Market and auctions

Artcurial. Le Mans, looking beyond the name

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Artcurial

The Artcurial auction, held in conjunction with the Le Mans Classic, saw 94 cars sold out of 132 on offer (71.21%), of which 58 came without reserve, generating a turnover of €11,506,156 ($11,643,135), roughly 70% of the theoretical total and an average of €122,406 ($123,865) per car sold.

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

Don’t be deceived by the numbers, however: the competition for many lots was more intense in the hall than on the track. 

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

Let’s start with the Pierre Heron collection, with two very rare French cars: the Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet built in the renowned workshops of the coachbuilders Figoni & Falaschi in Boulogne-sur-Seine and nicknamed “El Glaoui”, never restored and with its original engine, it needed a good cleaning just to maintain its original patina. The rarity of the model and the excellent condition were difficult to assess, but experts placed it somewhere in the €150,000-€200,000 region. The buyers in the hall disagreed and battled it out until the winner was declared at €357,600 ($361,855).

1948 Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet “El Glaoui” Figoni & Falaschi sold for €357,600 ($361,855)

The other, the 1956 Tracta-Grégoire Coupé Sport, was a unique example of JA Grégoire’s genius. The uniqueness of the model and its history made it a difficult car to estimate (the experts placed it at €60,000-€80,000), but when the hammer fell many were left in shock: €154,960 ($156,615).

1956 Tracta-Grégoire Coupé Sport sold for €154,960 ($156,615)

The most expensive car for sale was an Italian barchetta, the 1954 Maserati A6 GCS/53 Fiandri Spyder. With Fiandri’s unusual bodywork, this car finished 6th overall and first in class in the 1954 Tour de France Automobile. Here we can also provide some references: a similar example (just seven chassis later) went unsold at Pebble Beach in 2019 for roughly €2.42 million. The “shadowless” story of this model made bidders forget everything: sold for €3,418,000 ($3,454,520). Perfectly within its estimate (€3.25m-€3.75m).

1954 Maserati A6 GCS/53 Fiandri Spyder sold for €3,418,000 ($3,454,520)

The sale at Le Mans also offered some examples from the historical collection of Renault.

Even though the Renault RE40 that won the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in 1983, the jewel of the sale, went unsold (the €720,000 or $724,100 offered was considered too little as the estimate was €800,000-€1,200,000), the Renault-Williams Laguna made sellers smile again. Developed for the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 1999 – let’s not forget that the cars of the various BTCC, DTM (German) and ITC (Italian) categories are highly sought after and prices are growing vertically. The estimate of €40,000-€60,000 without reserve was decidedly pessimistic and in the end the sale price was around double: €107,280 ($108,425).

1999 Renault-Williams Laguna BTCC sold for €107,280 ($108,425)

A very interesting sale was the 1991 Renault Clio 16S Group A: The first owner was Carlos Tavares, the current CEO of Stellantis, who at the time was an engineer at Renault. A true car guy, he bought the car out of his own pocket to race on weekends in rallies and took home several class victories. The highpoint came during the Rally de Portugal, in his home country (a World Championship event). This history was reflected in the estimate of €60,000-€100,000 but the final sale price was just €38,144 ($38,550), which made it an absolute bargain for the buyer.

1991 Renault Clio 16S Groupe A ex-Carlos Tavares sold for €38,144 ($38,550)

At Le Mans, a 1980 Porsche 935 “Baby” L1 seemed like the perfect car to buy: it had raced at the 24 Hours in 1981, as well as at Silverstone, the Nürburgring and Brands Hatch. With an estimate of €1.3m-€1.6m, it rightly deserved to be on the cover of the catalogue. However, bids did not exceed €900,000 ($909,615). Unsold.

1980 Porsche 935 “Baby” L1 went unsold at €900,000 ($909,615)

The same fate appeared to await the other Le Mans-ready car, a 1986 Toyota Tom’s 86C. Used in Group C in 1986, the following year it was sold to Toyota for advertising use. Lacking any significant history and with non-original livery, it had a rather low estimate: €500,000-€700,000, moreover without reserve. It wasn’t enough: it changed hands for just €380,000 ($384,100).

1986 Toyota Tom’s 86C sold for €380,000 ($384,060)

The car I would have bought was one of the cheapest lots of the auction: a Saab 900 Turbo 8 Coupé! At the end of the 80s, this car was the symbol of the freelancer who preferred the understatement of the Swedish coupe. This 1989 model had 105,000 km and just two owners to its credit. After the failure of the brand a decade ago, Saab seemed forgotten. Then the 900 Cabriolets reappeared and are currently in great demand. Now it’s the turn of the coupé: this one was offered at €12,000-€18,000 and was sold for €16,688 ($16,865). Worth keeping an eye on.

1989 Saab 900 Turbo 8 sold for €16,688 ($16,865)