Market and auctions

Bonhams. Paris is well worth a vaccine

The first online experiment from the famous British auction house yielded ambiguous results. They’d be better off planning physical auctions for the future.
Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Bonhams

He’s always been a divisive character but not even I expected him to behave like this at the auctions. We are talking about Diego Armando Maradona who, I am certain had a lot of fun following the Bonhams auction “in Paris” from the afterlife, particularly when his Porsche went under the hammer. A 911 of the 964 series, Carrera 2 Cabriolet “Turbo-look” from 1992 that he bought when he went to play for Sevilla FC after seven years at SSC Napoli. At the end of the season, his contract with the Spanish team was terminated and he never played in Europe again. However, let’s return to the car: silver with a black interior and after the end of his Spanish experience, he sold it and it changed hands several times before ending up with its current owner who put it in the garage in 2016 with 121,000 km on the clock. From that moment on, it has travelled just 1,000 km. Just two weeks earlier, a BMW i8 that also once belonged to ”El Pibe de Oro” didn’t reach its estimate, so here €150-200,000, which already included a small prize for history, seemed decidedly difficult to reach. But as one might say; Maradona out-manoeuvred the defenders before scoring a winning goal and this time the car was sold for an incredulous sum: €483,000.

1992 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 964 ‘Ex-Diego Maradona’ Cabriolet sold for €483,000

This was the Bonhams auction, the first one in its history held completely online (no auctioneers or hall, just keyboards and monitors): a concentration of emotions.

Let’s start with the numbers: €3,729,645 isn’t a breath-taking amount, especially if we consider that in 2020, the top lot alone exceeded that amount (for the record: a Bugatti Type 55 sold for €4,600,000 ) but we should also remember that this was an experiment and as such the risk of making mistakes was considerable. So they bet on safety; many “easy” lots (in fact the average dropped from €308,619 per lot in 2020 to €98,150 in 2021), just four pre-war cars and almost a third of the cars on offer were youngtimers.

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

The result was acceptable but not exceptional, probably because Bonhams’ typical customer is not the same as at RM or Gooding and prefers being in the room. I’m sure that over in New Bond Street, they’re betting heavily on a vaccination campaign, hoping to return to live sales as soon as possible, perhaps as early as Amelia Island (which will be held this year towards the end of May).

Bonhams’ caution in this first online auction led to bids with much lower average prices than in 2020. Thanks to this, the turnover percentage varied very little

Obviously the Porsche wasn’t the only interesting car at this sale. Here are some of the others on offer.

We still don’t know the fate of Abarth in the Stellantis solar system but we do know that this brand has always been in the hearts of French enthusiasts. That’s why the 1961 Abarth 850TC in 1999 was purchased by Prince Charles de Bourbon-Parme, direct descendant of Louis XIV. In the twenty years of his ownership the car participated in numerous events, including the Tour de Corse and Tour de France Historic, while in the Villa d’Este concorso deleganza, it received an award from the hands of Carlo Abarth himself. The estimate of €40-60,000 was quite correct but probably an old restoration and the presence of the roll bar alarmed some collectors and the tiny missile changed hands for €36,800.

1961 Fiat Abarth 850TC sold for €36,800

Speaking of racing cars, there is no denying the interest in the 1955 Studebaker Commander. This example is a perfect replica of the one that won the Carrera Panamericana in 2007. Not many people know that Studebaker participated in the Mexican marathon on no less than five editions (1950-1954) without bringing home prestigious results. It has however been extremely successful in the contemporary version of the event for historic cars, where over the past 32 editions, the Commanders have won no fewer than 24. Preparation for this gruelling competition is very expensive so the estimate of €50-70,000 represented only a fraction of the amount spent on the car. Due to the absence of a reserve price (and the limited possibility of actually using it in the short term), the new owner was able to take home the deal of the day at just €20,700. Or maybe it was the sponsor who dented the morale of the bidders – Corona Extra.

1955 Studebaker Commander Carrera Panamericana replica sold for €20,700

From pseudo-French charm to the real deal. Although the original Citroen DS was designed by the Italian (but naturalized French) Flaminio Bertoni, it was Henri Chapron’s hand that created the convertible. The 1971 Citroen DS21 ie Decapotable is one of only four semi-automatic gearbox made and probably the only one ordered directly at the factory. Compared to those that “commonly” could be ordered at the local dealership, it has a small set of characteristics that stand out. Purchased in 1988 by a Greek collector who lived in a cheateau in the south of France (what a magnificent scene: this DS in front of a French castle), upon his death it passed to a prominent Chapron restorer who used it as his own personal car. Given the peculiarity, the estimate of €150-250,000 was a little light and the final sale price of €172,500 seems to me a number that hit the sweet spot for both parties.

1971 Citroën DS21 ie Décapotable sold for €172,500
1990 Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro 4×4 sold for €13,800
1926 Salmson GSS Sports Tourer sold for €115,000