Market and auctions

Bargains at the RM Sotheby’s Elkhart auction

There are always some bargains to be had at big auctions. It’s worth remembering that!
Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s

In my previous article on the Elkhart auction, I promised to look at some of the bargains seen at that event. So, here are four more cars that could easily have captured your heart.

The first (and also the most expensive of the four) is a 1969 Lotus Elite Race Car. Its exterior, painted in the traditional British Racing Green worn by all Lotuses, is its only similarity with a normal Lotus. Equipped with an aluminum radiator, this car is lighter than the original (which weighed 504 kg) and more efficient. Furthermore, it is powered by a Coventry Climax engine that has received a number of upgrades. It also features three Weber carburetors, which make the model’s previous output of 75 HP a distant memory. This car was probably capable of delivering 100 HP. Therefore, with a power-to-weight ratio of 200HP/ton, it was, and is, bound to be a real pleasure to drive. The estimated price of $25-35,000 assigned by RM Sotheby’s was probably strategic, given that standard versions of these cars sell for around $50-60,000 regardless of their preparation. The hammer came down at $67,200 and even though this was almost three times the lower estimate, it was the right price for this car.

1960 Lotus Elite Race Car Sold For $67,200

As we have just seen with the Lotus, many of the cars in this collection were assigned pre-sale estimates below their true value, and with this in mind the 1957 Jaguar MkVIII turned out to be the day’s real bargain. This car is the antithesis of the Lotus: in its day, it weighed 1702 kg, yet it was still capable of putting on a spurt thanks to its XK140 engine, which was able to deliver, depending on the configuration, between 160 and 210 HP. Largely original and never restored, this particular specimen was black with a red leather interior and tons of patina. Its only defect was the Borg Warner automatic transmission. Since the estimated price of $ 60-80,000 was correct, the fact that it sold for just $34,720 provides a perfect illustration of the kind of bargains that can be had even at important auctions.

1957 Jaguar Mark VIII Sold For $34,720

Were you more interested in something red, Italian, exotic and with a rear-mounted engine? Here, just for you, is the cheapest lot in our selection! For just $15,680 (the price you would pay for a tool kit for the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster), you could take home a 1966 Fiat 850 Spider. The wheels (not original) give this car a grittiness that the production version lacked, the fog lights give it that elusive something that rally cars need, while the double rear-view mirror has the effect of exponentially increasing its practicality. The rear-mounted engine makes it look like a mini-Porsche. But that’s where the comparison ends… 

1966 Fiat 850 Spider by Bertone Sold For $15,680

The last car you might have been tempted to take home was an ACMA Vespa 400, a minicar whose background story is a web of politics and economics. This little car was, in effect, a Piaggio, but in 1957, when Enrico Piaggio showed it to Vittorio Valletta, the CEO of FIAT, the latter “discouraged” him from waging war on the newly created Fiat 500. The production of the vehicle was moved to France, where it was produced as the ACMA, enjoying moderate success. The 1961 specimen offered by RM Sotheby’s was from the last production year. The estimated price of $25-30,000 was completely smashed: the new owner paid $47,600 for it!

1961 Piaggio Vespa 400 Sold For $47,600