Market and auctions

Fantastic! Small budgets, great cars

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s

Organized online by RM Sotheby’s, The European Sale turned out be a real goldmine for car lovers with limited budgets. A remarkable 118 of the 166 cars that changed hands (over 70%) sold for less than EUR 100K, and, I have to say, there were some incredible bargains among them.

Here I have picked out five, all of which show that you don’t have to have a big budget to buy a great car.

The 1970 Lotus Elan S4 from the Petitjean collection was surely one of the best deals. Built in RHD

configuration, it was purchased by the seller in 2007. Other than that, the catalog didn’t give much information, but the photos were pretty explicit, showing a car whose restoration will require plenty of passion and elbow grease. It was clear from the photos that it had long been left unused, and even previously, it was never a concours queen. What is more, the auction house itself urged caution when bidding. For whatever reason, this lot (one of the first of the auction) must have escaped most people’s notice. Assigned a pre-sale estimate of EUR 25–35K, it changed hands for just EUR 13,750.

1970 Lotus Elan S4 sold For €13,750

There can now be no doubting that the flamboyant 1980s are back in fashion. At Amelia Island, for example, a Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC 6.0 Wide Body shattered the estimates, fetching EUR 390K. With this in mind, my next pick, a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC with Koenig body kit and gold BBS wheels (a car that just screams “look at me”), must surely go down as a deal second to none!  If the pre-sale estimate of EUR 40–60K could already be considered really good (obviously not comparable to that of the car sold at Amelia Island), the final price was even better: EUR 30.8K.

1986 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC Koenig sold For €30,800

Are you on the lookout for something more classic, more discrete? I have just the car!

It’s pre-war, and therefore eligible for all the most important events, and convertible, making it just right for the season. What’s more, it’s a BMW, a prestigious brand, which can also offer you support should you need to do work on the car. It’s not a BMW 328, rather a more modest, and sedate, 1936 BMW 329 Cabriolet. According to RM Sotheby’s, the company produced around a thousand of these at the Eisenach plant (which became EMW after the war), and this is one of the reasons for the pre-sale estimate of EUR 80–100K. But the new owner got a bargain, paying just EUR 56.1K.

1936 BMW 329 Cabriolet sold For €56,100

Sometimes, it’s not a matter of numbers but of “nose”. I was about to write about the 1993 Lancia Delta Integrale Giallo Ginestra (sold for EUR 89,100), when my attention was drawn to the BMW M5. We are not talking about the E34 series, but the much rarer E28, equipped with the 286 HP M88/1 engine — the same one used for the BMW M1. The E28 was in production from 1984 to 1987, during which time 2,245 specimens were produced. The car sold on this occasion is a penultimate production year model. It had been expected to fetched EUR 70–85K, but the market proved prepared to pay EUR 90.2K. This is absolutely a model to keep an eye on (note that I rarely use the word “absolutely”), because in five years or so, the purchaser of this car could really have something to celebrate.

1986 BMW M5 sold For €90,200

I have always had a soft spot for the Renault Sport Spider, with its 148 HP for just 930 kg in weight, roll bar, tiny windshield and sport prototype configuration. The idea was great, but unfortunately at the time it was literally eclipsed by the Lotus Elise, with the result that history seems to have completely forgotten this sporty little French car. Now though, after 25 years, it has got its revenge: a yellow specimen with black interiors sold for EUR 38.5K, smashing the pre-sale estimate of EUE 20–30K. At this point, we need to make two very important remarks: first, this was a car from the Petitjean collection, which is known for presenting cars that are not exactly perfect (therefore, who knows how much concours-ready specimens might fetch?!). The second point is that this car set a new record price for a Sport Spider — more than twice that of an equivalent Elise! —  so, could this be the start of a new era? Only time will tell but, in the meantime, I would buy it.

And even if, in a few years’ time, I should find I was wrong, I would at least have had several summers’ fun from a Sport Spider, and that in itself would be a great result.

1996 Renault Sport Spider sold For €38,500