Ferrari fever? Classic cars have flocked to investment funds

  • The rise of classic cars beats wine, watches and art – index
  • 1962 Ferrari fetched $48 million, 1955 Mercedes-Benz $149 million
  • Asset managers offer funds focused on vintage vehicles
  • Electrification to turn collector cars into ‘cult objects’

MILAN, April 15 (Reuters) – In 1977, a Ferrari owner unloaded his 1962 250 GTO because his wife complained it was too noisy, said Andrea Modena, head of Ferrari’s classic car division. It was either her or the car.

“In this day and age, I’m not sure the wife would win.”

Times have indeed changed. In 2018, the same Ferrari model became the most expensive car ever sold when it sold for $48 million at auction. Last year, that record was equaled by the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, which went for €135 million ($149 million).

These kind of megadeals are at the forefront of billions of dollars of annual spending on classic cars worldwide in a wave of investment in this alternative asset.

Vintage cars have risen in value by 185% over the past decade, outstripping growth in luxury rivals wine, watches and art and second only to rare whiskeys, according to Knight Frank’s 2023 Wealth Report.

The market has expanded beyond the relatively small community of collectors to include investors attracted by the prospect of high returns plus the lack of correlation with core portfolio assets such as stocks and bonds.

“We have been watching the market for a long time,” said Giorgio Meda, chief executive and global head of asset management at Italy’s Azimut ( AZMT.MI ). “The track record of the last 30 years shows us that classic cars have become a financial asset class that we want our customers to have in their portfolios.”

This year the asset manager launched what it describes as the world’s first “evergreen” vintage vehicle investment fund and says it will only bet on cars worth more than €1m each.

Advised by Alberto Schon, head of Ferrari and Maserati Rossocorsa dealership, the fund says it will select vehicles with a unique history.

While Azimut’s fund will not have an end date and can receive new money indefinitely, small Swiss asset manager Hetica Capital is launching a €50 million closed-end fund in 2021, which it also said was the first to kind.

The Hetica fund, which aims for returns of 9%-15% after seven years, has bought a dozen cars so far and aims to reach 30-35 cars by the fifth year, leaving the last two years to sell the vehicles and pay investors.

The plans are bold.

“We have seen more than 100 attempts to create funds in the past. Nobody has been able to build both a diversified investor base and a diversified car portfolio,” said Dietrich Hatlapa, founder of classic car research house HAGI, which provides sector data used by Knight Frank.

This is also not a sector for the financially weak.

Registered in Luxembourg, both the Azimut and Hetica funds have a minimum entry investment of €125,000.

“We get loads of calls from people who want to invest 1,000-2,000 euros and we have to turn them down,” said Walter Panzeri, who manages Hetica’s Klassik Fund.

Also, a small scratch or dent or spare part can take a heavy financial hit. For example, replacing just the bumper on a rare vintage car can cost $15,000, Modena said.

Knight Frank Investments of Passion


Running costs for car collections, including hefty storage and insurance fees, could easily reach 5-6% a year of the portfolio’s value, according to Florian Zimmermann, who started buying vintage cars when he worked at Mercedes-Benz and has since built a collection of 300 vehicles with a partner.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find the right mechanics to keep these cars alive. And you have to spend a lot of money to keep all those cars in working order,” he said.

Investment funds managing car portfolios can indeed be a source of money for the classic car divisions of car manufacturers, which not only provide repairs and parts, but also authenticate vehicles for participation in shows and competitions.

The certification process alone can cost around €20,000, according to Peter Becker of Mercedes-Benz Classic, who said only the carmaker’s experts, with access to its archives, can confirm the authenticity of a classic model.

Nevertheless, the market for classic cars is expanding as the number of wealthy people also increases; vintage car values ​​rose 25% in 2022, their strongest performance in nine years and second only to art’s 29% increase, according to Knight Frank.

Classic vehicle insurer Hagerty estimates there are about $80 billion in collector vehicle transactions annually worldwide, including all auctions and private sales.

While North America remains the largest auction market, with Hagerty recording $3.4 billion in auction sales in 2022, up from $774 million in 2007, Zimmerman said a growing number of buyers in the Middle East have emerged in recent years. East, India and China.


The global race to phase out internal combustion engine cars will only increase interest in these relics of a fading era, some market players say.

“Electrification will favor classic cars,” said Cristiano Bolzoni, Maserati’s head of vintage cars Maserati Classiche. “Over time, they will become cult items.”

Ferraris are the most prized vintage cars, according to Adolfo Orsi, founder of the Classic Car Auction Yearbook, which has tracked auction sales since 1990, who describes them as “absolutely the blue chips of this sector”.

Ferraris reached an average auction value of $589,000 in 2021-22, followed by Mercedes-Benz cars at $378,000 and Porsches at $348,000.

“The classic car community has changed significantly in the last five to 10 years,” Zimmerman said. “Once upon a time, only people knew cars inside out. But over time, others just thought: I like these cars, I can afford one, and I’m not losing money by buying it.”

Reporting by Valentina Za and Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Pravin Char

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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