Market and auctions

Amelia auctions: pre-wars and supercars

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s, Rafael Martin, Robin Adams, South Valley Photography, Ryan Merrill, Nathan Leach-Proffer

Now that the three auctions held during Amelia Island Week have come to a conclusion, after the considerable success of Gooding which we presented last week, we have the opportunity to look at the overall results in order to attempt to guess market trends after the auctions of Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s.

Just like being behind the wheel: everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

The balance sheets are very different from one another: in both cases, the sales percentage was fairly good at 85.7% and 88.5% respectively, but the bottom line was very different. It seemed unlikely that RM would have exceeded last year’s results but despite selling fewer cars (77 out of 92) it managed to bring home even better numbers: $46,258,640 (€42,137,457) against $40.6m (€37m) in 2021. 

Just like being behind the wheel: everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

As a result, the average price per lot rose from $441,706 (€402,354) to $600,762 (€547,240) (+36%) with some 33.33% of lots offered without reserve, compared with 40.4% last year. We will see how this result was influenced by an excellent mix of models ranging from pre-war gems to contemporary supercars.

Just like being behind the wheel: everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

Bonhams, in contrast, registered takings of $13,766,860 (€12,540,369), equivalent to 73.11% of the pre-auction estimates of $18,830,000 (€17,152,435), and down sharply from last year’s $20.7 million (€18,817,105). Alarm bells? No, of course not, but the market is proving to be both euphoric and demanding, so the plateau on offer has to meet expectations.

Just like being behind the wheel: everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

At Bonhams, the top lot of the sale was a 1955 Porsche 550 RS. In the possession of the same owner since the 70s, an interesting sporting history with participations in the Nürburgring, Avus and Hockenheim. The engine was not the original one, but it was the highly sought-after Type 547. Now the intriguing part of the sale: the estimate was $4.5m-$5.5m but the bids stopped at $4.185 million (€3,816,300). And yet the hammer didn’t drop even if no one raised the final offer. Ultimately, the hammer fell and the sale was concluded. What had happened? Bonhams used the time that elapsed between the final bid and the final sale to lower the reserve price with the seller! It’s worth bearing in mind that this can actually happen at an auction.

1955 Porsche 550 Spyder sold for $4,185,000 (€3,816,300)

Another super-valued car was the 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE Coupé bodied by Pininfarina. The only example of its kind produced. After a meticulous restoration carried out by CMC – the very best for Jaguar – it was exhibited at Pebble Beach in 2017. For Bonhams, the estimate was $900,000-$1.3m but the market did not respond. Sold after the auction for $940,000 (€ 857,185). A correct price for such a unique example.

1954 Jaguar XK120 SE coachwork by Pinin Farina sold for $940,000 (€857,185)

An honourable mention should be made for the 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Victoria by Rollston, an American car from the 30s that I simply fell in love with. It didn’t have a particularly special story but it captivated me somehow… Estimated at $900,000-$1.2m, it sold for $1,066,500 (€972,540). A dream.

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Victoria coachwork by Rollston sold for $1,066,500 (€972,540)

Without spending millions, there were some great deals to be made. An example? A 1974 Porsche 914 2.0 with just 24,000 miles on the clock, Saturn Yellow, estimated at $50,000-$70,000 and sold for $44,800 (€40,855). Seize the moment.

1974 Porsche 914 2.0 sold for $44,800 (€40,855)

Moving on to RM, the five most expensive lots can be divided into two large groups and their sales are easily understood.

On the one hand, the great cars from the 30s worthy of Concours d’Elegance competitions (after all Amelia Island is precisely this) with the top lot going to a 1934 Packard Twelve Convertible Victoria by Dietrich, estimated at $3.75m-$4.5m and sold for $4,130,000 (€3,766,147), and a 1930 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan Murphy’s estimated $2m-$2.4m and sold for $3,525,000 (€3,214,445).

1934 Packard Twelve Individual Custom Convertible Victoria by Dietrich sold for $4,130,000
1930 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan by Murphy sold for $3,525,000 (€3,214,445)

On the other hand, we have the modern hypercars, including a 2015 LaFerrari with 600 miles on the clock from new ($3.6-$4m the estimate, $3,662,500 (€ 3,339,835) the final sale price), a 2019 Bugatti Chiron Sport with a “healthy” 4,000 miles on the clock offered without reserve at $3m-$3.3m and sold for $3,360,000 (€3,063,985), and also the McLaren Speedtail from two years ago with just 275 miles on the clock, estimated at $2.6m-$3m and sold for $2,700,000 (€2,462,130).

2015 Ferrari LaFerrari sold for $3,662,500 (€3,339,835)
2019 Bugatti Chiron Sport sold for $3,360,000 (€3,063,985)
2020 McLaren Speedtail sold for $2,700,000 (€2,462,130)

But behind these “cover lots” was a fine assortment of other cars that gave us a very clear picture of how the market is evolving.

The Jaguar XJ220 for example: we left this car in November when I talked about a “duel” between Bonhams and RM. On that occasion, Bonhams won by selling theirs for £460,000 (roughly $600,000 or €545,000), but this time RM pulled out all the stops for their model with just 1,130 km on the clock, managing to sell it for $687,000 (€626,475). 

1993 Jaguar XJ220 sold for $687,000 (€626,475)

No one really expected the prototype of the Bugatti EB110 with just 1,095 km on the clock not to sell. The estimate of $2m-$2.5m was in many respects prudent for a regular model, but the prototype deserved a small premium at the very least. However, in the hall the offers stopped at $1.85 million. Once again an agreement was reached after the auction: sold for $2,100,000 (€1,914,990).

1994 Bugatti EB110 GT Prototype sold for $2,100,000 (€1,914,990)

The car that amazed me the most was the 1991 Ferrari Testarossa. Not a very rare Monospecchio version and not even a Monodado. Black with black interior, it was decidedly intriguing and the fact that it had covered just 666 miles from new more than justified its estimate of $140,000-$180,000. But the market was euphoric and, in the end, it sold for $321,250 (€292,947). A new absolute record just 5 months since the previous one was set.

1991 Ferrari Testarossa sold for $321,250 (€292,947)