It would appear that the strength of RM Sotheby’s in online auctions is slowly diminishing. There are undoubtedly a number of factors at play here: on the one hand, the significant competition from specialist sites (the most recent: The Market, which has been incorporated into Bonhams), then probably an excess of supply – let’s face it: it’s difficult to organise one auction per month full of fantastic cars – as well as the fact that many hope that, starting from Amelia Island at the end of the month, we will return to organizing physical auctions for the most prestigious events. The question arises as to whether RM is relinquishing its grip on this sector, which is as competitive as it is unprofitable: the big million-dollar cars do not exist here and the commissions are reduced to a minimum.
The last two auctions were held on 17-25th March and 21-29th April, and we can hardly say the results were exciting. During the first event, out of 90 lots on offer, just 52 were sold (57.78%) while in April, out of 60 lots on offer, just 33 (55%) changed hands with 14 offered without reserve. A useful lifesaver… Turnover suffered the same fate: in March it was €4,363,670 ($5,259,597) out of a potential €7,486,400 ($9,023,470) while the most recent auction, with an estimated €4,001,500 ($4.823,068), only managed to generate a “paltry” €1,823,000 ($2,197,588), all of which translates to 58.28% and 45.56% respectively.
As they were online auctions, also the average price per car sold was severely limited, in the first auction it almost touched €84,000 (€83,900), while in the second it was €55,240, also due to the fact that, out of the 16 lots estimated at over €100,000, only 4 found a new home. The April auction was curious: despite the abundance of interesting cars (probably optimistically estimated) the top lot went to a car in need of restoration, followed closely by a maquette, even if it was particularly interesting.
To better understand the dynamics of the two events, I have chosen four very particular cars.
The 2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale A was the top lot of the March sale. For all intents and purposes, it looked like any “usual” modern Ferrari but anyone who spent an afternoon configuring their own dream Speciale (I know I did!) knows that there are thousands of combinations. The first owner did not set any limits on fantasy or budget and ordered a truly Tailor-Made car: The Blu Indigo Lucido colour scheme with a silver middle band was truly stunning. with just 7,700 km on the clock, the lot was sold precisely within its estimate of €400-450,000 ($475-550,000) at €415,244 ($500,500).
Waiting for the next day, you could still have brought home a “tailor-made” car, even if it was not a Ferrari. My favourite car at the March auction was undoubtedly the 1965 Griffith Series 200 completely in need of restoration. Anyone who says: “But it’s a TVR!” wouldn’t be wrong. In that year, always on the hunt for funds, the team from Blackpool headed out towards the American market and met Jack Griffith along the way. He thought it would be a great idea to shoehorn a nice 4.7-litre Ford V8 producing 271 bhp (the same as the Cobra) into their lightweight plastic bodies, and while he created a car capable of doing the 0-100km/h dash in less than 4 seconds, he forgot to upgrade the suspension and brakes and the experiment was a disaster with just 192 examples produced. After spending 30 years in the garage, the thirteenth model produced was offered for sale in need of a complete restoration but it came with the original engine and beautiful knock-off wire wheels. Restored examples are listed at around €85,000 or $100,000, but this one sold for €17,340 ($20,900). An honest price…
Speaking of Euro-American hybrids, at the following April auction, the experts from RM dug out something that not many will have ever heard of. Before continuing with this article, take look at the photo and don’t cheat: what car is it? Those who know are true experts in this field. Of the 125 Intermeccanica Indras (produced in Turin with a Chevy 327 engine) only 40 were notchback Coupés and this 1972 example may well be the only one in this blue-purple colour scheme (which looks decidedly disco). The seller bought it in 2017 and didn’t use it much. The estimate was somewhat limited: €40-50,000 (roughly $48-60,000) and the selling price was right on the nail at €40,700 ($49,056).
Although to many it may look like just another Porsche 911, I couldn’t resist putting this RUF BTR on my list of favourites from the sale. Built in 1981, it was in metallic “paint-to-sample” white complete with electric sunroof. It originally produced 300 bhp but the owner decided to increase that a little and asked Alois Ruf’s golden hands to work their magic. Bored out to 3.4 litres and now producing 374 bhp, it became a Dr. Jekyll of the Californian streets. Today, a rare modified Ruf of this period could not cost just €75-90,000 ($90-110,000), as per the original estimates. And in fact, it was sold for €146,020 ($176,000)