Contradictions - Blackbourn 465

By: Rob Blackbourn

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If you see Rob at a classic-car auction stabbing away in confusion at his calculator, please sit him down and buy him a coffee

The guidance that luminaries like Cliff Chambers and Ed Guido provide about classic car values is a valuable feature of Unique Cars magazine. As an "old-school" thinker I need all the help I can get. I grew up learning that "old used car" meant simply old used car and the words "old" and "used" provided important clues as to the money you should expect to hand over before winching the desired purchase on to your trailer. Naturally, for buyers who enjoyed their latest trophy-buys attracting labels like "rare" and "prestigious", a different set of rules applied – whether we’re talking classic cars, cases of Hermitage, or a Brett Whitely, you expect with some justification that exotic items attract exotic prices.

But that doesn’t happen consistently across the car-prices board these days, does it? Take HK Monaros – in a dreams-come-true world I would be as keen as the next Oz Muscle Car fan to hone my reaction times and polish my long-dormant opposite-lock skills, wrestling my own bellowing 327 GTS through a challenging sequence of mountain bends. And regarding funding that dream I’d be aware that the combination of relative rarity and Bathurst glory prestige would justify the mighty Monaro’s big-bucks price tag.

But how does that factor push up values for a three-on-the-column, six-cylinder Monaro, to the point that an entry-level coupe is beyond the reach of many of today’s classic-car enthusiasts? A humbler example is one of my all-time favs, the neat, sturdy and very chuckable little Mk I Ford Escort. I get that the rarity factor and the prestigious Lotus content lift the price tag of the glorious little "Twin-Cam" or "GT1600" versions to in-your-dreams levels. But where do you find a pocket-money priced standard Mk I two-door these days?

Admittedly it was more than 20 years ago now, but the last Mk I Esky I bought when we needed a temporary runabout on the fleet owed me well less than $1000 by the time I turned up to get it registered. I remember paying $300 for it, straight and rust-free, needing only a starter motor, a battery, a couple of tyres, a tune-up and a good cut and polish.


The other side of the inconsistent-price coin is that some unarguably rare and prestigious classics simply don’t attract anything like premium prices. Ed Guido’s fearsome 850 V12 BMW is a case in point. You would think that a car that cost over $220,000 in 1990 – an amount that would have bought you a couple of nice suburban Melbourne houses at the time – had more than a touch of rarity and prestige going for it. While I’ve never cross-examined Guy about what his 850 owes him, I guess $40k would probably cover it. Now that wouldn’t buy you much of a base-model HK Monaro would it?

Another example that seemed to challenge the rare-and-prestigious value-rule popped up unexpectedly recently. I had headed to the Dandenong Ranges in the trusty old Hilux to pick up a couple of lovely period oak doors to replace two very ordinary flush-panel doors in our little mid-century hacienda. With the deal done and the doors loaded I commented to my new mate about signs of a classic automotive theme in the décor of his place. "Okay... You’d better come with me then."

He guided us through the garden to his shed that housed a small but tasteful collection of interesting cars. They were all in fine condition and nicely presented. The odd one out to me was a very tidy Bentley sedan – with twin pipes suggesting V8 power. What I don’t know about the finest from the Rolls-Royce/Bentley stable is considerable. However it looked like a late-1980s model to me. While the Bentley brand can’t claim any Bathurst glory, it would seem to make a strong claim to the rarity-and-prestige factor nevertheless.

Without prompting my host volunteered that he couldn’t resist it when it was offered to him for $20k "with 12-months rego". The Bentley was probably the cheapest car in his shed. I reckon his lovely Morris Minor convertible, despite its humble origins, would have just pipped the aristocratic big ‘B’ in the price-tag stakes...


The glamour spotlight in this collection focussed on a gorgeous and technically interesting tribute to the classic mid-1930s Cord – a 1966 Cord Sportsman. Look for a feature on it in a coming issue of Unique Cars.


From Unique Cars #465, Apr/May 2022


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