Three favourable circumstances make it impossible to make a serious comparison between last year’s RM auction in London and today’s: the first of these is the exceptional moment the market is currently enjoying. The second is the “Gran Turismo Collection” effect which represented three-quarters of the sale. The third is the widespread pursuit of “safe haven assets”, something easy to find in some of the finest production pieces from the 80s onwards, the ones that are now the most popular.
With 24 lots sold in 2021 (60% success) compared to 38 this year (76%), our premise gets off to a great start, and is confirmed by the turnover: twelve months ago RM took home £7,474,025 (€8,511,530) – against pre-auction estimates of £18,015,000 (€20,515,750), a measly 41%. Today, they netted £27,194,125 (€30,969,075) against estimates of £37,680,000 (€42,910,550), providing an excellent 72%. The average price per car more than doubled from £311,418 (€354,645) last year to £715,635 (€814,975), again setting a record for this auction.
Although the top lot (both of the collection and the auction) was a 2022 Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ with just 1,416 miles on the clock, sold for £4,195,625 (€4,778,040) against an estimate of £4m-£4.5m, it wasn’t the most attractive car on offer. On the contrary, considering the quantity and quality of the lots at this event, the cars we present could by and large be compared to the levels reached at Pebble Beach and, in some cases, even better.
Let’s start with three rally cars, each one with a powerful pedigree. The first to pass under the auctioneer’s hammer was the Audi Quattro Sport S1 E2, an ex-works Group B monster. After participating in the 1985 Lombard Rally (retired when it was in the lead) in the hands of Hannu Mikkola, it was sold to a private customer who modified it so he could use it on the road! The estimate of £1.75m-£2.25m was spot on as it sold for £1,805.000 (€2,055,560), setting a new record for the model.
After this, we were entertained by a pair of Lancias from the golden age: the 1985 Lancia Delta S4 Group B with which Henri Toivonen won the 1986 Monte Carlo rally, estimated at £1.75m-£2.25m (just like the Audi), it changed hands slightly below its estimate at £1,636,250 (€1,863,385).
The second one, the first example of the Lancia 037 in Evo 1 configuration from 1982, also ex-works with a respectable collection of trophies to its credit and driven by heroes of the calibre of Walter Röhrl and Markku Alén, was estimated at £950,000-£1,250,000 and sold for £1,045,625 (€1,190,775). Both cars pulverized the previous records.
From the same collection, there were also the crème de la crème of the Italian Prancing Horses: an F40, an Enzo and a LaFerrari. I immediately questioned the Gran Turismo credentials of these supercars, but I quickly understood the reason for the name; I think the owner used them to cross Europe quickly.
Otherwise how could an F40 have over 48,000 km, a LaFerrari over 24,000 miles and an Enzo 72,000 km? Their prices, compared to sister models were consequently much lower: the F40 changed hands for £1,411,250 (€1,607,150) – a bargain, although it was within its estimate of £1.4m-£1.6m.
The LaFerrari sold for £1,973,750 or €2,247,735 (estimated at £2m-£2.5m) while the Enzo fell squarely within its estimate of £1.8m-£2.2m when its new owner took it home for £1,917,500 (€2,183,675).
It’s worth pausing to reflect on the 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO: this same car had previously been auctioned on 18th May 2002, where it was purchased for €219,200, equivalent to roughly £138,000 at today’s exchange rate. Estimated at £3.25-£4m, its value had multiplied 23 times in 20 years, a nice increase! Bids stopped at £3,000,000 (€3,416,445) which, with commissions, would have made £3.36 million, a number that the seller was not prepared to accept. However, considering the revaluation, I would be … satisfied.
There were also some very interesting results outside this collection, however.
The Oscar for the craziest price of the sale (or maybe of the year?) undoubtedly goes the 1974 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow that once belonged to Freddie Mercury – the frontman of Queen – from 1979 until his death in 1991. If this alone had the potential to drive the bidders wild, the fact that the entire proceeds of the sale were to be donated to the victims of the war in Ukraine sealed its fate. Although estimated at £20,000-£30,000, it was clear that this was the price of the car alone while the rest was not considered. How far did it go? The royal sum of £286,250 (€325,985), fourteen times its minimum estimate. Pointless to talk about records.
Even a Nissan Skyline made sparks at the event. The last time we came across quality Skylines was at Pebble Beach, where they ended up performing badly with some going unsold. This time, however, a 2002 GT-R V-Spec II Nür brought a smile back to all the owners of the model. One of the 718 produced, with 61,000 km to its credit, it still had Japanese documents (therefore customs duties to be paid). Despite the calibre of the car, the estimate of £120,000-£160,000 was in my opinion correct, but several enthusiasts in the room raised its price up to £224,250 (€255,380), setting a new European record for a Skyline in the process as well as a world record for a Skyline V-Spec.
Finally, I’d like to close by talking about the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in need of a total restoration. One of the things that most intrigues me when it comes to cars of this type at auctions, is trying to find out what happens to them: are they lovingly cared for by some famous restorer? If so, which one? If we think about it, an auction is the cross-roads between a buyer and a seller. In 2011 this same “barn find” DB5 in identical condition was offered by Bonhams where it was sold for £282,000 against an estimate of £50,000-£80,000. Obviously, at the time it made a bit of a fuss and I myself asked myself: “but what will happen to it? Today, after eleven years, I now discover that it was bought by a collector from Kuwait who kept it in this condition and in fact made it worse still. However, this did not stop it from shining: sold for £426,875 (€486,130), double the price paid for it.