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UAE goes vintage with classic car race and centre for collectors

Jaguar Supplied
British supermodel David Gandy has taken part in a number of Mille Miglias in his vintage Jaguar
  • Italy’s famous ‘Mille Miglia’ classic car rally goes to the emirates
  • Organiser Octanium plans ‘shopping centre for collector cars’
  • Global market projected to grow to $43.4bn in 2024

The UAE and supercars have been synonymous for decades, with the very latest luxury models frequently spotted on its roads – but a new industry of classic cars is also gaining speed.

This weekend the country plays host to 100 classic cars from around the globe in the first ever UAE edition of Italy’s 1,000-mile rally, Mille Miglia, also referred to as the most beautiful race in the world.

The renowned vintage car rally will see vehicles from as far back as 1927 – and collectively worth approximately $150 million (AED551 million) – travelling 1,600km across all seven emirates on December 4-8.

After an open day at Dubai Creek Golf Course, the race begins on December 5 and ends with a grand finale on December 8 at Abu Dhabi Yas Marina’s Emirates Palace Hotel.

The route covers the coastline of Fujeirah, inland rock expanse of Ras Al Khaimah, mangroves of Umm Al Quwain, seaside attractions of Ajman and archaeological sites of Sharjah.

The meeting of collectors is the beginning of a strategy to grow the industry in the UAE, including investment in a master development catering to classic car owners and enthusiasts from around the region.

A classic Maserati in the desert

“The plan is for a classic and collector car ecosystem in the UAE and wider Middle East,” Martin Halder, CEO and founder of organiser Octanium Group, told AGBI.

“There is a lot of potential. The reason why it hasn’t taken off yet is that there is a lack of services. It’s a kind of a chicken and egg problem.

“On the one hand, you don’t have enough collectors. But you don’t have enough collectors because they don’t get services for their cars. You don’t want to send your car to Europe or the US each time for just a small problem.”

Octanium is planning to develop a classic and collector car centre in the UAE.

“The master development – like a shopping centre for classic and collector cars – will include workshops, dealerships, event areas, restaurants and various services,” Halder said.

Halder has a background in building these kind of centres in Europe. He expects the UAE project to take five to seven years to develop the market.

“The Mille Miglia is an event-related pillar of the business strategy,” he said. 

“If people buy such cars, you have to give them the opportunity to use them and spend time with like-minded people.

“The UAE is recognised for its supercars, but supercars are normally the last step before you get into classic cars, because, if there are five supercars at the entrance of a luxury hotel, then what’s next? 

“If you own a classic automobile, you will be recognised for your sense of style – and what is even more important is the fact that classics are the most authentic way of driving, with no electronic guides diluting the experience. It is just you and the car.”

The global classic car market is projected to grow steadily from roughly $30.9 billion in 2020 to $43.4 billion in 2024, according to research platform Statista. 

The Hagerty Price Guide, which provides over 50,000 UK classic and collectible car values, reports that live classic car auction sales in 2021 posted their highest return since 2018.

The HAGI Top Index, the overall market measure for exceptional historic automobiles, rose by 3 percent in 2021, says Knight Frank’s 2022 Luxury Investment report. 

Although below the long-term annual average, some segments performed exceptionally, with the HAGI LPS Index for classic Lamborghinis up almost 15 percent for the year, followed by Porsche with 8 percent, and Ferrari on 6 percent.

Buyers were knowledgeable enthusiasts who felt more comfortable in their asset allocation towards collectors’ cars post-coronavirus, the report said.

It added that early supercars or motorsport homologation road versions, such as the Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo II, Lamborghini Countach, Bugatti EB 110, Porsche 959, Ferrari 288 GTO and BMW E30 M3, are expected to do well.

A 1995 McLaren F1 in a ‘time capsule’ state, with just 390km on the clock, sold for $20.5 million with Gooding & Company at the benchmark Monterey sales, the highest price fetched by a car at auction in 2021.

“It’s a huge business in the US and Europe,” Halder added. “But the season there ends in September and starts in March when the weather is better again.

“This is the perfect season for the UAE. So why not bring the cars over to the UAE and spend quality time enjoying the cars here? We can extend the whole business season to 365 days a year.

“We want to be the first global hub that covers the needs of top collectors globally.”

The UAE 1000 Miglia line-up

  • A 1927 OM 665 Superba. A similar model won the first 1000 Miglia in 1927
  • A 1952 Porsche 356 which competed in the famously gruelling South American 1953 Panamericana rally, with Guatemalan coffee mogul Manfredo Lippman at the wheel
  • A 1964 Lincoln Continental, bought by the then-Pope for his tour of India. It was presented to Mother Teresa to be auctioned off for charity, and remains in India to this day
  • A 1958 Messerschmitt FMR TG 500 Roadster, the smallest vehicle in the event
  • The highest number of Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwings, widely considered the fastest car in the world in the 1950s, with 10 owners set to attend the UAE event
  • A 1958 Ferrari 250GT California LWB Spyder, one of the rarest and most valuable Ferraris ever made
  • A 1977 Lamborghini Countach LP400 Periscopo, the first version of the legendary Countach supercar

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