Market and auctions

Small is beautiful

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Bonhams, Gooding

The Auctions of Gooding and Bonhams held in England on the 5th and 19th February got me thinking of those tiny houses that are now so much in vogue in the USA: two tiny auctions. Combined, they offered just 14 cars – Bonhams also offered automobilia – but it was of “Pebble Beach” quality: over €1,160,600 (£1.000.000) per lot on average. No comments necessary.

Bonhams, using a mixed formula with the auctioneer in the room and offers online, took home an average selling price of 1,567,600 (£1.354.000), Gooding, online only, averaged 993,800 (£858.333). But the limited number of cars on offer makes these values almost entirely insignificant.

Not only: Gooding offered an entire collection whereas Bonhams constructed the entire sale around a single car. In fact, almost three quarters of the expected takings came from a single lot (and the automobilia consisted of spare parts for the same car) but in both cases, the results were exceptional: 100% sold. In terms of absolute value, Gooding surpassed Bonhams with 9,787,200 (£8.453.500) (109% of the pre-auction estimated) compared with €7,408,800 (£6.399.200) (95% of the estimated offer value) but in both cases, turnover was on par with the very finest auctions.

Just like being behind the wheel: everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

Among the many changes we’ve noted in this sector, this is a type of event that’s worth keeping an eye on in the future.

But let’s move on to the cars. For Bonhams, the sale of the 1937 Bugatti 57S Four-Seat Sports Grand Routier with coachwork by Corsica was a matter of life and death. Offered with an estimate of €5-8.000.000 (£5-7,000,000), it represented 73.85% of the value of all the cars on offer and, in order to avoid coming away empty handed, the house experts had managed to ensure the sale was without reserve but nevertheless the marketing efforts were immense. Based on a 57G Tank, after being used as an official team car, this example returned to the factory to be transformed into a surbaissé. Since then no one has touched the car other than routine maintenance. In late 2020, word began circulating that one of the 33 examples of this model had been found in a garage. Not only did these rumours turn out to be true, but it was also the last preserved one remaining with just one owner since 1969. This jewel certainly felt the weight of being sold at an online auction: sold for €4,676,990 (£4,047,000) it truly was a low price. A sure bargain for whoever bought it.

All sold and spectacular prices

I don’t like to talk about two examples of the same model close together but on this occasion it’s necessary. To be honest, I’m not talking about two examples but three! Out of 75 examples of the Aston Martin DB4 GT produced it’s quite rare to come across three models sold in the same month, but this does give us the opportunity to do a mini-dive into the market for the model. The cheapest of the three was auctioned at Artcurial with “everything wrong”, sold for €1,358,800 (£1.170.800). Moving up the price ladder we meet the one offered at Bonhams. Owned by the same family since 1966 it was restored in the 1980s but, after disassembling and repainting it, they didn’t take the project much further. The estimate of €1,6-2.000.000 (£1,4-1.800.000) was more correct than the final sale price both for the fact that it was a half-completed restoration, and also because it wasn’t clear whether all the necessary parts were there to complete the restoration. The price, including commissions, of €2,282,450 (£1,975,000) is considerable. At the apex of the Aston pyramid comes the Gooding example, one of 30 left-hand drive models, restored last year to “concours condition” by one of the world’s leading experts, with all the correct numbers and features. Sold for €3,183,900 (£2,750.000), above the estimate of €2,3-2,9 (£2-2.5m), not only was it the most expensive car auctioned at Gooding’s, but it also gives us a measure of just how much the quality of the car on offer affects the final sale price.

Just like being behind the wheel: everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

Among the cars on offer, my pick is the 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental DHC with coachwork by Freestone & Webb. The first owner was Sir John Leigh, a wealthy industrialist and trustee of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. He ordered it with bodywork specced like a sculpture on wheels. After several changes of ownership it ended up in the hands of Sir Anthony Bamford who had it re-restored in 1996. Probably also because of the engine that was replaced in the 80s, this convertible did not even come close to its estimate of €700-900,000 (£600-800,000) and changed hands for €458,500 (£396,000). Alternatively you could have saved roughly €125,000 (£110,000) and have taken home the other Phantom II Continental DHC (from 1930 with coachwork by Barker though). Objectively, anyone who saw them side by side understood why the difference was worth it.

Average prices in overdrive

Almost all the cars in both events were unique examples with exceptional history. Among the most “common” items on sale was a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4. This model gave me the opportunity to test the pulse of the market for this specific model. Originally red with beige interior, the car was painted black just five years later, while the interior change (now olive green) took place in early 2020. Excluding these “original sins”, the car had a very elegant colour combination, the Ferrari Classiche certification and the story of Marcel Massini. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would put it at 8 so the estimate of €2-2,300,000 (£1,75-2.000.000) seemed correct to me and the new owner who paid €2,165,000 (£ 1.870.000) for it thought the same.

1937 Bugatti 57S Four-Seat Sports Grand Routier coachwork by Corsica sold for €4,676,990 (£4.047.000)
1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT sold for 2.288.300€ (£1,975,000)
1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT sold for €3,183,900 (£2,750,000)
1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental DHC coachwork by Freestone and Webb sold for €458,500 (£396.000)
1930 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental DHC coachwork by Barker sold for €331,100 (£286,000)
1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 sold for €2,165,000 (£1,870,000)


To see the data and results of the 2021 auctions, click on the links below: