I should start this piece by noting that Europe is traditionally less buoyant than the United States in the sale of enchanting classic cars and that I also want to wait for next week’s results from Bonhams’ after the commendable efforts of Gooding. I should also add that Artcurial held its auction in presence while RM had the auctioneer doing his thing via video without room. Now, with that out of the way, the 2021 season in Europe appears to have gotten off to a slower start than across the Atlantic. Fewer cars actually on offer, just 40 at RM and somewhat lacklustre sales percentages. However, and this is something to keep in mind, the average prices per car sold are currently better than 2020 pre-pandemic: €322,000 compared to €300,000 one year ago. I love going to collect mushrooms. I usually find many of them. Sometimes however, there aren’t that many and they’re hard to find but when you do they are truly exquisite. Perhaps we’re in this situation. So let’s keep looking!
As the RM auction was held on a lockdown Saturday, I duly locked myself up in my own office in front of my computer with my mobile phone switched off. It was just like being in Paris, a very immersive experience: I finally managed to see the “auctioneer’s dance” once again, who was very good at animating the proceedings and keeping the offers flowing in. Although there was no one in the room – just phones and online – he threw himself into the event and bewitched everyone (including yours truly!). But, by now you know I love physical auctions… And the results weren’t entirely satisfactory, with just 57.50% of the cars on offer sold, down from 70.50% registered in 2020 and a turnover of just €7.65m, less than half of last year’s €16.5m result. As with Artcurial, however, the average price per car sold increased and turnover rose to 61% of the estimated value on offer compared to 47% at last year’s event.
Top lot of the auction was a 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV. Sold new in Germany, just five years later it was converted to Jota specifications and remained in this condition despite an extremely thorough chassis-up, bare-metal restoration in 2001. Purchased by its current owner in 2015, it returned to its original specifications, including repainting the car in Rosso Corsa and retrimming the interior in blue leather, which allowed it to obtain Lamborghini Polo Storico certification. The final sale price was €2,423,750, perfectly in line with the pre-auction estimate of €2.1-2.5 million. Certainly a good sale.
But the piece that caused a sensation during the auction was the Isdera Commendatore 112i. If you know of its existence you can consider yourself an expert because it was one of the many examples of hypercars created with the intention of being produced in a limited series, and this one was destined to remain a unique example dating back to 1993. Powered by a Mercedes 6.0 V12 engine (the same one used by Pagani) this car developed 400bhp and, thanks to its RUF gearbox, was able to reach 340 km/h. Put up for sale by Isdera itself, it had only covered 10,500 km since new. Estimated at €400-600,000 without reserve, after an endless series of offers and counter offers, it changed hands for €1,113,125. Breath-taking!
I think that the Countach, particularly the first series known as “Periscopio” for the original position of the internal rear-view mirror, is a car worth keeping an eye on for its clear revaluation potential. I say this even though, on this occasion, the battle went in the opposite direction! The 1977 Lamborghini Countach LP400 Periscopio was offered at an estimate of €750-900,000, decidedly lower than the €800-1,200,000 from last year (when it was presented by Artcurial at Retromobile). There was also a small “commercial” mystery at play here: on the very morning of the auction, an e-mail arrived from a well-known trader stating he had lowered the asking price for one of his own Periscopios – a stunning one too – to about €760,000. I don’t know if the buyer also received this email, but the fact is he took home this Countach from the auction for €775,625, more or less the same price. I think there’s room for improvement here.
As always, even at the most prestigious auctions, there are always some amazing deals to be had that don’t require buyers to shell out 5 zeros in order to take home an interesting car. At this sale the car I fell in love with was a 1987 Land Rover 110 3.5 V8 County. Sold for €27,600 and, even though it had 187,000 km on the clock, this is the car I would dream of if I owned a cottage in some English -shire: a trailer full of hay, 200 acres of land, 20,000 sheep… and two tracks etched into the mud! Instead I’m here, a prisoner of yet another lockdown…