Classic car enthusiasts gathered at the stables of The Classic Car Fund in Zurich last night for an evening together with Corrado Lopresto, Italy’s leading car collector and restorator and a multiple winner of the Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach competitions. He is also the only person on the car scene to have been awarded UNESCO’s World Heritage Award for his extensive work in restoring (rather than renovating) many classic automobiles through the years.
Mr. Lopresto spoke about his collection, the amazing restoration work he undertakes together with his rather large stable of mechanics/restoration workers/artists, and also as a world premiere showed a 1948 Isotta Fraschini 8C Monterosa Cabriolet Boneschi, the last car built by the little-known (at least outside of Italy) Milan auto manufacturer Isotta Fraschini, active in the first half of the 20th century, and probably destined to win many prices at automobile shows the coming years.
As always, the wonderful car stable of Flippo Pignatti’s Classic Car Fund that I interviewed a few months ago, an interview you can read here, provided the perfect setting.
I meet up with Filippo Pignatti in a former Porsche dealership on the outskirts of Zurich that he, together with two other petrol heads, has transformed into a spectacular car showroom with exactly the right pit lane smell, featuring a selection of the cars in The Classic Car Fund (TCCF). This is also the HQ of the TCCF and where Filippo has his office. Italian and from Modena (where else?) by birth, he is a true European nowadays based in Switzerland where next to running a family office business he set up the TCCF five years ago, driven both by a passion for cars and for uncorrelated assets.
As Filippo tells me over an excellent espresso in the pit bar that is one part of the showroom, and as most readers of this blog know, well selected classic cars have provided better returns to investors over the last decade than most traditional and alternative asset classes, including things such as art, wines and gold. This is partly driven by the falling interest rates since the financial crisis, but also by baby boomers becoming solvent and realizing their childhood dreams and emerging market buyers that were not there a decade ago. “The Chinese have so far only been able to own classic cars abroad,” Filippo explains, “but that is about to change and that will create even greater demand in the future”.
The philosophy of the The Classic Car Fund is simple; buy well-selected cars at attractive prices following a thorough evaluation by an independent expert, and sell them later at a profit. The fund is not focused on any specific make or production year, but the emphasis is clearly on sports cars from various periods, especially Italian and quite a few of them from Filippo’s home city Modena. Holding periods vary vastly but the fund does not fall in love with its investments. Some cars have enabled the fund to realize a healthy double-digit profit in as little as three months, others will remain in the fund for up to a few years.
As always it is easy to be clever with hindsight and arguably you could have bought most Ferraris from the 90’s and earlier in these last years and realized a good profit. But it’s not just about finding the right model. “It has to be the right car”, Filippo explains, citing factors such as early production years, small, limited series, or, slightly surprisingly, famous previous owners. This last point explains two satellite positions in the fund’s current portfolio, a Maserati Quattroporte once owned by Elton John, and a fully-loaded and personalized Range Rover Sport initially ordered by David Beckham. “Obviously buying a famous person’s car brings an additional risk”, says Filippo and hints at the person’s reputation. “Should it come out tomorrow that David Beckham was doped through his whole career, that would not necessarily be good for the value of the fund”. Luckily though, the risks of that happening seem relatively small.
Next to selecting the right cars, the additional challenges of a car fund are the same as with a private car collection, most notably that you need a place to store them that is not only dry and warm but that also allows for regular exercising to avoid the cars being damaged from being immobilized. The TCCF stores its cars in various locations in Switzerland and Italy, and employs mechanics to keep them in shape. Two additional features of the fund further strengthens the link with private collections: subscriptions are permitted in kind, meaning that you can buy into the fund through a car or a car collection, following an evaluation by an independent expert. Ownership passes to the fund but the original owner receives a buyback guarantee at the same price up to two years from the point of purchase. Also, and perhaps of more interest for most, against a small fee, fund investors may borrow and drive the cars in the fund over a day or a weekend. Filippo smiles and says “take the Testarossa in the showroom down to St. Moritz over a weekend. If anyone asks you can truthfully say it’s your car, as it is part of the fund you are an owner of”.
