Those who don’t know otherwise, think that the world of historic car auctions is an exclusive club for jet-setters who meet in exotic locations and bid millions of pounds to take home some shiny trinkets. In reality, things are quite different: while it might be true that only the news of million-dollar sales arrives on TV, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Not to knock the spectacle of auctions, the truth is that, according to an analysis I did before the pandemic, over 85% of all classic cars sold at auction in the United Kingdom were sold for less than €60,000 (£50,000). Yes that’s a considerable sum, but it’s not much more than you’d pay for a new medium-large sized SUV.
The Sale at Historics on 18th April was a beautiful example of how to put on a successful show: some 82.3% of all cars sold did not exceed that threshold and only 6 cars (less than 5%) exceeded €115,000 (£100,000). I’d hardly call this an exclusive club.
With its excellent mix of affordable, important and unusual cars, Historics once again hit the jackpot: 130 cars sold out of 164 on offer means a sales percentage of 79.27% which rises to 88.15% by value, with average prices around the €40,500 (£35,000) mark. Not only that, but of the cars sold, 48 (36.9%) exceeded their maximum estimate while only 11 did not reach their minimum estimate.
Considerable merit for this result goes to the beautiful location of Ascot, the possibility of physically participating at the event but above all a restored confidence in the future, thanks to the powerful vaccination campaign underway on the island.
So which cars sparked the biggest bidding wars?
We’ll start with the 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Roadster. Silver with red leather interior, it was one of the few originally sold in the United Kingdom and therefore was right hand drive. 45,000 miles from new, a colour change (it was originally gold), a full restoration costing €110,000 – £80,000 + VAT (£96,000) – complete with Becker Mexico radio and a hardtop, it had a pre-auction estimate of £95-120,000 which would only have covered the restoration costs. After a flurry of bids and counter bids, the seller took home the princely sum of €213,500 (£184,800). It’s not quite a new world record, but the more expensive ones all come with the very rare ZF manual transmission, so this is therefore undoubtedly a new record for an automatic version.
We’ll remain Germany with a car that we’re seeing change hands at higher and higher figures. After remaining in the shadow of its two-door sisters, the BMW M5 E28 series is finally finding the glory it rightly deserves. Thanks to its engine (the same as the M1) and its practicality, it is climbing the rankings of those looking for a historic, sporty car for the whole family. Manufactured in 1987, black with black interior, one of 185 in right-hand drive, with some 174,000 miles on the clock, it was estimated at €32,5-38,000 (£28-33,000). Its sale was managed by Historics’ famous brand ambassador, Vicki Butler-Henderson, driver, former Top Gear presenter and later Fifth Gear presenter. His passion kept the bids coming until it finally changed hands for €57,500 (£49,808), more than €20,000 above the minimum estimate.
We don’t know whether the buyer of the 1995 Jaguar XJS has read our monthly “Virtual Garage” but they were certainly highly motivated to buy this example. The example ticked all the right boxes, it was not a normal 4.0 version but a highly sought-after Celebration Convertible, in a very rare colour combination too: Turquoise with cream interior. Beautiful and elegant but more importantly, just 10,567 miles on the clock. The estimate of €30-35,000 (£25-30,000) might have seemed high, but let’s not forget that these cars are rising in value. In fact, the new owner paid €51,700 (£44,800) for it. Without a doubt the seller is celebrating but the buyer didn’t make a bad deal either, as rarely do such beautiful cars reach the market.
But Historics also offered cars that didn’t shatter the rosiest of expectations. In the bargain corner, I found a small diamond that no one had noticed: the 2000 Renault Clio RS 172. A Phase 1 which, with its 2-litre engine and fantastic chassis, was the hot hatch to beat at the time and throughout the decade the various specialized magazines used it as a yardstick. Unreserved (and without estimate) the small French car changed hands for just €7,800 (£6,720). Forgive me for leaving you abruptly: I am looking for one like that for myself…