'If you want a nice investment, just buy a bloody painting, not a supercar.'
The treatment of fine supercars as static investments is a crime, says Porter, this is why...
A mate of mine is very excited by the prospect of the new Aston Martin/Red Bull Valkyrie. He’s so excited, in fact, that he wants to pull together a cabal of wealthy friends and use their combined largesse to order one. You’d think buying a car as a collective is a tricky idea. Who gets to use it on which days? Whose garage does it live in? What if two of you want to show off at a wedding on the same weekend? But that’s not a problem in this case, because their theoretical purchase won’t be used on high days and holidays and occasions when you want to make ex-girlfriends believe things are going very well for you. It won’t be used at all. They would be buying it as an investment.
Twenty-odd years ago I’d have cautioned against such a thing. Remember what happened to all those XJ220 buyers who lost the limited edition branded shirts off their backs. From a distance, the rash of current and forthcoming ultramegacars could spell disaster with a capital D. And we know what else starts with a D. It’s deprecation. But times have changed. Where once any new car was a guaranteed way to shed those pesky pounds, top-end stuff seems to be following the insane numbers attached to any half decent classic and only heading upwards. So buying a Valkyrie, what with its melding of two velvet-rope names, its Adrian Newey connection and its strictly limited production run, seems like a decent investment.
If my friend gets his minted chums into gear, they’ll buy it only for the theoretical cash bonus upon flogging it and, until then, they’ll hide the car away waiting for the return to get plump enough. They won’t be alone in this, I’m sure. I bet lots of people will be laying down their half-million-quid deposit, eagerly waiting for their 001 to arrive, and then sliding it quietly into the selected storage facility to silently wait for its own worth to rocket. And you know what? A pox on the whole bloody lot of them.
With many things bought as investments, it doesn’t matter that the world never gets to see them. A Picasso can be locked in a vault but you can still find a decent quality print of it somewhere. A big pile of Petrus ’55 was never going to yours to slam down your throat anyway. But cars are different. A real supercar isn’t just about giving thrills to the owner with brain-squashing acceleration and cornering Gs to make the knees bleed. The job of a supercar is also to bring joy to the rest of us from the pure excitement of seeing it in the flesh. We need the electrifying experience of happening upon one in the street, spotting one rumbling around the streets of a strange town, even just glancing one going the other way on the M40. Supercars are like lions. No still photo or footage can quite capture the brilliance of a chance encounter in the wild. And, as the owner of a supercar, it’s your duty to bring delight to the world by roaming free about the land. Keeping one locked away is as cruel and morally bankrupt as caging a big cat.
It’s not just cruel on us who can’t see the car, either. It’s cruel on car itself. A dimly lit, climate-controlled room is probably the best place for an old painting. Likewise a case of vintage wine. But it’s not the best place for a complicated piece of engineering. Cars need to be used, otherwise oil coagulates, tyres harden and greasy bits seize. An unused car becomes trapped in perpetual infancy, paintwork uncannily clear and leather unnaturally smooth, denied the chance to grow a backstory and develop a history more interesting than the numbers on its spec sheet.
If you want to see the results of big-money investors moving into things that should be used and then wilfully not using them, take a drive down The Bishops Avenue in north London, frequently claimed to be Britain’s most expensive street. It might be the primo address in the capital but the often ghastly mansions along its length are, by and large, unoccupied. As a result, it’s the most ghostly and unattractive road you could possible hope to live on. Except you wouldn’t live on it. You’re a Russian gas magnate and you live in an underwater lair or something. The house near Hampstead Heath is just there for the financial return.
I fear the same fate for the Aston/Red Bull hypercar. There they are, slaving away to make it look gorgeous and drive like a ground-borne fighter jet and yet neither of these things will matter to many of its eventual owners. They might as well make the damn thing out of platinum for all that it matters. That’s the modern, investable hypercar world. But how I wish it wasn’t. How I wish every Valkyrie owner was up for driving their car as often as possible rather than thinking of their ROI. It promises to be a phenomenal creation and the world deserves to revel in its majesty. So, to my friend and anyone else already measuring up the correct size of Carcoon, please, please, please, reconsider. If you want a nice investment, just buy a bloody painting.