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The classic car market is about to hit the gas

Expect significant growth in values as the Middle East gets into gear

More events will be available next year to show off a prized motor Supplied
More events will be available next year to show off a prized motor

The thrill of driving a classic car is surprisingly hard to put into words – but it’s not difficult to understand their appeal in our increasingly digital world, and we can expect significant growth in their values in the coming year. 

In your connected modern car you are fully, relentlessly digital from the moment you press the starter button. Notifications, online maps, podcasts, streaming audio – a tsunami of information is constantly competing for your attention. 

By comparison, in a classic car the difference is apparent the moment you insert a simple metal key into the ignition.

Hear the fuel pumps whine, the staccato burst of the starter willing the engine to life. The gauges bounce, and your classic is ready to drive – after a few minutes of warm up, of course.

On the road, with manual transmission and no driver aids, it demands your precise attention, but unlike a modern car the sensation of piloting a classic even in modern traffic is akin to steering a luxurious yacht through the azure waters of the South of France. 

With such an emotive appeal to your senses, we expect the market for classic and collector cars to remain very strong in 2023.

Over a tumultuous year in which both traditional asset classes and non-traditional assets like cryptocurrencies have shown signs of volatility, the classic car market has gone from strength to strength, with owners seeing these vehicles as both a passion project and a long term investment. 

Not surprising then that at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California in August a whopping turnover of $419 million was completed in four days – a record for the largest amount of money traded for collector cars at the event.

Martin expects the market for classic and collector cars to remain very strong in 2023

Currently the global car marketplace stands in excess of $95 billion, with the majority of transactions taking place in the United Kingdom, the US, mainland Europe and Japan.

If you do not see the Middle East, wider Asia region or China in this list, hold on – it is only a matter of time. Clearly there are areas still ripe for substantial growth. And it bears noting that with a limited number of classic cars available overall to buy, the prices will continue to rise in the coming years. 

What is lacking in this part of the world are two core elements: a reason to drive the car, and a professional environment to maintain it. 

Let’s start with the first problem, as our team is proud to have contributed to a solution for it. As Octanium Experiences, we recently concluded our first 1,000 Miglia Experience UAE, a landmark rally of 100 global participants who crossed all seven Emirates in their quest for glory.

Such an enormous occasion took almost two years to put together, as we unearthed a hitherto-unknown appetite for competitive events beyond the traditional parades that have characterized the classic car scene to date in the UAE. 

The success of the rally proved several common myths wrong: that classic cars cannot drive long distances, or that the owners are only interested in looking at them in their private Garage Mahals.

Quite the contrary: many of these owners are cash-rich but time-poor and are looking for a curated outlet to enjoy their possessions. For the public who turned out in droves on our opening day at the Dubai Creek Resort, it was a rare chance to view automotive works of art far more prestigious than your everyday supercar.

Events like this are part of a growing ecosystem. Witness the recent successful Gulf Historic Dubai GP Revival at the Dubai Autodrome, where the public got to witness classic racing cars in action.

In January automotive social media community Flat.12 will stage its annual Picnic in the Park – a virtually overbooked event showcasing the fantastic breadth of UAE car culture.

All these events and others are excellent reasons to drive and enjoy a classic – and in turn drive up demand for a quality vehicle that can do double duty as both rolling art and a potential rally winner.

What’s more, the prestige of being present adds to the overall provenance and eventual value of the vehicle as an asset.

Let me conclude by returning to the second of those missing elements: a place to service, store and restore your prized classic.

This is the biggest challenge facing the growth of the classic car market here. While classics are far less complex than a modern vehicle, they still often require specialist knowledge that is not available in the Middle East. 

Fortunately, this is a problem with a solution on the horizon. With the rise in the number of blue-chip classics and interest from well-heeled collectors, key players in the global classic restoration scene are looking at setting up shop in the market.

Once we can attract their world-class teams and provide appropriate facilities for them to practice their art, the classic car will truly have arrived in the Middle East. 

Martin Halder is CEO and founder of Octanium Group 

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