The first edition of the Bonhams auction in Newport Beach (RI) was a success. The sale was held in conjunction with the Audrain Concours d’Elegance and demonstrated that the industry is in great shape.
Just 41 cars on offer, but each of excellent quality and more-than-reasonable pricing; in fact, 32 of these were sold, equivalent to 78.05%. That number would be higher if we also considered the 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, which changed hands after the event, bringing the total to 80.4%.
Of course, this could also mean that there was a large number of cars offered without reserve (and that’s partly correct given that 36.59% were), but this reasoning was swept away by the overall takings: some 74.63% of the estimated value ($8,444,800 or €7,292,929 against $11,315,000 or €9,782,552 on offer). This, without considering the Daytona for which the result has not been published.
Moving on to the cars, I noticed a peculiarity: Rhode Island is one of the thirteen founding states and by all accounts its gaze was fixed on the “old” European continent rather than the more modern Silicon Valley, since there were many British and German cars at the auction, several Italians and very few Americans.
Fun fact: Audrain is 3,219 miles from Europe and 3,217 from Pebble Beach! There has to be a hidden meaning in there somewhere.
The top lot of the sale was a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing that was sold for $1,556,000 (€1,344,973) (estimate $1.3m-$1.6m), but it was the second-most expensive lot of the sale that tells us a lot more than this one.
The 1963 Shelby Cobra 260 is one of the very first examples of this iconic model (they made only 62 with this engine, before switching to the 289). Although it was owned by only one car(e)taker since 1973, and with an impeccable history it failed to reach its estimate of $750,000-$950,000 and the owner accepted an offer of $728,250 (€629,483).
The Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 is far from the preferred model of the majority of collectors: even if it hails from the 60s (this example was from 1969), it is a 2+2 with a questionable shape that puts it off the radar of most collectors. The estimate, however, was definitely tempting not so much because of the $140,000-$170,000 figure itself, which placed it among the cheapest examples on the market, but because it had only travelled 26,250 miles from new. The sale went beyond expectations: at $187,600 (€162,157) it became one of the more expensive examples of this model. With the Ferrari market as buoyant as ever, this purchase might very well have been a smart move.
A good part of the auction was dedicated to several youngtimers, and among these there were three cars worth putting in your basket.
The one that evoked the most memories for me was a 1993 Rolls Royce Corniche IV Convertible with just 16,354 miles from new and just one owner over the past 15 years. The car was disarmingly elegant, with a colour combination that left you breathless. In March 2014, another Corniche came to auction with an estimate of about $35,000, and after a series of counter offers it was sold for $71,500. Since then, prices of this model have lingered around that number. Starting from an estimate of $70,000-$90,000 the raises came in quick succession making the price fly all the way to $131,600 (€113,752): a new world record for a Corniche IV. Was it because of the specification and condition or do we have to update our quotations?
What I am almost certain of is that we need to review the prices of the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Of the 500 units produced, only 84 were destined for the American market and just 2 were Pearl Yellow. One of these came to Bonhams and made the room vibrate, not only for its outstanding beauty but for the offers it received. The estimate of $275,000-$325,000 seemed correct, particularly towards the lower end, but when the hammer fell at $346,000 (€299,075), a new record for the model had been set. Just a year and a half ago a (red) example with just 950 miles on the clock was sold for $250,000. Was it the yellow?
We will close this round up with the youngest car of the sale, and one I have been eyeing up for some time: the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT. Obviously its line evokes the original 300SL, and this alone makes it an instant classic. Then let’s not forget that its 6.2 V8 AMG engine is about to disappear and when production ceases, prices go up. The example offered at this auction was in a very rare (perhaps unique) Sepang Brown and had travelled just 1,490 miles from new. The price was decidedly low; with $175,000-$225,000 you buy cars with 7,000-10,000 miles on the clock. The sale, however, restored normality: $280,000 (€242,026), a new world record (only the Black Series has gone beyond that number) demolishing the previous one by 20%.