The Key 2021, The Top of the Classic Car World

Antonio Ghini, editor



“Today we all know and have to accept that the big ecology and mobility trends are bringing fundamental changes faster and faster and that the car industry is currently reinventing itself. In times like these, we experience disruptions and it is no wonder that some people are afraid of the future. But let us not forget that every medal has 2 sides—risks and opportunities. We are optimistic that a positive future exists. We just need to see and develop it.”

The Key is about as unusual a yearbook as you’ll find, brimming with content that is original—both in the sense of ideas that are original (as in: not derivative) but also proprietary market and trend analysis generated or compiled by the publisher that has attained such a reputation that then other entities (cf. news outlets, insurers) draw on it as source material.

At the core The Key is . . . data, because data is the key, the key to parsing the world rationally. Not that “rationally” is the main or only thing in a life well lived, but for a life well reflected, data does supply or should supply a common denominator. The Key contains a whole lot more than data but it is the proprietary data mined by the publisher’s Market Intelligence Service (with additional support from other sources) that sets it uniquely apart. Published by The Classic Car Trust in Liechtenstein this edition is the fourth, and the key reason we are finally reviewing one is that the 2021 edition shines its analytical light on the Year of the Lord 2020, the Annus Horribilis Extremis, the Great Pandemic that upended everything we once knew.

The TCCT has actually been on our radar pretty much since its inception in 2013 because in 2014 it assumed the main sponsorship of the Mille Miglia, about which a book was published in 2015. We reviewed it, and were critical that the book was not straightforward about the TCCT’s role, variously referred to as editor or publisher but mostly not at all. Moreover, Trust founder and chairman Fritz Kaiser had fielded several cars, which were shown an awful lot (certainly out of proportion to the more than 400 other teams that participated) but again without disclosing the who and why.

Be that as it may, since then the TCCT has carved out a very specific place for itself as a provider of a full range of services for classic car collectors, “from ownership and succession planning to management, operation and administration of your collection” and as “an international point of contact for legal, financial, tax and administrative matters relating to your collection; a gateway to the best service providers in the classic car market—restorers, insurers, auction houses, dealers, historians, appraisers, event promoters.” If the TCCT isn’t hosting symposia or the like on these matters, its people are keynote speakers at many marquee events in the collector car world, more specifically, to quote the subtitle, “The Top of the Classic Car World.” If all this seems rather far removed from the lives of “ordinary car people” allow yourself to be surprised by being shown what all is stirring in the mind of those people whose activities really do move the classic car world forward. And if you already are in that tier of movers and shakers, The Key is not something to ignore.

Data . . . Resistance is futile.

Even outside of the context of the foregoing, merely looked at as a stand-alone book in a contextless vacuum, The Key is a mighty impressive thought exercise. The writing, the caliber of the contributors, layout and design, the aforementioned analytics, and the fact that it has maintained a level of relevance for four consecutive editions are stout accomplishments. It is eminently readable, attractive to the eye (but damn those tiny page numbers, reversed-out white in grey boxes!), and plenty of food for thought. The editorial reins are held by Antonio Ghini, a name anyone in the Ferrari world would recognize as the firm’s PR chief for 15 years who then founded The Official Ferrari Magazine. What’s not to like?

The 2021 yearbook is further distinguished by in-depth coverage of a new TCCT program called eClassic Club, much too complex to do justice here. Its core is totally hands-on practical—real cars are joined by exquisitely crafted, customizable simulators by Zagato and Pininfarina (below)—but also abstract because it is without precedent inasmuch as these are not arcade-style or video games but add a fundamentally new dimension to interacting with cars both individually and communally.

These simulators are not toys. The first one (of nine launch models) sold at auction for almost $200,000 and now that the market has pegged a price, their retail price will be around $150,000.

Nine authors circle around 16 topics, from the immediately graspable such as the important Evert Louwman collection or a brief history of select racing teams to the headache-inducing “Tokenizing Classic Cars” in the form of NFTs. (Incidentally, TCCT is registered in Liechtenstein, one of the few places that has legal protections for digital assets.) A lengthy essay on a century of cars vis-a-vis architecture, art, fashion, and music (below) is straightforward only until you realize that your own choices and connections might be wildly different—but that sort of intellectual stimulation is just what makes The Key original. 

Note the QR code on the right page; scan it and you’ll hear the music that fits that moment in time.

The data sets: will today’s young people want classic cars? how did collector car auctions do? do auto museums make sense? what are collectors’ age ranges in different parts of the world? This may be the smallest component of the book but is the most precious because you cannot get that data elsewhere. As to the Top 100 Collectors (TCCT chairman Kaiser is among them), well, you’ll want to fully internalize the methodology first, not only to accept the rankings but to embrace WHY this way of parsing the collector car world even makes sense. 

The Key 2021, The Top of the Classic Car World
Antonio Ghini, editor
The Classic Car Trust, 2021
276 pages, illustrations, softcover
List Price: €80
ISBN: none 
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