Hexagon Modern Classics
Hexagon Modern Classics owner Paul Michaels is a car enthusiast with ideals as purist as the models he trades. Porsche 911s? He focuses on air-cooled where he can.
Condition and provenance? The best he can find. Not the best he can afford: if paying extra for the right car is the only way to source it, then that’s what he does, because condition really is all that matters here.
“Our difference is the effort we put in to finding the absolute best. These aren’t the cheapest Porsches in the marketplace, but they should be some of the finest.”
Paul is particularly eager to track down the real rarities: limited-series cars or ones that were built in meagre numbers. “They’re not making any more of them: their values and desirability can only go one way.”
In a strange way, although the prices Paul charges guarantees the cars will be immaculate, condition is perhaps less important here than it is at the lower end. “The cheaper it is, the more important it is to find the best,” he explains.
“You can’t spend more to make a poor car as nice as a good one – spending £4,000 on a £9,000 car won’t make it as appealing as a well-sourced £13,000 one.” Paul’s stock, naturally, will be the well-sourced end.
But when it comes to buying them, it’s sometimes easier said than done. “We sometimes find that the nicest cars are the hardest to buy: owners take a lot of convincing to part with them.
They don’t necessarily need to sell them in order to buy their next car, as they are generally people who are already very well off.” Luckily, they’re business people too, so will respond to a tempting business transaction, but this is still far from distress selling. See it more like antique dealing – requiring patience, intelligence and peerless contacts.
Paul certainly has the contacts. He’s been in the trade since 1963, and Hexagon Modern Classic business partner Jonathan Franklin has been in the business for more than a decade.
“Paul’s a great guy,” says Jonathan, away from earshot. “He’s a genuine enthusiast, he loves the cars he trades – and you should see his own collection.” There’s talk of a 60-car compound full of exotica somewhere in London.
“He has some amazing contacts. I don’t think there’s a rare 911 of great provenance that Paul doesn’t already know about. Besides, he’s sold many of them – several times over for some,” Paul later agrees. “I’ve been in the trade all my life. I know enough people to ‘tip me the wink’ on the cars I should be looking at.”
The Hexagon brand has been selling new and used cars for almost 50 years now. For years, Hexagon was a BMW main dealer, but it was also an official Porsche main dealer back in the 1970s.
Today, Paul has focused Hexagon on two specialist areas: Hexagon Classics, based in South Kensington, and the more recent Hexagon Modern Classics, located in North London.
“It works quite simply,” explains Paul. “Classics is for the really high-end cars, the six- and seven-figure machines. Modern Classics is – and this is a general rule of thumb – for newer cars generally costing less than £100,000.
It’s not a firm rule, but it helps guide both businesses. It’s the Modern Classics division that Paul is focusing on air-cooled 911s – again, this isn’t written in stone, but it’s generally where the emphasis lies.
This is partly down to the marketplace for 911s, explains Paul. “There are more low-mileage Ferraris than Porsches, for example – because people have always bought Porsches as a workhorse. A Ferrari? It’s almost guaranteed not to be a first car, so almost every one you see for sale is a low-mileage example for its year.
“Porsches, in contrast, have generally all worked hard. Six-figure mileages are not uncommon. The new ones in particular are so bulletproof and reliable that people almost without thinking start using them daily, clocking up the mileage.
This is why the Porsche marketplace really values two things: air cooled and low mileage. That’s where the really valuable and collectable Porsches are.”
The showroom stock reflects this, containing, among other things, a 1-of-50 930 Turbo LE for £120,000; a 1989 Speedster in right-hand drive with just 9,000 miles on the clock, also for £120,000, and an amazing no-expense-spared 964 3.8 RS recreation for £199,995. The £90,000 993 Turbo is also impressive, and there’s plenty more besides.
But for all his love of air-cooled 911s, Paul also can’t resist a genuine enthusiast bargain. He has a 996 Turbo in, for example, that’s up at £30,000. Why did he break his own rule of thumb? “Because the 996, and the Turbo in particular, is an absolute bargain right now.
“People listen to the man in the pub – ‘you don’t want to buy one of these, they’re weak and unreliable’, they say. Nonsense. They may cost a bit more to run than an air-cooled car, but by supercar standards it’s still not big bucks. And they’re still Porsches, so still have that in-built integrity.
“All this pub chat has depressed values, but they will come around. The 356 came around, and in ten years time so too will the 996. It may never be worth as much as a 993 or 997, but it’s still a Porsche, and thus will still grow in time.”
Jonathan is right: Paul is an enthusiast, a great guy to talk with, and is passionate, approachable and friendly. The Hexagon site itself reflects this, being refreshing before you even set foot in it.
It’s relatively easy to get to, located about five minutes from the North Circular, and you can park with ease once you’re there – both real luxuries given its central location.
Paul’s office is right outside and, chances are he’ll greet you. If he’s not there, stepping into the modern-look reception presents plenty of Hexagon history thanks to some fascinating posters (spot the racing stars).
But it’s the cars that are the centrepiece, and take centre stage in the building. It’s not a soulless showroom, as Paul has filled this with plenty of Hexagon memorabilia. The array of stock is incredible, amounting to easily well over a million pounds’ worth, and the standards of preparation are incredible.
Owner: Paul Michaels
Founded: 1963 (Hexagon Classics: 2013)
Location: South Kensington and North London
Rarest 911 sold: 1974 RS 3.0-litre
Most common 911 sold: 993 Turbo
Most expensive 911 sold: 993 GT2 (“We have just acquired two cars that will break our own most expensive record – a one-of-two RHD 964 RS 3.8 and a one-of-51 964 RSR”) Interesting fact about the business: Hexagon Racing entered F1 racing in 1972, with driver John Watson (yes, the John Watson) scoring six points overall, including a fourth place in Austria!
Hexagon Modern Classics is undergoing redevelopment too, despite being such a fresh HQ. There’s a new showroom for classic BMWs being built – leaving the main showroom free for the air-cooled Porsches – and Paul is also putting the finishing touches to an on-site photo studio.
There’s a huge vehicle preparation area – “each car takes three full days to valet and detail to my standards,” says Paul – and there’s also a workshop for fettling classic 911s.
Paul is even on the lookout for a new member of the team: the man who ran the Hexagon Racing team in the Seventies – and, amazingly, spent a year on the F1 circuit – is looking for an air-cooled 911 expert. As dream jobs for Porsche fans go, this has to take some beating.