Today: is a Ford Falcon worth a mill? (Hint: we don’t think so); Say Tata to petrol Jags; Hullo to a $3mill Audi and your correspondent and the Sultan are forced to flee Danland, running (separately) for the SA and NSW borders in the Weekend Australian Rally Team (WART) Beemer and the mine-equipped diesel Ford Ranger Dual Cab Ute with canopy, and one of them (hint: initials JC) becomes an unwilling participant in a recreation of the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s psychoanalytical thriller Psycho (younger readers and those with an IQ approaching room temperature: Psycho is the film that the TV series Bates Motel — now available on the hugely successful over-the-top video streaming subscription service Binge, which is owned by our very own multimedia media conglomerate — is based on).
Last Monday at Slattery’s Auctions someone, who is presumably a Ford freak, allegedly paid $1.1m for an electric blue 1971 Ford Falcon GT-HO.
The Ford was from the muscle car collection of well-known Perth businessman Chris Marco. Unfortunately for Chris, the fun police at ASIC alleged in court he used $250m of investor funds to buy property and vintage cars rather than invest in Wolf of Wall Street-type funds. Chris allegedly saw the value in assets such as muscle cars like the 1971 Ford Falcon XY GTHO III, a 1972 Chrysler Charger VH E49 and a 1972 Holden Torana Bathurst LJ GTR XU-1. He was right. At least about them.
But while any car is worth what someone will pay for it and some used-car prices have been soaring and some rarish Holdens, Fords, Chryslers, Toyotas and Nissans (to name but five) have been going relatively wild, buying a high-priced Australian classic is no game for amateurs. Particularly amateurs with lots of cash looking for a home. Remember the apocryphal story by US stockbroker turned author Fred Schwed. On a guided tour of New York, a tourist is taken to the Moonbeam Marina, which is full of huge floating gin palaces. “Look, those are the bankers’ and brokers’ yachts,” the guide said. “Where are the customers’ yachts?” asked the naive visitor.
The first issue, as James Nicholls says, is that “most Australian muscle cars are not international currency. They are only worth that money in Australia.” James is a world expert on classic cars, advising auction houses and buyers on collecting and authenticity. He also organises the annual AXA Sydney Harbour Concours d’Elegance. So, for a mill or less you could buy a 1971 Ferrari GTB Daytona, a 2019 Ford GT lightweight, a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC or a 1958 Mercedes 300SL and sell it for the same price anywhere in the known world.
A lot of strange things go on in Aussie muscle car sales. Auction houses that publicise million-dollar sales but don’t publish results lists. Cars that actually don’t sell. And imitation cars. One auction house advertised a Peter Brock 1989 Mobil 1 Racing Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 with online bids of $500,000.
But Brock’s former Sierra co-driver, Andrew Miedecke, told me: “I know for absolute sure it was not a Brock race car. It is concerning that the auction and promotional material (lead people to infer) the car is a Brock Mobil race car.”
Then we know, a few years ago, a group of rare muscle car owners were moving cars between themselves and publicising prices of $700k.
That’s nothing to do with Indian car maker Tata waving goodbye to petrol cars. Struggling luxury car brand Jaguar says it will phase out internal combustion engines in a plan to go fully electric by 2025. In one kiss of death, UK PM Boris Johnson welcomed the move. In the other kiss of death, Jaguar Land Rover boss Thierry Bollore said: “We have all the ingredients at our disposal to reimagine the business and the experiences our customers seek, to reimagine to benchmark of luxury.” Yup, Theza, who doesn’t want to spend a couple of hundred thou on an E-Type successor that doesn’t make a noise, runs out of puff after 100km and is automatic.
Look, for the price of an old Falcon and Holden V8 ute you could have bought Michele Mouton’s (the last of the top women rally drivers) 1988 Audi Sport Quattro S1 in Paris two weeks ago. French rally gun Bruno Saby called the Audi Quattro “the greatest monster of them all!”. It was a noise monster, a performance monster and it looks like a brutal monster. Artcurial Motorcars sold the Audi for $3.1m, or more than double its lower estimate and the highest price ever paid at auction for a rally car. A two-owner with low kilometres and one woman driver from new, collector Olivier Quesnel bought the car direct from the factory 32 years ago.
Last Friday your rally team were 2km from the summit of Mt Baw Baw when we heard Dan say: “full lockdown at 11.59pm”. Then we heard the NSW authorities say if you’re not in our state by then you have to go into self-isolation for three years or until you get a free Coopers out of the Kensi, and the SA authorities say something similar. So, we headed for our respective borders. Mine was a five-hour-plus dash to the nearest NSW town where I could safely stay the night. Unfortunately, every Victorian had the same idea and I had to drive 20km off the highway to the old town of Fairvale to find a room. The choices were the Royal Fairvale Hotel, the haunt of serial killing bicycle gangs or the Fairvale B&B&Spa. Norman and Norma welcomed me at the B&B. I was the only guest. My room had stuffed birds on every available surface, one even clinging to the old-fashioned fringed shade of the lamp. The bathroom had a tub with a shower and a plastic curtain. The same set-up as the Bates Motel where a hand reached up, grasped it, ripped it aside and then used an enormous bread knife to slash at Marion Crane. I went dirty, stayed awake all night and left before dawn. Today we’re in the quaint country town of Goulburn, home of the Big Merino with very big and real private parts. Surely nothing can go wrong here?