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It started with a crush

When Andrew Bagley, Salon Privé managing director and concours chairman, was still in short trousers, the fledgling entrepreneur and car enthusiast clocked the difference between the Jaguar XJS parked on a neighbour’s lawn and his own family’s green Datsun 180B estate. “My father chose that particular model for a reason,” he says. “He was a secondary-school teacher and every summer holiday we drove from our home in the West Midlands to France and camped for the entire six weeks. The Datsun had such a long wheelbase that you could fit a huge amount of food under the seats.”

For Bagley, who was rapt – aged 12 – when Top Gear first aired on BBC television, cars were not about how many tins of Spam you could transport across the Channel. The cars Bagley and his older brother, David, fell for on their annual visits to the NEC Motor Show in Birmingham were about luxury, aspiration – and heart-stopping design. “If I take myself back to when David and I were children and happened to see an amazing car on the Ferrari stand, I can still feel the emotion of it. It’s a feeling that never leaves you,” he says.

In 2006, the year Andrew and David held the inaugural Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance at London’s Hurlingham Club, Bagley’s underage crush was sated with the acquisition of an Aston Martin DB9 Volante. His prestigious collection has been growing ever since and now includes a grey Ferrari F430 Spyder, a red Ferrari 458 Speciale, a red Lamborghini Aventador SV and a Dino 206 GT, currently under restoration. 

Rules of the game
A passion for cars old and new will be, as ever, the unifying factor on the lawns at this year’s Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. But for those setting off down the classic car route for the first time, a clear petrol-head is required, even if you are buying for pleasure rather than investment. Follow certain rules of thumb and the first classic car in your life may well end up being the first of many.  

“First, decide whether classics are really for you,” advises Bagley, “or whether you want the reassurance and the newness of a modern-day hyper- or supercar.

“The classic car collector and supercar collector can be one and the same person, not least because there are limits to how much you can drive some classic cars; there is a limit to performance.

“The modern supercar and hypercar market has seen a resurgence over the past 10 years; ownership of the latest hypercar can be as important to some as the best classic.”

Which is the better investment?

“Rarity in terms of production numbers means everything, whether you buy new or old. Having said that, it is difficult to compare the two. The value of a classic car depends on rarity, previous ownership – whether by a celebrity, such as Steve McQueen, or a racing driver – and, of course, racing history for the competition cars. It’s that DNA of the car coupled with the restoration itself that determines its ultimate value.”

Do it for love
For those who have plumped for a classic car, should choice be determined by price, rarity, restoration potential or provenance? None of these, advises vintage car enthusiast and collector Hugo Modderman – one of the judges at this year’s Salon Privé Chubb Insurance Concours d’Elégance. “Always buy what you like, what you fancy,” he says. “Do not buy on the basis of what you think might increase in value.”

Every classic car collector starts with a budget. Stick to it – and don’t be seduced by a low price tag. “Keep in mind that some cars might look cheap at first glance, but are expensive in terms of maintenance,” cautions Modderman. “Buy what you can afford from a maintenance point of view.” 

Should you be considering a vehicle to restore, be warned that there are hidden costs – emotional and financial. “If you are buying a classic car, buy someone else’s restoration,” urges Bagley. “While the journey of restoration is very rewarding, it is also incredibly expensive and time-consuming… and can go incredibly wrong.” But what if you are hell bent on restoration? “Be prepared to spend your maximum budget,” says Bagley. “Spending less on a purchase can be a false economy.” 

Highs and lows
Restoration requires time, as well as funds. “I bought my Dino 206 GT in Italy,” says Bagley, “and I’ve been saving up for the restoration money – which is significant. I started the restoration process and it was supposed to be ready this summer. Unfortunately, it won’t be. There have been no hitches, only the same pain and highs and lows that everyone goes through.”

Restoration is like doing a puzzle, says Bagley of a rigorous process that typically takes between two and five years. The reward? “Pride in ownership, which is absolutely immense. You’ve allowed the car to live again.”

“The reward? Pride in ownership, which is absolutely immense. You’ve allowed the car to live again”

Last year’s winner of the Chubb Concours d’Elégance competition for the rarest and most significant classic cars and motorcycles is a case in point. “When Bruce Lavachek, the American owner of a Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa 1956, was awarded Best of Show, he found it hard to get a word out; he choked,” recalls Bagley. The restoration work had been carried out by UK Ferrari specialist David Cottingham of DK Engineering. “Lavachek flew over from California to be reunited with his car, which he had not seen for years,” says Bagley. “Salon Privé was only its second event after being retired from racing in 1960. It was a very special moment.

“Restoring, like collecting, is very romantic,” he adds. “It is about putting your dreams on the line.”

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