From Hong Kong boy racers' dream to classic car: the Nissan Skyline

Sporty Japanese models from the '80s and '90s are on the radar of Hong Kong car collectors, amid global trend that's seen vintage cars become investment vehicles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 April, 2015, 12:00am


Classic cars are no longer being bought just by enthusiasts but as investments. Open-top cars from the 1990s such as Mercedes-Benz SLKs will soon be considered collectors' items, while in  Hong Kong sporty Japanese models from that era are catching the eye of younger collectors.

So says Carl Yuen, a Hong Kong classic car fan who's giving a talk this week on the latest trends in the vintage car market 

Yuen, vice-chairman of the Classic Car Club of Hong Kong, says he has noticed growing interest among club members in sporty Japanese models from the 1980s and early '90s, such as the Nissan Skyline and Fairlady, Honda NXS and Toyota Supra.

“Firstly, they’re 20 years old, so legally they are classic cars. Some of them are quite sought after now,” he says, adding that they are popular among members in their 30s and 40s who grew up with the cars. 

As for '90s open-tops - such as the Mazda MX-5 and BMW Z3 as well as Mercedes' SLK line - Yuen says: “In a way, these are the new classics. They were built quite well; they were quite well rust-proofed and they were bought at a time when Hong Kong was quite rich, in the late '80s. So these are all people’s second, third or fourth cars.

"People didn’t put a lot of mileage on them. They take good care of their cars here; we don’t put salt on the highways. So these cars are still very well preserved.”

Looking at the wider classic-car market, Yuen says classic cars in general are being seen much more as an investment. Auction houses are increasingly promoting classic cars as a valuable commodity. 

“Twenty years ago, you would have paid £25,000 for [an Aston Martin] DB6 or a DBS. Ten years ago you would have sold it for £40,000. Nowadays you’d be asking for £100,000 (HK$1.18 million),” says Yuen, a barrister whose own collection includes an Aston Martin DB5 and a Lotus Elise S1.

Auction houses research a car's ownership history, and race and film pedigree. A special place in history puts a great premium on a classic car, Yuen says.

An example from last year is the auction of the Aston Martin DB8 from the 1970s British TV action show The Persuaders!

“The Persuaders DB8 was signed by Roger Moore and Tony Curtis [who starred in the series] on the boot lid. That would have been a normal £35,000 to £40,000 car if it wasn’t that car. That sold for £533,000, excluding commission,” Yuen says.

Other cars that have recently caught the eye of collectors are the last of the air-cooled Porsches, Yuen says.

“Unfortunately that’s really hit the price of water-cooled cars. So the cheapest car you could get now would be a 1997 Porsche 996. Those change hands for £200,000, whereas for the [air-cooled] generation before that, they’re asking £400,000 and the prices are going up.”

Yuen will talk about trends in the vintage car market at a forum, "“Older the Better: Steering Passion for Classic Car Symposium”, at chi art space in Central on Thursday April 30.

Yuen will be joined at tomorrow’s symposium by veteran car journalist Chan Chi-chai. It is the latest in a series of events at chi art space for people to come together to discuss their passions. Previous events have focused on toys, the creation of books and the aesthetics of everyday objects. An upcoming event will be on the subject of Chinese tea.

The symposiums are open to the public for registration on a first come, first served basis.