Market Watch: A Challenging Year

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Unique Cars archives & CO/Grays

There has been some gloom in the classic market, but that may be about to change

Market Watch: A Challenging Year
Recently auctioned XB GS survivor

When you’re at a meeting and someone predicates their remarks with the word ‘challenging’, you know a bloodbath is on the agenda.

It is a word likely mentioned a lot during the weeks leading up to Shannons’ shock announcement that its long-serving auction business was no more. 

It would also have described a market where cars bought for significant money two to three years ago won’t sell via one of the surviving auction outlets unless the reserve is many thousands below the car’s cost. But tough times never last and as 2024 dawns, glimmers of promise have emerged.

 Keep driving those classics people

As these words are being written, cars from Burns & Co’s final classic vehicle sale of 2023 are heading to their new homes and auctioneer Ashley Burns took time to reflect on a volatile market.

"The market is down on where it was two years ago, but in the past month or so there have been signs of things picking up," Burns told Market Watch. 

"Our sale in December saw us sell around 85 per cent of the listings and some went for 20 per cent above their reserves."

According to Ashley Burns, the people buying are a real mixture, from investors who want low-mileage Aussie cars for their super funds to speculators, dealers and older people fulfilling a dream. 

A Chrysler Drifter panel van is a rare sight nowadays. 

"As people move through their life cycles we see a lot at the point where they have a bit of money and want to enjoy it, so they will buy a car that they have always admired."

Asked what kind of car he would have in every sale, Burns was quick to respond.

"Any two-door Torana," he said emphatically. "From LC to A9X, they are more keenly sought than Monaros and they do better than Fords and that is due to one name: Peter Brock."

Times on the world market for significant cars could not have been more different than in fearful Australia.

Despite war, fires, floods and fiscal instability, people with serious money and a desire to own cars of extraordinary stature are spending like there was no tomorrow. Perhaps they know something we don’t.

Fear Of Missing Out is certainly a factor motivating many to enter the market and maximise the time they have behind the wheel of a classic that might have been desired since childhood.

There is no reason to suspect any immediate challenges to recreational use of older vehicles, but at some point they will emerge.

 Grays recenty sold this genuine Falcon XY GT with 40 years worth of expensive patina.

Twice in the past there have been attempts by ambitious federal politicians in league with the new-car industry to eliminate or at least restrict the presence of older vehicles on Australian roads.

‘Cash for Clunkers’ schemes have been claimed to target only those vehicles deemed to be well past their use-by dates, but who decides which vehicles fit that definition?

In late-2023 an XY Falcon GT that had languished under a Brisbane house for over 40 years was sold for almost $250,000 and ensured its preservation. Had Crush That Clunker zealots back in the nineties known of its existence though, this significant car may not have been with us anymore.

Similar comment could apply to the super-scarce Chryslers featured in this issue. Some were found in neglected condition, and to untrained eyes they would have seemed fit only for scrap. 

Many thanks, as another year ends, to the many readers and automotive industry participants who have supported and contributed to Market Watch. 

Keeping an eye on a domain this complex and maintaining the flow of information is a challenge – there’s that word again – but engaging and immensely enjoyable. Happy New Year.

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