Market and auctions

Bonhams at Goodwood: everyone on track!

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Bonhams

When you hear the name “Bonhams at Goodwood,” you immediately conjure up thoughts of million-dollar cars, but then you add the Members Meeting and the prices fall immediately. Compared to the more famous Festival of Speed and Revival, this is more of a “banging doors” event, with ex-BTCC cars that are worth five digits, not seven like their “wealthy siblings.”

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

This year’s Bonhams at Goodwood was a bit lacklustre, but it must be said that last year’s event was Oscar-worthy. While the number of cars on offer increased from 74 to 94, only 5 more than last year changed hands, dropping the percentage of lots sold from 85.14% to 72.34%. Things were a lot worse when we look at the value: in 2022, they sold nearly £6.8 million worth of cars with a pre-sale estimate of £6.15 million (110%), but this year, despite a 46% increase in the overall value of the cars on offer to £8,976,000 (€10,141,850), total takings dropped to just £6,276,938 (€7,092,220). In other words, they only took home 70% of the estimated takings. With more cars but less revenue, the average price dropped from £107,794  (€121,795) to £92,308 (€104,300), considerably lower than the FoS (£140,000 on average) or the Revival (£154,000 in September 2022).

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

But while Bonhams (and the sellers) may be a bit disappointed, the buyers had plenty of reasons to smile. Let’s take a look at some of the best deals of the day.

Malcolm Bishop, a well-respected Brooklands specialist and American car enthusiast – who both buys and rents cars – made one of the best deals at the event with his 1963 Chevrolet Corvette 327/300 Split Window Coupé. Left-hand drive and parked for some time, it was recommended that a thorough overhaul be carried out before turning the key again, which justified the low estimate of £90,000-£120,000 without reserve. However, in the end it changed hands for a significantly lower £78,200 (€88,350).

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray “Split Window” Coupé sold for £78,200 (€88,350)

Then it was time for lot 35, the rally Ford Escort MkII. A 1976 RS2000 Group A model used by the prominent Ford Finland team. Some notable names that have sat behind the wheel? Timo Mäkinen, Antero Laine, and Lasse Lampi, racking up so many podiums that they were listed in a separate document to the catalogue. There were so many of them that they weren’t even mentioned in the catalogue, but rather referred to in attachments available in the auction room. Purchased by the current owner in September 2019 for £48,300 – against an estimate of £68,000-£75,000 – it was enjoyed to the full at the Rally Of The Tests in 2019 and the famous Rallye Monte Carlo Historique in 2020. The estimate dropped to £40,000-£50,000, but the final selling price was even lower at £32,200 (€36,385).

1976 Ford Escort Mark 2 RS2000 Group 1 Rally Car sold for £32,200 (€36,385)

Among the cars worth taking home was the 1971 Lancia Fulvia HF1600 rally-prepared (estimated at £25,000-£35,000 – sold for £20,700), but the real deal was the 1960 Turner 950 Sports, which participated in the 1960 Autosport Championship and finished third in class. After numerous changes of ownership, in 1985 it underwent a lengthy restoration. Perfect for immediate entry on the track, it was estimated at £25,000-£35,000 (without reserve), but bidding stopped at £12,650 (€14,300). And the new owner shouted “Champagne!”.

But it wasn’t just buyers who were pleasantly surprised. 

1960 Turner 950 Sports sold for £12,650 (€14,300)

To understand how, we need to start with the top lot. The 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Le Mans-style Tourer reminded me of the auctions at Bonhams ten to fifteen years ago, filled with pre-war cars with “intricate” stories that often became top lots. Essentially, this Bentley was “rebuilt” in the mid-1950s with a Le Mans-style body, an F-Type gearbox (Bentley, not Jaguar), and the axle from a Speed Six, all typical things of the time. The estimate of £550,000-£650,000 was spot on with the car selling for £563,500 (€636,725). It also goes to show that certain “adjustments” are more than acceptable.

1931 Bentley 8-Litre Le Mans-Style Tourer sold for £563,500 (€636,725)

And that’s not all. Two other cars from the same era also exceeded expectations. The first was a 1923 Bugatti Tipo 23 Brescia. Despite being an immense project: equipped with a rolling chassis in need of a full restoration, non-original engine, and a bonnet and grille ready to be brought back to life, it was still an excellent base for restoration. Its estimated value was a modest £40,000-£55,000, but in the end it sold for an impressive £113,850 (€128,650), nearly three times its minimum estimate, not counting how much the reconstruction will cost.

1923 Bugatti Type 23 ‘Brescia Modifiée’ Project sold for £113,850 (€128,650)

The other car was a 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500C Normale Tourer. It had been the first and only example of its model, originally built by James Young. The second owner had purchased it in the 1950s and kept it until the day of the auction, but had restored it completely between 2014 and 2017. Despite its unique history and beautiful restoration, it was estimated to be worth only £70,000-£90,000. However, it ended up selling for £115,000 (€129,950), proving once again that auctions can be unpredictable and full of surprises.

1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500C Normale Tourer sold for £115,000 (€129,950)

These two sales are worth considering. In recent years, younger generations had pushed pre-war cars into the background, but these vehicles still have a lot to offer: they are the most sought after in almost every event, they have stories to tell, and they are often the favourites in the most prestigious Concours d’Elegance events. A Bugatti, even if in need of restoration, for £40,000 or an Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 for the price of a common Porsche 964 Carrera 4? Absolutely not, and fortunately the market did not accept it either.

Now let’s move on to more recent models. The cover of the catalogue was dedicated to the 1999 Subaru Impreza WRC99. Prepared by Prodrive specifically for Richard Burns, it competed in the 1999 San Remo Rally and the 2000 Monte Carlo Rally, retiring when it was in second place. The estimate of £430,000-£520,000 seemed ambitious, but the hammer price of £448,500 confirmed the opinion of the experts. The important part, however, is to note that this is a new record for a Subaru and, except for a couple of Toyota 2000 GTs, it is the most expensive Japanese car ever sold in Europe.

1999 Subaru Impreza WRC99 Rally Car sold for £448,500 (€506,800)

I would like to conclude with another record, set by another rally icon, the Mini: a 1963 works car, driven by Rauno Aaltonen, Paddy Hopkirk, and Rosemary Smith. Seventh overall and third in class at the “Monte” with the Finnish driver, after which it was retired from competition and appeared at various publicity events up and down the country. Estimated at £120,000-£150,000 (correctly), it was sold for £143,750, setting, as we mentioned earlier, a new record. It’s worth noting the significance of these record-breaking sales. Here, the car’s racing history is everything, also because the other two Minis that competed in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 have never appeared at auction. As early as 2007, vehicles with less impressive competitive achievements were being sold for prices ranging from £80,000-£100,000. In contrast, the current record for a Mini sold at auction (set in October) stands at £124,875, despite having a considerably less interesting history. In my opinion, the prices of these vehicles have remained stagnant for the past decade, and this particular example was exceptional and deserved a correspondingly significant outcome. Perhaps even better.

1963 Austin/Morris Mini Cooper ‘S’ Rally Car sold for £143,750 (€162,425)