You have been a good boy all year and feel you deserve a treat. How about a special car?
Note the violent bias towards the male gender: we shall be talking about unadulterated lust for a set of wheels here, not Louboutin shoes.
Let’s say that you have seen an advert about a Jensen Interceptor. Suddenly, memories come flooding back: your father’s love affair with the Interceptor of old; your friend at school, being picked up in one; a poster showing the generous curves of the unmistakable rear hatch; the throaty roar of that American engine.
You simply must have it.
The idea of awarding oneself after hard toil, stripped of guilt and festooned with lashings of pleasure, is also a particularly masculine one. And so is, by and large, the world of classic cars: here, mud, grit and rust mix their sanguine hues with the sepia colours of vintage photographs and the smell of history, cracked leather and leaded petrol.
Rumours of the death of British Engineering and Manufacturing may have been greatly exaggerated, but this is even truer when it comes to the UK’s fascination with restoration, maintenance and preservation of a marque’s heritage.
Tinkering with history has never been more fashionable: the classic car industry generates, according to the latest (Dec 2011) survey carried out by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, business worth £4.3bn a year. That’s a lot of Austin Allegros.
Only, an Austin Allegro will not ‘do’, as a treat. For a start, it would look odd under the Christmas tree, but even more out of place on one’s drive. The Interceptor, on the other hand…
Cars, like homes and jobs, may be charismatic carriers and magnifying mirrors of one’s social identity. Still the “mechanical bride”, as American advertising guru Marshall McLuhan famously called them in the Eighties, they attract positive attention and are meant to perform obediently.
A classic car will fulfil both tasks, but the former is directly dependent on how much one spends on the latter: in the UK, some £230m a year is spent on buying actual vehicles privately (an extra £80m is spent at classic car auctions). Then there is fuel, maintenance, specialist services, restoration… A wife is less expensive. Besides, how many wives can boast the extra benefit of a potential increase in value?
The more expensive the classic car, the stronger the temptation to believe that it will be a sound investment over the years: it is a self-perpetuating desire.
So we are back to desire.
Desire drives (yes, literally) some classic cars being featured on specialist trade websites, photographed in all their glory and described using the kind of language typical of Thai bride catalogues: “very desirable”, “sweet”, “stunning”, “will never let you down”, etc…
And just like the perfect bride, some classic cars come with ‘enhancements’, upgrades and modifications meant to make the new owner’s heart swell with pride. Breast surgery for mechanical spouses is a delicate operation which softens the hard edges of age: it helps your classic feel younger.
V3 – Voluti’s Vintage Values
The V3 report is the most comprehensive compendium of the UK classic car auction activities, produced monthly for owners, classic car enthusiasts and dealers. Bespoke reports can be produced to suit specific enquiries and can even accommodate markets outside the UK.
If you need to know whether a car has been put up for auction before, as well as the outcome, then V3 is an invaluable tool. For further information contact Angie at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at +44 (0) 1604 863 044.
* * *
Desire is about possession, which may be unhinged from practicality or common sense. If ‘surgery’ adds those elements without reducing the yearning, the result is increased value: take the Jensen Interceptor, for example. The one advertised in many a leading classic car website such as this (classicmobilia.co.uk) started life as the dream British GT bolide in the Seventies.
The same UK industry which works to maintain and preserve around 850,000 pre-1981 vehicles also flexes its engineering skills on some of them, from sexy E-types to pert MGBs and regal Alvis models, tweaking brake, suspension and wiring systems, and transplanting power units.
When new, the Jensen Interceptor drew together a concoction of exotic elements guaranteed to help drivers reach motoring orgasm: it had Italian design, good traditional British manufacturing by a factory in the heart of working Britain (the Midlands) and an American high-blood-pressure pumping heart.
Rescued from the dark alleys of neglect, the model (like the brand) has enjoyed a new lease of life. Only in the UK could a car which may fetch as little as a couple thousand pounds in its unadulterated state of disrepair get to the heights of five-figure premiums in its ‘S’ guise.
Perhaps the badge should be ‘D’ for ‘desire’, as the Interceptor S encapsulates an era of flared trousers and free love, fun and adventure, of plunging cleavage and bushy sideburns which will never come back, unless the scars of time and earlier product weaknesses can be addressed by restoration skills and inspired engineering.
After all, the average value of the cars sold at UK auctions over the last three years has increased: from £30,146 (2009) and £39,161 (2010) to £41,615 (2011). And that does include Austin Allegros…
Restoration and re-engineering sparks tangible interest: an entire decade of Interceptor sales in the Nineties via auction houses was worth £130k. In 2011 alone, UK auction houses sold Interceptors for a total of £163k.
So, as you lazily browse the car ads over the New Year break, when you find a £85k Interceptor S, with its independent suspension and Corvette engine, let the flame of desire lick your soul.
Sources: Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) and V3 (Voluti’s Vintage Values) Report