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When buying a supercar, ignorance can lead to costly mistakes

A car’s history can add tens of thousands of dollars – or in some cases, even millions – to its value

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Peter Klutt likens the origin story of most car autophiles to that of a serious wine collector: it starts with that first sip, perhaps of a good Old World burgundy or a sauvignon blanc.

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“Then from there you advance to complex wines and then to rare wines,” says Klutt, president and owner of Legendary Motorcar Company Ltd., a Toronto-area company that restores and sells rare and fine cars. “It’s kind of the same with cars – you might start out by buying a new, run-of-the-mill Ferrari then you get bitten by the bug and now you want the top dog of Ferraris.”

For Canadians with deep pockets, car ownership typically goes beyond buying a reliable set of wheels. While the country’s moneyed elite tend to avoid ostentatious displays of wealth, many have shown a marked preference for luxury brands – such as Tesla, Lexus, Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz – over mass market models.

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Then there are those who go for the wheels that turn heads on the road and in the showroom: the supercars that go from zero to 60 in three seconds and reach top speeds of more than 320 kilometres an hour, or the collectibles with price tags as rich as the vehicles’ histories.

Whether they are buying these ultra-high priced cars as rides or as an investment asset class, Klutt offers the same piece of advice: know what you’re getting.

“Do as much homework as you can,” he says. “Research on the Internet, in books and specialty publications, or find somebody who knows the cars you’re interested and get them to help you.”

Ignorance can lead to costly mistakes, says Klutt. He has known people who have bought replicas of the valuable original models, or who bought cars of a certain vintage that no longer had the original motor.

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“Things like not having the original motor or the original colours will change the value of the car,” says Klutt. “So having the original paperwork that came with the car is important in verifying the car’s features and options.”

A car’s history can add tens of thousands of dollars – or in some cases, even millions, to its value. Ferraris that ran at the Le Mans race in the 1960s, for instance, are worth between $50 million to $100 million today, says Klutt.

But vintage isn’t always necessary to drive up the value of some supercars. While some current models may lose value after they are released, a few – such as Ford GTs – tend to sell well over their list price as soon as they hit the market.

In general, however, it can take about 25 years for a supercar to go from current model to collector’s item – and to be priced accordingly, says Klutt. It also takes patience and the ability to withstand some dips in the road. Between 1990 and 2000, for instance, a lot of car collectors saw the value of their mobile assets erode significantly. In 2008, supercar and collector values started to go up and continued to surge until 2015, when they dropped and stayed low for several years.

Then COVID-19 hit, prompting travel-deprived citizens to redirect their leisure dollars towards car purchases. This pushed up demand – and prices – for supercars.

Getting value out of a supercar is not just about dollar figures, says Leo Urlichich, rally car champion and founder of Race Lab, which offers high-performance driver training. Driving a powerful car to its full potential can bring amazing returns on investment that many owners of these cars do not get to realize.

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“The problem with North American car culture is that the majority are into cars but not into driving,” says Urlichich. “So they focus on what they put into the car and how cool the car is, but they miss out on the fun of really driving their cars.”

Hitting the road inside one of these rocket ships on wheels – some boast engines with close to 1,500 in horsepower – requires advanced driving skills, he says. Aside from their powerful engines, supercars come equipped with sophisticated electronics and have aerodynamic designs that make them trickier to handle.

“Most of them have low-profile tires with big rims and not a lot of tires, so they’re not good at absorbing bumps at all,” says Urlichich. “So if you’re driving aggressively on the 401 and you hit a bump on the road, the car can literally jump and go out of control.”

Things like not having the original motor or the original colours will change the value of the car.

Peter Klutt, Legendary Motorcar Company

Urlichich counts a number of wealthy supercar owners among his clientele. Some want the driving lessons so they can hold their own on track days – organized events where fast-car owners can do laps around a racetrack.

Others have plans to bring their supercars to places where they do not have to worry about speed limits.

“When these individuals who drive supercars end up in countries like Germany or Italy – where people can go past 300 kilometres an hour – they want to be able to keep up with those other drivers,” says Urlichich. “But without proper training and experience, you could get in trouble driving at those speeds.”

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For those who want to experience driving at extremely high speeds but don’t want to risk crashing their supercars, Urlichich suggests adding a rally car to the hot wheels collection.

“Get a car that’s purpose-built for racing, which will probably cost only a quarter of what you paid for your supercar but will give you so much more fun per dollar per kilometre,” he says. “Then you can use your supercar as a cruiser, and you’ll appreciate it even more because after you learn to race in your rally car you’ll also know how to handle your supercar.”

Proper maintenance and storage are critical to preserving the value of a supercar, says Matthew Knebel, an engineer and personal car consultant in Georgetown, Ont. Keeping a supercar in roadworthy condition – even when it spends most of the year parked in a garage ¬– can cost between $50,000 to $100,000 a year.

“A car can develop oil leaks just sitting and doing nothing, and tires rot on a concrete floor,” says Knebel, who also restores and resells vintage motorcycles. “It’s not like a piece of art that you can just hang and admire.”

Car collectors who prefer to park their wheeled treasures at home might consider putting them in inflatable PVC bubbles with circulating fans that protect from dust, dirt and insects, says Knebel. He also recommends professional storage services, such as those provided by Legendary Motorcar Company.

Knebel’s advice for those looking to get behind the wheel of a supercar, or a collector car, but who don’t know what to get: Buy something you will love owning.

“Ask yourself if you’ll enjoy owning a car relative to the running cost of the vehicle, and irrelevant of the appreciation of the asset,” he says.

Klutt offers similar wisdom. Instead of trying to chase the new hot car, he recommends approaching the purchase in the same way one might buy real estate.

“Buy what you like and buy the best you can afford,” he says. “Nobody has a crystal ball that can predict which cars today will have the highest values tomorrow. But if you really like the car you bought, then whether its value goes up or down you’ll never get sick of driving it.”

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