What Will Become Of The Big Car Collections?

May 7th, 2019

If you are one of the many who closely follow automotive auction sales, then you will have been busier than a one-armed barber during the past 12 months.

All in a rush and close together we have seen several of Australia’s most significant collections of motor vehicles being broken up and sold. Vehicles going under the gavel with various auction houses included a selection of the country’s best Holden Premiers, accompanied by two much larger collections that also included historic Holdens.

Motor sport enthusiasts were offered the prospect of owning something from a massive accumulation of Peter Brock-themed cars. Some were genuine and selling for huge money, others well-presented  ‘tributes’  that sold for a fraction of the $2.1 million realised by a documented Bathurst 1000 winner.

The reasons for such sales and their timing are complex. They often result in a lot of quite similar vehicles arriving in the market at the same time and depressing values as more cars than are needed to satisfy demand suddenly become available. On the plus side, cars that have not been in the market for years and perhaps decades become available to new owners.

At the top of the auction tree are specialised models selling for upwards of $1 million. These are beyond the reach of almost everyone, however they also serve as ‘headline’ cars with the task of attracting buyers to a sale’s more affordable offerings.

Results from recent auctions show a wide range of models being sold at prices that are not beyond the means of a typical car enthusiast with $10-20,000 to invest.

In some instances, more than one car in a collection will go to the same buyer, indicating that collections are still being established or expanded via these sales.

Given the size of Australia and the cost of transporting vehicles over large distances it is worthwhile before bidding at an auction to get estimates on the cost of moving anything you might buy.

Remember before you do, not to rely on the carrier’s insurance.  Enthusiast Insurance operates online 24 hours a day every day of the year and cover can be arranged online. Even before heading off to the auction, visit www.enthusiast.com.au for full details of the services available.

Cars that have been in a static collection for many years will often need ‘recommissioning’ This might range from draining and replacing all fluids (including bleeding the brakes) to a complete engine strip that replaces aged piston rings, gaskets, seals, valve-train components, the water pump and timing chain.

The expenses involved can represent a significant proportional increase to the cost of a low-value car, turning an apparent bargain into a seriously deep money pit.

When buying vehicles at auction that might be quite similar in age, specification and condition it is a good tactic to let yourself be outbid on the first couple. People with more money than you do can often view being outbid as an affront to their self-esteem and spend much more than a vehicle is worth just to say they beat another collector to get it.

Possible buyers can become disillusioned by initially high prices and some might even leave the sale. That in turn leaves cars lower down the auction sheet barely able to reach reserve and bargains are possible.

Taking the one with flat paint, rust pimples in the bumpers and a tired interior isn’t such a bad strategy either, providing the car is authentic and with papers to prove it. Such vehicles are now popularly displayed as ‘barn finds’ and, providing they are mechanically sound, can be used with minimal concern.

The important factor in these transactions is preservation and – hopefully – local retention of significant vehicles. For many years Australia was seen as a source of untouched and largely rust-free ‘classics’ which were snapped up by US and European collectors at prices well below those being paid at the time in their own countries.

Many of the models dispersed recently were Australian-made and as such offered little to interest the international buyer. However there exists a temptation among US-based Muscle Car collectors to add one or two Australian examples to their extensive holdings. Once that happens, those cars are pretty much lost to the local market.

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