Jaguar Classic Cars: Just Like Herding Cats

Rather British: The Düsseldorf warehouse of this former businessman boasts one of the best Jaguar collections in existence.

Dieter Zens sammelt nicht nur Jaguars, er fährt sie auch: Der 79-Jährige nimmt an zehn bis zwölf Oldtimer-Rallyes pro Jahr teil. (Foto: DEKRA)

Dieter Zens joins ten to twelve classic car rallies a year. (photo: DEKRA)

An old industrial warehouse in Düsseldorf- Heerdt sets the scene. The roller doors open to reveal a lifting platform, replacement parts, some young workmen assembling windows, and a second roller door. It’s this second door that we’ve come for. Never in your wildest dreams would you imagine to find treasure in this dreariness, let alone the crown jewels of British car-building.

“I’m not running a museum; I don’t need cars that are just going to stand around gathering dust,” explains Dieter Zens. “For me, the fun is in driving these cars.” All his classics are roadworthy – and need to be, considering what Zens puts them through. Each year, the 79 year old takes part in between ten and twelve classic rallies. His treasures – even those built before the war – “need to be Silvretta-ready”. In other words, they need to be capable of surviving the Silvretta High Alpine Road in Montafon. This car-killer takes in over 1,000 meters of elevation gain and 33 corners between Partenen and Bieler Höhe. Ideally, the temperature of the engine coolant shouldn’t exceed 85 degrees. All of Zens’ oldies have naturally been fitted with additional fans to ensure this. After all, his cars need to be able to drive over long distances, not just at high altitudes. Zens has been known to drive to rallies in his own cars, conquering in unfathomable distances in the process. One Jaguar E Type has been to India, driven 2,500 kilometers around China, as well as 8,000 kilometers through Russia.

The inside counts attracted him

So what attracted this businessman from the Rhineland to English cars? Well, it’s not just the looks that enthrall him. The inside counts just as much, if not more. Gesturing to the leather and wood trim, Zens asserts: “It’s a world apart from anything else.” Of course, the power of the long stroke engine under the bonnet is another reason that this is one of Zens’ favorites. “The power is neverending.” The performance of most of his engines has been enhanced, such as the 300 BHP monster in the E Type. Sometimes, the power output is verging on too much even for Zens. For example, the 6.8 liter Arden engine in the XJ 12 C generates 400 BHP. In the wet, this Jaguar is especially “hard to drive,” as the torque develops explosively. Zens – who has just handed his ball-bearing business down to his sons – also invests in the safety of his oldtimers. “I spend money to make sure I’m able to drive the cars myself.” That explains why his E Type now owns a four-piston brake system. His 2.5 liter SS Jaguar Salon from 1936 has also seen some modifications carried out on its brakes. Zens reasons: “It was hard to set the braking balance between left and right when using the standard brake system.” Zens has by far the greatest Jaguar collection in Germany, but he is not averse to other manufacturers either.

Oldtimer: die Jaguar-Sammlung von Dieter Zens

British Design: Sedans, cabrios and sports cars from 1932 to 1978 (photo: DEKRA)

The warehouse also holds a Rolls-Royce Corniche Cabrio from 1978, however, its ride comfort makes it his “least favorite car to drive”. The Rolls-Royce Pininfarina Coupé has a different setup with firmer suspension, dampers and stabilizers. This makes it a far more elegant drive – especially when changing lanes on the freeway. In comparison, the 1963 Bentley S3 drives “like a sports car.” He bought it from a Russian that needed money quickly. Zens acquired most of his collection at auction. The former businessman gives a wry smile as he explains “that way I always buy below market value.”

How to buy your own classic motor

Anyone toying with the idea of buying their own classic needs to ask themselves one key question, albeit one with a multitude of possible answers: What do I want? Is it an oldtimer, a so-called youngtimer, or a pre-war classic? Should it be German, Italian, English, or something a little more exotic? The choice is massive. Beginners can learn lots from the buyers guides that regularly feature in popular classic car magazines, which can be found at most newsstands. Many also have digital versions available online.

