It may seem like a provocation. Instead it’s very real: you can look for the car of your dreams, often a millionaire model, in Pebble Beach – not long to go – or switch to the English H&H or SWVA where the prices of the cars on sale are at the other end of the spectrum.
SWVA is a small auction house in the southwest of England that on 29th July offered 74 cars (it sold 69, or 93.24%), where the Top Lot cost just £25,960 (€31,020)!
SWVA makes very reasonable estimates to the point that, compared to a total forecast of £395,450 (€472,505), it ended up registering a turnover of £518,765 (€619,610), over 30% more. Average price per car: £7,518 (€8,979).
The H&H sale at the end of July presented 128 cars, 95 of which changed hands (74.22%), giving them a turnover of £2,056,026 (€2,455,717) (83.41%). Average price: £21,642 (€25,850) per car.
The most expensive lot of either auction was at H&H, a 1934 Bentley 3.5 litre Tourer. The first owner was Sir Roy Feddon, an aeronautical designer who worked for Vickers – aircraft – and who did numerous aerodynamic tests with a scale model in a wind tunnel to optimize his designs. In the 80s the Bentley, the car underwent a painstaking restoration, including unique ‘Figoni et Falaschi’ style coachwork. Maybe for its history, maybe its style, but the car went well beyond its £80,000-£90,000 estimate, selling for £117,000 (€139,750).
At H&H, there were numerous pre-war cars that are currently an absolute bargain compared to newer cars.
An example? The1929 Austin Seven Fabric Saloon. Lovingly preserved by the same family from 1948 to 2003, updated and pampered with numerous important interventions. Offered without reserve, it changed hands for just £5,062 (€6,045). Think about it: what could you buy for £5,000? And, in addition, with a 1929 Austin Seven you would be warmly accepted at many events.
And what about fun? What would you say about a nice Riley V12 Special? The price is much higher (£13,500) but still within a range that’s accessible to all. Built on the chassis of a shortened Riley RMF, aluminium bodywork and powered by a Lincoln-derived 4.8 V12 engine. For £13,500 (€16,125) fun and style is guaranteed (provided you don’t want to go to purist events…)
At H&H there was another car that amazed me, this time for its value for money performance. Beautiful to look at and seemingly in order, albeit with 46,000 miles to its credit, a 1998 Fiat Barchetta went for £6,750 (€8,060). In its segment, is this model destined to grow?
What about MGB? A legend. Between H&H and SWVA there were three “super” variants of the model: a 1974 MGB GT V8, one of the first, without the front spoiler; one of the 1968 MGC Roadsters, the final version of the model, and a 1995 MG R V8.
All three had some “defects” but all three had much more powerful engines than the normal B. The one from H&H, beautiful in black livery with a manual gearbox and sunroof, went for £11,475 (€13,705), the R V8, with just 17,000 miles on the clock (not certified), was the most expensive of the three at £13,820 (€16,505), while the C was placed in the middle at £13,200 (€15,770). Prices significantly higher than “normal” MGBs: at H&H one sold for £4,500 (€ 5,375).
In this period, with prices of the 80s hot hatches taking off, I found an affordable one: the Rover Metro GTI from 1990, just like its sports relative the Metro 6R4 has remained affordable. Purchased in September 2020 and patiently restored, it was in really good order. The price… estimated at £3,000-£4,000 (a third of a Peugeot 205 GTI), it changed hands for just £2,640 (€3,155).
I will close with the cheapest car from the events, a 2000 Mercedes-Benz SLK320. The 3.2 V6 engine producing almost 300 hp is solid and offers great performance but the gearbox was the Achilles’ heel of this particular example: only three gears actually worked. The cost of restoration is certainly high but… sold for £650 (€775) a further investment would hardly break the bank.