons that we honestly don’t trouble ourselves with, it never did. What it did do is feature very, very prominently in the Carrera GT.
Sure, it’s appreciated in value, but to look at it that way is to underappreciate the point of a V10, mid-engined, motorsport-derived Porsche. With a wooden gear knob!
Debut year: 2004
Price then: £500,000 (about £775,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £2m
They say: up 300%
We say: up 158%
Yeah, it’s an Enzo underneath. And yeah, it isn’t as fast, because... well, if you name a car after the founder of the business, then spin another car off that for a brand your company owns, you make sure you’re not outshined.
Also, it has a 2004-spec automated manual, which is a very dry way of saying ‘it’s as lunge-tastic as leg day at the gym’. So perhaps this big, trident-badged behemoth is best-suited as a piece of mobile sculpture. Yeah, OK, the hedge fund managers can make their 150 per cent on this.Advertisement - Page continues below
Aston Martin One-77
Debut year: 2009
Price then: £1.2m (about £1.62m when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £1.5m
They say: up 25%
We say: Maths is hard
OK, it’s only lost 7.5 per cent of its real value, which puts it far, far ahead of the 30-grand V8 Vantages you can pick up these days.
And there’s no doubting the styling talents of Marek Reichman, nor the potency of the 750bhp, 7.3-litre V12. Many moons ago, we actually got to experience both in – where else? – Dubai.
So what if its real-world value has slipped a bit? It took a full decade before Aston went so outre again, and that’s a long time between drinks. Especially in a place like Dubai.
Debut year: 2015
Price then: £450,000 (about £500,000 when adjusted for inflation)
Price now: £800,000
They say: up 77%
We say: It’s their closest estimate yet
It’s increased in value by 60 per cent in five years, which is a frankly staggering level of appreciation. But that’s what happens when you make something desirable and out of reach, even to hyper-minted buyers.
And out of reach, really is underselling it. You had to qualify in the eyes of Ford’s muckety-mucks to even get on the list to get one, and then had to sign a contract saying you wouldn’t sell it for at least two years. This part of the contract was apparently lost on John Cena, who Ford took to court when he tried to sell his on. Even now, FoMoCo is in the courts, sticking it to those who saw the GT as nothing but a quick-flip investment.
For our (absence of) money, we have to agree with clauses for new supercars – with a few slight modifications. If we can all agree that cars are for driving, every owner should be contractually obliged to put at least 5,000 miles a year on their cars. If they don’t want to do that many, we’ll help out...