It’s a given that provenance is all when it comes to the value of collectibles and memorabilia, and confirmation of this is not hard to come by. In 2012 one of a few Heuer Monaco wristwatches worn by Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans sold for $799,500. A new but otherwise identical Heuer Monaco can be bought for a little over £3,000. Then, in New York in October 2017, Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona sold for a staggering $17,752,500. For what it’s worth, that’s a shade over £14 million more than the highest figure yet achieved for any Ferrari Daytona.

Naturally enough, a similar principle applies to cars. Those owned by the Steve the King of Cool have about double the value of comparable cars without his connection. In similar vein it’d be fair to assume that an historic car with a racing history will also command a higher price than a similar car with no sporting achievements to speak of.


Like for like that’s mostly true, but by no means always. Most historic cars with an extensive competition history will have had a tough life back in the day. They will have been driven hard, and often, and quite possibly crashed hard too. They may well have been fitted with replacement engines and transmissions, their chassis and bodies may have been extensively damaged and repaired, or even replaced – the sole priority then being getting the car back on track the following weekend, not how these repairs and rebuilds might affect their inconceivable values in decades to come.


On the same day in January 2018 two Jaguar D-Types came up for auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. The first was an original customer car offered by Gooding & Co with a well-documented UK racing history, no major incidents and a rich, unbroken ownership provenance. One of only two D-Types originally finished in red, it carried a $10-$12 million estimate. As things turned out the bidding stopped just short of $9 million – not quite enough to sell on the day, but just one more bid would apparently have secured it.


The second D-Type was a works car campaigned by the factory with a colourful history that most notably included being driven by Stirling Moss in the 1954 Le Mans 24hr. (After setting a blistering pace it retired after 12 hours, but the three words ‘works’, ‘Moss’ and ‘Le Mans’ all carry great weight.) Offered by RM Sotheby’s with an estimate of $12-$15 million, the bidding exceeded that of the earlier Gooding’s D-Type, but it didn’t sell either. It’s quite possible that this was because the car had been modified from its original spec prior to being involved in two major shunts, one in 1956, the other in 1963 which fatally injured its driver. The catalogue description also made mention of three changes of engine since the original.

The high-end market has settled since 2016, but during Monterey Week of that year the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type which won the 1956 Le Mans 24hr was sold by RM Sotheby’s for $21.78 million – the highest price ever paid for any British car. Why such a high figure? Apart from the huge cachet of being a Le Mans winner, two major reasons are that it had had just two private owners since Ecurie Ecosse, and it’s the only Le Mans-winning C- or D-Type that has survived intact and remained essentially original to its winning form. In other words, it has the perfect combination of excellent provenance and originality.


Somewhat less stratospheric in value are historic road cars-turned-racers like the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar E-Type and Mk. 1 Lotus Cortina. Taking the Lotus Cortina as an example, some 3,301 were built from early 1963 to late ’66. Originally costing a little over £900 (less than a seventh of the price of a Ferrari 250 GTO) many were raced, and just a few by F1 World Champions such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart. Being easily obtained and relatively inexpensive, they were almost disposable items for the better financed teams and drivers, so an original car that was raced in period is a rare beast indeed. Moreover, Lotus Cortinas and cars of similar standing aren’t always quite what they’re made out to be, and they’re not difficult to fake, so strong evidence of their origin is critical.


Over the past 10 years or so Mk.1 Lotus Cortina values have remained pretty stable at around £30k to £45k, although during that time a couple with outstanding racing provenance have sold for over 3.5 times that upper figure. Staying with Ford, an early-mid 1960s Galaxie 500 muscle car in good order can be had for anything up to £20-£25k, although if it happens to be the 1963 British Saloon Car Championship-winning Galaxie then much deeper pockets are required. It was sold by Bonhams at Goodwood in September 2017 for a heady £471,900. No question here that provenance added great value.


However, now consider a car, say an Aston DB4 or a Ferrari 250 GTB, that’s never been raced. A car that was purchased from new by a well-heeled individual and never driven in anger or crashed. A car that was properly maintained, and over the years was treated in similar fashion by subsequent owners, all seamlessly documented. It will probably have been sympathetically restored at some point, and maybe more than once (also documented), but it’s still largely original right down to its owner’s manual and factory-supplied tool roll.

Assuming the ex-racer and the ‘never-raced’ are in similar condition, which would be worth more? The racer, which may well have had a colourful and possibly a chequered competition past, or the more original car which never saw action other than the summertime blast down to Antibes? These days, and in almost all cases, the unraced car will trump the ex-racer, unless the racer is exceptionally important and/or it’s had an outstanding competition career.


The circumstances are of course a little different for open-wheel formula cars and other pure racers which weren’t designed to be driven on the road, but the same basic criteria apply:

• How successful was the car in racing?
• How prestigious were the events it competed in?
• How well-known/successful were the drivers who raced it and the team which prepared it?
• Does the car’s stated provenance stand up to forensic scrutiny?

When satisfied on those counts you can then start contemplating matters like specification, condition, maintenance, spares availability, running and transportation costs, which events is it eligible for now, and so forth. At the same time you might also ask yourself whether you’d be more comfortable wearing a £3k watch, or one worth millions.

We’re passionate about classic and historic racing cars at JBR Capital and we can quickly build a bespoke finance package to suit your needs. So if you’re interested in acquiring the car of your dreams from any decade then please call one of our experts today on 020 3355 0035 to explore your finance options.


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