Market and auctions

Race Retro in Birmingham. Record adrenaline

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Silverstone Auctions

If there’s an auction in England that has Racing as its main theme, you can rest assured that you’ll never get bored: unexpected opportunities, such as the seductive 1961 Warwick MkII Sports, a concentration of the British sporting spirit from the 60s and adrenaline-pumping prices for fascinating models such as the 1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500.

We’re talking about the Race Retro Classic and Competition Car Sale in Birmingham that returned after a two-year hiatus… to the classic formula: two days, the 24th dedicated to racing cars or prepared for racing (“Race”) the second to the sale of more or less classic road cars (“Retro”).

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

The numbers obtained were excellent: 64.24% of the lots were sold (165 cars offered, 106 sold); £6,343,530 (€7,190,005) in turnover (versus £8,991,000 or €10,252,150 estimated value) and an average selling price of £59,844 (€67,830). This, objectively, is not comparable with the results from the auction at the RAF Museum in Duxford: a different location and an entirely different number of cars offered.

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

Let’s begin with the result that surprised everyone. Not even I can justify it so I’ll just have to put it down as one of the “mysteries of the market”. A 1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500, only 5,192 miles on the clock, in absolutely perfect condition, recently serviced with parts that no longer exist. Even if we try to understand this result, the previous record for this car was set in November 2021 at £110,250 (€125,715). This example – breathtakingly beautiful it must be said – was quoted at £150,000-£180,000. So right from the start with the first bid, it had already broken that record. And the bids just never stopped coming, rising all the way up to £596,250 (€675,815)! I have to come clean: I simply do not understand this. 

1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 sold for £596,250 (€675,815)

As if to confirm the excellent moment for Fords, there were numerous other successful lots: a Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth 4×4 looked like it had left the factory moments before this event and not in 1990: 10,730 miles to its credit and a complete and well-documented maintenance justified the £50,000-£60,000 asking price. But at £109,125 (€123,685), it changed hands for four times the previous record! 

1990 Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth 4×4 sold for £109,125 (€123,685)

And it didn’t stop there: a 1986 RS200 S with 1,932km on the clock sold for £315,000 or €357,050 (estimate £300,000-£350,000) and a 2005 Ford GT went for £265,500 or €302,700 (£225,000-£275,000). And I could go on with several more.

1986 Ford RS200 S sold for £315,000 (€357,050)

Let’s turn our attention to another brand and model I follow with considerable interest: The 1998 Subaru 22B STI. Since 2020, prices for this model have continued to grow, so this was a great opportunity to check up on the market. It was not a UK version of which just 16 examples were produced but a Japanese one: 400 were built in total with current record set at £182,250 (€207,815). The model on offer had covered 44,300 miles and came with an estimate of £120,000-£140,000. In the end, its new owner took it home for £140,625 (€159,390), and despite that being above its maximum estimate, I think it deserved a couple more offers.

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi sold for £140,625 (€159,390)

One not to miss was the Piddington collection of Lotus Elan 60s that came up for sale. There was the very last Sprint produced (£45,000 or €51,300), those once owned by Jochen Rindt (£65,250 or €74,400) and Rob Walker (£49,500 or €56,400), the one that belonged to Keith Duckworth (the founder of Cosworth) that someone managed to take home for £39,500 (€45,000) or the much more famous Peter Sellers (£74,250 or €84,500). But none of these came close to one used by Emma Peel, one of the leading actors in the TV series “The Avengers”. After the end of the filming, this 1966 example, an S3 DHC, was sold to Diana Rigg who played Emma Peel in the series. It was offered at auction with just 2,552 miles to its credit and an estimate of £80,000-£120,000, however the popularity factor sent the price flying to £164,250 €186,165).

1966 Elan S3 Drophead Coupé “Emma Peel – The Avengers” sold for £164,250 (€186,165)

Speaking of popularity, Mr. Bean, or Rowan Atkinson to his friends and family, an aeronautical engineer and great car enthusiast (he has a McLaren F1 in his garage) took advantage of this auction to sell his 1993 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo II (89,300 km). The estimate was correct at £65,000-£75,000. But the “once belonged to…” effect struck again: sold for £87,750 (€99,460). Usually Mr Bean makes us laugh. This time he had the last laugh!

1993 Lancia HF Integrale Evo II Ex-Rowan Atkinson sold for £87,750 (€99,460)

And the Royals? Let’s take a look at these two cars: the Land Rover Defender 110 County with 15,623 miles on the clock used by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth II, and the 1942 Ford GPW Jeep used by King George VI, the father of Elizabeth II. 

2010 Land Rover Defender 110 County Ex-HRH The Duke of Edinburgh sold for £123,750 (€140,265)

The Defender was listed at £50,000-£60,000 roughly twice as much as a normal one. Ditto for the Ford GPW at £35,000-£45,000. However, the Ford went unsold at £26,000 (€29,470) while the Land Rover went for double its estimate: £123,750 (€140,265). The explanation? Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952 and clearly not many collectors remember her famous father, George VI.

1942 Ford GPW Jeep Ex-King George VI went unsold at £26,000 (€29,470)

The car I would have taken home? There were far too many: the 1996 Lotus Esprit V8 sold for £31,500 (€35,705), one of the 12 examples converted to manual of the 2003 BMW M3 CSL – E46 series to be precise – changed hands for £78,750 (€89,255) or a 1976 Fiat 131 Abarth Rally Stradale (which set a new record at £151,875 or €172,140). 

1996 Lotus Esprit V8 sold for £31,500 (€35,705)

Or again, since we are at a “Race” as well as a “Retro” event, the 1961 Warwick MkII Sports I would have bought in a heartbeat at £27,563 (€31,240), and the list could go on. Come to think of it, there weren’t many to take home, there were too many!

2003 BMW (E46) M3 CSL (Manual Gearbox Conversion) sold for £78,750 (€89,255)
1976 Fiat 131 Abarth Rally Stradale sold for £151,875 (€172,140)
1961 Warwick MkII Sports/FJ sold for £27,563 (€31,240)