In Filippo’s eyes, the tangible nature of the assets in the fund as one of its best guarantees of future value. “If something goes bad or the market turns completely, we can always sell the cars, making sure you do at least get part of your investment back”. He is also the firstto say that this is not something for the core of your portfolio but rather a satellite position. In terms of the current market he does not see any dramatic changes but some signs that it is becoming more selective, meaning greater expertise and competence will be required going forward. He also sees a breaking point relating to the electronic age: “the Testarossa, or Culo largo (large ass) as we call it in Italian, is a mechanical car. the LaFerrari is very complex electronically, which does not necessarily bode well for future values as it gets increasingly old and fragile”.
The Classic Car Fund has been running since 2012 and has provided investors with net returns of 7% on average p.a. after fees without any negative years (as per April, 2016). It shows no correlation to traditional assets and could thus be an interesting addition to a diversified investment portfolio. At its core though, it is really about the passion for cars. Before we shake hands and part, Filippo concludes with some very sensible words. “I always tell people that if you buy a classical car, do so because it is a car you like and that you like driving. After all, that is really what these cars are for”.
For further information on The Classic Car Fund you are welcome to contact me over the blog.
I had the pleasure of having a drink, Friday night, with Pierre, an elderly gentleman as crazy about classic cars as myself, but with a far longer pedigree both in ownership and understanding the mechanics than I will ever achieve. His brand has always been Jaguar, and his garage notably includes a 12-cylinder E-type coupé. We came to talk about the (to some, surprising) robustness of the engine, and it was then that it struck me: at a time when emission levels are being tightened and even Porsches and Ferraris have become turbo-powered, it is pretty clear that we will never see a new 12-cylinder engine being developed. And that, my friends, is sad news.
The first 12-cylinder I experienced (as a passenger at the time) was that of a BMW 750 from the late 80’s. It developed 300 bhp, then an astonishing number, but it was not the power itself but rather the smoothness of the engine that was so impressive. In that regard, nothing can really compete with a 12-cylinder.
So it’s sad we won’t see any new ones – but it’s great you can still get your hands on one without being ruined!
Onone hand you have late 7-series and S-class models that you can oftentimes pick up fully loaded at something like an 80% discount to their new price with less than 100.000 kms on the clock. Surely exciting, but my heart beats more for a classical, mechanical 12-cylinder, such as the eye-watering ones from Maranello, or indeed those from the house of Jaguar. And whereas the former have sky-rocketed in prices, the ones from Coventry are still reasonable. Less so in the E-type, more so in the still very cheap XJ-S models, as coupé or convertible. Both can today be picked up in excellent condition for EUR 20-25.000, meaning they have most probably seen the bottom in terms of prices.
Will a Jaguar 12-cylinder ruin you? Not necessarily, according to my friend Pierre. The engine is quite robust and in some aspects less sensitive than the smaller 6-cylinder. It was also produced during a long time so by the time it made it into the XJ-S, it had already seen a number of revisions. My suggestion would be to find a car with full history, have it checked, and making sure you turn to a specialist the day something happens. If you have that in place, you can’t really go wrong!
It is not every weekday morning that you see a beautiful De Tomaso Pantera parked at the train station, and the fact that it is late November obviously made the experience all the more remarkable!
The Pantera was always an exotic car. Launched in 1971 and produced all the way through 1992 with an increasing number of spoilers added over the years, the cars were built in Italy but never had their own engines. The nicest examples with the still unspoiled original design from the mid-70’s such as this one had a Ford 5.8 litre V8 developing 265 hp, but both power trains and output varied over the years.
All in all, 7200 Panteras were produced until 2001, before de Tomaso ceased to exist as a brand in 2004. It is not a car you will find under our Thrill of Owning section since values have already taken off – roughly doubling over the last five years to more than EUR 100.000 for a good car today – but it will always remain a thrill in automobile history!
As our Thrill of Owning for September we have chosen something truly hard to beat, except for the very best modern supercars: the Ferrari F550 and its sibling and successor F575). A 5.5 litre V12 from Maranello – can it really get much better?
