Discover China's latest love affair with the world of collectibles... Classic cars

There was good news for luxury car manufacturers Mercedes this week. They were happy to report that sales increased, with Dieter Zetsche of Mercedes Benz's parent company Daimler explaining:

" almost exploding as far as the market is concerned"

Indeed, Mercedes Benz has seen increasing numbers of wealthy Chinese individuals paying up to £100,000 ($150,000) for their luxury cars.

It's partly down to the increasing number of dollar millionaires within the country, with some estimates putting the figure at around 870,000.

And Mercedes Benz is not alone.

BMW, the largest luxury car manufacturer in the world, also saw sales figures rise 9.1% in July, with much of this attributed to the growth of demand from China.

According to published figures, BMW sales in The People's Republic surged 82% to 13,852 in July 2010.

Audi also reported a 7.7% increase thanks to record deliveries in China.

Zetsche has forecast:

"China has become the biggest automotive market but for us as a company it will be another 3 to 4 years before China becomes our largest market as well"

These results look set to rise further in the next five years.

And all of these figures come despite the significant taxes charged on high powered foreign vehicles in the country.

The increasing number of Chinese individuals investing in luxury cars can be attributed to their culture of "saving face."

This is a cultural notion of investing in status symbols aimed at creating an image of success. Chinese writer Lin Yutang defined "face" in the following terms:

"It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a face that can be "granted" and "lost" and "fought for" and "presented as a gift"....Abstract and intangible, it is yet the most delicate standard by which Chinese social intercourse is regulated..."

Status symbols like luxury cars are now a major part of Chinese culture. This increasing interest is sure to filter through to investment grade classic cars which offer the perfect blend of status symbol and investment opportunity.

And with the huge disposable wealth available in China, investors are already looking at the future impact the Chinese will have on the classic car market. In particular, the effect they will have on prices.

Here are four Classic Car investments that Chinese enthusiasts will soon be turning to:

The Lotus Elite Type 14

In recent weeks, the Lotus Type 15 sports car has been the source of much attention from collectors.

Yet it is the Lotus Elite Type 14 which will be the model to impress new Eastern investors.

First introduced in 1957 the most distinctive feature of the car was its innovative light weight fibreglass monocoque construction.

The Lotus Elite Type 14

This featured a unique stressed-skin unibody and glass-reinforced plastic material for the entire load-bearing structure of the car.

Add to this an aluminium Coventry climax 1200cc 75bhp engine and you have a classic car that is lightweight, fast and with excellent handling.

There are currently thought to be only 988 of these rare models in existence.

And while the car was launched at a price of £1,951, excellently conditioned models of the car classic are still available for just £35,000 ($52,500).

The Jaguar E-Type

It's highly likely that new collectors will turn to Jaguar, one of the symbols of the Western classic car scene.

Emerging on the market in the early 1960s, the Jaguar E-Type effectively changed the face of sports car production.

The car classic combined a powerful 3.8 litre Xk engine with innovative aerodynamic body design from Malcolm Sayer.

The Jaguar E-Type

Sayer was one of the first to use aerodynamics in sports car design with the legacy of his work still present in the shape of Jaguar cars of today.

When launched in 1961, the classic car cost just £2,098. Today, in excellent condition, an E-Type can sell for around £37,000 ($55,500).

Given the historical significance and overall quality of what Enzo Ferrari once called "the most beautiful car ever made," this car classic will continue to prove popular with collectors.  


BMW 503 Coupe

The BMW 503 Coupe

With BMW sales up in China, car classics like BMW 503 Coupe will prove increasingly popular at auction.

Initially created by Albrecht Goertz in 1955, the 503 saw a new era of modernisation ushered into BMW's design work.

The 503 Coupe had a top speed of 120 mph and with only 412 built between 1956 and 1959 it remains a rare and sought after classic car amongst collectors.

Featuring a strikingly modern exterior design, the car was launched with a price of £4,801 attached.

Today a mint condition model is worth up to £100,000 ($150,000).

That's an increase in value of around 37.5% a year on average since production stopped.

The Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster

The Mercedes Benz SL Roadster

With only 1,856 made, the Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster was designed as the replacement for the 300 SL Gullwing model.

The car featured a revised space frame chassis for more room, original 1961 disc brakes and a light aluminum block engine created by Mercedes chief developing engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut.

One of a generation of cars produced that changed the image Of Mercedes in the U.S from solid and reliable automobiles to one of creators of exciting sports cars.

When launched in the early 1960s, the 300 SL roadster cost £4,393 ($6,936) Today, a model found in excellent condition can sell for £325,000 ($487,500).

Thanks to the continued popularity of the manufacturer, coupled with the value of this model, the car is the perfect combination of status symbol image and high investment returns.

And these cars are only the tip of the iceberg. Recent months have seen world record prices for classic cars despite an increasingly difficult global recession.

In three to four years time we are set to witness increasing dominance from Chinese classic car collectors. However, they could soon be joined by investors from other BRIC developing nations like Russia and India.

Today, Chinese collectors and investors are starting to see the beauty of classic cars as the perfect combination of status symbol and investment.

With prices ranging from £6,000 up to £100,000 and the next ten years offering exciting changes, the value of an investment in the classic car market could be accelerating soon. 


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