Before we ring in 2023, we asked our estimable leader Max Girardo to mull over the last 12 months and highlight five takeaways that he thinks will matter to you, our clients, friends and followers. From Belchers Farm 2.0 and our sales trends to how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way collector cars are bought, here’s what you need to know…
For us here at Girardo & Co., the action and excitement in 2022 with regards to sales were in two clear camps. Firstly, there were top-tier historically-significant competition cars. Those which transcend their respective motorsport genres and are therefore far more than tools with which to carry out a job, be it contesting a season of Masters Historic Formula 1 or winning at the Le Mans Classic.
Take the 1990 McLaren MP4/5B, for example. It’s the definitive 1990s Formula 1 car, which was piloted by the man commonly held as they greatest driver of all time, Ayrton Senna. It’s undoubtedly worthy of a spot in the greatest collections in the world. And it’s a similar story with the Sauber-Mercedes C9. Peak Group C.
The second camp is more difficult to define, but we’ve noticed a real hunger for the unusual and the quirky – cars off the beaten track, one-off prototypes or supercars with special histories or unique options. Tastes are more discerning than ever, and with that, collectors want different. The Maserati MC12 Versione Corsa we sold at the beginning of the year, for example, had never been seen in public before and was the only example of the 12 built finished in white from new. The unrestored Ferrari 246 Dino GTS was owned by the same family for the last 40 years and hadn’t turned a wheel in the last 10. And the two Ferrari 550 Barchettas were surely the lowest-mileage examples out there.
‘Garden-variety’ sports and supercars are, of course, still selling. But because we’re a small company, we can follow the market trends more easily and focus on finding the cars we know will really pique our clients’ interests.
I think it’s important to note that while the most obvious industry-wide trend in 2022 has been the continued surge in demand for modern-era limited-production supercars, the great 1950s and 1960s sportscars should not be discounted. Yes, there are fewer new buyers for them and the appreciation we were spoiled with for the last decade has slowed. But these cars will always be mainstays of the market and, in my opinion, stability is a sign of health.
“As younger collectors and new money have entered the market, so the focus has, unsurprisingly, shifted towards more modern cars.”
It's akin to how we felt about pre-War cars 20 years ago. When they stopped increasing in value so dramatically, everybody thought it spelled doom. But clearly that wasn’t the case. As younger collectors and new money have entered the market, so the focus has, unsurprisingly, shifted. But there will always be a buyer for a good Ferrari 275 GTB/4 or a 250 GT Lusso. While this new trend for F40s, F50s and MC12s has been phenomenal, I don’t think the fierce growth in interest will be sustainable.
Looking back over the last 12 months, I’d estimate that 75 percent of the collector cars we handled were sold sight-unseen. That might seem like an extraordinarily high figure given their value and uniqueness, but it’s telling of the increasingly integral role technology is playing in our world – especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s no secret the classic car industry is a bit of a dinosaur, but technology has turned it on its head. Mobility is no longer such a factor – it’s far easier to identify specialists around the world and quicker to have cars properly inspected.
There’s a lot less fuss which means we’re concluding deals far quicker than we used to. During the pandemic, especially, people got used to acquiring cars online and it’s since made collectors feel more comfortable. Of course, reputation is a huge factor – it makes me very proud that people trust our judgement enough to part with great sums of money for a car they’ve never seen in the metal. Just this year, we’ve sold everything from a McLaren MP4/5B to two delivery-mileage Ferrari 550 Barchettas sight-unseen.
“It makes me very proud that people trust our judgement enough to part with great sums of money for a car they’ve never seen in the metal.”
The same principles apply for us – technology has made acquiring cars for our inventory or sourcing cars for clients far more straightforward processes. Only recently were we made aware of a single-owner Light Car Company Rocket available from a collection in Japan. Of course, you need to know what you’re looking at and education is everything. But after doing our research and having it inspected by a trusted authority, we were satisfied with its provenance and paid for the car and it’s already on its way back to its birthplace.
It was a huge year for our rural Oxfordshire HQ with the completion of our new showroom – phase one of our long-term plan for Belchers Farm. After what’s felt like an eternity, in December we were finally able to start moving cars into the finished building – a truly momentous moment for us all. And we’ve made a good start at filling the book shelves in the downstairs lounge area and indexing the Girardo & Co. Archive up on the mezzanine. One step at a time…
It was always our intention to invest in our physical location and build somewhere our clients would benefit from and enjoy visiting. It is so important for us to have the cars we’re offering physically with us. Obviously, that’s so you can come and see them for yourselves. But perhaps more importantly, it’s so we can properly inspect them, drive them and familiarise ourselves with them before we recommend them to our clients.
Ultimately, we have more control, which can only be a good thing. Suffice to say, visitors to Belchers Farm will get to experience the extraordinary automotive breadth in which we indulge here at Girardo & Co.. And you’ll be especially pleased to hear we have just invested in a suitably fancy Italian (naturally) coffee machine. To give you an idea of just how fancy it is, it has a metal chassis plate just like that on a 1960s Ferrari or Lamborghini…
What does the coming year hold for us here at Girardo & Co.? Well, other than breaking ground and commencing work on the next phase of Belchers Farm, the lion’s share of our attention is already focused on Salon Rétromobile in February. This will be the first time in three years that we’re heading to the world-famous Paris show and we’re all thrilled at the prospect of catching up with so many of you and, of course, presenting 14 of the world’s greatest cars.
Early consignments have formed a theme – one that, while ambitious, we’ve decided to run with. Without giving too much away, let’s just say it concerns a manufacturer which stirs the soul unlike any other and, to an extent, is immune to the ever-changing ebbs and flows of the market. Paris will also be the occasion when we finally launch our long-awaited book about the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – you can click here to find out more and register your interest. Happy New Year. And see you in February!
Photos: Tom Shaxson / Robert Cooper / Andrea Luzardi