After the most recent sales organized at Goodwood were a bit of a flop, Bonhams decided to play it safe at its auction on 18th September: decidedly reasonable estimates even at the cost of giving up some million-dollar top lots.
Success here was guaranteed: with 75% of the cars sold, 79.46% of which within their estimates, it seemed like a completely different auction to the one in July (when the same values were 58.69% and 53.78%, respectively). In purely numeric terms, we are talking about 84 cars on offer and 63 sold. Turnover stood at £10,453,250 (€12,234,430) (against an estimate of £13,156,000 or €15,220,145).
With the clear objective of achieving that goal; the percentage of cars without reserve almost doubled from 11.29% to 19.05%, and this had a significant effect on the average price, which went from £209,782 (€245,527) to £165,925 (€194,197).
Perhaps because of the travel limitations still in place or because it’s “easier to win at home”, the number of British cars on offer was decidedly high: over three quarters of the cars at the event (64 out of 84) were Her Majesty’s subjects, and so I decided to tell four English stories, just like taking a tea at 5.
The most widely appraised lot after the auction was the new record set for a Jaguar XJ220. With quotations for supercars from the 90s returning success after success (the Ferraris at Pebble Beach, the Porsche 959 in St. Moritz just the day before), this 1993 XJ220 had a very good chance of setting a new benchmark. Obviously, it was not just any old XJ220, it had travelled just 385 miles from new and had been prepared by Don Law racing, so it was undoubtedly the finest example on the market, and even Bonhams knew this because its estimate was some 30% higher than normal, at £400,000-£500,000 and the sale ended precisely within that range: £460,000 (€538,515).
A diametrically opposed story for the top lot of the auction. The ex-Valentine Lindsay 1956 Jaguar D-Type was the most discussed lot of the sale, but in order to understand why we need to take a step back. The history of XKD570 before the 80s was dangerously latent, stating that the car was dismembered moments after being built but was reassembled in the 80s with a mix of original parts (?) and replicated spare parts. Since then it has been accredited by some of the most important institutions in the world, from the Mille Miglia to the Goodwood Revival. The point was: true, false or what? That’s the reason for the extremely low estimate: £900,000-£1,200,000 a fraction of an original “without history”. The market had its own big doubts and, in the end, the buyer took it home for £799,000 (€935,378) which, in my opinion is almost a bargain as it lets the new owner participate in great events risking less than an original one…
The third most expensive car at the auction was a Bentley 4/8-Litre Two-Seater, with a much clearer but far from linear history. It started life in 1931 as a 4-litre Saloon and was sold to an English nobleman who who specified H J Mulliner saloon coachwork. When, during the 50s, these cars were considered just “old” cars, the owner decided to modify it (a practice that was quite common in that period) to make it more usable. A decade-long conversion began, which only started in earnest in 2015 and the project was completed two years later. Although the car’s originality had been openly abandoned at this point, the market decided to reward it for its usability (and fun) and it changed hands for £603,000 (€705,923), more than double the £300,000-£500,000 original estimate.
The sale went hand in hand with another pre-war Bentley, a 1926 3-Litre Tourer in Speed Model configuration which once belonged to Victor Gauntlett (one-time Chairman of Aston Martin in the mid-80’s) which was estimated at £140,000-£180,000 but went for £230,000 (€269,257).
In truth, another pre-war Bentley lot was sold below its estimate and therefore it would appear that an “either you love it or you hate it” approach prevailed. Anyway I have decided to keep an eye on the category, since you never know what surprises are in store…
What was a surprise to me was the Jensen FF MkII Coupe from 1971. The car was probably the best example on sale today, it had always belonged to the same family, it had been restored perfectly and that orange was just so 70s… On top of this, it came with another touch of style: the number plate “JFF 2” which, on its own was worth a pretty penny. Bonhams realised this, quoted it for £90,000-£120,000 and sold it for £110,400 (€129,243). The previous record for the brand was £90,000.
Finally, a tip for purchases. Formula 3 cars from the 50s are the diamond in the rough of the market right now because they are cheap to buy and maintain – they are powered by 500cc motorcycle engines – they are incredibly fun to drive – “Cooper” configuration therefore mid-engine – and historically important – they were springboards for the likes of Peter Collins and Stirling Moss. Quotations? From Bonhams there were three on offer: a 1953 Beart-Cooper-Jap MkVIIA that went for £20,700 (€24,227) (half of the £40-50,000 estimate), the first Cooper MkV produced in 1950 went away for £26,450 (€ 30,964) (against an estimate of £27,000-£35,000), while a 1951 JBS-Norton changed hands for £28,750 (£17,000-£22,000 estimate). It costs more to register for the Monaco GP than the car itself.