I only started writing out my automotive bucket list 5 or so years ago. I’d owned a lot of Saabs in the years that I was writing about them and my attention started to wander.
I bought my first Alfa 33. I bought an MX-5. I bought a few more Saabs and then, when the Muller-era at Saab came to an end, I turned my attention to all-things-but-Saab. I’ve been watching classic car prices ever since and for the most part, I didn’t see prices as being overly intimidating.
I remember some time around 2012, I could have bought a very nice looking Ferrari 308 GT4 (the unloved Dino) in a dark-ish blue with a cream interior for $37,000. Looking back, that seems quite unbelievable now. I didn’t have the money at the time. I could have accessed the money, but we were in the final stages of paying off our mortgage and it went against the grain to pull so much money out of the loan for such an indulgence. If only I’d foreseen the way prices would rise for such cars.
There must be a few of you out there who have been watching classic cars for longer than I have, though. Maybe you can tell me whether what we’re seeing now is extraordinary, a ‘new normal’ or simply a return to how things used to be.
Not being a long-term observer, I have to think the current conditions reflect a post-GFC world where those of a certain age who were fortunate enough to hold on to their money through the GFC now want to indulge in some reclaimed youth and take advantage of a hot market for a fun asset class – classic cars.
The headlines started four or five years ago with crazy auction prices for various classics, the most notable being variants of the Ferrari 250 family, a 7-figure car in basic form and one that now reaches 8 figures with monotonous regularity.
The other headline classic has been the air-cooled Porsche 911. I could have bought a mid-80’s 3.2 Carrera for around A$35,000 three years ago. A similar car sold at auction in Melbourne last week for $100,000.
None of that is news, though. We’ve all watched Ferraris go bonkers and I’ve written plenty about 911’s in the last 18-24 months.
What follows is a new level of lunacy.
I have my Saab 9-5 Combi here in Sweden but I was looking for something a little older, a little more engaging and fun to drive during the summer. Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at the Alfa Romeo Sprint. I figured it might be a cheap fall-back option if needed. It felt like pretty sound logic to me. I bought a Sprint on Christmas Eve 2014 back in Tasmania for just A$1,100 so a Sprint here in Europe should be quite within my meagre fun-car budget.
What I saw on mobile.de and carandclassic.co.uk nearly made my throw my Mac through a window!
Let’s start with a comparative bargain in Portugal, a 1984 Sprint selling for £5000.
Here’s a 1988 Sprint in Italy selling for £7800.
The car that takes the cake is this 1987 Alfa Sprint at £15,500 – and that’s for a car with “just a few minor car parking dents”.
There’s something important to note as you ponder those prices – bearing in mind that the most expensive one is a full 30 times the price I paid for my Sprint nearly 18 months ago.
That particular generation of Sprint is not even the good one.
I’ve had one Sprint of my own in recent years and I babysat another Sprint for my mate Gavin the year before. They were both Sprints, but they were quite different. Gavin’s early Sprint was the more desirable Alfasud Sprint, based on the chassis of the Alfasud with its inboard brakes. My Sprint, like the ones listed above, was the Alfa Sprint and it was based on the Alfa 33 chassis.
The earlier Alfasud Sprint feels much lighter because of the inboard brakes and while it’s a little harder to work on, it’s a lot more fun to drive. Examples of this model are being offered for £11,000, £13,500 and £14,950 on carandclassic.co.uk right now.
So the earlier, ‘better’ model is seeing higher average prices asked but it’s the later model that’s seeing the highest maximum price being asked at the moment (and one should remember that a price asked is not a price received, but still….). And ALL of those prices are AT LEAST 10-times and up to 30-times what I paid for my Sprint back in Australia.
My Sprint was by no means perfect but it was great, inexpensive fun. I even wrote about it for Hemmings magazine in the US.
Gavin’s Sprint (right) was even more fun and I almost bought it when he put it up for sale but he’d invested more money than I wanted to spend and I didn’t want to bargain a friend down to what I could afford at the time. But damn, I loved that car!
The point of all this…..
The Alfasud Sprint and Alfa Sprint are great, fun cars AT A CERTAIN PRICE. At a certain price you can be subjective and accept potential losses. You laugh at the car’s foibles and call them endearing. You don’t mind their slow pace up hills because you feel like you’re going flat-out in a 1970’s go-kart made from Coke cans held together with cable ties. The Sprint has charm by the bucket load …… at a certain price.
Once you get to 10-times or 30-times that price, you’d feel compelled to be a bit more objective, wouldn’t you?
Well, the sad fact is that at £14,950 the Sprint is complete rubbish. It’s not old enough to be charming at that price and by any modern standards, the Sprint is uncomfortable, unsafe, under-equipped and downright slow. Cuteness is all that’s left at that money and 15-thousand quid can buy a hell of a lot of cute.
And yet people are asking these crazy prices and seeing as there are so many of them being offered for serious money, you have to assume that sellers are getting a fair proportion of what they’re asking for.
My advice – either identify something that hasn’t hit the speculator’s radar yet, or save your money and wait for the next GFC. It can’t be too far away with some of the idiocy that’s on display right now.