The F550 was presented in 1996 as a successor to the 512 (Testarossa). Designed by Pininfarina, the car is a mix of lines and curves or more precisely of design items from the past and that were to come in the future. It is not the most beautiful Ferrari but the 550 nonetheless has a distinct styling that has stood the test of time well. In other ways it was however a distinct break with the eighties: the engine was back in the front and Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari’s long-term boss, at the time of the launch had expressed a clear wish for the 550 to be the return to Ferrari’s racing GT car tradition. This means the car looks considerably longer than the mid-engined 355 and 360, although it was only 10 cm longer than the latter at around 4.55 metres.
Luckily the GT ambitions in no way compromised the chassis which has stood the test of time even better than the styling. It is the extremely well-balanced but also very advanced, and it received wide praise even in comparison to the 360 Modena launched a few years later (1999-2005). Tests concluded firstly that the 550 is a true supercar but that even so the ride is more balanced with less going on than in the equally excellent 360. This is partly due to the individual wheel suspension but also to the front axis being wider than the rear, i.e. the same solution than on the Citroën DS! Ok, sorry, probably not a comparison Ferrari would appreciate.
At the heart of the car is a fantastic V-12 cylinder, 5.5 litre engine delivering 485 hp and 580 Nm torque, later increased to 515 hp and 590 Nm torque in the 575, exclusively coupled to a six-gear manual gearbox (in the 550) but where the torque of the engine meant you rarely need to use more than half the gears. The engine is linked to the adjustable suspension such as to limit the max torque in the softer settings and thereby improve power delivery. Surprisingly though the lovely V12 noise is somewhat muted, arguably improving the car’s GT quality but also the reason many cars have received another exhaust system allowing for a bit more tenor and bass.
The interior of the 550 is pure Ferrari from the analogue age in a combination of leather and aluminium that remains difficult to beat even today. The seats are electrical and adjustable in a variety of positions and all cars had air-con as standards, both features that did not necessarily appeal to the purists as they added unnecessary weight.
A total of 3600 F550 Maranellos were produced until the F550 was replaced by the F575 in 2002. From 2001 a small series of 448 convertible F550 called F550 Barchetta Pininarina was also produced.
The F575 (2002 – 2006) was the 550’s successor and was body-wise just a minor facelift. The engine’s volume was increased to 5.75 liters (+30 hp). From 2003 a semi-automatic gearbox was available and from 2005, as for the 550, a small open top series was produced under the name F575 Superamerica. This was however not a traditional soft top convertible, rather the car had a carbon roof that could be moved backwards, hence a targa construction.
Unlike its predecessor the 512, the 550/575 has not yet taken off price-wise which is obviously one reason why we write about it. Both cars with reasonable mileage and in excellent condition can be had for around EUR/CHF 90.000 – 100.000, around half the price as new, and generally the F550 comes slightly cheaper than the F575. The convertible/targa series due to the limited numbers produced are in a different league. altogether so forget about those. Noticeable is also that most 550/575’s have indeed been used, again a testimony to the car’s qualities (and reliability!), so mileages of 40.000 – 70.000 kms are normal, obviously meaning that a reliable service history is an absolute must! Worth remembering is also that the F550 was only available as a manual whereas most F575 were sold with the semi-automatic.
This being a Ferrari V12 it is clear that each bill will make you cry, but just as clearly you will forget all about it every time a road opens up, you shift down to third and let the 12 tenors find their voice!
Will the F550/F575 take off price-wise as so many other Ferrari models have? That is obviously difficult to say, but factors that speak for it is obviously the car’s uncontested road and engine qualities. And even if it does not it is clear that the downside at this point is very limited to inexistent. So even though owning a V12 Ferrari is hardly rational, this is probably as sensible as it gets! And as the following video will show you, there is indeed a remedy for that somewhat timid V12 sound…
With the weather forecast promising summer-like temperatures, my wife and I took my TR4 for a rather long trip to Lausanne (280 kms one way) this weekend. Naturally we opted for a route more interesting than the motorway over Bern. On the way there the journey took us over Lucerne, Interlaken and over the Jaunpass at 1509 meters through the Gruyère region, before reaching Lake Geneva at Vevey, close to the beautiful city of Lausanne. On the way back we chose another less spectacular but still beautiful route that led us over Murten, Bern, through the Emmental and then again over Lucerne.
The TR4 performed to perfection the whole way, not hesitating a second even when climbing the Jaunpass, with a 900 meter elevation and up to 12% steep (it was rather the somewhat fading brakes that provided more excitement on the way down…). The old lady’s 2 litre Ferguson engine clearly proved why it was such a popular tractor engine, with a torque powerful enough to take the car up most hills in third which is helpful, given the gearbox is not really a DSG and tends to protest quite loudly against any form of rapid gearchange. I’m therefore happy to say that now that the time has come to plan for the winter storage, no mechanical tasks are on the program over the winter break, just a few minor cosmetic ones. Who said English cars were of bad quality??!?
Attending the Tesla event in Arosa yesterday also gave me the occasion to catch a glimpse of the training day of the legendary Arosa Classic Car race, taking place every year at the beginning of September on the last 7.8 kms of the road from Chur to Arosa. The whole road is legendary by itself, as on a total distance of 31 kms and a height difference of 1280 meters, there a total of 360 (!) turns. On the last 7.8 kms used for the race, the cars climb around 420 meters with 76 turns. Challenging enough in good conditions, but as mentioned yesterday, the temperature this weekend up in Arosa is expected at around 5 degrees with rain…
The race is open for cars built betwen 1905 and 1986 or 1990 in the case of group C rally cars, of which there are plenty. it is a very fine selection of oldtimers and old rally cars (including the odd formula car) that take part, typically modified to race configuration, with special emphasis given to the engines judging by the sound. Below a few picks from yesterday and clicking here allows you to experience the race from onboad a MB 300 SL Gullwing, including drifts. A very fine automobile worth around EUR 1.5m in standard configuration…
The small German town of Singen, 10 minutes from the Swiss border and around 20 km from the more well known German city of Constance, probably doesn’t mean much to most people. Given however you are a reader of this blog, chances are that you would experience a visit to Singen as finding heaven on earth. Because even if the town itself is about as exciting as a beige Volvo 240, for reasons no one can really explain, Singen has developed into something of a car Mecca in southern Germany.Along what is referred to the auto mile on the outskirts of Singen, more than 20 different brands from Skoda to Ferrari have showrooms. One dealer stands out form the crowd and is at the root of the relative fame of the city: the Auto Salon Singen, maybe the world’s leading dealership of used cars. Yep, you read that right, the Salon sells used, or rather pre-owned cars. There is a however a slight difference to the used car dealership around the corner, as the Salon specializes in very rare, pre-owned supercars and oldtimers. In a showroom that to the outer world doesn’t look like much is an exhibition including cars that you will very rarely have seen in real life, to a total value of which one can only speculate. What makes the Salon unique is on one hand the offer that is second to none, but also the combination of unique old-timers and supercars.
As with so many things, the beauty is on the inside…
This does not mean the Salon is full of millionaires with their pockets full of money. As confirmed by an extremely well polished salesman, very rarely do clients visit the salon other than possibly to pick up their cars. The client base is global with a fair part in Germany and Switzerland, but also with a significant number of clients in Russia, the Middle East and Asia. That has the nice side effect that if you do visit the Salon, you will have it pretty much to yourself and should you wish only to wander around and enjoy this feast for the senses, the well-trained sales force is very happy to let you do so. When asked how they find their truly unique vehicles, a polite reference is only made to their global network and also to their existing clients, of which they have about 35.000 in their database. Another database covers about 15.000 cars around the world, including pretty much every supercar or truly rare oldtimer still around. In other words the exhibition itself is only a drop in the ocean and a significant part of the Salon’s business is also finding specific cars on request.
Definitely more like it!
