FOR those of us of a certain age, it’s pretty astonishing to see the prices that some cars have been achieving of late. On the one hand, it’s proof that an element of economic certainty has returned to the UK, or that savings interest rates are so low we’re finding somewhere else to stash our money, but on the other hand it’s kind of incredible to see cars that changed hands just four or five years ago for a few hundred quid suddenly heading up into the mid-thousands in terms of value.
The humble Austin Metro, for example, has become something of a cult car. For most fans of this site, that’s great news. We love our Metros, and it’s good to see that they’re finally making some headway in classic car circles. On a personal level, I still rue the day in 2001 when I didn’t snap up a 21,000 mile Metro L in Cinnabar Red at my local auction for £165 and stick it in my garage for a bit. But I digress. I do have a G-plate Clubman sitting on ice, after all.
Last weekend, at the wonderfully inclusive Anglia Car Auctions (where a Rover 820e is as welcome as an Aston Martin, and may well draw in more punters), two lovely old Metros sold for good money. A Snapdragon Yellow Metro 1.3S, previously recorded as a write off, went for £2,940, while a later C-registered MG Metro achieved an astonishing £4,095.
There’s a very strong argument that these cars were worth every penny. Low mileage, great provenance, very well presented and extremely rare. But at the same time, they’re Metros. And to me, much as I love ’em, they’re still £500 runabouts. Time, then, to take a deep breath and refocus.
That, in itself, is hard. A few years back, I bought a solid and presentable Ford Fiesta XR2 for the princely sum of £475. At ACA last week, a near identical car achieved a mind-blowing £9,240 (which was still less than half the price achieved by a Mk3 Capri 3.0S). Are good cars of this era now really worth that much?
The answer, of course, is yes. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t go for this kind of money – the beauty of an auction is that the price sets itself. But it’s come as something of a shock to me, as for years, these are the kind of cars I’ve been snaffling up for peanuts.
Even the unloved are suddenly finding their feet. Three years ago, a tidy Rover 800 was £300. Today, you need four figures to get a nice one – and, although we’re not talking telephone numbers here, that’s a big shift from where they were back then. Recently, I’ve seen a Maestro van go for over £2,000, a bidding war break out on a Montego estate and four grand change hands for a Lada Riva. Meanwhile, two of my neighbours have expressed an interest in my recently acquired 31k R8 Rover 214 Si, and I think one of them is absolutely genuine in his ‘if ever you sell it, I’d love to own that’ platitudes. More of that car later, though, as once I’ve given it ‘the works’, I’ll show it off properly.
Back on the Metro bandwagon, the Metro Turbo we featured here a couple of weeks back went for £3,000 in the end, via eBay, and with no MoT, while recent searches have shown me that you can’t get a half-decent Rover 100, even, unless you’re prepared to pay £1,000.
Nostalgia, then is shifting. And shifting at quite a rate. People in their 30s and 40s (myself included) are now at an age where they’re financially independent, and want to treat themselves to something they crave or remember from their youth.
The difference is, back in the Seventies, our fathers and grandfathers used to look after and maintain their cars. They were expensive items that were a) easy to maintain and b) worth maintaining. In the past 20 years, though, we’ve ceased to really give a hoot about our wheels. Easy finance, lease deals and a need to own ‘new, new, new’ have made a car a commodity in much the same way as a domestic appliance, and we simply don’t show them the same kind of love that we used to.
That disposable society, plus increased technological complexity, has made us cast aside many cars well before their best before date (and the Scrappage Scheme hardly helped, either), meaning this whole conundrum comes down to one thing and one thing alone – supply and demand, and the fact that the latter suddenly (and notably) outstrips the former.
Ironically, then, one of the cheapest Rovers that money can buy at the moment is probably one of the best. Get a cheap 75 now, while you still can. I’m looking…