Hexagon Classics Is An Automotive Museum Of Modern Art
Photography by Nat Twiss
As a part of the new Petrolicious Marketplace, we’ll be interviewing sellers, dealers, and collectors to give the audience an inside look at some of the key figures in classic car sales and introduce you to the people behind cars you’ll see listed on Petrolicious. We’ll also be discussing the classic car market, potential investments, and getting their take on current trends.
We spoke with Paul Michaels, founder of the UK based Hexagon Classics, who started the business in 1963 but was born into the car universe. Hexagon has grown into two locations, a classics center in South Kensington and modern classics located in London with unique plans to grow the facility into a lifestyle destination.
What was your first car? Talk us through your evolution as a car guy.
My first word was car. Ironically, my father was in the motor trade, but not from want, it was simply so he could earn a living. It’s a bit like a disease, you catch it and that’s the end of you.
I had something called a Berkley, which was a 3-wheeler and in England you could have a 3-wheel car considered to be a motorcycle as long as it didn’t have a reverse gear.
Talk us through the beginnings of Hexagon.
We opened in September of 1963. It was simple really, my father was quite clever and realized he couldn’t control me so he let me rent and a garage and the rest is history.
I started by talking a couple of the best local Jaguar mechanics in London to come and join me and we began servicing Jaguars and eventually realized servicing cars was not the most profitable thing in the world so we started selling a few second hand Jaguar. By that time E-Types had arrived on the scene so we specialized in that.
How has Hexagon proved to be different over the last 40 years?
Although important, profitability has never been the main driving force. What I wanted to try and create was a gallery atmosphere where people could come and visually enjoy the cars whether they can afford them or not.
What do you think is the next car to go?
It’s all about numbers. If you want a hint, I think manual cars. When automatics became the rule of the day, I’m guessing here but, you can probably assume 70-80% of those cars are either automatic or SMG. So there’s a tiny number of manual cars, and as time goes by and people want to change gear on the weekend. I think this is particularly the case for the Porsche and Ferrari lines, where you’ll be seeing stick shift cars leading the way.
For newer cars, we’re looking at 997 Porsche 911s. We thought we’d be able to cut off at air cooled, but they’ve become so valuable and suddenly people are hanging on to them. However, 997s have come alive in the last year because they are so much smaller than the 991s and more pure.
Seems like the line of collectability is always moving.
Correct, the same way a normally aspirated 911 will also become valuable in future because they’ve all moved to turbos. However, there is a big problem with that because the technology on these cars is so enormous. Only the factory outlets will be able to service these cars and I do see that as a problem for future generations, whereas the cars up to about the year 2000 are nowhere near as technically and a normal human being, what you and I might be able to call a mechanic – rather than a technician, will be able to maintain them.
For younger enthusiasts trying to get into a classic, what’s your recommendation?
Well, Alfas are a very cheap way into a Ferrari (chuckles).
I think Alfas are the most undervalued cars in the marketplace. You can buy a pretty good open Alfa for between 10-20,000 pounds and in another 10 years that could be quite a valuable car. It’s a good place to be at the lower end of the market.
The numbers weren’t ginormous either. If you think of something like a 1750 Spyder, there aren’t many of them so I think if you’re looking on a budget; twin cam engine, 5-speed gearbox, disc brakes – all the boxes are ticked and much rarer compared to something like an MGB.
Seller’s remorse on anything over the years?
One always regrets selling certain cars, but you cant look back. Knowing what I know now, it would have been easy to put together a great collection for hardly a fortune. But when you’re in this business it’s very thirsty of money, so you have to keep buying and selling to keep it going.
The other thing it’s very thirsty of is space. Compared to watches, 40 watches won’t even take up a quarter of a safe, but if you’re talking cars that’s an awful lot of space.
What’s in your current personal collection collection?
The cars of I’ve kept I’ve been very lucky with – Aston Zagato, DB4GT – one of four lightweights raced by Sterling Moss, Ferrari California Spyder, Ferrari SWB, and the most recent of which is an Aston Martin DB4 Series 5 Vantage Convertible which they only made 5 of.
What cars have stood out to you the most at Hexagon over the years?
It sounds silly but I don’t really have favorites other than they had to be what I call “ooh-ah” cars when they were new. It can’t be something where your mouth didn’t drop when you first saw it and I think that’s the way these cars gain their momentum as something of desirability.
I had an F1 Ferrari I bought directly from Enzo Ferrari in 1970 which I kept for about 7 years. Then I got divorced and the car had to go so I could pay the bills (chuckles).
At the same time I had Maserati 250F, which was one of only two V12s.
What’s next for you guys?
For me, it’s no longer about money. It’s simply about enjoying what cars can do and what other people can do with them.
We’re currently renovating out our current premises. As you walk in, there’s going to be a coffee and wine bar called Refuel Cafe and the idea is to have cars and coffee mornings so people can chat together about their loved ones.
We’re also opening two restaurants as well, one featuring a 2-star Michelin chef with shared plate menu.
There’s also my wife’s shop which is modern ceramics, ‘arty lead’, as she’s very fanatical on that sort of thing.
The whole place will continue to have a real gallery feel.