Unfortunately the (still very polite) salesman made clear that the Salon is not very hot on pictures being taken inside the premises, so any illustrations of the offer below are taken from the internet. If you visit the Salon this month, the first thing you will note is a car that really doesn’t fit, not being a supercar at least in the traditional sense. Parked in between a pale yellow Aventador and a Ferrari-red Enzo is a VERY white Maybach Landaulet that takes up about 6 metres of floor space. The semi-cabrios called Landaulets were built on specific request and each one is unique. This one, from 2010 and with very few km’s on the clock, is yours if you have EUR 1.4m to spare and REALLY can’t find anything better to do with it.
Turning right you will step into the Ferrari section, counting about 30 Ferrari’s, both “normal” and less so. if an Enzo is not exotic enough, the offer also includes notably a magnificent 599 GTO Cabriolet. the GTO was a limited series of the 599, presented in 2010 and of which 600 cars were built. The GTO Cabriolet that was shown the same year at the auto salon in Paris was an even more limited series of which only 80 cars were built. It is a truly beautiful vehicle that has all the style the white Maybach lacks. Priced at EUR 799.900, it will still leave you enough for a decent family car!
Looks even better in real life!
The Porsche section is even larger than the Ferrari section. Starting on the oldtimer side it includes not one, not two but three original Speedsters in mint condition. A 911 Speedster is also included, and at the top end is a fascinating 997 GT3 -08, tuned beyond mechanical recognition by the German tuning specialist 9ff. Still relatively anonymous on the outside except for the trained eye, about every mechanical details has been changed including every part of the engine. The 9ff in this version develops around 900 bhp and 1000 Nm of torque, (hopefully) transmitted to the ground by a sequential six-speed gearbox. With a top speed of 395 km/h, the 9ff does 0-200 km/h in 7.4 seconds and 0-300 km/h in a Veryon-like 15.9 seconds. With only 15.000 kms on the clock it is yours for EUR 134.900, which in relation actually sounds like a true bargain!
You want this. And a racetrack. And probably a good whisky to calm your nerves before you try it out…
Obviously all the wonderful things that could be told about the Auto Salon Singen are too lengthy for a post on this blog, but hopefully these short impressions are enough to make you seriously consider a detour to the Bodensee region when next on vacation in central Europe. It is after all truly beautiful, and no more than one hour from Zurich airport!
Now before I get accused of all sorts of things, let me start by making clear that the old lady here mentioned does not make reference to any close or distant family member of the living kind, but rather to the old lady for which I have had to rent separate living quarters – my Triumph TR4.
As some of you know driving an oldtimer is never dull, neither is owning one. The latter can however easily become financially more challenging, at least when you are as mechanically illitterate as me. Around Zurich there is certainly no lack of specialized garagists very eager to help out, but somehow, in a Western world where inflation is nowhere to be seen (at least officially), the bills these guys send you have something Zimbabwe-like about them in terms of price evolution. So if there is the slightest chance of doing it yourself, you try to, which in my case means calling on far more suitable oldtimer friends than myself, i.e. those who actually understand what happens under the bonnet.
It was around a month ago that my TR4, which has always sprung to life effortlessly even after several months, all of a sudden had problems doing so. Having checked the basics (battery, power supply, corrosion on the bolts etc.) the exclusion method led to a strong suspicion of a defective starter engine. At this stage however the car would not start at all, and the starter engine was no longer even turning. Given the location of the garage, the car can neither be started by running, nor is it easy to tow, meaning just getting it to a mechanic had become a challenge. I felt grey hairs growing as the sunny days went by.
As with any true lady, beautiful to look at, difficult to understand…
Last week I then went for lunch with a dear friend in Zurich, the proud owner not only of some vintage English oldtimers but also of an equally old boat, running on a V8 from the 50’s and having last year had some issues with the starter engine. ”Don’t worry” my friend said between bites, ”try what I did: hit the starter engine with a hammer a couple of times while someone turns the ignition. With a bit of luck, it is just the cogwheels that are dislocated and this could make them spring back.” As if there was nothing more normal in the world than what he had just suggested, he then changed the subject and went on to enjoy the rest of his lunch.
