Reality Check - Blackbourn 447

By: Rob Blackbourn, Photography by: Land Rover/Bring A Trailer/RM Sothebys

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wagon wagon

Rob seems to be about to wave the white flag regarding any claim to understanding classic-car value trends

A few weeks back when a nice Mk 2 Jaguar with a few appropriate modifications (like an XJ6 four-speeder with overdrive and chromed wire wheels) went for around Au$35,000 on a US auction site, I mentioned it in an email to Ed Guido with a comment about US vs Oz values for the model, remarking that it might well have brought $45k-$50k here.

The Mk 2, a past favourite of mine (thanks to Bob Jane as well as the girl I knew who used her dad’s Mk 2 to humiliate blokes in Healeys, TR3s and MGs in traffic-light drags), has been on my radar again lately because of my TV viewing habits during lockdown. The co-pilot and I have often vegged out on repeats of old British shows that are getting re-runs on ABC TV and the secondary commercial channels.

Inspector Morse is once again relying on his lovely Mk 2 to convey him stylishly through the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside from one blood-spattered murder scene to the next. The young Morse in the prequel Endeavour series has, bless him, kept the continuity intact courtesy of another fine example of a Mk 2.

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However it’s not all about Jaguars – my budget and shed space runs more to smaller, quirkier British offerings like Morris Travellers for example. Those little Morris ‘Woodie’ wagons have also been getting regular gigs on Partners in Crime and occasional appearances on Midsomer Murders and the like. But here’s a surprise – the SWB Land Rover has been the standout Brit classic, popping up all over the sceptred isle as the vehicle of choice for Vera, The Coroner, and Rosemary and Thyme.

After repeated exposure to SWB Land Rovers hogging the limelight in three separate TV shows, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself starting to check out Land Rovers on the web. It did strike me as odd though, being a bloke who has never been a real Land Rover fan. The FJ40 Land Cruiser was always my kind of SWB 4x4. Capital ‘T’ tough compared to the Land Rover, with a big torquey ‘Blue Flame’ Chev-6-derived 3.9-litre ‘F’ engine to do the business. I had two FJ40s and loved ’em. Never had a Land Rover.

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Not so long ago a figure of $12,000 was always in the back of mind as a realistic buy price for a range of classics that appealed to me. Among the Brit-brands you could get the keys to a decent Morris Traveller for that sort of money, as you could for a Mini Moke. MGBs were also within reach. Ditto for TR7 Triumphs and V12 XJS Jaguars. If your Francophile appetites were stirring, a tidy 2CV Citroen was also affordable, and for something completely different you could get a restored WWII Jeep at the price (in this context it’s worth mentioning that the same $12,000 would have bought you a couple of nice SWB Land Rovers back then – if they were your thing).

Then as they say, you turn your back for five minutes and everything changes (if my wife were reading this she would be saying, "Make that 20 years, Rob."). Anyway, regardless of the period in question, $12,000 now leaves you out in the cold if you’re after any of the above. And forget altogether about bringing home a pair of SWB Land Rovers – the web is telling me I’d be struggling to get one really decent example for that money.

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Guido then hit me between the eyes with the full catastrophe – the results from the recent Shannons Spring Timed Online Auction: A nice Mk2 Jag brought $66,000. A Moke went for $39,500. A Traveller got $25,250. The knockout punch was the news that a 1951 SWB Land Rover, admittedly a stunningly restored example, complete with a functioning factory PTO-unit, sold for $61.500!

In the days that followed, while I was still coming to terms with the new reality, a fresh challenge to my grasp of what’s happening in the market was delivered by a US auction site: A tidy, but unremarkable WWII Jeep, known affectionately by the family that has owned it for 40 years as ‘Sarge’, and which has some underbody corrosion, and last had its oil changed in 2018, fetched Au$75,000. Oh, it did come with a matching military trailer.

 

From Unique Cars #447, December 2020

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