Got a passing interest in classic cars? You'll doubtless have some familiarity with Max Girardo wielding a gavel. As the lead auctioneer and Managing Director of RM Sotheby’s European arm his particular charm and wit has taken the dry art of auctioneering into a far more entertaining realm. His CV is impressive – with over 80 international auctions to his name and selling cars that collectively grossed enormous sums of money – he has now departed RM Sotheby’s and established his very own West London brokerage firm – Girardo & Co.
If anyone is better placed to offer sound investment knowledge on the current classic car market, then Max is your go-to-man. “I originally started in Brooks which amalgamated into Bonhams and from there, twenty years later, here I am! Indeed, each week I’m likely to be at an airport (somewhere) around Europe. Like a day trip to see a client or organise events, I do a huge amount of travel around the world.”
We were interested to hear what Girardo & Co will offer clients. “I have 10 years of auction experience and a huge black book of contacts and by doing that on a smaller scale we can improve on a more selective way. And while we have a big pond to fish in, we (with colleagues Marcus and Cat) really want to be bespoke. We will take the best car we are used to dealing with and even follow a few restorations. While it’s not the core business, we love to help a client out.”
With the breathless pace of classic car prices slowing slightly, the returns on investment remain astonishing. Ignoring the obvious suspects like a Ferrari 250GTO we asked Max which cars make particularly good investments right now. “Everyone has their own views, but if you look at more modern cars like the Bugatti Veyron it will never get any cheaper than it is today. It was a car of its time so that’s one to consider. I believe that rally cars from the Group B era of the 1980s have been unappreciated. At that period of time rallying was more popular than Formula One and it’s one that people will catch onto. For example, one of the road cars like the Lancia 037 or if you can afford it buy a rally version with history. That has a good future.”
Max gets quickly into his stride. “The pre-war cars are more stable as opposed to cars that are appreciating. Though if you are putting together a portfolio of cars then it is a good thing to have a good pre-war (model) for the simple reason that it diversifies the risk and is a safe place to have your money.” Does he have any other recommendations? “The Porsche GT1 has a great future and only 25 were built. It’s a Porsche and has a good pedigree.”
Naturally with any tiger market we broached the subject of the late 1980s when the bottom fell out of the classic car market. Forget selling a Ferrari 246 GT at a premium - back then they were glued to showroom floors. “There is no suggestion that the market will slide into the 1980 slump,” says Max. “Certainly we have seen amazing growth over the past 5 or 10 years and the market is not going up as much as it did, but there is a change and a slowing down.” With that in mind has he any other recommendations? “The Porsche GT1 has a great future and only 25 were built. It’s a Porsche and has a good pedigree. Market passion is keeping prices firm.”
Moving away from investment recommendations, what are Max’s top tips for buying a classic car? “First rule - buy what you like. If you are investing and you will hang onto it longer so it will make you a better seller from a financial point of view. Second rule - always, always buy the best. If it’s a mini or a Bugatti Royale always buy the best. If you have the very best you can name your price. They will always command a premium.”
Given £100,000 can he recommend a car to begin a classic car adventure? “Well, an E-Type is a good starting entrée to the classic car world. It’s easy to use and maintain. And you can get all the bits (sic). You don’t want something that’s obscure – but something that gets accepted into events which you can take out on the weekend. If they had only made a few hundred it would be worth millions, unfortunately so many of them were built. Though no one has ever been embarrassed turning up in an E-Type.”
So what does Max drive himself? “I have a Lancia Stratos. My daily driver - well the one at home – is a twenty year old Mercedes G-Wagon. But I have a bicycle – that’s how I get around in general.” Tsk! and there was us thinking he gets to work in Lamborghini Miura.
Girardo & Co can be contacted at 0044 20 3621 2923 or www.girardo.com/