“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the challenge for the top lot of the RM Open Roads Fall Auction. In the left corner, wearing a silver dress with red leather interior, a 2009 RUF CTR3. Its 3.8 litre engine puts out 682 hp, and with just 1,700 miles on the clock it’s ready for a new owner. Since 2008, just 31 examples have been produced. In the right corner, a 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC in dark red with tobacco interior. A great Maranello classic, number 49 of 150 built, certified by Ferrari Classiche and restored by the best Italian craftsmen just 1,000 km ago. The meeting, that lasts one week online, begins: the RUF immediately reaches $430,000, Ferrari followed it to $420,000 and then, with an athletic leap, takes the lead over its opponent by reaching $440,000. The Ruf reacts and counters with exactly the same offer…” The title for the top lot continues for a further twenty offers. “Ladies and gentlemen, there are now just 30 minutes left till the end of bidding. Plot twist! The Ferrari 365 GTC throws in the towel at $600,000 ($660,000 with commissions). The RUF is now unreachable at $740,000…… but wait! Another twist! The RUF had set a higher reserve price and went unsold. The winner on points, with a correct sale, is the Ferrari 365 GTC!”
We wanted to spectacularise our account of this auction which, although better than the one in London, confirmed that we need a pause for reflection. Once again the results were disappointing. Just 36 cars sold out of 76 on offer (47.4%) and just under $4 million – $3,967,700 in takings out of a possible $8,843,000 (44.86%), meaning they are in no way comparable to the 80-90% that RM is used to achieving at its more traditional auctions.
It’s likely that the excessive number of auctions and cars on offer is affecting the course of this second half of the year, and reserve prices the same as they were in 2018 are merely compounding the problem.
A side note. This is the second time this RUF has gone unsold in recent months, so I think it’s safe to say it’s value is about to be adjusted.
Continuing our rankings, in second place came the Ford GT “chassis no. 2” at $522,500 (estimate $500-600,000) while immediately behind we find the 1931 Mercedes-Benz 370S Mannheim Cabriolet which is the one that interests us the most. Much more suited to the original auction in Hershey – which for RM means pre-war cars – it was a bit of a fish out of water at this online sale. In the possession of Jules Barsotti for more than 50 years, it was restored (on the advice of Jules Heumann!) between 1973 and 1977 and won its class at Pebble Beach that same year. In January 2017, the seller bought the car for $330,000. The estimate of $350-450,000 might have worked at Hershey, but it was slightly high for an online auction. When bids stopped at $260,000 ($286,000 with commissions) the seller still agreed to sell it and took home a small lump sum for a new project. Humility (and common sense) have never delivered so much.
Coming down a few notches in price, we find an Austin-Healey 100M Le Mans. These cars inhabit one of two parallel worlds: on the one hand the “factories”, on the other “dealers” and this difference is worth half of the price. In the 1950s, Austin-Healey decided to launch the Le Mans conversion kit (larger carburettors, special aluminium cylinder-head, better pistons, etc.) and made it available both as an after-market kit and as an accessory to be assembled in the factory. In the 1950s, many dealers bought the kit and converted them; but many owners did the conversion over the next few decades. Dealer conversions were often undocumented and many collectors claim that their Le Mans is a “dealer” (although they carried out the conversion during the restoration two years earlier). Instead, those that came out of the factory – only 640 on total – are all documented and therefore it is as if they were two different models. Prices? For a dealer car, $80-$100,000 is enough while for a factory you get twice as much. The 1956 “factory” offered by RM was estimated at $140-160,000 (low, I’ll admit) but the selling price of $236,500 makes it the third most expensive version of this model ever sold (and the highest price paid for one in the last three years). It’s also a useful reference for the market: this year at Retromobile, one was offered at a much higher price and, although it’s one of my passions, I didn’t even consider talking about it!