The current state of the market in the UK for our cars

Above, from left to right: TA2073; TB0252; TC10215; TD27532; TF6029.

The short article by the editor in Issue 58 made me think about just what are the factors that influence the values of our cars.

So here are my thoughts and to avoid beginning each paragraph with “in my opinion”, or “I believe”, may I preface the entire article that way. These are just my personal theories with which I am sure readers will concur or disagree; either way I find it an interesting subject and one that is rarely explored.

As the purchase of any T-Series car is an indulgence, wanted but not needed, its value should be a function of the two free market forces of supply and demand, but with four overriding influencers which I will describe at the end.

Supply

Should be considered in three distinctly separate categories, concours, tidy and barn find. The concours car at over £30,000 represents the smallest volume of the three because whilst they do occasionally come up for sale they will often have already been purchased in a poorer condition for restoration to this standard. The owner having chosen this route will most likely keep and enjoy it.

The tidy car at £20,000-£25,000 represents the largest volume; most likely it is for sale because the owner has either stopped driving altogether or is no longer comfortable behind the wheel of a T-Type in today’s traffic. Occasionally tidy cars are quickly back on the market again, the purchase regretted when the reality of wet weather and no heater does not match the dream of blue skies and 1940s traffic volumes.

The barn find rarely is a surprise discovery, but more likely a car taken off the road by its owner many years ago because of a major issue, or it was purchased with the intention of restoration. After many years the reality of the task dawns as the enthusiasm wanes, perhaps “I will get around to it one day” extends the process until finally something triggers the sale. It is easy to think that there are no more left, yet they keep appearing and will continue to do so.

So, in conclusion the market is not supply constrained except perhaps for the concourse example.

Demand

Why do people buy old cars, particularly T Types? There are many reasons.

  • To add to their collection, yes, but it must be in concours condition.
  • As a simple financial investment, yes for Bentley and Aston Martin, but a T-Type is not sufficiently exotic.
  • “Because I always wanted one”, which starts at that impressionable age when we were 10-15 years old, but it is not until age 55-60 that we have the time, space and money to realise that ambition, the 45-year rule. Today the values of the BMC Mini, Ford Escort and Capri continue to climb but a T-Type is now too old to benefit from being a childhood ambition.
  • To be able to drive something different, as our choice of daily car becomes ever more similar and boring, it creates demand for a different experience, such as a series 1 Land Rover but it has to be reliable, troublesome is not an attribute of different.
  • To make a (tax free) profit from its restoration, sadly the numbers do not add up. Spending £20,000 (ignoring your own labour) on restoring a barn find which has already cost £10,000 might realise £30,000.
  • As a hobby project without regard to cost. Yes, and the Ideal customer would be a retired engineer.

So, in conclusion I can identify demand for concours and barn find, but not much for a tidy car.

Four additional factors

Which I will call Brand, film star, racing and legislation.

  • Never underestimate the importance of Brand value, which is why VW purchased Bentley and likewise BMW, Mini. A strong brand supports used values, early Porsche 911 cars continue to rocket in price because 50 years later demand is strong for the latest 911 model. Similarly, Series 1 Land Rover values are positively influenced by the launch of the new Defender. For this purpose, I consider MG to be an extinct brand, like the Saab 96 and Hillman Imp, good cars but their values are well behind the equivalent Ford and Mini.
  • Film star: we like to be associated with film greats, the Minis in the Italian Job, Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang in Bullitt, 007 driving and sometimes destroying his Aston Martin, people even remember Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Spider in the Graduate. Unfortunately, there is no similar fame for the T-Type.
  • Racing: like Brand the influence of historic racing in general and the Goodwood Revival meeting in particular has had a big influence on the values of eligible cars, either for actual racing or just capturing the imagination of the spectators. Sadly, unlike the E Type Jaguar or Lotus Cortina, our T- Types are not catered for.
  • Legislation: at the moment this is a positive, with zero cost Vehicle Excise Duty, no vehicle testing requirement (MOT) and permission to enter the Ultra Low Emission Zone (in London – but other provincial authorities are catching up – e.g. Bath and Bristol). However, our cars now being categorised as Vehicles of Historic Interest opens up the opportunity for environmental legislation to restrict their use in the future, which would have a negative impact.

So, a pre-1969 Mini Cooper ticks 3 boxes, strong brand, Italian Job film star and the coolest way to arrive at Goodwood to watch them race. That’s why demand is strong and prices keep increasing.

Models

I place them as follows in order of desirability:

TB, Vintage feel and rare
TC, Vintage feel
TF1500, last of the line
TA, Vintage feel but fragile engine
TF1250
TD

I have owned my own TC for 5 years, the first 3 were spent restoring it and the last 2 driving and showing it and as I enjoy the car and have no plans to sell, its value is of course academic.

Editor’s comments: A thought provoking article from Robert Lyell, which is sure to stimulate debate.

The TD owner might well feel aggrieved at the model’s position at the foot of the list, but in reality, desirability is closely aligned to demand (or is it the other way around, says he thinking aloud?)

