Nick Mason aims to make 15% from car fund

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Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is helping an investment group that aims to buy $150 million worth of classic cars and make annual returns of 15 per cent.

Mason is an auto enthusiast who has competed five times in the Le Mans 24 Hours race. He is on the advisory board of IGA Automobile LP, which plans to buy the finest models by top marques of the type he collects. Mason’s garage houses cars by Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Jaguar, Ferrari, such as a 250 GTO, and Porsches including the 962.

“This is the first classic-car fund that’s purely for financial returns, rather than passion,” said Nick Lancaster, a director of the Guernsey-registered fund that began canvassing investors on January 2. “We’re looking for a straightforward in- and-out return on our assets.”

Exceptional sports cars are fetching record prices, encouraging wealthy individuals to buy or sell physical objects while they assess the performance of financial markets, said dealers. Still, some are watching to see if a car fund can avoid the pitfalls of other investment groups such as those that invest in art, wine and whisky, not all of which have succeeded.

The Hagerty’s Cars That Matter “Blue Chip” Index, based on the values of the 25 most collectable postwar vehicles, has increased 67 per cent from September 2006 to the end of 2010, according to the index’s compiler, auto appraiser David Kinney of Great Falls, Virginia. Over the same period, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 5.9 per cent.

Selective buyers

IGA enters the market at a time when buyers of collectors’ vehicles have become more selective. The Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI) Top 50 index of exceptional classic- car prices was up 6.6 per cent in 2010, lower than its average annual growth of more than 12 per cent from 2003 to 2008.

“This is an indicator that the market for rare cars has cooled off somewhat after a decade of sustained growth,” Dietrich Hatlapa, founder and managing director of the London- based research company said in an e-mail.

The IGA fund, chaired by the UK-based classic car collector and racer Ray Bellm, will be a closed-end partnership planned for seven years from the first closing date, set for March or April.

Investors will be asked for a minimum commitment of $500,000, Lancaster, a former chief executive of the auto dealers H R Owen Plc, said in an interview.

During a three-year investment period, the fund will aim to acquire a collection of between 20 and 40 trophy marque vehicles with distinguished race or ownership histories.

McLaren, Ferrari

The Ferrari 250 GTO, Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, Ford GT40, McLaren F1, Shelby Daytona Coupe and Porsche 917 are among the models identified in IGA’s promotional brochure as potential “acquisition targets”.

Last year, a Ferrari GTO — one of only 36 produced — sold privately for $26 million, double the 1960s Le Mans racer’s price in 2005, IGA said.

“We feel confident about this subsection because of its rarity value,” Lancaster said. “We’re looking for iconic cars with low series production that have been prepared for competition. These are in private collections and rarely come up for sale.”