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Classic Car Secrets

Classic Car Secrets

Classic car green

So who, exactly, is buying these classic cars? And what are their collections worth? We unpack some classic car secrets.

Private Collections

The private collection of billionaire Johann Rupert, housed in the Franschhoek Motor Museum, is home to 220 vehicles – ranging from a 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar. It is one of the most spectacular private classic car collections in the world. Of course, being a museum that’s open to the public, it’s hardly a secret.

Another open secret is Louis Coetzer’s immaculate collection of classic Mercedes- Benz vehicles. One of the country’s most avid Mercedes-Benz collectors, Coetzer – who lives in Bloemfontein – has about 100 cars in his hangar/ garage, including an extremely rare 1951 Mercedes- Benz bakkie (it was imported as a chassis cab; the ‘bak’ was added on in South Africa).

Komatipoort is home to another relatively well-known car collection, owned by Herman Nel. His Old Car Haven Museum showcases a multitude of Ford classics as well as a smattering of other classic cars, old tractors and engines, and a truly impressive collection of scale models. Like many other classic car collectors, he started by collecting scale models as a child, even wrapping them in cotton wool!

Hout Bay’s Dave Lyons is another person who is happy to let others delight in his prized possessions. He invites members of car clubs to view his collection and has even produced a book about his passion. Lyons – who calls collecting classic cars ‘a wonderful disease’ – started his collection in 1974, at a time when he could afford only one car. He did precisely what most experts would not advise: he followed his heart and bought a 1958 Alfa Romeo 2.6 Spider Touring. ‘I remember seeing it for the first time: all long bonnet, masses of beautiful instruments, twin cams, three sidedraft Solex carburettors… And rust in all the usual Italian car places. I was smitten!’ he recalls.

Lesser-known Collectors

But who are the other, lesser-known collectors? ‘Mainly self-employed entrepreneurs. Some have small businesses that obviously generate massive profits, others are lucky to have sold out to large companies for significant sums or have liquidated property holdings. Others are retired CEOs with money to play with. Sadly, others fall into the category of “not very nice” people,’ one collector reveals.

And the value of these collections? ‘Easily R100 million or so in the case of some collections. Others are smaller – some are R3 or R4 million apiece; others are worth only a couple of hundred thousand rands,’ another collector comments.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the collections, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s popular. However, all the collectors confirm that Porsches and Mercedes-Benz Pagodas are trending right now. Rossouw confirms that these vehicles, as well other premium European brands (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Jaguar) are currently in demand. ‘But it would be true to say each market segment has experienced growth in demand, be it an Alfa Romeo Spider or a Ferrari Dino,’ he adds. ‘Demand is largely driven, in my opinion, by people who want to diversify their investments. But it’s also driven by people who have always wanted a particular type of car and are now in the position to buy.’

High Value Vehicles

Renfield reveals that vehicles manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s have high values but limited buyers: ‘Sports cars of the 1950s to 1960s are sought-after. Generally, the expression goes: if the roof comes down, then the price goes up! Soft-tops and convertibles are always big attractions, as well as two-door coupés (as opposed to sedans).’

Adriaan Louw, CEO of Vantage Insurance (an insurance company that specialises in covering classics), says that ‘practical classics’ are fashionable right now. ‘Beetles and Fords from the 1970s, which are relatively cheap to restore and maintain because parts are still readily available, are proving popular.’

Louw is also noting demand for English sports cars from the 1960s and 1970s. ‘Plus there is a fast-growing American muscle-car movement because of our roads – which are ideal for driving these cars,’ he comments.

Priceless Advice

So there is no clear favourite when it comes to the current market for classic cars in South Africa. But, given their scarcity, Dave Lyons has a prudent message for local collectors: ‘When you see a classic car that grabs your fancy, go for it!’ Right now, in the classic car market, it’s clearly a case of ‘he who hesitates is lost’.

‘Take your time and research in detail the model you are interested in. A technical inspection by an independent workshop such as Classic Car Clinic or a technical inspection by the AA/DEKRA is vital,’ says Gareth Crossley, co-owner of Crossley & Webb, the new classic car lifestyle emporium in Cape Town.

Classic Read

Classic car collectors tend to be exceptionally private – even paranoid about not divulging details of their collection. Not so when it comes to well-known classic car collector, Dave Lyons, who hails from Hout Bay in Cape Town. While he’s known for being truly humble, he has just produced a delightful book entitled Musings of a Million Miler, a must-read for anyone interested in classic cars and written in a wonderfully humorous, informal manner, and featuring fabulous photographs of the classics, taken by Elmer van Zyl in and around the family’s home. By the final page you feel as if you know Lyons, his family and his inimitable fleet of cars. The book costs R375 plus R25 P&P and proceeds from the sale will be shared between five charities. For more details contact Elmer at or on 082 8855 125.

Read about which cars to invest in, and what returns to expect, here.

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