My Car Quest

July 22, 2024

Are The Chinese Coming?

by Wallace Wyss

Don’t get worried, I’m not talking about the Chinese army, I’m talking about Chinese collectors. I didn’t realize that they could be a force in the car collector market until I read the recent very lavish book called Porsche Unexpected. In there the three authors include comments by Miles Collier and by a Mr. Mullin, both of whom own car museums.

One of them made a remark that a future trend in car collecting will be the Chinese collector. Why? Well, just as Willy Sutton explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is”, Chinese businessmen are setting new records for swiftly building multi-billion dollar fortunes. A Mr. Ma, founder of Alibaba, recently pulled in almost 30 billion dollars when his stock went public.

Ferrari 250 GTO For Sale

Ferrari 250 GTO At The Bonhams Auction In Monterey – August 2014

Now the Chinese billionaires, maybe earlier in their lives they wanted Chinese things, things that related to their culture, maybe sold sculptures, who knows? But in more recent years as they emulated the success of American and European entrepreneurs they want to surround themselves with trappings found in the life style of the rich and famous in the West.

They want not just mansions, but mega-mansions. Not just boats, but the biggest they build. Not just business jets but the latest business jets, the newest of the newest.

But when they buy all these things, they discover the really accomplished entrepreneurs of Europe and America collect old things, things made with great pride for the discriminating connoisseur.

Which brings us to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce etc. They already have maybe a Phantom, or the latest Mercedes but they find that people like Peter Sachs of Goldman Sachs have a Ferrari that is one of 36 (some say 39) GTOs in the world. And that the owners of these cars indulge in vintage racing, in Concours d’Elegance, in driving events like the Colorado Grand or the Peking to Paris.

Mercedes 300SL Roadster

Mercedes 300SL Roadster

So these new entrepreneurs, I say, will be coming into the game. Their absence heretofore is explained by a lack of education in classic cars. As one person said in Porsche Unexpected, “How could they want an old Mercedes Gulling if they never knew it existed?” Well, now these new mega-rich have consultants and the consultants are saying “And, oh, by the way you need a couple of classic cars in your portfolio.”

And right behind the Chinese are the Russians. I got a laugh when some oligarch from Russia recently sailed to Malibu in his yacht, one that measured over 300 ft. bow to stern, and found no place to dock it. The movie stars who thought they were rich looked out there and saw what really rich people drive on the ocean.

Right now, America is having a bit of a tiff with the Russians but when that blows over, I think we will see some Russians at Pebble Beach, right behind the Chinese billionaires. And so it goes.

I am sure some will say I am inferring their societies are inferior in some way that they don’t know for instance a 1964 Porsche 904GTS is worth a million dollars where a 1964 Toyota is not, but I think that the new entrepreneurs of those two societies are fans of Our Way of Life, just as I am both an Anglophile (enjoy having my cuppa tea at the Royal Automobile Club and Harrods) and a fan of French art, prewar French coach building, Napoleonic era architecture and French clothing in the modern era.

Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo

Incidentally there is fear in some quarters that, if the Chinese come and buy a few Gullwings here, a few Ferrari V12 pre-1970 cars there, in other words cherry pick the best of the litter irregardless of price, they will drive prices up. But I say the waves of newcomers come and go, as once it was the Japanese buying the collectable cars but they no longer are that much of an influence on prices. When their economy tanked, the buyers disappeared.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.


THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, a broadcaster, who has advised major automakers on marketing, is the author of the Beyond Barn Finds…The Baroness and The Mercedes: and 49 other Entertaining True Tales From the World of Rare and Exotic Car Collecting.

Sell your classic car on My Car Quest – click here.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of My Car Quest.

Are The Chinese Coming?
Article Name
Are The Chinese Coming?
Are Chinese car collectors going to change the market dynamics?


  1. Simon Vels says

    I hope so, I think there is only a small part of the Chinese people who can afford these collector cars.
    The Chinese people do not have a car history like us.

    Just my opinion.


  2. The Chinese and the Russians are already here, and have been for quite some time. It’s just in a stealth mode. They’re typically not sitting in the first row of a high-profile Gooding, RM or Bonhams auction. They have experienced agents and consultants buying and selling on their behalf in addition to making privately brokered transactions as they desire to keep such transactions private and under the radar of authorities. These new billionaires have been one of the recent run up in prices over the last three years. Many see investor-grade cars at the top of the collector-car food chain as the perfect place to park a sizable portion of their portfolio.

    I just wish I had that problem.

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