The important auctions with million-dollar turnovers may make the headlines, but they risk making us forget the many auctions where you can find some really good deals with very little money. And the majority of them – could that be a coincidence? – are in those countries where the passion for collecting is at its highest: the United States and Great Britain.
Today I wish to describe, from the point of view of a buyer, the auction of Bonhams in Beaulieu, Hampshire, on 5th September and Anglia Car Auctions, ACA, held the week before. Before I begin, I need to make an initial observation: the same a small budget set aside for Bonhams would have allowed me to take home three cars from ACA. In short, great deals and a lot of fun.
Now let’s get to the numbers: ACA offered 241 cars and sold 216 (89.63%), Bonhams offered 116 and sold 77 (66.38%). Despite the fact that the former had more cars on offer, in the end turnover was lower: at ACA the takings were £1,534,533 (roughly £7,104 per car), while at Bonhams turnover was £2,243,483 (over £29,000 per car).
The roles were reversed if we speak about expectations: at ACA they hoped to get £1,636,350 (and therefore they reached 93.76% of their goal). Bonhams was much more ambitious and was aiming for £3,863,000, meaning they had to content themselves with “just” 58.07%.
If I had been there, what would I have taken home?
Without a shadow of a doubt, I would have started with the 1996 Subaru Impreza UK2000 which once belonged to the McRae family, the most famous driver of the epic Subaru. The car really was as described and belonged to his father and his brother. Values of the Subaru Impreza are going up: until 2019, you could have bought a P1 for £15,000-£20,000 (€17-23,500) but now this model starts at around £40,000-£50,000 (€45-60,000), without mentioning the 22B STI which, if you don’t have at least £125,000 (€146,000) to spend, you won’t stand a chance of bringing home. Even if the UK2000 is not the holy grail of the model, it is nevertheless positively influenced by this heightened interest and subsequent growth in prices, and let’s not forget that it will always be the car that once belonged to the family most associated with the glorious period of the model. Estimated at £10,000-£20,000 (€11-23,500) without reserve, it sold for £11,250 (€13,200). If the new owner does some light bodywork repairs and brings it to a better location, I am convinced that it would at least double that price.
If, on the other hand, you were prepared to take on a slightly bigger commitment (both financially and in terms of work needed), there was a peach here well worth your attention: a 1973 Lamborghini Espada Coupé. In need of a complete restoration. Sure, £27,391 (€32,100) was by no means a small amount to just to get your hands on a car (without even considering the cost of a proper restoration), but it was almost half of the £40,000-£50,000 (€45-60,000) estimate. At the recent Monterey auctions, they offered 11 Lamborghinis, all of which sold and only one changed hands below its estimate. The market is in turmoil and, if you’ll forgive the pun, Lamborghini is on a “bullish” streak right now.
On the flip side, there’s the “big loser” of the auction. With an estimate of £250,000-£300,000 (€300-350,000), the Delahaye 135M Three-Position DHC bodied by Pennock came onto the podium as a clear contender for the title of queen of the event. Sold for £153,125 (€179,400), only slightly above its reserve price. But if you were prepared to accept such low offers, you would have been better off betting on a sale without reserve, as that would likely have attracted more buyers.
ACA, as always, offered a nice mix of cars at reasonable prices and it taught us a couple of new things about the market.
Let’s start immediately from the car that was absolutely worth buying: the 1974 Ford Capri MkII 3.6 V8 FF. The car needed a complete restoration but it was a very rare four-wheel drive Ferguson conversion (hence the name Ferguson Four or FF). How rare? Well we’re talking about single units or, at most, a few dozen. This particular one had a Buick V8 engine (the same as the Range Rover) that more than compensated for the increase in weight caused by the transformation. At £6,750 (€7,910) I would have wanted it immediately. With a little work and a little research on its history, that figure could easily quadruple or even more.
Another investment car from ACA was definitely the Renault Megane Sport 225 from 2005, also known as the RS. Famous for its driving pleasure, among youngtimers it is beginning to take off, so at £6,500-£8,500 (€7,5-10,000) an RS with just 6,577 miles from a new was a very enticing proposal. The person who took it home paid £9,720 (€11,400) for the pleasure, almost 50% more than the minimum estimate and 14% more than the maximum. But I am equally sure that the person who made the best deal here was not the seller, but the buyer.
Then, things that were difficult to understand also happened: two Mercedes-Benz 350SLs, one from 1972 and the other from 1974, the first a yellow manual gearbox example complete with hardtop, the second a blue model, without the hardtop but above all, with a transplanted 3.0 diesel engine. Despite the very similar conditions, all the rules of collecting were broken: the yellow “original” one was sold for £4,320 (€5,060) (against an estimate £6,000-£8,000), while the blue “modified” one went away for £7,290. I’m speechless…