Market and auctions

RM Sotheby’s and Bonhams: fireworks in Paris

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s

Just one week after Arizona, RM and Bonhams found themselves setting off their own fireworks in the French capital after the spectacular ones we saw in the USA.

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

Some numbers to give you an idea of the success: RM sold €50,016,600 ($53,441,675), more than double the €24,718,150 ($26,410,820) they made last year. Bonhams reached €28,916,750 ($30,896,935), more than 55% up on the €18,629,425 ($19,905,145) of 2022.

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

Average prices rose in both cases, from €484,681 ($517,870) to €769,486 ($822,175) for RM, and from €204,719 ($218,735) to €245,057 ($261,840) for its rival, while the only number below last year’s result was the sales percentage, which fell from 89.47% to 76.47% for the Canadians and from 81.98% to 76.62% for their UK counterparts. 

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

But the reason for this is due to a smaller percentage of cars without reserve: RM in particular went from more than half in 2022 (50.85%) to less than a quarter (22.35%) this year, while Bonhams offered 42.21%, compared to 54.95% during the previous edition.

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

But what matters most are the cars and not the percentages and this is just a small but significant selection of the results.

Let’s start with the ones I recommended following: at RM a triptych of “top of the range” McLarens. There was a 2015 P1 with 950 km on the clock (estimated €1m-€1.6m, sold for €1,073,750 or $1,147,275), a 2020 Speedtail that had covered just 114 km that sold for €2,367,500 or $2,529,625 (the estimate was €2.2m-€2.6m) and a Senna LM from the same year that hadn’t even reached 50 km that changed hands at the very top end of its estimate (€1.4m-€1.6m) at €1,602,500 ($1,712,235).

2015 McLaren P1 sold for €1,073,750 ($1,147,275)

However, the car that made the most noise from almost every point of view was undoubtedly the Bugatti Chiron Profilée. This very special car was the first and only example of its kind (and the very last Chiron produced). The marketing machine went into overdrive and they went out of their way to build hype and expectations, with the estimate of €4.2m-€5.5m reflecting very clear ambitions. A Bugatti Chiron takes 2.4 seconds to cover the 0-100 sprint but this Profilée took just 5 minutes to go from 0 to €9,792,500 ($10,549,500).

2022 Bugatti Chiron Profilée €9,792,500 ($10,549,500)

In truth, hypercars were the fil rouge of the top lots of the Paris sale: after the Bugatti, second place was taken by a black Ferrari Enzo with 17,500 km on the clock, sold for €4,055,000 or $4,368,500 (in line with its estimate of €3.8m-€4.2m), in fifth place, the McLaren Speedtail and in sixth place a Ferrari F40 for €1,917,500 ($2,048,800). 

2003 Ferrari Enzo sold for €4,055,000 ($4,368,500)

Fourth place for a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 at €3,098,750 ($3,310,950), while the third tier of the podium was taken by a 1991 Ferrari 643 F1 driven by Jean Alesi, which managed to overtake its estimate (€2.9m-€3.4m) and cross the finish line at €3,661,250 ($3,944,300).

1991 Ferrari 643 €3,661,250 ($3,944,300)

Despite being one of the benchmarks of the collector market, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster from the 1950s had been missing for seven months. It was therefore very interesting to see what impact the only 300SL on offer would have made. Presented by RM, this example was from 1959 and therefore was without disc brakes and the aluminium engine block that would have significantly increased its value. Fresh from an exhaustive €700,000 restoration, finished in the rare and highly desirable combination of Hellblau over Creme leather, hardtop, luggage and everything collectors are crazy about. In 2022, no example (with drum brakes and cast-iron block) managed to exceed €1.57m so the estimate of €1.5m-€1.8m was optimistic, however in the end it changed hands for €1,748,750 ($1,883,950). Who knows if we will see more soon…

1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster €1,748,750 ($1,883,950)

Bonhams offered almost twice as many cars as RM (with average prices that were roughly one third) but no less fascinating.

Let’s start with the Aston Martin DB4 S5 Vantage from 1962 that needed a little work but its estimate of €300,000-€500,000 was quite a long way from the million this model had reached just a few years ago. My idea that it was a good deal was shared by more than one bidder because the hammer dropped at €563,500 ($602,085). The other car that intrigued me was the 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 that once belonged to Diego Armando Maradona. The estimate of €150,000-€250,000 was five times an example without such an illustrious owner but fans of the footballer were distracted and bids stopped at €90,000 ($96,165).

1962 Aston Martin DB4 S5 Vantage sold for €563,500 ($602,085)

We then come to the top lot of the sale: a 1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport at €2,185,000 ($2,353,900). Of the 36 examples produced, this one is the most famous: nicknamed “Chambas” by its first owner (André Chambas) who took it to Le Mans five times – in 1949 (retired), the following year (13th) and, after changing the body to a lightweight barchetta version, in 1951 (retired), in 1952 (ninth) and 1953 (again retired). Now back in its original configuration, it was completely restored in 2010 and it came to Paris with an estimate of €2m-€2.5m.

1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé ‘Chambas’ sold for €2,185,000 ($2,353,900)

An honourable mention should go to the 2015 Lagonda Taraf. Very rare (only 120 examples were built) and at the presentation it cost one million dollars – about five times a Mercedes-Maybach S600. The model offered was delivered new to the Middle East (its natural market) and it practically never left the garage having travelled just one hundred kilometres. Considering that the car was offered without any original registration documents, it was necessary to pay import taxes (30% if it remained in Europe) and in any case it had been stationary for a long time, the estimate of €150,000-€250,000 was optimistic to say the least. Perhaps the buyer did not care about these details and simply wanted “something special”, taking the final price to €402,500 ($433,600).

2015 Lagonda Taraf sold for €402,500 ($433,600)