Part 1: My 1984 Ford Capri 2.8i goes away to undergo the beginnings of a restoration on September 22nd. Only a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for someone to spend real, hard-earned money ‘restoring’ a Capri; the car still tainted by the Dell Boy ‘pratmobile’ image and destined for scrapyard extinction. Now though, they’re one of the fastest appreciating vehicles on the classic market and low-mileage V6 cars in original condition are becoming serious collectors’ items. The Capri is a perfect example of the way the term classic evolves, and their values are a sharp jab in the eye of disbelieving nay-sayers who slur that anything more modern than an MGA, or which doesn’t require regular grease nipple visits, is nothing more than a jalopy. Times change, values soar and perceptions alter; so which cars will make the often bumpy transition to classic status next?
I’m not talking about supercars, which will always capture the imagination and, presumably, earn distinction as classics, but the next Mk1 Escort, Dolomite Sprint or Capri. The problem that I see is that most cars that are deemed classics date back to a time when vehicles were bought as an extension of the one-car family, when mum, dad, kids and dog were piled in to dad’s 1600E and cars could be tinkered with at home with a basic tool kit (and they’d need to be, too). It’s a nostalgic view, of course, but I am not sure where the throwaway generation’s affinity for the everyday unspectacular vehicles will come from. Will a 2015 Kia C’eed GT make us go all misty-eyed in 30 years as a Skoda 130RS may today? Probably not. How about a 2016 Focus RS? Well, maybe.
“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was an accepted fact in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. Families could sit at home and watch the touring cars or rallying on the television (or dodge hyperthermia while rain dripped off your nose and filled your wellingtons, if your childhood was like mine), then go out on the Monday to showrooms stocked with cars that shared more than just a passing resemblance to those which you’d seen slugging it out in competition just 24-hours earlier. Every dad could feel like a superstar and every young boy his co-driver. It is this generation which has driven up the values of cars from this era. Cars have to inspire and generate fond memories, if not through nostalgia then by introducing a touch of theatre.
M-badged cars are an obvious example; just look at the value of an E46 CSL. As the last naturally aspirated straight-six version, prices of standard M3s reached rock bottom a couple of years ago and will never look back. Values and interest levels filter down the model range, just as they did from RS-badged Escorts and Lotus Cortinas through to GTs and, finally, shopper-spec models. This is the reason that a few months ago I sniffed out a one family-owned from new E36 328i Sport; prices will only go one way. The E36, E46, original Focus RS and the E39 M5 are perfect example of modern classics, but we’re still talking about cars which are at least a decade old. From where will the future generation of classics emerge? Part 2 examines further…