Market and auctions

Artcurial a Prophet in the Homeland

Well-chosen and well-sold: a brilliant performance by Rétromobile.
Cliff Goodall’s view.

Photo credit Artcurial

The Rétromobile auction was certainly worrisome for Artcurial: the €38.3m generated in 2019 was out of the question as that result came with the sale of two extraordinary items: an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta (sold for €16.7m) and a Serenissima Spyder (€4.2m).

With a list of cars that were not in the same league as last year’s examples, this auction appeared destined to become the Cinderella of the season. And instead it went very well: total sales were €21,161,283, helping it claim the best result of the three Parisian auctions with five cars sold over the magic million.

What to keep an eye on? The wisest thing is to give room to the most interesting lots. It can teach us a lot.

Top Lot unsold! The Mercedes-Benz 710SS 27/140/200hp Sport Tourer was a spectacular 1929 car with an elegant bodywork attributed to Fernandez & Darrin in Paris. Pay attention to these words. In fact, there is a term there that refuses to go unnoticed: attributed with phrases such as “according to a document which is difficult to read but included in the file”, “would have been exhibited at”). Its history as explained by the Auction House may well be true, but it was far too incomplete to justify the €6-8m estimate.

1929 Mercedes-Benz 710 SS 27/140/200hp Sport Tourer Carrosserie

With the Top Lot out of the way, the rest the auction was entirely dominated by competition cars with all five of the best results ready to rumble on the track.

The most expensive car sold was a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C (six carburettors, aluminium competition bodywork) and an incredible track record of over 40 international races of its time, including a class victory at the 1,000Km of Monza in 1966. The car was estimated at €2-3m and easily reached the €2,502,800 it went for.

1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C

And this is just one: the Artcurial team deserves a prize because out of the 20 most expensive cars, no fewer than 19 were sold within their estimates and in some cases far above.

This is the case of the 1983 Ferrari 126 C3 F1, a historically very interesting model but complicated to use because of the V6 Turbo engine. The chassis offered, number 68, was the one supplied to René Arnoux and his greatest success with that particular car was second place at the Austrian GP of the same year. Estimated at between €600K-€1m, at times the sale felt endless, just like the 2014-2015 season when each sale was a continuous increase on the previous one. Eventually a collector managed to take it home for €1,438,880, paying more than double the minimum estimate and making it the third most expensive lot in the auction.

1983 Ferrari 126 C3-068 F1

Second place went very well too, albeit in far less dramatic fashion; the very beautiful Porsche 906 Carrera 6 from an important Italian collection went for €1,730,600 (against an estimate of €1.4-1.8m).

1966 Porsche 906

In fourth place there was a Ferrari F40, which is quite a common car to see at auctions and consequently extremely interesting as it helps us understand the mood of the market. This example had 18,000km on the clock (which despite appearances is quite high for this model) and had undergone a major maintenance intervention – including the replacement of the fuel tanks – in 2013. The estimate was €1-1.2m and according to many this was 10% higher than the market would accept. But Artcurial succeeded and sold it for €1,112,840. One swallow doesn’t make a summer but the F40 swallows continue to signal good weather. We will continue to watch the sky…

1991 Ferrari F40

For those who like to make comparisons I propose two cars with which Artcurial managed to beat its competitors. A Ferrari 575 SuperAmerica F1 with the HGTC pack and 26,000km on the clock left Bonhams for €244,375 while the one at Artcurial, with the same HGTC pack but some 39,000km on the clock, was sold for €262,240. Was it possible that the colour (red for the first, dark grey for the second) influenced the result?

2005 Ferrari 575 SuperAmerica F1 HGTC

But Artcurial also beat RM when the two of them each proposed a Ferrari 512 BB. The one at RM was a US-spec car (aargh!) but had just 820km on the clock, red with black interior, while the example for sale at Artcurial was a European specification car with 58,000km, and in grey/burgundy configuration. Here the various characteristics may have had a greater impact, however, as the one sold by RM stopped at €230,000 while the French BB said au revoirto its previous owner for €44,160 more.

1980 Ferrari 512 BB

Among the cars offered the one with the most fascinating history was undoubtedly lot 121, the 1967 Ford Mustang GT390 Coupe. It did not have a past like Steve McQueen’s Bullitt model, but it had always belonged to Johnny Hallyday (a legend in France) who had used it, with the support of Ecurie Ford France, in numerous Group 1 races, also finishing second in Montlhéry in 1967. The estimate of €150-300,000 very much reflected the auction house’s indecision about just how much this story added value and eventually they sold it for €244,360. Uncertain estimate, certain price. And a big one at that.

1967 Ford Mustang GT 390 Coupé