The TB is way out in front, not only because of its rarity, but also because of its eligibility for the Mille Miglia, which attracts well-heeled buyers from mainland Europe……further depleting the stock available for the home market.

Of course, there will always be exceptions within the models themselves. For example, a home market TF1500 will, all things being equal, be more desirable (and therefore be more in demand) than a ‘repatriated’ export TF1500. The MK II TD will have a premium over the TD.

Whatever model of T-Type you own, I’m sure you think the world of it. Please get out and about in your car (when circumstances allow) which is one way of helping to raise the ‘demand factor’.

Robert Lyell

9 thoughts on “The current state of the market in the UK for our cars

  1. Jonathan Butler says:

    When I bought my TD DTK 146 (0552) in1974 they were in a minority at club meetings. I always thought but please correct me if wrong fewer TDs were sold in the UK than the other T variants except I suppose the TB. The trouble is they built and exported so many which have now returned the market may well be flooded . Preferred my TD to my earlier TC (LWL 70) as stronger better handling and with decent rack and pinion steering. Also quite a good tow car.
    Daily use then of course (including a memorable 19000 miles in 1976 !) and was my only car until 1981. While it is on the road in appearance it is totally barnfind having never been rebuilt and with missing trim plus dents and scars to show it!

  2. John Baragwanath says:

    I have loved MG’s since I was 17 when I purchased my first MGA. I am approaching 70 & still have it as well as the usual MGB’s etc,
    I also purchased an MGYA in 1973 and that was a delightful car to drive. Not the best on the freeway when you had to pull u 1.25 tons behind some modern rubbish! I still have the car of course! It is an export model with the battery box in the centre and one owner before me.
    However my great love in life (after my wife of course!) is my TD, It is a 1950 model and was “restored” some years ago. I am not super technical but I can work on engines & all the running gear is now spot on plus the body looks very good. Not concourse but “presentable!”
    I purchased the car with MGA wheels on it painted black and with the red car it looks quite smart. The best part is it is an easy car to drive, stops well & can handle traffic if necessary. Whilst a TC would be nice, the price of TC’s in Australia is now sky high so I will keep the TD!

    • Tim Parrott says:

      I started as an engineer and had wanted a T Type for 45 years. Purchased a barn find TA and refurbished it. I had an MGA for eight years in the 70’s and a couple of Alfa Romeo GTs since. So I fit the retired engineer classification above. I would look for a different description of the engine, prone to cracks, expensive to repair and limited spares supply but technically rewarding.

  3. Jeff Leah says:

    I am in my 70th year and have messed about with ‘old bangers’ now called classics since the 1970s having owned loads of pocket money Triumphs and MGB mostly purchased for between £300 and £500 and with limited funds and patience have returned all of them to the road. As a boy in the 1950s I used to stare for hours at what I thought was a lovely vintage car. The chap who owned it looked a bit like a RAF gent and was always accompanied in the car by a big black dog. To this day I recall the registration MUS 550. I looked it up last year on the DVLA website and discovered it is a MGTF and still on the road. I wonder where it is now? The ‘vintage’ car I used to stare at and dream about surprisingly must have been near new when I knew it. On retirement I bought a ‘tidy’ on the road TD for£13,600 which I love to drive but already have spent about four thousand on it just to make it reliable which is now is. Even if it’s not the smartest looking TD I love it!

  4. Joe Policastro says:

    Superb article and reflects the reality for T series cars today. Good job.

    I find my self in two of the categories listed – “Because I always wanted one” and I only drive it on pretty days and not that far from home. Like my wife says about all my toys “services at 9; auction at 1.”

    My thoughts to overcome the age of these cars is to leave the body style alone and upgrade the mechanicals to modern standards including upgrading the rear gears, supercharger, modern lighting – turn signals/flashers and upgraded the engines and transmissions to improve performance.

    I drive modern roads in my TD at 70-75 mph; leaving plenty of room to stop with the drum brakes. Next upgrade is disk brakes on the front.

    Yes they are an impractical “dream car” of my youth but I really smile and wave at all the admirers with their windows up and climate controlled interiors and modern amenities while I get to actually drive my car.

  5. Frank J Fletcher says:

    That’s my TD and I wouldn’t swop it for anything else, not because I ‘ve spent good money on it – I just love the way it drives, sounds and looks.

  6. Andrew Allen says:

    I think there is a seventh reason, not mentioned in the article, namely nostalgia. My first car was a TC, bought in 1966 (KPG 837, now in the USA I think). At the time it was my only means of transport and I have many happy memories of it. It was followed by a YB and then a PA which I kept for nearly 40 years. Increasing decrepitude made me decide I needed something a bit more modern (!) – more room, more reliable and able to keep up with the traffic. I decided a TC was the answer and bought a near concours car from Barry Walker four years ago. I love it to bits and as soon as I enter the garage I am transported back to the halcyon days of my youth, by the smell as much as anything – a mixture of petrol, oil and old leather.

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