Idle Torque: Classic cars as investments
Quality examples of the Mercedes-Benz 190SL were worth about $70,000-80,000 a decade ago, but this classic German convertible sold for $114,000 last November.

_GIVEN _ I can reliably predict when someone in our family is going to spill their Weet-Bix, sweet and trusting folk sometimes suggest I should apply this fortune-telling wizardry to classic-car prices.

With crystal ball gazing fraught at the best of times though, I'm not about to don a paisley scarf and start calling myself Madame Griselda - unless I'm paid quite a lot of money.

Slightly more useful would be to identify some trends around classic-car prices that emerged in 2012, which may provide a guide to what could continue this year.

Starting at the top, let's consider the ultra-rare sports, racing and pre-war cars which sell for headline-making record prices.

In 2013, they will all be another year older, a little more revered than they once were and there still won't be any more of them built.

For the majority of cars in this market, they can only go up in price and, if you can afford one, they're better than money in the bank. This, by the way, explains the number of classic-car investment funds that have sprung up in recent years.

But not everyone has $8 million to parlay on a Ferrari 250 GT California - even in WA. Cars like this will have spikes and troughs, but over five to 10 years they'll rise steadily and strongly.

More relevant to those who don't own an iron-ore mining company are the sale prices of affordable classics, some of which sold in 2012 for surprisingly high and low prices.

The 1972 Mini Moke that sold in Melbourne for $27,000 last November is one example of a sale price that went far beyond its estimate. It was beautifully restored with gleaming red paintwork, but the hammer price was still phenomenal for a Moke.

That price will now be a yardstick by which other Moke prices are measured and will possibly pull up the prices of similar vehicles.

Meanwhile, the scruffy 1974 BMW 2002 that went for $2000 at the same sale was budget classic motoring at its best. Of course the little BMW needed work, but for half the cost of a standard engine rebuild this was a whole car to start with and one which was among the sweetest-handling sports saloons of its time.

Also in 2012, it was encouraging to see the prices of Series II and III Jaguar saloons come off the floor.

In 2010 and 2011, many were being sold for $2000 and less, but in 2012 some appeared to inch above $5000. Their maintenance costs aren't getting any lower, but perhaps people are realising that's a lot of car for the money.

It's going to be another fascinating year on the classic-car scene. So keep an eye on the auctioneer's gavel because, like Weet-Bix, you never know what's going to happen until it's up in the air.

Even then, it's not for certain.

The West Australian

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