Market and auctions

The excitement of the real deal

There’s much to learn from the Najeeb Khan bankruptcy auction at Elkhart Lake, including a 2011 Tesla that doubled its estimate value!
Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s

You might have noticed this too: in recent months, there has been a proliferation of auctions of individual collections. First Gooding with the Fabri collection, then Artcurial that slipped in a couple with Trigano (170 cars) and Lurton (47 cars plus various vehicles) and now RM, ready to prove it is still the titan it has always been, put on a sale of over 230 cars from the bankruptcy of Najeeb Khan, an outsourcing tycoon.

The “bidding wars” using the classic formula of a physical presence, the reasonable and often low prices, an excellent advertising campaign, and the possibility to see the cars live (finally!) combined with the logistical simplicity of the organization of the sale – no transfers to coordinate nor borders to cross – have been fuel to the fire for the auction houses.

And from RM, with the Elkhart Lake auction following the bankruptcy sale of Najeeb Khan, all these elements came together: 235 cars sold out of 235 on offer (all without reserves though!) and $41.4 million in takings against an initial estimate that stopped at $34.7 million which translates to 119% of the official estimates. Great job.

The participation model was worthy of note: a limited number of live seats were made available (participants were required to register online before the event) and “the last one to arrive bids online”. Needless to say, the seats in the hall were all taken several days before the sale started…

Paraphrasing George Orwell: “all the cars were interesting but some were more interesting than others.” I have chosen my picks of the event and divided them into two categories. Today, I will present the first five.

1952 Ferrari 225 S Berlinetta by Vignale sold for $2,810,000

When I commented on the Trigano auction, I mentioned that in this type of sale, the top lots are often great bargains and once again, the most expensive car at the auction was a real secret in broad daylight. The 1952 Ferrari 225 S Berlinetta bodied by Vignale was estimated at $2.5-3.5 million but in the end it was sold for $2,810,000. With this figure you took home a Ferrari that was played an important role in the history of the brand: second in class and tenth overall at the 1952 Mille Miglia, fourth overall at the Monaco GP in the same year and victory at Grand Prix d’Orleans in 1952, without considering the victories at the minor competitions. Suffice to say that this car will be warmly welcomed at any international event.

1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic by Ghia sold for $2,040,000

They also set a new world record for a Fiat. The car in question was an 8V Ghia Supersonic sold for $2,040,000, “easy!” I hear you say, “the five most expensive ones are this same version”. But Khan was obviously a fan of this particular model because he had two more examples with bodywork by Vignale. My personal favourite was the exact copy of the famous Demon Rouge model. This latter is one of the most representative designs of the model and the car at the auction was not a replica made in recent times but the second (and last) example produced in period and the fact that it was never exposed to any event generates enormous potential for the new owner. The estimate of $1.4-1.65 million seemed correct to me but at $907,000 it felt more like a steal than a sale.

1954 Fiat 8V Coupe by Vignale sold for $907,000

Up until around fifteen years ago, there were two general rules set in stone that applied to the automotive industry: the first was “electric cars will arrive but not for a while” and the second was “in the world of cars there are some strong brands, (if we exclude some hypercars) it’s impossible to enter the ring”. Then Tesla came along and blew both rules out of the water. This brand has been under my lens for some time now; will Teslas be collectible cars in the future or not? In this sale there were two examples and the one that did the best was a 2011 Roadster Sport R80 with 4,283 miles on the clock. Estimated at $60-80,000 bidding skyrocketed up to $140,000. If I were you, I’d place a few chips on the future of this model.

2011 Tesla R80 3.0 Roadster Sport sold for $140,000

The fifth and last car was a Toyota 2000GT. An example of the rising (and falling) trend of the historic car market, and as such, experts from around the world keep a close eye on this model in order to understand what the market has in store. Between 2005 and 2010 the quotations for this car were in the order of $150-200,000 until 2012 when one sold for more than $600,000, the following year it broke through the $1,000,000 ceiling and in 2015 reached its record at $1,540,000. Then, like the retreating sea, prices fell leaving “corpses” with sales falling between $500,000 and $800,000. The example offered here was one of just 62 left-hand-drive examples produced for the American market and, estimated at $700-800,000, went for $912,500, the best result since January 2016. Fun fact: It was bought by the current seller in 2018 for $550,000 at another auction. Ah! If only he had dedicated himself to buying cars and not to outsourcing maybe he wouldn’t have gone bankrupt…

1967 Toyota 2000GT sold for $912,500