In presence, online with offers subject to clear expiration dates and times, online with the auctioneer presenting and selling the cars one by one: these, or variants of the same, are the various techniques introduced by the auction houses in this annus horribilis that is gladly coming to an end. Silverstone adopted the latter technique at its November auction in Birmingham, confirming that it had masterfully managed the difficulties in each of its appointments and I would strongly recommend the “hammer giants” (Californians, British, Canadians) to take note.
With £7,149,922 in takings (against an estimated value of £10,824,500, a good 66%) and 109 cars sold out of 147 on offer (74.14%), Silverstone’s numbers rose by 25% (£5.7m) and 31% (83 cars) respectively compared with 2019. Good and thoroughly credible, both as a formula and for the cars on offer.
What were the highlights of the sale?
The top lot of the auction was a 1980 BMW M1 Coupé. The result of an unlikely partnership between BMW and Lamborghini when this latter, in order to survive, was in desperate need of orders, this example was delivered new to Franz Reuther in Berlin, better known as the front man of Boney M. Reuther had his car modified into the Procar style with wider bodywork and a huge rear spoiler. Exhibited at Salon Privé just two months ago where it took home the Owners Choice Award as well as a second place in the 1970s category, the car was now up for auction. It was unclear whether the “Boney M1” license plate was included in the price but I think the buyer should have asked the seller, particularly after paying £382,500 (estimate £385-435,000) for the car.
With a similar budget but offering completely different ambitions you could have picked the 1982 Renault 5 Turbo Group 4 from a single collection of rally cars. This model, full of important successes and complete with a 1.4 litre turbocharged engine producing 270 hp, was driven by Jean-Luc Thérier between 1982 and 1984 and then by the famous Jean Ragnotti. It was the only one of the 5 cars from the collection to be sold and changed hands for £337,500, slightly less than its estimate of £340-380,000. Considering what group B is now worth and the historical importance of this car, I can only congratulate the buyer.
Among my window-shopping tips, it might sound strange to recommend a motorhome, considering that you cannot travel more than 20km from your house (no matter what European country you are in) without being hanged, but it is the right time to think of a 1975 Airstream Argosy 20’. With a Chevy 350 V8 engine (to give you a better idea, that’s the same block mounted in a contemporary Corvette) and a design that shouts “flower power”, although the cream and brown paint scheme was a bit dull so, taking advantage of the fact that it requires some light intervention, I would repaint it in a psychedelic colour – and Boney M will thank you. At £20,813 (double the estimate of £10-14,000) it wasn’t not cheap but it was certainly unique.
I would have liked to talk about the new world record for a road-going Porsche 928 (£129,375), but there was something even more intriguing here. And it wasn’t a car…
This sale also featured many items from Sir Stirling Moss’s personal collection, including his Passport (£5,175) but issued on 6th March 1985 – lasting 10 years – therefore not representative of the master’s golden period. Would I have wanted to buy it? Yes, and I’ll come clean and admit I had downloaded the form in order to place a bid but in the end I gave up precisely because of the dates.
The most important – and the most expensive – piece, however, was his trusty watch. At the beginning of his career he had the problem of having to replace the leather straps of his watch numerous times after they kept getting ruined by oil during his races so he ended up ordering himself a tailor-made gold strap. This was his main watch for 38 years, from 1954 to 1992! He used it at all three of his weddings, in over 200 races, including three Monaco GPs that he won, but more importantly during the famous 1955 Mille Miglia victory on board the “722”. He also wore it during the tragic accident at Goodwood in 1962 that ended his competitive career. The price? The lucky buyer paid £67,850 to take home a piece of motoring history.