You should never change a winning formula. The auctions of Bonhams MPH and Silverstone were held on the same day and went by the usual, well-tested script: the first at their historic headquarters at Bicester Heritage while the second was at Stoneleigh Park.
Both auctions focused on the things they’re good at and brought home two solid successes even if they were not exceptional: we have confirmation that the classic car market is lively but it’s travelling at two different speeds, with the USA decidedly more dynamic. For Bonhams, a 79.31% sales result (69 out of 87 cars) is a good result but far below those of Amelia and also of New Bond Street where, it should be said, the lots on offer were much more valuable; on the other hand, Silverstone sold 63.49% of its offering (40 out of 63), again far from tragic but less than the magic of two months ago.
The big difference here is in the values: the MPH division of Bonhams has its eye on cars under the £50,000 mark (just under €60,000) and the average price as a result was £26,000 (€30.207), while at Silverstone, this was not a “low cost” sale (they have their CCA division for that) and the average price was £83,241 (€96,711).
This goes a long way towards explaining the total sales: Bonhams offered more cars and took home £1,793,991 (€2,084,307) while Silverstone placed fewer cars but managed £3,336,834 (€3,876,824) in sales. However, the results were reversed when it came to the estimates: 56.95% for Silverstone and an excellent 103.5% for “the Bicester bunch” who, clearly, know how to manage an online auction, despite it guaranteeing lower fees.
What about the cars? Well, as is often the case in England, they were the highlight at both events, and here are some of the delicacies on offer.
Let’s start with the 1960 Jaguar XK150 3.8S DHC in need of restoration on sale at Bonhams, which had bidders clamouring to outdo each other and lighting up the event. The estimate of £10-15,000 was pulverised when the gavel fell at £90,000 (€105,029). The 3.8S DHC is the ultimate version of the XK150 and is both very rare (they produced just 69 of them) and very powerful with the engine from the later E-Type. Prices for this model start (and I stress the word start) from £160,000 (about €185,000). So adding a competition-class restoration to the sale price of £90,000 and you arrive at the right number. Sold well? Undoubtedly; but here, Bonhams’ strategy of focusing on a rare model, putting it in the catalogue at an unrealistic estimate, and triggering a bidding war in the hall to create excitement for the entire auction worked perfectly.
Another car, another outstanding result: this time at Silverstone with the Subaru Impreza 22B STi, sold for £171,000 (€198,830) against an estimate of £120-140,000 (approx. €140-160,000). Here, a new world record was set for the model by raising the previous sale price by almost 25%. Of the more than 100 cars on offer, this was by far the most interesting lot of both auctions. And it confirmed our expectations.
The new record for a road-legal Subaru Impreza sold at a physical auction pairs perfectly with the most expensive competition Impreza ever sold at an auction: an ex-WRC, ex-Prodrive, ex-Petter Solberg model that won the that won the Rally Japan in 2004. Expectations here were high, from £385,000 to £450,000 (€450,000-525,000) but it failed to reach its estimate; however £369,000 (€429,054) was enough to establish the new benchmark if you want to buy a model with a similar spec.
While we’re on the subject of new records, here’s an old acquaintance: the Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione. After prices took off between 2016 and 2019, for a while it looked like the market had stabilized with the very best examples going for €120-150,000. The very rare “Edizione Finale” from 1995 is the Holy Grail of the “Deltisti” and finding another example with just one owner and just 5,400 km on the clock is practically impossible. At Silverstone, they were ready to break the current record (€161,000) with an estimate of €145,000-165,000 (around €170,000-190,000) but the uniqueness of this model whetted the appetites of a number of bidders and eventually an incredulous auctioneer closed the sale at £218,250 (€253,770).
Bonhams offered a 2013 Range Rover 4.4 SDV8 SE Vogue, blue with cream interior and about 38,000 miles on the clock, aiming for a record. The reason was simple: it was originally supplied new to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge via Land Rover’s VIP Department in 2013. For the uninitiated, that’s Kate and William. But there’s more on offer here: Usually, Land Rovers and Range Rovers used by the Royal Household have the vehicle registration numbers changed once out of service, making it difficult to confirm their famous history. This example is a rare exception to this rule. For an estimated £30-40,000 (€35-45,000) it sold for £50,625 (€59,079): half was the value of the car, the other half… for the license plate!
In this back-and-forth foray into both events, I’d like to end with a direct confrontation: two comparable examples sold at both auctions. Which event had bidders with the most muscle? In the left corner and on offer by Silverstone, a 1973 Aston Martin V8 in a gorgeous blue livery. Restored in 2016 at a cost of £50,000, it had covered just a few kilometres. The car was offered without reserve but also without an estimate. In the other corner, another V8 from 1973. This time in brown but in need of restoration. One owner since 1984 and three others prior to that. The estimate was £25,000-30,000 (€30,000-35,000) and in this case there was a reserve price.
An interesting peculiarity that few would have noticed? The chassis number: the blue one was 11038 while the brown was 11070, meaning they were probably produced in the same week. And the winner is… Silverstone’s offer went for £48,375 (€56,248), while Bonhams dropped the hammer at £39,375 (€45,789). If it looks like the winner is Silverstone; remember that the £9,000 (approx. €10,500) difference isn’t enough to pay for a restoration, so Bonhams wins… on points.