The Historics auction house is inextricably associated with the Brooklands race circuit, so much so that enthusiasts call it “Historics at Brooklands”. Of the 5 auctions held last year, 4 were held at this location. But the new social distancing rules even managed to upset traditions that were previously “written in stone”.
Historics needed a different location to Brooklands for reasons of space. Royal Ascot, the most important equestrian event for this city and arguably the most glamorous of all England, was held behind closed doors this year. Why not exploit these circumstances? And so it was, with very interesting and positive results.
It should be noted that the Historics team is always able to organize simple and highly attractive auctions, “family events” almost: there were no millionaire lots from experts in the field but with so many interesting cars and absolutely affordable prices, it’s hard to get it wrong. Once again, they hit the mark: with 135 cars sold out of 170 lots on offer, they managed to sell almost 80% (79.4% to be precise) and the total takings of £4,479,638 is yet another demonstration of their skill, especially if we consider that this represents 74% of the total £6,046,000 value on offer.
Historics has that magic ability to spoil participants with the odd “gems” at its sales. Selecting four (plus one) to talk about was easy, if anything it was hard to exclude the others.
I thought the best British brand at the auction was not Aston Martin or Jaguar, but Rover. This brand that disappeared some fifteen years ago has always given me the impression of providing the levels of luxury expected by a monarchy to the middle a classes living in the terraced streets in the suburbs of London or Birmingham. Towards the end of its life, the engineers at Rover, which was owned by Ford, decided to squeeze the 4.6-litre V8 engine from the Mustang into the front of a 75 and a real white elephant was the result. Less than 900 Rover 75 Connoisseur SE V8s, like the one offered by Historics, were produced and very few have covered just 2,275 miles since new. Very rare, powerful and practically new, all that was missing was a fanfare. It’s an exceptional car at a utilitarian price of £19,244 (estimated at £18-22,000).
For those on a six-figure budget, the most expensive lot sold had several surprises up its sleeve. The top lot at the auction was a 1967 Aston Martin DB6. According to the Heritage certificate that accompanied the car, it was originally painted Dubonnet Rosso but at the auction, it was presented in gold. And even though it received a nice upgrade to the 4.2 litre engine in 2016 at a cost of £39,000, the automatic transmission and a doubt about the originality of the Webasto roof remained. I personally felt that the estimate of £175-195,000 was optimistic but when it sold for £220,740, small alarm bells started going off, especially considering that both a DB4 and a DB2 went unsold at the same auction. Is it finally the DB6’s moment?
Speaking of price revaluations, a model that’s beginning to make waves is the Mercedes SL W107 series. Historics had six examples on offer but lot 221 was the one that reserved the most surprises (and satisfactions) for the seller. Guernsey is a pretty island in the middle of the English Channel with a surface area of just 78 square kilometres and known mainly for its friendly taxation policy. You may occasionally encounter cars with Guernsey license plates but they are usually registered to fictitious companies that exploit this tax “haven”. This was not the case with the 1989 300SL Roadster. Delivered to the local dealer who did not register it until 1996, it was sold to a lady who kept it for its entire life. Thanks to the limited surface area of the island, when the red with cream leather interior Mercedes was sold, it had travelled just 10,393 miles. However, despite being higher than the other models on offer, the estimate of £25-30,000 did not fully reflect the excellent condition of the car and, after a flurry of offers, it was finally sold for… £70,184. Did the auction house play a role in that? Without a shadow of doubt but nothing detracts from the fact that it is a new world record for this particular model.
However, the car I would have taken home wasn’t British, German or even Italian. The auction car for me was the silver-coloured 1987 Peugeot 205 1.9 GTI with grey/black interior. Everyone knows that this is one of my absolute favourite hot hatches because of its incredibly enjoyable driving experience and that special engine. Even Stirling Moss had to have one, and in fact he was the first owner of this particular example. The most famous British driver (sorry Lewis…) used it as his everyday car and in an interview commented that it was “exciting to drive with excellent performance”. Slightly refreshed in 2015, the only thing missing was the famous “7 SM” number plate which would have increased its value even further. The price for this little gem? The estimate was £13-16,000 but in the end, it changed hands for £20,160 pounds and believe me, it was worth every penny.
Previously I mentioned that there were “four plus a gem” at this auction. The four I’m talking about were the cars on offer but the “gem”? The Historics team kept this announcement a secret until the very end but when it came out it left the audience stunned: on 23rd April 2021 for the very first time, Historics will organize an auction outside England, at the Monaco Historic GP. And if that isn’t a change…