We sat down with Max for a virtual Espresso and a chat about Group B cars. Max has bought, sold, owned and driven a lot of these amazing machines so who better to listen to as he both waxes lyrical and shares his valuable insight into the all-too-brief Group B era.
Max, anyone who follows you will know that Group B cars are one of your many favourite types of motor car. What is it about them?
I have a passion for rally cars. I do love the fact that these are full-blown competition cars, built by big manufacturers like Lancia or Audi, competing in the World Rally Championship and that they're road legal and can be registered and driven on the road. You can actually take a full works Audi Group B car, fire it up at home and take it for a drive on the public roads, you know? It gives it perhaps that other dimension of use which I find fascinating and I just love the actual cars – they're so iconic. More people watched Group B rallying than Formula One in the 80's.
Likewise, many of us have seen you collecting a Christmas tree in your 037. Does this make it your personal favourite? If so, why and if not, can you name your favourite Group B machine or is that a bit like asking you to name your favourite child?
I don't think it's possible to choose a favourite! They're all different and they all have their own character. They're all great for different reasons but I have to admit my favourite is the 037. Not because of performance but more from an emotional perspective than for the actual car.
It was one of the first Group B rally cars that we bought and I bought it with my Dad, and I have such memories of going to see it and buy it together and there are so, so many memories of that particular car. I do have a longing to buy a Lancia Delta S4 so that's the next favourite – your next car is always your favourite! But the 037 does have a special place in my heart because of that emotional connection to it.
How many of these iconic cars do you think you've sold over the years? And do any sales stand out?
How many have I sold over the years? A lot! But also not enough as it's not easy to find the really good ones, or to persuade the owners of the best cars to sell them.
The most memorable? Difficult to say but one memorable one was quite recently we sold an S1 E2 Audi Quattro and I guess it's memorable because it took a long time to find a good car as there are so few and the day after we sold it, a client who I'd mentioned the car to called to say he wanted it!
I told him it was sold. He was disappointed as he wanted it so much and, as we'd spent so long on the project, doing so much research, we knew where every car was so in the space of, I guess 30 days, we'd gone from never selling one before to selling two!
We also enjoy the research behind the cars and tracking them down and where they go after their rallying life finished because when you have a rally car, it lives a hard life. When you have a Formula One car and it's crashed, it goes into the gravel trap. When a rally car has an 'off', it's often somewhere surrounded by trees and it can be quite badly damaged if you have a moment.
Why are values so strong? And do you think they're set to continue rising?
I think that Group B was the golden era of rallying and there are a lot of people now who will remember rallying from when they were younger, the cars were so fast and now they can buy a car they can remember seeing Toivonen driving. I also think that for a very long time, the care were actually undervalued. Formula One is always the 'top end', glamorous and glitzy side of motorsport, you know – with the stars and the rich and famous. Rallying has always been very much grass roots – you go to Monte Carlo for the rally and you've got to climb into the mountains on foot for 5 miles, to watch the cars go by in the middle of winter so it's not exactly glamorous and it never has been but looking back, lots of people dreamed about the cars and wanted one.
Are they going to continue to appreciate? On one hand I hope so as they deserve to but on the other, the more they appreciate, the less chance there is for me to buy another one for myself! I don't see any reason why they won't and I don't have a crystal ball but as I always say to people, don't buy a car because you think it'll appreciate, buy it because you love it and it'll appreciate because you'll never sell it.
Best event you've taken part in using a Group B car?
I've been to so many amazing events, and I love Goodwood as they've done so many great events there; one of the best recently was the Speed Week at the end of last year. It was fantastic just to get the car out in front of so many people – admittedly it was a Group 4 Stratos we took but it was still fantastic.
One of the events which I think showed me what Group B must have been like is called the Rally Legends in San Marino – just because of the amount of spectators that were there and you go through the stages and the people and atmosphere showed what it must have been like back in the day, everyone cheering and urging the cars to go sideways – plus it was Italy and just the most amazing atmosphere. It was pretty special.
Bucket list Group B car, if you haven't already owned, sold or spent time with it already?
I'm very, very lucky – I don't want to say I've spent time with all of them but almost. I'm lucky that I own one already and if there's one that I'd like to own, then it would the Delta S4 and there's one particular car which a client of ours owns – it's the Monte Carlo Rally winning car which won with Toivonen and that's a car which I'd love to own; I probably never will but that's the one.
What tips would you give anyone considering acquiring a Group B machine (beyond working with your team of course)?
With any car, always buy the best you can afford. I know it's easy to say when it's not my money but whatever car you're buying, try to stretch to buy the best you can as it will pay you back.
I also think that the Group B cars aren't as scary as one might think and probably the most important things is history – really do your homework. As I said earlier, rally cars led a tough life so make sure you find out what it did after it ran in the Group B era – who used it, where did it go?
We'd like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Max for sharing both his passion and industry expertise with us once again. Stay tuned for more industry views and discussion and in the meantime have a look at the Audi Quattro he mentions here.