Everyone knows what Monterey Car Week is, but few people realise the strength an auction house derives from having many of clients in the surrounding area. Basically, those who have an important car, wish to acquire one or simply are interested in the topic (and have deep pockets to keep the bids coming) are unavoidably present during the week of Pebble Beach, and that is just a few kilometres from an auction.
Artcurial, well aware that all this will not happen in 2020, used the same technique: it brought together collectors in a single location. At the Hôtel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, Artcurial organized a three-day event where the common denominator was collectability and class: you could buy a Rolex and leave with a Hermès bag, or go buy a ring for your wife and end up buying the Ferrari for yourself. A party for the whole family. In reality, the various sectors didn’t share the same weight on the final turnover. Of the €14.2 million collected from items sold, about 4% (€581,000) was generated by Hermès, €3,190,000 from watches (22.46%), €3,223,000 from jewellery (22.70%) and the lion’s share came from the cars on offer and, to a marginal extent, automobilia, with more than €7,213,000 (50.79%) collected. This is also a demonstration of how important the Motor Car industry is to auction houses and, consequently, just how many resources are being committed to promoting a new sale. Indeed, there is one detail that should not be forgotten: auction houses live on commissions, and cars… cost serious money!
The highest sale price was a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, sold for €1,416,000 (slightly higher than the estimates of €1.2-1.4 million), a number that is some 40% higher than this year’s average prices. Undoubtedly the low mileage (38,000 miles since new), Rudge wheels and in particular the very rare, high-performance NSL engine all played an important role in raising the final price.
In second place, we find a Ferrari F40 obviously red, with a normal mileage (30,000 km from new) and nothing out of the ordinary to note which was correctly sold – albeit after the auction – for €959,560.
But it’s not about these top lots that I want to talk to you about today: I’ve chosen three cars that I have already seen at previous auctions and each one has an interesting story behind it. Ready? Let’s go!
The first is the 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Coupé Pinin Farina (lot 654). It’s true, it went unsold at €420,000 against an estimate of €450-550,000, but the owner will certainly not be able to say he didn’t make a good investment. The car once belonged to The Italian textile entrepreneur Giuseppe Prevosti who took it to the very first RM auction held in London (and the second ever organized by RM in Europe) on 31st October 2007. After buying it for £154,000, the new Belgian owner commissioned a well-known Dutch workshop to carry out a complete overhaul of the engine and had It certified by Ferrari Classiche, nothing more. After using it for 13 years, he would surely have made a profit even if he had sold it at the highest offer, €420,000. But with a little patience he will undoubtedly get what he’s hoping for.
They said it was going to come a long way, but it wasn’t the case. In 2013, a 1972 Alfa Romeo Montreal in a spectacular Arancio Pastello – one of the best colours for this model commercially speaking – was sold by Artcurial in Monte Carlo in the same location as today. It had just been the subject of a thorough restoration carried out by the Italian specialists Kappa (a superstar of restorations) for the cost of €40,000. At that time the prices of Montreals were soaring and in fact, against an estimate of €35-40,000, this example was sold for €72,199. Several years pass by and the values break through the €100,000 mark then, towards 2016, they started to come back down again. This example remained in the vicinity, ventured out once or twice but nothing exceptional (in fact, it has travelled only 10,000 km), and the owner then managed to time it perfectly and avoided the falling prices and losing any money. Sold at €73,904, just a €1,705 increase over seven years.
The car that truly came a long way is the Lancia Aurelia B20S series from 1958. In October 2014, a Lancia Aurelia B20S from the Simeone Foundation museum in desperate need of restoration was offered at the Bonhams auction, specializing in preserved cars and to be restored. Even with an estimate of just $40-60,000 euros, the sellers wanted to make sure they sold it and therefore placed it without reserve. It was sold for $62,700. And this is when its second life commenced because it crossed the Atlantic and arrived in England where a painstaking restoration began, while its history was reconstructed. Six years later, the restoration was completed and the car, now gleaming, was offered with an estimate of €100-140,000. Personally, I don’t think the Sky Blue colour is the most suitable one for a sixth series (it looked better on the previous series) and I would have made it a dark metallic grey, maybe somewhat abused as a colour but it complimented the enlarged profile even more so, but such is life. The sale price of €116,816 may be the most important part for the seller, but in my opinion the real result is having brought this car back to life.