Even after the giant shopping sprees in August, the American auctions simply refuse to stop: Bonhams announced a sale in Newport (Rhode Island) during the Audrain Concours on 30th September. While RM had the opportunity to sell the entire collection of Gene Ponder and chose September 24th for the event.
The numbers? You can see them on our dashboard but I can quickly summarize them here: RM offered 97 cars without reserve and sold them all. Turnover was $20,302,150 (€20,904,400), above the pre-sale estimates, so there was some rejoicing in the room.
Bonhams brought 45 cars to its event, half of which came without reserve (51.11%), and found new owners for 34 of them, or 75.55%. Turnover was excellent $6,812,980 (€7,015,100) against the pre-sale estimate of $7,885,000 (€8,129,235), equivalent to an excellent 86.39%.
Similar average prices: $209,300 (€215,500) for the former and $200,382 (€206,325) for the latter.
For the top lot, Bonhams managed to put a safe distance between itself and RM by presenting a 1957 BMW 507 S2 Roadster that had belonged to the same family since 1979. This car, completely original with matching numbers and the very rare Rudge wheels, had been hidden away for more than 40 years. Barn finds like this have a beautiful “Indiana Jones factor” when they’re discovered, countered by the ugly prospect of a full restoration after being stationary for so many decades. In this case, however, it had been properly maintained throughout its hibernation. The hammer price was higher than the estimate of $1.8m-$2.2m, changing hands for $2,315,000 (€2,383,675).
The top lot over at RM instead was a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster. Originally white with red interior, restored by Paul Russell almost thirty years ago (in 1995), with Rudge wheels, it was the typical car built for driving more than for Concours d’Elegance events. Its sale price of $1,595,000 (€1,642,315) was just slightly below the estimate of $1.7-$1.9m, which I consider to be absolutely correct.
Looking at the Ponder collection overall, it is noticeable how all the cars were more suitable for being driven rather than being studied by a judge on duty. There were no fewer than 21 cars in the collection, including replicas, recreations, and specials.
There was really everything here: from Alfa Romeo and Bugatti replicas from the 1930s, Italian barchettas from the 1950s, specials built on MGs underpinnings, replicas of Cobra and Porsche 550 RS without forgetting some mythological legends: two Disco Volante (in both Fianchi Stretti and Fianchi Larghi versions) and a 57G Tank.
Prices ranged from $41,800 (€43,040) for the MGA-based special (with a Toyota engine and a 1950s Ferrari-like line) to $1,155,000 (€1,189,265) for a stunning Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic recreation by Eric Koux.
Given the success, the thing we wanted most was to understand how this type of market works where the substance is betrayed by appearance. It’s very difficult to understand when the Bugatti Atlantic, estimated at $1.4m-$1.8m remained 19% below its minimum estimate while the replica of a Ferrari 212 Barchetta (built on a 212 Inter coupe chassis, no less, therefore rebodied) went for $792,000 (€816,375), 51% more than its estimate.
Many predictions were contradicted: $90,750 (€93,440) paid for the JVA replica of a Porsche 550 Spider that was estimated at $30,000-$40,000 or, on the contrary, the $82,500 (€84,945) paid for a “Jaguar Special”, so to speak, estimated at $140,000-$175,000 (-41%). The concept of appearance is at play here, not too different from when you buy antiques at the markets: if you like it, you buy it without trying to understand what you are really buying.
Another aspect worth observing is that at both auctions, the more recent cars did very well indeed.
RM had a couple of Ferraris from the 1990s. The first was a 355 F1 Fiorano Limited Edition, one of 100 examples designed to celebrate the end of the 355’s production run (and sell off unsold stock), and 8,650 miles from new. Estimated at $100,000-$140,000, it changed hands for $209,000 (€215,430), not a new record but considering that for $224,000 (€230,750) you could have taken home one with a manual gearbox and 900 miles to its credit, Ponder’s was definitely less desirable.
Then, in the same collection, there was a 1990 Ferrari 348 TS with just 9,000 miles in red/beige livery: correctly estimated at $45,000-$65,000, it went all the way up to $126,500 (€130,250), a true record.
From Bonhams, on the other hand, it was Aston Martin’s time to shine.
You could have chosen between a 1989 V8 Vantage Volante with 10,000 miles on the clock. Presented with $190,000 worth of cosmetic restoration that also allowed it to lose the horrible American rubber bumpers, perfectly 1980s in its bright red with beige interior colour combination, estimated at $150,000-$200,000. More elegant and discreet was its 1986 coupe counterpart. Blue with cream interior with just 12,434 miles on the clock.
This one also came with those American bumpers but they had been replaced with the originals. Estimated at $120,000-$180,000. The market rewarded both, the Volante changed hands just above its maximum estimate at $207,200 (€213,345) while a flurry of offers swept the Coupe all the way up to $280,000 (€288,300).