Exclamation marques: more vintage and luxury cars on show at Hong Kong Classic, back for its second year
The popularity of the Hong Kong Classic reflects both a wider public interest in vintage cars and a burgeoning class of collectors in the city
The annual Hong Kong Classic was held on the city's harbourfront at the weekend, where the revving engines, clinking of champagne flutes and millions of dollars worth of machinery proved the place to be for the growing number of vintage car collectors in the city.
On display were Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porches, but the real coup was the 1933 Napier-Railton, on loan from the Brooklands Museum in England and travelling for the first time to Asia. Powered by a massive 24-litre engine, the car broke a slew of land speed records in its day and is now valued at more than HK$100 million. Also on show was a rare 1967 Lamborghini 400GT once owned by Paul McCartney and an AC Cobra once owned by Rod Stewart. Overall, 100 cars were on display to thousands of attendees over the course of the weekend.
Now in its second year, the Hong Kong Classic has grown in size, reflecting both a wider public interest in classic cars and a burgeoning collector class in Hong Kong.
"Events like this definitely raise awareness," says Keith Archer, private sales director at auctioneers Macey & Sons, which had a booth at the festival.
Unlike art, wine and watches, classic car collecting has taken longer to find traction here, Archer says, but things are changing. There are still a number of barriers to collecting for most people based not just in Hong Kong but Asia, he says.
"There haven't been any auctions in Hong Kong for classic cars. Owners here feel there aren't as many classic cars as there are in Europe and the United States," says Archer.
"The shortage of cars makes it even more of a clique. At the moment, I don't think there's enough buyers and cars here to sustain a market."
Another, more prosaic check on collecting is the lack of classic car infrastructure in Hong Kong. Parts are difficult, sometimes almost impossible, to source in Asia, making maintenance prohibitively expensive. And the biggest barrier in some Asian countries such as China might be the culture itself that looks down on "used" or second-hand goods.
Given the inherent expense of, and practical obstacles to, owning and maintaining a classic car, the commercial market comprises genuine enthusiasts with budgets to match.
Michael Kadoorie, chairman of CLP Holdings and Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, is perhaps the city's best-known car collector and one of the leading figures in classic cars in the world. Through his stewardship of The Peninsula, Kadoorie owns one of the largest fleets of Rolls-Royce Phantoms. He's a regular at the biggest global classic car events such as the Goodwood Revival in England and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California, as well as being a keen supporter of new festivals such as the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille festival held just outside Paris. He regularly ships his prize cars to festivals, taking his 1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Penny Holmes Tourer to Pebble Beach and his Talbot-Lago T150C SS "Teardrop" to Chantilly.
Kadoorie was at Chantilly again this year, along with other Hong Kong-based collectors with lower profiles. At Chantilly, ex-Formula One driver Gordon Murray told the Post that the passion for classic cars was growing around the world, with events in India and other parts of Asia, but he felt that elite collectors still flocked to Goodwood to race their cars and Pebble Beach for the auctions and the lifestyle.
The presence of this elite, international group of collectors at the festivals has attracted many luxury brands as sponsors and partners. The lifestyle aspect of the festivals has become almost as important as the cars themselves, especially as these events attract more and more members of the general public.
The Hong Kong Classic featured booths by Swiss watchmaker Zenith and London-based perfumers Penhaligon's. Rolex has a huge presence at Pebble Beach. At Chantilly, brand partners went even further. Moynat, the exclusive Parisian leather goods and trunk maker, broke with policy this year to become an official partner of Chantilly.
"This is our first time sponsoring or associating with any event, or any type of outside branding actually since we revived the brand," said Moynat chief executive Guillaume Davin.
Speaking at the Moynat garden party at Chantilly last month, Davin said the maison has a rich automotive heritage, pointing to past collaborations with Bugatti and its signature handmade limousine luggage pieces that are concave on one side to better fit into sports cars of old.
As the lights went down on the second edition of the Hong Kong Classic and the last car was driven away to be stored or shipped, there was a sense that classic car collecting here will only gain in popularity through such public displays.
"There is a growing demand for classic cars. It's all about public awareness," says Archer. "After all, Hong Kong became the art capital of Asia in a relatively short time from barely having a market."