Did Paul Bracq know that he’d created a masterpiece back in 1962 when he penned the design of the Mercedes-Benz SL ‘pagoda roof’? Or Gale Halderman in 1963 when he made that first clay model of the Ford Mustang? It’s unlikely – both were knee-deep in corporate design work and it was left to the motoring public to give the thumbs up to both, years later. Today, as then, design is key, but there’s another factor playing out – electric models are superseding their fossil fuel siblings and the run out of legendary engines means 2023 is the time for canny investors and collectors to stake their claim.
In the pantheon of memorable engines, Bentley’s legendary W12 stands proud. The butter smooth, elegantly brutal six-litre unit powers the Bentayga, Flying Spur and most memorably, the Continental GT Speed. Come 2024 all will make do with the company’s V8 and soon after that, electric. The GT Speed rates as one of the world’s most alluring grand tourers, a combination of effortless urge, peerless luxury and surprising dynamism. A raft of recent electronic aids, including intelligent, adaptive suspension have made the Continental as close to perfection as it’s possible for a two-and-a-half ton behemoth to be.
Another legend bidding adieu to the world is Aston Martin’s Ford-Cosworth-derived 5.2-litre V12, but the good news is that aficionados can have it in the last-hurrah Valour, a glorious homage to Aston’s 110 years in the business. Intriguing certainly, as much because the gorgeous two-door will be available with a manual gearbox, something of a rarity these days as automatics become ever more ubiquitous. Valour’s numbers speak for themselves; 533kW, 753Nm of torque, 0-100kph in three seconds. If ever a car had future classic written all over it, Valour is it.
Porsche too is getting ready for the electric future by shedding cylinders and models. The iconic flat six gave way to a powerful, turbocharged four cylinder in Boxster and Cayman models, which in turn are being phased out. But, like Aston Martin, the Stuttgart company is giving fans the chance to own the final effort. The company has shoehorned the 4-litre flat six cylinder from the 911 GT3 into the tiny, mid-engined Spyder RS as a swansong. Imagine that – a Wagnerian soundtrack of howl and bellow, so much more thrilling with the roof down.
The other iconic engine of the past ten years is Mercedes-Benz’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. Many of the marque’s finest driver cars have used it and, sadly, all are now gone, recently consigned to history. Which one to collect? Purists will opt for the rear-wheel drive C63S of yore, but experts suggest a nearly-new AMG GT R will be the icon – it’s beautiful to behold, sounds the part, is all-wheel drive and has the benefit of electronic safety aids which help tame the otherwise challenging chassis.
Three other fossil fuel superstars stand out as excellent investments. Audi’s supercar masquerading as a family wagon, the RS 6, has just received a make-over and it’s beautiful. The company has finally decided to throw caution to the wind and give the RS 6 Avant Performance the full racer treatment, with extra power to the 4-litre V8 and new 22-inch wheels. It is now the racing wagon it was always meant to be, giving new meaning to the moniker ‘fastback’. That self-same engine is to be had in the only SUV worth cossetting in a heated blanket for posterity – the Lamborghini Urus. Fast and capable though it is, history will remember its looks, part pterodactyl, part origami masterpiece. It looks like nothing else on earth, bedroom wall poster beautiful, and is already a firm favourite in collections around the globe.
So to the last, and something of a surprise. It’s not every day a lowly Toyota makes a best-dressed list, much less a keep-forever register but that’s what GR Yaris has managed. The tiny rocket is unequivocally the pinnacle of rally homologation specials, meaning it is a limited edition road legal track car. The obsession of ex-Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, it is the world’s most powerful 3-cylinder car and will appreciate in value like few supercars.
…and the first of the new generation.
Laterally, it’s also a good time to be investing in the best of the first electric cars. Time will tell, but likely BMW’s early i8, Kia’s gorgeous EV6 and Rolls-Royce’s Spectre, their first electric car, will grow in value. Indeed, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös has already warned that any clients ‘flipping’ their Spectre (buying and immediately selling them on for profit) will be blacklisted from future sales.
Europe has decreed that it will be fully electric by 2036 and the rest of the world will follow suit soon afterwards. By the turn of the half century, today’s engineering marvels will be specialist weekend warriors and, much like developing film after digital cameras took over, owners will need to travel distances to find fuel and in-the-know mechanics. A good idea then to choose carefully, for longevity and reliability. But mostly, let’s face it, for the sound and the fury. Goodbye to all that.
by Peter Frost