History of Classic Car Collecting – Post 1990 – Enthusiast Motor Insurance

May 19th, 2020

Anyone who has been around cars since the 1970’s will have witnessed continual shifts in the value of vehicles that we regard today as ‘classics’.

Before 1960, older cars that had been preserved would be described as ‘vintage’ or maybe ‘antique’.

The term ‘classic’ didn’t become common until used in the titles of books or specialist motoring magazines that catered to older models. Classic vehicles in general were built from the end of World War 2 into the 1980’s. Models built more recently, and which also spark collector interest are becoming known as ‘Modern Classics’.

People have been acquiring collections of vehicles almost since the car was invented. Idols from the era of silent films raced their fearsomely expensive Duesenbergs and SSK Mercedes through the hills surrounding Hollywood and singers like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra owned constantly changing vehicle fleets.

Collecting became more widespread during the 1970’s and among the reasons for heightened interest was a sudden spike in fuel prices caused by the OPEC oil embargo. This in turn prompted governments to introduce restrictions on vehicle use, reduce speed limits and increase taxation on vehicle ownership. Across the world came more intensive regulation of new-car design and controls on engine emissions.

However, older cars and motorcycles were generally exempt from retrospective safety laws or emission controls and motoring enthusiasts responded by becoming more attracted to these vehicles.

By the 1980’s, any chance that the United States would return to the gloriously unregulated era of the ‘muscle car’ was looking forlorn.

In addition, a lot of the cars that had survived from earlier years were under threat. ‘Cash for Clunkers’ and ‘gas-guzzler’ laws were targeted specifically at older vehicles with big engines, so finding ways to preserve significant models became urgent to many US enthusiasts.

Another country where older vehicles have at times come under threat was Japan. The rules are different now but for a long time the country’s system of intensive road worthiness inspections for any vehicle more than five years old was regarded as a strategy for removing older cars from the road.

Historic motor sport gained favour during the 1970’s and helped build interest in older models. However, it took the financial jolt that accompanied the October 1987 stock market collapse to radically change the ways people who still had some money came to view older cars.

While those at the top of the market were putting hundreds of thousands, even the occasional million, into collections of cars with exemplary credentials, those with less to spend were following the trend as well and building cheaper but still enjoyable fleets.

The euphoria was short-lived and ended for many with the arrival of the 1990’s economic recession. This downturn didn’t impact the global market for collector vehicles for very long or especially hard, however it did deal savagely with Ferrari values which had climbed following Enzo Ferrari’s death to quite unsustainable levels.

In Australia the effects were more severe, felt for most of the decade and affected sales in every value range. Locally made performance cars which had seen their values climb by 200-300 percent during the late-1980s experienced sudden returns to reality. Enthusiast buyers used the downturn to take revenge on the speculators who were forced to sell at a loss.

Some investors held on throughout the Recession and would eventually make handsome profits, but not until 2004-07 when the muscle car value ‘boom’ drove values to unheralded and again unsustainable levels.

Changing market conditions mean changing vehicle values and not always for the worst. Enthusiast Motor Insurance constantly monitors the specialist vehicle market and adjusts the values of listed vehicles to ensure they reflect realistic replacement cost.

If changes have been made to your vehicle that may also increase its value. Contact Enthusiast on 1800 10 10 44 to discuss amendments to current cover. If your vehicle is about to emerge from a long-term restoration and needs to be insured before being driven, visit www.enthusiast.com.au for a Quick Quote.