It’s rare that the beauty of a car strikes us like a lightning bolt, sometimes it’s a more oblique, discreet matter, which takes longer to manifest. That’s exactly what happened to me at the Goodwood Revival in September 2015. I went there to follow the Bonhams auction they organized every year and both inside the marquee and around the circuit you can imagine the number of treats there were.
Near the bidding registration desk was a 1939 Lagonda LG6 Rapide DHC that was previewed for later sale. At first, I walked right past her several times, passing from one lot to another. At one point, after two days of “living” inside in the auction marquee, I noticed her and the spark was struck, I was literally rendered speechless by the purity of her lines, for five minutes I looked like a statue. This is how my passion for Lagondas came to be.
A friend who knows me well, just before H&H’s online auction on 24 June, told me: “At this auction I know you wouldn’t want anything except for the 1934 Lagonda M45 T7 Tourer” and I hinted at a smile as if to say, “You got me!”. Where should we start from when talking about this model? That at the time it was one of the fastest road cars in the world, able to break the “legendary” 100mph barrier? Or that a race-spec M45 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans beating sacred monsters such as the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 and Bugatti Type 55? In fact, in addition to its performance, I have always been fascinated by its line with that grille that is both imposing and flowing at the same. This particular model had the original T7 bodywork and had belonged to AA. H. Mann, director of the tobacco company JPS. Surely at the auction there were other fans of Lagonda because the estimate of £100,000 – £120,000 was wiped out by the final selling price of £184,500.
But my friend got one thing wrong: at the H&H auction (which sold £837,000 of cars) I would have bought three more cars, all sold for under £15,000.
The first and perhaps the most curious one, was a 1987 Lancia Delta HF Turbo… Cabriolet. The first owner was HR Owen, the famous dealer, who used it as a demonstrator but decided to give it a special touch by converting it into a four-door convertible (technically you could call it a “phaeton”). After being sold to another dealer and then to the manager of that same dealership, in 1996 it was bought by its current owner but for the last 4 years it has remained in the garage. So, even with just 48,000 miles on the clock, the car needed one or two things seen to, but it still offered a very comfortable drive. I fully understand the difficulty for the auction house to evaluate this model but at £3-5,000 they did a great job since it was sold for £4,500.
I have always had a significant soft spot for MGB GTs, and the model offered by H&H was no exception. In my opinion, this model more than any other follows the concept of “starter classic”, the first car that every enthusiast should collect. Cheap, simple to maintain and repair, beautiful (designed by Pininfarina) and with a classic line. This model born from 1967, therefore a first series, had wire wheels, a Webasto roof and was in British Racing Green with black interior. The fact it was right hand drive stopped many European buyers also because of the abundance of models with steering wheel on the left (in the USA). Sold for £6,333, slightly below the estimate of £7-8,000.
Just as Goodwood was an inspiration for the Lagondas, this auction made me discover an extremely underrated model that you can buy for very little (but not for long). The Alfa Romeo Spider 3.2 V6 JTS Q4 is a model with huge potential. It was the last open top Alfa Romeo produced – after, so many promises that were never kept -, it has an incredible 3.2 V6 engine producing 260 HP, a 6-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive and a shaped designed by a well-known Italian coachbuilder. At the time, the Brera was lynched by the media because it was too heavy and “ugly” compared to Giugiaro’s original concept, but with prices slipping to the levels of a normal utilitarian these can only rebound in future. Someone noticed, and the 2007 example offered by H&H, in red with 53,000 miles on the clock, saw its final price double compared to the sale price: from £7-9,000 to £14,625.