It’s a matter of personal preference, whether you buy the object of your desires from a private person or a dealer. Sadly, it’s often only with hindsight that you realize you’ve been ripped off. There are black sheep everywhere. Renowned classic car dealers are keen to maintain their good reputation, so the risk is generally lower for the buyer. As can be expected, this reduced risk does lead to somewhat higher prices. Another good resource for prospective owners is – an international marketplace for the buying and selling of classic vehicles. We recommend that prospective buyers bring a qualified expert to any vehicle viewing – you can be sure that they won’t be wearing rose colored spectacles, and will be able to check your enthusiasm. At the viewing, it is essential to take the car for an extensive test drive, thoroughly check all documents, and inspect the mechanics, electrics and the underbody. Single-brand car clubs will assist you in finding such an expert. DEKRA too has considerable experience in this area. We offer a general inspection that contains a series of expert assessments of the aspects most important in buying and keeping classic cars. The results can be used in their valuation or acquiring classic car status for your motor. DEKRA Classic Services offers dedicated oldtimer experts throughout Germany and are also on hand to advise prospective buyers.

Oldtimer: Die Jaguar-Sammlung von Dieter Zens

Also in the collection: a replica of the legendary C Type that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1951 (photo: DEKRA)

As long as you aren’t looking for anything extremely rare or exotic, searching leading online used vehicle marketplaces will give you a ballpark figure of what you can expect to pay for the car of your dreams. You are even able to define the build year in your search. If you’ve been involved in the classic car scene for a while, you’ll be aware that prices are constantly increasing. The enduring popularity of classic cars is also demonstrated by the “Oldtimer Index”, which is published annually by the German Automotive Industry Association (VDA).

The most expensive classic changed hands for almost 38 million dollars

In 2015, the German classic car market grew by 5.6 percent. This also happens to equate almost exactly to the annual market growth rate since the index began in 1999. As is always the case, there are some extreme examples – in 2015, the most expensive classic yet changed hands for more than 18 million dollars – an unrestored, somewhat dilapidated Ferrari 250 GT California Spider from 1961, sold by Paris’ Artcurial auction house. This record was promptly beaten in February 2016 and once again, a Ferrari was the culprit. It was even at the same auctioneers – at the Parisian classic car fair Rétromobile, an American collector bought a Ferrari 355 Sport Scaglietti from 1957 for an eye watering 37.8 million dollars at auction. The open-topped racing car was driven by the most renowned racing drivers of the time – household names such as Maurice Trintignant, Mike Hawthorn, Graf Berghe von Trips and Stirling Moss. They would have driven this V12 racing car at legendary events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.


Bildschirmfoto 2016-06-14 um 14.34.15

Top Ten Auction – 2015's most expensive classics

Top Ten Auction – 2015’s most expensive classics

It is precisely this back story that led to the recordbreaking price, and hints at a common theme in auction houses – the highest prices are paid for high-powered sportscars produced in limited numbers with successful racing histories, as well as full documentation. However, such spectacular seven and eight digit sums are the exception rather than the rule. According to the VDA’s Oldtimer Index, the average value of a classic car is around 15,000 euros. The excitement of owning a historical vehicleis of course often worth far more than its monetary value.

A budget of around 15,000 euros affords you a lot of choice. Depending on your precise budget and your personal preferences, you could choose from such classics as an Alfa Bertone, a BMW 02, Citroen DS, Fiat Spider, Ford Mustang, Mercedes S Class, Opel Commodore, Triumph TR6 or a VW Bus. In addition to this wide choice, there’s another advantage for buyers with pockets of “normal” depth – the biggest risk to the buyer is that they accidentally buy a poorly restored impostor, something that DEKRA Classic Services can help prevent. Well maintained classics that are true to their original specification can be regarded as having “built in” appreciation.

Watch out for the fakes

Sturdy and believable forgeries are few and far between in this price segment. It’s only in higher price segments that the risk becomes greater – fraudsters favor supposed racing cars with falsified histories, limited special editions and pre-war cars such as the legendary Mercedes SSK. There are far more of these howling, compression engine driven Swabian monstrosities than were ever officially built, the same goes for its British counterpart, the Bentley Blower.

Forgers exploit the high demand for rare classics, building solid fakes using replacement and reproduced parts. These cars are then sold as originals for unbelievable sums of money. To avoid falling into the traps of these crooks, the only solution is to call in a recognized expert. If required, DEKRA can help in sourcing brand specialists that boast the requisite expertise.

The following generally applies to buying classics, both young and old: Don’t let yourself be blinded – keep a cool head, seek advice and act rationally rather than emotionally. Time should also be taken in selecting the best insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer special plans for old and modern classics. Like-minded people from single-brand car clubs can also assist in comparing different policies. Once all of this has been taken care of, there is nothing more to stand between you and a nice long Sunday drive in your new pride and joy.

More information: DEKRA Classic Services

Read more: How to play it safe with your classic car

Related articles
Magazine Topics
- DEKRA Solutions - Magazine