My belief in the suggested solution was, I’ll admit, not very strong. But given the car would not start at all the downside was obviously limited, so I took my son with me and went up to the garage. As he did not want to handle the ignition and could not really be trusted to aim the hammer at the starter engine rather than at something far less suitable, I took the hammer, hit the starter engine three times here and there and then without any hope at all, went round the car, sat down and turned the ignition. As you already guessed, the engine sprang to life on the first try without effort, and has done so ever since (which I’ll admit is only a few days so far, but still).
So what does this teach us? Firstly, whether it relates to cars or in general, take great care of your friends! Secondly, it is actually fun having a car with an engine that still looks like one, and where you can locate things as a starter engine. Would you know where yours is? And finally, an oldtimer requires far less sophisticated tools than modern cars. Sometimes, a hammer will do just fine!
From late spring to early fall, the Swiss city of Zug hosts an oldtimer event called the Oldtimer Sunday Morning Meeting, a nice gathering with a beautiful mix of 150-200 cars from the 10’s (1900 that is) to the 80’s. The official end of the season is celebrated with a parade through the city center of Zug, which is reserved for the oldtimers for this occasion. The 2013 parade took place today, and even though the weather gods could have been friendlier, it was a great day of which a few pictures can be seen here below.
One of the oldest participants from the somewhat forgotten brand American la France…
.to the more recent, beautiful 50’s curve on this early Corvette.
Under the hub of a Ferrari 365. 12 cylinders, 6 carburettors, 100% mechanic…
Mercedes 540 K.
.and a beautiful Bugatti with an even greater sound from the 20’s.
Vårens ankomst välkomnas väl av de flesta, men kanske speciellt av oss oldtimer-förare. Har vintern dessutom varit ovanligt lång och kall som det här året, med mycket begränsade möjligheter att motionera ögonstenen mellan november och april, då pirrar det alltid lite extra i magen när landskapet börjar grönska, vägarna torkar och luften blir mild!
I mitt fall är ögonstenen en Triumph TR4 från -65, inköpt i Danmark i slutet på 2011 och sen dess rullandes hos mig i Zürich. Här börjar ju våren lite tidigare än i Sverige, och i början på april var det så dags att gå upp till garaget, lyfta av dammskyddet, dra ut choken, trampa två gånger på gasen, vrida om nyckeln och hoppas på det bästa. Inte mycket reaktion på första försöket. Ej heller på andra. En märkbar hostning på tredje, och på fjärde är vi igång, först lite tveksamt men snart med ett härligt bluddrande ur alla fyra cylindrar i Ferguson-blocket. Triumph talade alltid ogärna om det, men motorblocket kom ju ursprungligen från traktorvärlden, så de 105 hk som tas ut ur 2 liters cylindervolym är riktiga ardennerhästar. Och mycket likt dessa arbetsdjur är det vridmomentet snarare än höga varvtal som är motorns bästa sida.
Med handskar och skärmmössa på och med oljan på arbetstemperatur blir svängarna lite snabbare och närvarokänslan total. Väghållningen, med stora däck i varje hörn kan närmast beskrivas som 60-tals gokart, styrresponsen som förvånansvärt snabb och den väldigt stela bakaxeln som rätt egensinnig när asfalten är sprucken. Sittandes väldigt nära marken i en fart som må kännas som 150 km/h men sällan överstiger 80 km/h har man den extra bonusen av att känna lukten av allt från vårblommor till kogödsel. The thrill of driving i sin mest oförfalskade form! Med ännu snötäckta alptoppar som kuliss närmar sig en tvärt svängande nedförsbacke snabbt, och insikten gör sig påmind att motorbromsning i alla 60-talsbilar har en helt annan innebörd än att det är kul – det är en nödvändighet, om man inte vill lukta på blommorna på lite väl nära håll…
Sen den första turen har det vid det här laget blivit ytterligare ett par, och om minnesvärda Triumph-utflykter, oldtimer-världen i stort samt car spotting och lite annat smått och gott från bilmetropolen Zürich ska det bli mitt nöje att, som medförfattare på Thrill of Driving-bloggen, berätta mer om under kommande månader!
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, spring is here!