Think of classic cars and you are likely to visualise the kind featured in the Ealing comedy Genevieve. But as time moves on, it is not just the good old pre-war models that qualify for the epithet "classic". Cars from more recent decades such as the Sixties and Seventies have become highly collectable, though not necessarily lucrative in the short or even long term.
Glen Waddington of Classic Cars magazine says that motors are a tricky commodity to invest in, as you can never be sure that they will go up in price or even just hold their value. Even favourite models from the Sixties - a romantic and hip decade when viewed from our commercialised times - are by no means guaranteed to keep you cosy in your retirement.
However, as far as Sixties models go, Mr Waddington cites the Ferrari 275 GTB4 as a pretty safe bet, as long as it is aluminium-bodied and assuming you have between £200,000 and £250,000 to spare.
"They're rare and very valuable considering what they are," says Mr Waddington. Even better than that, he adds, is the Ferrari Daytona.
"In the classic car boom at the end of the Eighties, they were going for £200,000 to £300,000. Now the price has fallen to £60,000 to £80,000, but I imagine that they could climb again as they're undervalued. They're the true dream car in appearance and are picking up interest again."
If your budget is more lim-ited, he suggests taking a look at the BMW 2002 series, which he believes is undervalued. A model in good condition will cost around £2,000 to £3,000 and is relatively easy to maintain as there are several specialists around that will keep it going for you.
"These are worth looking at because they're getting rarer," explains Mr Waddington.
A link with motor sports will put extra value on old models. For example, a Sixties Mini will fetch only a couple of thousand pounds, even if it is in good condition. But the Mini Coopers from the same period will fetch much more, particularly if they are in good nick, thanks to the model's connection with the Monte Carlo rallies and, of course, the celebrated Michael Caine film The Italian Job.
Various Alpha Romeo models hold their value because of their look, their connection with sport and their increasing rarity. Many more have been eaten away by rust.
"The Alpha Romeo Giulia coupé is worth around £2,000," says Mr Waddington, "and it could go up in the near future. It's beautiful, glamorous and the com- pany has a good name in sport."
Naturally, in these celebrity-conscious days, some connection with films, TV shows or specific stars contributes to a massive mark-up on a car from the Sixties. Aberdeen car dealer Ally Stewart once owned a Jaguar XJS that was used in the Seventies TV series The Return of the Saint, with Ian Ogilvy in the title role. "In the Sixties series of The Saint they used five and a half Volvo P1800s," he says, "because Volvo supplied them with an extra half a car to do interior and back shots. It was such a great car that Roger Moore, the star of that series, used one off-screen as well.
"I know the registrations of most of those Volvos and it's possible that someone has one and doesn't know it. If it is one of the cars used in the series, it will be worth more than an ordinary P1800."
Mr Stewart adds that the Jaguar Mark II driven by John Thaw in Inspector Morse is also "hot to trot" thanks to the popularity of the TV series. "The 2.4-litre is worth around £15,000 but the 3.4-litre goes for about £15,000-£30,000.
"The E-type is still popular, although any price depends on the car's quality and maintenance. In fact, with any classic car, what all collectors are looking for is a model with one owner, all the original paperwork and a great maintenance record.
"It's the same with any type of car but especially old Jags. It's very difficult to find a really, really good one."
Anyone serious about investing in this area should look through magazines such as Classic Car Weekly or Thoroughbred and Classic Car for models for sale. Auction website eBay is also a rich source, although, as ever, buyer beware.
There are no guarantees that you will make money in motors - as the boom and bust in classic cars at the end of the Eighties proved. As with any collection, they should be bought first for the love of them. Any potential investment gains should be a secondary consideration.
The financial advantages of owning any classic cars are their exemption from road tax and the favourable insurance rates you can get. You can also drive them, not simply admire their beauty, although some makes and models are much less comfortable than modern cars and can be dangerous in icy or damp weather.
Classic cars of any age - including those from the Sixties - need regular maintenance, and spare parts will often be expensive. They can guzzle petrol and, of course, need housing. Therefore, some models, at least, will cost more to keep each year than they appreciate in value.
That doesn't stop the real enthusiasts, though.
"I'm looking for a Zodiac Mark II which was made between '59 and '62," says Mr Stewart. "They used to be around £2,000 a pop but now they're about £6,000 to £7,000. It's very hard to find one - particularly a good one."
He believes the demand for Sixties and even Seventies cars will grow as the public becomes increasingly nostalgic. "For people aged 35 and over, those Sixties Jags are the ultimate as they're still very fast and attractive," he says. "For people in their 20s, Seventies cars are their thing.
"Prices for all classic cars have gradually picked up since the Eighties crash. Any type that is in original condition and hasn't been restored is going through the roof. Even Ford Cortinas, which were around £800 to £900, are now £2,000 for a good one. Who'd ever have thought it?"
IN THE FAST LANE
Prices: from £2,000 for a decent, basic Sixties classic, to £15m for the BMW driven by Sir Stirling Moss (not available for sale as it is kept by BMW itself).
More information:Reuse content