Cars are a source of great fascination – also among investors. Many an old car is now worth several million. But the investment has its pitfalls, love alone is not enough.
The millions smell of oil and gasoline. Bright orange, sleek curves, a white deer on a black background. Eckhard Schimpf amassed 72-day power in his workshop, near Braunschweing, racing history, a fortune on four wheels.
“The most expensive car here?”, The collector hesitates and looks around in the row of parked, polished racing cars. “That should be worth around 3 million euros,” says Schimpf, who, as a racing driver for the Jägermeister Racing Team, used to chase some of these cars around the tracks himself.
Now he is taking care of the legacy of the Jägermeister racing history. Schimpf and his son Oliver store and look after more than 20 of the orange racing cars in their joint company. These include racing cars from Graham Hill and models such as the Porsche 956 and 962 or the Carrera RSR from 1974.
The schnapps manufacturer Jägermeister is not involved in the business, the family behind it is. They own part of the collection, another is the property of the Schimpf family themselves. As the grandson of the Mast-Jägermeister company founder, he is also related to the company family.
The golden rule of investing does not count here
Oldtimers have long been regarded as alternative investment objects, particularly popular with men who are already enthusiastic about cars. Investments and emotions? Actually, they don’t go together. And yet many machines in this workshop have developed into top-class investments – with returns that can only be dreamed of in other asset classes.
A silver motorcycle is right in the entrance area of Schimpf’s workshop: the DKW Kompressor 250. It is slim, in a car like from times long past. Decades ago, in 1984, Schimpf bought the motorcycle from an acquaintance in a “desolate state” from an old barn. “In total, I invested perhaps 10,000 euros in the machine with restoration and the like,” he explains.
In 2008 he got a call from the Bonhams auction house in London asking if he would like to sell them for £ 100,000. Schimpf refused. He has a deep connection to this motorcycle: It was the beginning of his love for the racing business.
A collector’s dream: With 72-day power, racing history is in formation. (Source: Nele Behrens)
Schimpf touched a racing machine for the first time when he was just ten years old. It was in 1948 during a race in his hometown of Braunschweig. The racing driver Kurt Kuhnke stayed with this motorcycle model right next to Schimpf. The little boy and his friends helped push the machine into the paddock. His little fingers grasped the handlebars – and the racing business never let go of him.
A special garage for the classic car? 3,000 euros per year
This fascination, this personal reference to investment, is actually fatal when investing money. But: If you want to invest in classic cars, you have to forget this iron principle of investing.
Yvo Konzag knows that from the Classic Remise Berlin, a depot especially for vintage cars in the capital. “You always need a trace of passion to invest in classic cars,” he says. “An investment in ETFs or postage stamps or art is certainly less effort. A car needs attention.”
Cars with very high values are parked in the listed hall in the Moabit district. For this purpose, Konzag rents special garages that offer perfect conditions for the old machines. Cost factor per year? 3,000 euros. “The running costs are high for a classic car,” says Konzag. The owners would have to budget five to ten percent of the purchase price for maintenance alone each year.
In addition, the car has to be moved, it needs experts in maintenance and appropriate insurance against damage. “It is an elitist and financially strong group of whom the purchase of a high-priced classic is primarily pursued as an investment,” says Konzag. Therefore, if you want to invest 50,000 euros, you shouldn’t consider vintage cars. On the other hand, if you have a fortune of 5 million euros, you could diversify your portfolio with valuable cars.
The right contacts are worth their weight in gold
But money alone is of little help in this asset class. “It will be difficult without a network,” says Schimpf, who advises interested customers on buying classic cars. His background as a racing driver and specialist author helps him a lot in these circles.
During his sporting career he has been with legends like Niki Lauda per Du, his son developed racing helmets exclusively for Michael Schuhmacher. A contact has even developed with VW veteran Ferdinand Piech over the years. Fifty years of expertise in the auto business, only a few experts can show that.
The Jägermeister legacy: Eckhard Schimpf collects old Jägermeister racing cars. Some cars are now worth a fortune. (Source: Nele Behrens)
This knowledge is in great demand. “You shouldn’t buy a classic car without an expert,” says Konzag. And this title has to be earned. “Many newcomers call themselves experts, but with two to three decades of experience I wouldn’t trust someone with my investment,” says Konzag.
Because which car could actually increase in value is usually inexplicable for laypeople. “You may still be able to buy a Picasso blindly, but just because a Mercedes star is emblazoned on an old car doesn’t mean it is of any value. There are even Ferraris that I would keep my hands off of,” explains Konzag. Some Mercedes models are worth five to six million euros, the most expensive car in the world is a Ferrari 250 GTO for 52 million euros – but there is no certainty for such returns.
History drives the price
Investors should therefore pay attention to certain indicators, says Eckhard Schimpf: “The car must be of top quality, be original, it must be a rarity and – very importantly – it needs a story.” Many collectors specialize in one topic, such as a particular racing driver’s cars, and for them the story is extremely important. Then even replica cars will gain in value.
Like a machine that is in Schimpf’s hall. An old BMW racing car, model BMW 3.0 CSL, originally driven by Niki Lauda. Only this racing car no longer exists – the original car burned down in 1973. Schimpf and his company built a replica car from original parts and a car of the same model of the same year of manufacture, which is identical to the original in all aspects.
The replica gained in value when Niki Lauda drove the replica car in a so-called “legends run” at the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018. A year later, Lauda succumbed to his illness, the replica BMW was the last racing car that Niki Lauda has ever driven, according to Schimpf. This story sparked interest in this replica. Schimpf himself received a call from a collector in Singapore – but he did not sell.
Gold is more anonymous
Investors should also keep this kind of attention in mind: “The classic car market is transparent,” says Konzag. If there are only five cars in the world, the scene mostly knows who the five owners are. Anyone who invests large sums in this rolling investment can usually not hide. “In contrast, gold can be invested more anonymously,” says Konzag.
Many owners also want to show their cars right now – at least in selected circles. Collectors always put their cars on display for free at classic car fairs, and the organizers usually cover the shipping costs. Schimpf’s bright orange Jägermeister cars have already traveled as far as the USA. At home, however, he also keeps his collection a little covered. “Otherwise we would have fans here every day,” he says. That doesn’t fit into the business model. The millions stay among themselves.