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How much more is a car worth if it had a famous owner? New study sheds light

Paul Walker’s cars have appreciated by 331 percent on average, versus what they would have been worth without a famous owner.

Paul Walker’s cars have appreciated by 331 percent on average, versus what they would have been worth without a famous owner.

Published May 9, 2022

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London: It’s fairly obvious that a car which once had a famous owner is generally going to be worth more than the equivalent car that didn’t. But just how much of a difference can it make to the asking price?

Curious to find an answer to this question, International classic car authority Hagerty did some research and crunched the numbers. The company searched its databases for celebrity owned cars that had been offered for sale.

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The result was a list of over 260 vehicles, including cars owned by everyone from Adolf Hitler to Kris Jenner, and starring in movies from Herbie to Le Mans.

Hagerty’s researchers compared the sold price (or estimated sale price) with the values for a standard car at that time. When faced with a unique car such as the Popemobile or a Batmobile, Hagerty valued a non-movie equivalent of the vehicle it was based on.

The end result was a list of famous people and films and the difference or “delta” between the value of their cars and a normal one. The Hagerty Power List comprises of six categories: Movies, Movie Stars, Musicians, Racing Drivers, Royalty, and Notable & Notorious.

Movie Stars

Paul Newman is at the top of the list thanks to a single sale: a 2002 Chevrolet Corvette sold in 2012 for $275 000 (R4.45 million) against a Hagerty value of $38 000 (R615 000).

Paul Newman’s Chevrolet Corvette.

Paul Walker comes in fast and furious with 20 of his cars, bikes and trucks hitting the auctions in the last two years alone, with an average “celebrity appreciation” of 331 percent. Topping that list was his 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight (E36), which sold for £295 495 (R5.9m), up 1096 percent on what its value would have otherwise been.

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Next up were Patrick Dempsey (up to 273 percent), Steve McQueen (up to 1105 percent) and Don Johnson (148 percent).

Cars that starred in movies

It is no surprise that Bullitt topped this list. The 1968 Highland Green Ford Mustang that Mecum sold in January 2020 for $3.74 million (R60.5 million) had absolutely everything going for it. The difference between this value and Hagerty’s “standard” price of £17 838 (R356 000) made a massive delta of nearly 16 000 percent.

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Other front runners were the 1978 Pontiac Firebird from Smokey and the Bandit (up 1544 percent), the Wayne’s World AMC Pacer (1053 percent) and the Herbie VW Beetle (619 percent).

Musicians

The top of the list is a pretty gruesome place, with the cars in which The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were shot dead holding the first two places.

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20 years after his death the Chevrolet Suburban in which B.I.G. was killed sold for $1.5 million (R24.2m), a mark-up of 18 650 percent. The BMW 750iL in which Tupac was shot was listed at $1.75 million (R28.3m) in 2019, a mark-up of 8233 percent.

Elvis Presley follows in a distant third, with his 1975 Caddilac Fleetwood showing an increase of 518 percent over its market value. In fourth place, Keith Richards’ cars have racked up sales averaging 205 per cent more than they would have without the Rolling Stones’ ownership.

Drivers

Carroll Shelby was always going to be a strong contender in this race, but John Surtees unexpectedly pulled out a second-place finish. Stirling Moss owned the most cars tracked in the category with six, and last in the top ten was legendary racer Mario Andretti, whose 1991 Lamborghini Diablo came nowhere near expectations at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2020, selling for just $68 200 (R1 104 000).

Among the more modern drivers, Sir Lewis Hamilton is fifth on the list, with his 2014 Pagani Zonda having enjoyed a 39 percent price hike, when it sold for £8.5 million (R170m). Jenson Button is ahead of him in fourth place, with his cars having enjoyed price increases of 85 percent on average.

Royalty

Princess Diana is still a royal icon even a quarter of a century after her death, but it was the unexceptional nature of two of the cars tracked – a 1981 Ford Escort Ghia and a 1994 Audi 80 cabriolet – that really pushed her up the ranking.

The Audi proved to be 2473 percent more valuable than its ordinary equivalent, while the Ford jumped by 527 percent.

Her Majesty the Queen is down the list, meaning the added “value” of the Queen’s link isn’t quite so high as Lady Di.

Notable & Notorious

Interestingly, two cars tracked that were associated with Hitler failed to sell at auction, with the only purchases known of taking place behind the scenes. The highlight was a 1964 Lincoln Continental limousine that not only housed a Pope on his visit to Chicago, but also took four Apollo crews through their “welcome home” ticker-tape parades.

Click here to read the full study on the Hagerty website.

John Mayhead, UK Hagerty Price Guide Editor, said: “Hagerty knows that the provenance of a car is all important, but the team wondered just which celebrities and movies were really influential when it comes to car values. In typical Hagerty style, we crunched the numbers, with some fascinating results. We’re already working on the 2023 Power List.”

IOL Motoring

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