Auction houses would do well to take advice from financial advisors who recommend not focusing your investments on one potential asset, but rather to “spread the risk” over multiple revenue streams.
Artcurial, at Rétromobile, did exactly the opposite: an all-in on the 1964 Ferrari 250 LM that I had valued between €10m and €15m, but the experts of the auction house placed at €25m, a figure from another planet entirely. The car wasn’t bad either but it had no racing pedigree or any exceptional qualities to justify this monstrous estimate. The market, which in the end is always right, thought the same. There was only one offer at €20,000,000 ($21,357,800) and the lot went back to where it came from.
This explains the result of the sale that Artcurial estimated at over €53m ($57m) which, as stated in the press release before the sale, could have been even more, yet concluded at €34,565,822 ($36,912,495) – less than the €36.1m ($38,5m) achieved last year despite there being 25% more cars on offer. Betting everything on a single “number” destroyed all hopes of a spectacular result.
After the 250LM, there was an immense void. The mantle of the most expensive car sold went to a 1951 Ferrari 340 America Barchetta with Touring bodywork and a magnificent history: in 1951, the official team took it to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and to the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1953. Back in Europe since 1975, it has belonged to the Dutch collector Bart Rosman ever since who offered it without reserve at the auction. With an estimate of €5-€8m it slipped away for €5,706,000 ($6,093,380), a poor result in my opinion but perhaps the time has come to change our evaluations of these cars too.
That’s the same thought I had after the 1936 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante went under the hammer. I have already mentioned this car and perhaps you remember it: one of the three with a sunroof, it had participated in the Rallye des Alpes in 1936. I had considered the estimate of €2m-€3m decidedly conservative but when the offers stopped at €1.7m ($1,8m), a grimace of pain appeared on the face of the owner who had to take it back home. If I had the money, I would have made an offer. It was certainly worth the minimum estimate. This too, went unsold.
Staying with this marque for a moment, the two Bugatti’s from the Rosman collection were sold, both without reserve: the Type 35C that finished fourth at the Monaco GP in 1929 changed hands just below its estimate (€2.5m-€3.5) at €2,216,800 ($2,367,300). The Type 43 Gran Sport nicknamed “Prima Donna” was sold for €1,530,400 ($1,646,475), right in the middle of its estimate of €1.2m-€1.8m.
Moving on to more recent cars, the auction house created quite a lot of hype around the 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 ‘Periscopio’. Exhibited at the Paris Motor Show in 1975, it had more doubts than merits: in addition to being in silver which is hardly your typical Lamborghini colour, the car had not been used for quite some time and had been stored on an Atlantic island where humidity, salt and rust are more than likely to have taken their toll. The estimate of €800,000-€1,200,000 was slightly high but at €953,600 ($1,018,300) the Artcurial team did a great job.
The other Countach on offer was a red 25th Anniversary from 1989 with just 7,410km on the clock. In Arizona a couple of examples with “three-digit” mileage (i.e. less than 1,000 km) were sold for $715,000 and $775,000 (about €650,000-€700,000 respectively), In this case the estimate of between €520,000 and €700,000 could have been correct. Sold for €584,080 ($623,700).
Among the many curiosities on offer was the official works Mercedes-Benz 500SLC from 1979 that finished fifth at the Bandama Rally in 1980. After crossing the desert, it found a more anomalous location: in the garage of Claude Ruiz Picasso, son of the more famous Pablo. Despite the exclusivity of its history, the estimate of €800,000-€1,200,000 seemed very high. Nevertheless they managed to sell it for €740,000 ($790,250).
And after the Porsche 959 Komfort in an exclusive “paint to sample” colour specification (€1,037,040 or $1,107,440) and a Ferrari 250 Lusso with Ferrari Classiche certification (€1,702,000 or $1,831,100), we arrive at one of the lots that stunned the audience the most.
The Porsche 911 2.0 S SWB Coupé is a rare model but it’s not very rare. The Artcurial example was a peach, impeccably restored with a livery that is very fashionable these days (battleship grey, the same now found on all Audis). Even considering these merits, the estimate of €160,000-€240,000 was correct (perhaps more towards €240,000 than €160,000) but when the hammer fell at €286,080 ($305,500) the room burst into applause. Or rather, my applause made such a noise I didn’t hear if any of the others in the room did, I only assumed they had…