The first physical-presence auction by the MPH division of Bonhams was held at Bicester Heritage in the United Kingdom, right on the eve of new restrictions. Despite the dreaded climate of apprehension, the offers were all pretty decent: 67 cars were sold out of 105 on offer (63.80%), a slightly higher percentage than the estimated value takings, which totalled 57.82% (£1,193,541 out of £2,064,000 on offer).
By way of comparison, at the most recent MPH auction in July, they managed to sell 64% of the cars on offer, collecting 48.20% of the estimated value, and if we go even further back in time, to the first MPH auction held precisely one year ago, those same values were 59% and 42% respectively with total sales slightly over £1.2 million. And we are talking about a period in time when the word “corona” was associated with a cold beer, not a virus. Long story short: the market is steady.
The most interesting cars in the auction?
Let’s start with one of the queens of the youngtimers. The Lancia Delta Integrale Evolution was the queen of rallies until the advent of the flying Japanese competitors (Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evo): between 1988 and 1992 this model won no fewer than three World Championships, with 35 wins and 96 podiums, leaving the competition in its dust. because of these results, it has reached legendary status among diehard fans and is now so popular and sought after its value has quadrupled over the past 10 years. The example on offer at Bonhams was a 1995 Evo II in Lagos Blue with beige alcantara interior, in my opinion the best colour combination possible. Although it had some 118,000 miles (about 190,000 km) on the clock, the estimate of £35-45,000 was somewhat pessimistic and in the end, it reached the higher end, selling for £45,000. Despite everything, I don’t think it went for too much, and there was probably room for a couple more offers.
Another high performance car was the most expensive lot of the auction: a 2018 McLaren 570S. Red with black interior, the car had covered just 4,650 miles from new. The peculiarity of this car, however, was its first owner. It was ordered by Joy Rainey, a well-known hillclimb racer and one-time holder of the Ladies’ Record at Shelsley Walsh in 1979. Joy was not only very fast on the track but also a person with an immense heart off of it. In fact, she bought this McLaren to allow charity rides (paid track rides whose proceeds go to charity) and therefore this car acquired a much higher – symbolic – value. Estimated at £60-80,000, it went for £95,625.
By now you should know; it’s not high prices or performance that catches my attention. At this auction, my favourite car was a “boxy” Volvo. The 140 series was produced from 1966 to 1974 and in my opinion deserves a place in the design hall of fame alongside the Porsche 911 and the Citroen DS. You tell me: whenever you see this model, you don’t immediately think “What Volvo is that”? You don’t know the model, but you instantly know what brand it is. This 1973 144 De Luxe model was one of the last ones produced, it came in a stunning orange paint scheme with black vinyl interior that just screamed “70s”, it had covered 48,000 miles, which was slightly laughable considering that many of these models have exceeded one million km. Estimated at £7-10,000, it changed hands for £7,312. Fun fact: in the 1970s, North Korea bought a thousand Volvo 144s (and a lot of construction material) that it never paid for, and to this day these are the only Western cars you can see driving around the streets of Pyongyang.
It’s a gran turismo from the 60s, it has a 5.3-liter V8 engine that produces 250 hp, it’s extremely rare, as just 83 examples were built, at the time it rivalled Rolls Royces and Bentleys for price and could be yours for just… £18.562! We are talking about the Bristol 408, one of the most famous Anglo-American hybrids ever built, produced between 1963 and 1965. The example offered by Bonhams was one of the last models to come off the production line, it was registered on 12th January 1966 and was delivered new with the Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission and a dual blue/silver colour scheme with cream leather interior. Due to the very high build quality (which determined the very high original price tag), it’s expensive to restore and the costs of professionally restoring this example may well have exceeded the sale price. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you then if my recommendation was to buy it.