The Key to the World of Classic Car Collecting

Classic cars are en vogue. They feature in one out of every five advertisements for luxury brands, and if you’re out driving a classic on a bright Sunday morning, you’ll inevitably get a happy thumbs-up from a teenager, an admiring gaze from a beautiful woman, or an excited look of recognition from a fellow aficionado. It’s amazing to see how many people of all ages and backgrounds are fascinated by the design, the technology, or just the sound of these vehicles, and how classic cars still trigger dreams of a golden age.

There are still more than six million classic cars on the road, in garages, in museums, and in major collections around the world. They offer enjoyment to millions of people and stand at the heart of a billion-dollar business. Many of these cars are also loved by investors, and the most valuable change hands for tens of millions of dollars before becoming the centerpieces of important collections.

This first edition of our annual publication “The Key – Top of the Classic Car World” focuses on the top end of the market. Once a year, we will take a bird’s-eye view of the world of classic cars and bring you insights and opinions from the leading lights of the community, together with exciting stories of successful personalities who all have one thing in common — remarkable visions and a great passion for classic automobiles.

The top 100 classic car collectors in the world

I’m often asked who I think are the most important collectors, and what we can learn from them. Beyond dropping some prominent names, it has been impossible, until now, to answer this question properly. In an increasingly transparent society, the collector community has, for various reasons, kept off the radar. Well, some people love the limelight and others don’t. We respect them all and want to become their trusted friend and tell some of their more intriguing stories.

When we decided to make the list of the 100 most important collectors — a bit like the Forbes lists — we knew that we needed to develop a well-grounded database. Fortunately, some 25 years ago, just about when Ferrari launched the F50, when McLaren unveiled their F1 road car, and when Jaguar presented the XJ220, a group of visionary technical types dreamed about offering mankind wisdom and knowledge at the touch of a button. Their Internet dream became a reality, and this has allowed us to build a robust database for our market intelligence.

Our research team recognized that the digital footprint we leave when we buy, sell, and enjoy our cars is stored somewhere in the vast data cloud out there. They have spent hundreds of hours over the past year using every technical means to systematically search for, collect, and analyze all the available information about the most important classic cars and their collectors and caretakers. We also have data on dealers and carmakers’ museums, though this information is not included in our list.

Who are the world’s top 100 classic car collectors? 50% of these collections are located in the USA, and the rest in Europe and Asia. In the front line are Americans Miles Collier, Fred Simeone, Peter Mullin and Ralph Lauren, along with the Dutchman Evert Louwman, the Swiss Albert Spiess and the Chinese Antony Wang.

Drivers of change that could disrupt the classic car market

  • The top 100 collectors alone own around 3,500 of the most important classic cars in the world, worth an overall total of some 8 billion US dollars. The average age of these collectors is 72, and around 20% of them are 80 or older. This raises the question of succession: some of the most important automotive gems in the world, worth billions of dollars, will soon pass on to the next generation. What will happen to these pieces of history? What are their owners’ inheritance plans? Will they sell the cars? Donate them to institutions? Create their own museums? Or will their heirs and heiresses be the next caretakers? What will this mean for the value of pre-war and early post-war cars?
  • This generational shift also means that the taste for cars and the commitment to heritage and preservation may change. What attitude will the new generation have towards collectable cars? How will this attitude affect the inheritance of important models and entire collections? Might a widespread lack of interest lead to price reductions, or to the dispersion of models of great historical and cultural importance? Auction results and dealers’ records certainly show that purchasing patterns have shifted in recent years.
  • Our world has never changed so fast. “The connected life”, “mobility as a service” and other trends will fundamentally transform the automotive world over the next decade. People will soon be using self-driving cars powered by plug-in energy, and more of us will be getting accustomed to new eco-friendly mobility service concepts. What will this mean for classic cars? Will we still be able to get road registration, spare-parts and gasoline? Will we still be allowed to drive our treasures?

You don’t need to be a genius to see that the high-end classic car world is coming to a crossroads. So, how do we preserve these treasures and these values? In our cockpit article in “The Key – Top of the Classic Car World” you will find more interesting market data, and hopefully some valuable food for thought, while the last chapter of this editorial describes our own contribution to the cause.

Enjoying classic cars. Today and tomorrow

“Your name and car are announced and then you’re off. Off on an adventure, with masses of people around you… an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd that make you feel like the lucky hero… behind the wheel, with tired eyes and a brain jumping between dream and reality…” Read the story of the Mille Miglia written by our chief editor, Antonio Ghini.

I have driven in the Mille Miglia myself, and I salute Antonio for being able to put the thrills of classic car racing in Italy into such apt words. The Mille Miglia is, of course, just one of many notable classic car races, alongside the Le Mans Classic, the Historic Grand Prix in Monaco, Goodwood, and more.

Some aficionados prefer static events, and there are plenty of these all over the world as well. Two, however, stand above the rest. Pebble Beach in California is the global champion, and Sandra Button, chairperson of this world-class celebration, gives us her insights and outlook in an interview. In Europe, every serious collector wants one of the rare invitations to the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este in Italy, which is organized by the German BMW group. Winning an award at Villa d’Este is one of the greatest honors a collector can receive. Lorenzo Ramaciotti, who heads the judging committee, offers more insights in his interview with us. The past couple of years have seen the emergence of many more “see and be seen” at events – with lots of champagne for collectors and friends of historic automobiles.

Personally, I feel truly alive when taking a serious Sunday morning drive in my DB4 GT up the mountains to St. Moritz; and there’s nothing to beat the cool joy of cruising the Cote d’Azur with my wife in the Spyder Cal or the BMW 507. Not forgetting the classic Alba truffle tour with family and friends. The wonderful smell of old leather and gasoline, the design, the engine, the (non-digital) equipment, and the noise make such a difference. Let’s hope that we’ll be able to get spare-parts, gasoline, and road permissions for many more years to come so we can enjoy our passion to the full.

I hope you will enjoy reading “The Key – Top of the Classic Car World”.
It can be purchased here as an eBook and magazine.

Fritz Kaiser (1955) The entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist is co-founder of Kaiser Partner and a champion of sustainable, responsible investment. He has received numerous international awards in recognition of this work.

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