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Ivor Gordon

Making Money
with Vintage Cars

Editors’ Note

Ivor Gordon began working with his stepfather, Frank Dale, in 1959 following a two-year apprenticeship at Bentley’s main agent, Jack Barclay Ltd in London. Now the chairman of Frank Dale & Stepsons, and with more than 50 years of experience in the Rolls-Royce and Bentley markets, Gordon is one of the most well-respected and knowledgeable figures in the industry. These magnificent motorcars not only provide Gordon with his living, but are also his passion. He is a familiar sight to many commuters on London’s roads in his beautiful 1954 Bentley R Type Continental.

Company Profile

Frank Dale & Stepsons (www.frankdale.com) was established in 1946 and is the oldest independent Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist in the world. It has been based in West London during its entire 63-year history and offers some of the finest vintage, classic, and modern Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars in the world. It also has a workshop, restoration facility, and coach-trimming department under one roof, offering enthusiasts and collectors a full range of services for their motorcars. The team at Frank Dale & Stepsons works to create an atmosphere of friendliness, enthusiasm, and professionalism for customers from all over the world who are looking to buy, service, and restore their cars or simply searching for trustworthy advice.

Why should individuals consider investing in vintage motorcars, particularly in the challenging times we are currently experiencing?

As traditional forms of investment such as the stock market and property have suffered, investors have been looking elsewhere, and they have found certain types of Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars to be a more than satisfactory alternative. Having studied the results from the high-profile auctions around the world and looked at the list of cars we have sold in recent times, we have found a consistent theme, which is that the rare, stylish, and exotic cars in good to excellent condition have sold for very handsome prices and continue to do so. I attribute our success partially to this factor, as well as to having such a consistently excellent selection of cars of this nature. So I would describe Frank Dale & Stepsons as a niche provider. We certainly sell things that people don’t need. However, the mass production and subsequent devaluation of the modern Bentleys have not affected us, as we have opted out of this area of the market.


A 1954 Bentley R Type Continental Fastback

As a niche provider, what is your primary focus?

We specialize in only the finest and most exotic prewar Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, the Bentley Continentals and coach-built Rolls-Royces produced between 1952 and 1966, and the modern classics in the making, such as the Corniche convertible and the Bentley Continental R. My policy is to stock only cars that are at worst holding their value in the marketplace, while many of the models we provide are continuing to appreciate. Certainly the older cars built before 1966 have proved to be the ones that have appreciated the most quickly. In time, some of the cars built in the 1980s and 1990s may prove to follow in their older cousins’ footsteps.

Do you foresee particular models continuing to appreciate in value in the future?

Yes. I see no reason why certain models should not continue to rise steadily in price. Some of the stylish prewar Rolls-Royces are still undervalued when compared to the Bentleys built in the same era. We recently sold a magnificent 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I with coachwork by Brewster. Had it been a Bentley, it would certainly have achieved a far greater price. The Bentleys, when compared to some of their Ferrari counterparts built in the 1950s and 1960s, look like an exceedingly good value. I have owned a 1954 Bentley R Type Continental since the early 1970s, which I use on a regular basis. It has appreciated very well, especially over the past five or six years, and I believe it will continue to do so. The demand for these cars still significantly outweighs the supply, so it is only natural that these cars have increased in value. Not only are they beautiful pieces of rolling art, but they are very usable too. I have a number of customers who live in West London who have a 1950s Bentley Continental as their everyday mode of transportation.

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A 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom

What advice would you offer a potential investor in a Rolls-Royce or Bentley?

I would always advise a potential buyer to try to find a fully prepared and restored car when possible. The price of restoration has increased a great deal in the past decade, so having these cars in top condition comes with a price. If you can find one already completed, you can benefit from somebody else’s expenditure.

I would also say that two-door cars are generally more valuable than their sedan or saloon counterparts. The models I would gravitate toward with investment in mind would be the Bentley Continentals built between 1952 and 1966, along with some of their Rolls-Royce counterparts. They were produced in very limited numbers, have exceptionally attractive coachwork designs, and are also very practical motorcars to use. Some of the prewar cars, such as the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts, Phantom Is, and Phantom II Continentals, along with certain Derby Bentleys, should also be considered. However, they are not as practical to use as the cars built in the 1950s and 1960s.

How has Frank Dale & Stepsons differentiated itself in this space?

We have been in business since 1946, longer than any other independent Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist in the world, which I think counts for a great deal. I believe people, when given the choice, would rather deal with a company with an established track record and a sound reputation. I am very proud of my company’s reputation, which stands high among both our customers and our competitors. The cars we sell may not necessarily be the cheapest on the market, but we pride ourselves on providing quality and on our attention to detail. Our premises in West London house not only a large showroom, but also workshops, a trimming shop, and a restoration facility, so any alterations or improvements can be carried out here in-house to our customers’ satisfaction. We also stand behind any car we sell and are there to assist should our customers have any problems, however unlikely.

Given the current economic environment, are you satisfied with the way Frank Dale & Stepsons has performed in the marketplace during the past 12 months?

Yes, very much so. It actually has been our best year to date. Obviously, 2008 was a difficult year for many industries around the world, and the motor trade has not been without its problems and casualties. But our long list of new customers coupled with our existing client base have resulted in a very productive and successful year.

How do you intend to continue the success of Frank Dale & Stepsons in the future?

Providing peace of mind to my customers is important to me. We try to provide a knowledgeable and friendly atmosphere and welcome not only collectors, but also people who just wish to look at the cars and share their enthusiasm with us. I have an excellent team of dedicated staff, from my drivers, to those in the workshop, to my Codirector James Crickmay and his son Giles, who assist me in the day-to-day running of the business. I am happy to think that the company will continue to grow for decades to come and that the name Frank Dale & Stepsons will remain synonymous with the very best Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars.