Expert advice

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 June, 2004, 12:00am

Q I've always loved car racing in many forms, and especially like the older, classic models. What would it take to become a collector? Are there many collectors?


'Cars have always been collectibles for some people, and far more so in the past 30 years,' says Philip Kantor, associate director of the international motor cars department at Christie's. He says that vintage cars, although usually regarded as prohibitively expensive, come in a wide range of prices, 'from a few thousand US dollars to US$10 million'.

Kantor is preparing for an upcoming Exceptional Motor Cars auction, to be held in conjunction with the Le Mans Classic retrospective. He says the auction will focus on sports and racing cars. 'The Le Mans sale includes cars from 1913 till 1999, including no less than eight cars that participated in the race, which began in 1923.'


The retrospective will try to recreate the atmosphere of the Grand Prix d'Endurance, with competitors racing a variety of cars, from vintage Bugattis to Porsche 917s. However, Kantor says collectors don't have to pick a particular period of production. Each era has its charms. 'There's no period that's more collectible than another, and it often comes down more to the individual's taste or choice.' But he says there's value in cars that can participate in rallies or retrospectives, such as the Brighton Run (reserved for cars built before 1904) and the Classic Le Mans races.

'Wider car collecting became a phenomenon in the late 60s early 70s,' Kantor says. 'But motorcars of exceptional interest were always the pride and joy of their owners, whether pre- first world war or in the glorious 30s.'

One telltale sign of age is the materials used. 'The earlier cars used more old-fashioned materials such as brass, wood and leather,' Kantor says. 'These were gradually replaced by high tech materials such as carbon fibre, composites and sophisticated electronics for the latest cars. Weight having always been the enemy of the racing car, aluminium and magnesium, too, played an important role in the 50s and 60s.'

'Motor cars, as with any collectible, are always more attractive when they have good provenance,' he says. 'Therefore, a successful racing car will be of interest, as will celebrity ownership, such as royalty or pop stars.'


'New collectors should educate themselves extensively, and attend as many events as possible to find out which era they enjoy most,' Kantor says. But he also says beginners should 'seek professional advice before buying. A dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. Full documented history and paperwork that backs this up is always a premium on any car,' he says. 'Don't hesitate to pay for a professional to check out the car before you consider a purchase. This is a small investment well spent.' Kantor's top tip? 'Always buy the best you can afford. It's a golden rule in the long term.'

RESOURCES: The Exceptional Motor Cars at the Le Mans Classic auction, July 23, Paris. Hong Kong information: 2521 5396 or go to

Classic Cars Magazine ($98, Bookazine); Car: The Early Years by Brian Laban ($250, Bookazine); Grand Prix de Monaco by Rainer W. Schlegelmilch and Hartmut Lehbrink ($250, Bookazine); The Encyclopedia of Classic Cars ($272.80,; Motorcars of the Classic Era by Michael Furman ($390,