With the auction year officially under wraps, Block Chaser chatted with Richard Sevenoaks, Leake Auction Company’s president since 1989 about the past year and what’s to come in 2017.
Block Chaser: Prewar sedans seem like they’re not particularly expensive today. Are these good investments, or driver’s cars?
Richard Sevenoaks: The four-door sedans are the cars they made the most of. We sold several of them—like a ‘41 Cadillac sedan, beautiful car—for under US $20,000.
These might have been hot at auction 20 years ago, but they’ve fallen by the wayside. I think this is an excellent time to go ahead and buy one and use it as is. They’ve got wonderful mechanicals. What I think we’ll see is more restomods of these cars.
BC: Do you think there’s a stronger market for modified prewar sedans?
RS: The Goodguys shows can have 600-700 custom cars. But the guy who has a ‘32 Highboy, for example, his wife and kids won’t want to go for a cruise in (the Highboy).
That’s where you find room for the sedan fitted with modern engines and air conditioning. You can put the kids in the back, have the wife or girlfriend up front, and go cruise.
BC: What cars have you noticed had the best prices in 2016?
RS: It was the year of the Euro. We saw the Ferraris and Porsches we deal with get very strong pricing. We’re right in a changeover where the muscle cars are peaking. Mopar has cooled off; Shelbys have plateaued. Cars of the ‘50s have softened.
BC: Was there volatility in the market this year?
RS: Yes. From what I’m seeing, everybody was down. In our part of the world, the guys with oil money are out of the market. It used to be that a big player would come in and spend US $180,000 on a Cadillac convertible because his wife liked it. You don’t see those spontaneous buys anymore.
BC: Were there any trends in 2016 that surprised you?
RS: Ferraris. Cars like the Testarossa, the 348 and the F430 have had rapid appreciation. Jaguar was the same way. I’m old enough now; I’ve seen these cycles. When they cycle up, everybody gets in and starts restoring them and they flood the market. The price will come down next year.
BC: Do you think the 1980s exotics like the Testarossa and Countach will ever reach the prestige of the ‘60s Ferraris and Miuras?
RS: When Ferrari started racing, there was a small, niche market for them. Go to Concorso Italiano at Pebble Beach this year and you’ll see a thousand red Ferraris. Yes, they’ll appreciate in value, but buyers get stunned with their first US $3,000 maintenance bill.
The Ferraris of today won’t reach the height of the Ferraris of the ‘50s and ‘60s just because there are so many of them in the market.
BC: Any idea what drove that rise?
RS: Don’t know. But there’s a group of speculators out there that, when the price goes up rapidly, they’ll go in and buy up cars, drive up the price a little bit, then get out.
When the speculators pull out, the only people left are the collectors, and they won’t sustain those kinds of prices. You saw that happen with Mopar when you saw the million-dollar Hemi convertible.
BC: If you were to polish up your crystal ball, what prices do you think will rise in 2017?
RS: I go to the old standbys. The Mustangs of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Corvette is always a good product. The restomods because people love those cars.
The Trans Ams of the late ‘70s—the “Smokey and the Bandit” section of the market—we’re seeing some appreciation in those cars. I’ve been waiting for those to go up for years. For a long time, you could buy one for US $15,000.
There’s a huge market for cars under US $50,000. Regular guys can buy one for US $20,000, work on it in their garage over the winter, and take it out and sell it for US $35,000, especially guys who live up north.
BC: There are shops making versions of muscle cars set up for racing, using reproduction bodies. Do you see demand for these kinds of vehicles?
RS: Race cars are very much in a niche market. The only person you can sell it to is another guy who wants to race it. You’re dealing with 1 percent of buyers there. What we always suggest, if you’re getting into the marketplace, is go with a mass-market car like a Mustang or Corvette, and I would not modify it for racing.
BC: What do you find are the most challenging cars to sell?
RS: Every year, it’s the one-offs. You always have a gap between the museum or collector and the seller. We have to work with both sides to get them closer together. Those cars are very desirable, but they are hard to sell.