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Car Fund Seeking Bugattis; $1.6 Million Vase in Attic: Art Buzz

Type 57 Bugatti
Filippo Pignatti, fund manager of the Classic Car Fund, stands next to a 1930s Type 57 Bugatti, the sort of classic vehicle that the Liechtenstein-registered fund hopes to buy for investment. Photo: The Classic Car Fund via Bloomberg.

A Swiss-based asset management firm is seeking to profit from rising prices for collectable cars.

The Classic Car Fund aims to make a return of 17 percent a year by buying and selling a variety of investment-grade classics, ranging from prewar Bugattis to postwar Pontiac muscle cars, its manager Filippo Pignatti said.

“We’ve used the model of an art fund,” Pignatti said in an interview. “Everyone knows what a classic car is worth. The skill is to know when to buy them and when to sell them.”

The fund follows IGA Automobile LP, advised by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, which plans to buy sought-after autos. The Hagerty’s Cars That Matter “Blue Chip” Index, measuring prices, rose 67 percent in four years to the end of 2010. Investors are watching to see if the funds can succeed in a market that can be as risky as alternative investments in art, whisky and wine.

The open-ended fund, registered in Liechtenstein, was set up by the Count of Custoza Family Office AG in Zurich and will be quoted next week on the Fondsboerse Deutschland, Pignatti said. He plans to raise 50 million euros in the first year. Investors can participate for as little as 100 euros. The fund has a target capitalization of 350 million euros after five years.

“We’re quoting it on the German fund exchange so that it can be available to Americans,” said Pignatti. The fund will be valued continuously and is open to U.S. investors. The rival IGA fund, which began marketing last month, isn’t open to U.S.-based account holders.

Ming Vase

A Chinese porcelain Ming “moonflask” vase found in a box is estimated to sell for as much as 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) at an auction house in Dorset, England, on May 12.

“An old boy brought in a cardboard box of stuff, and the blue and white vase was just in there,” Guy Schwinge, director of the Dorchester-based auction house Duke’s, said in an interview. “When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe it.”

The vase dates from the Yongle period (1403-1424) and is decorated with Islamic-style motifs. It is in perfect condition and has a low estimate of 500,000 pounds, Schwinge said. The owner is a 79-year-old former worker at Cadbury’s.

The “attic find” follows the sale of a Qing vase, found in a house clearance, for 51.6 million pounds at Bainbridges in Ruislip, west London, on Nov. 11 -- a record for any Chinese work offered at auction. The Beijing-based bidder who bought it was given some time to pay and collect. Bainbridge said on Feb. 3 that payment hadn’t been received, though this wasn’t a concern. He wouldn’t say when the invoice was due.

“It would have been naive to expect immediate payment for a piece of that value,” said the London-based dealer Alastair Gibson, a former Asian-art department head at Sotheby’s.

“Auction houses routinely give extended payment terms for objects of more than $100,000,” Gibson said. “If you’re dealing with Mr. Big in Beijing, it’s difficult to force the issue. They’re happy to allow things to sit in strongboxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re talking about this in two years’ time.”

Singer’s Wine

Singer-songwriter Chris de Burgh is selling part of his wine collection.

De Burgh, whose hits include the 1986 “Lady in Red,” will be offering 320 bottles and 84 magnums from his private cellar at Christie’s International in London on March 24.

The total estimate of 200,000 pounds includes 90,000 pounds for 62 magnums of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in vintages from 1945 to 2005.

Last month, Andrew Lloyd Webber sold a selection from his cellar at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, raising HK$43.3 million ($5.6 million) against a high estimate of HK$32 million.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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