Market Analysis

Market Commentary - which classics are selling, by whom and for how much

MANY RESERVES UNREALISTIC - While 59% of 1,904 classics auctioned at 9 sales reviewed on both sides of Atlantic during August sold for just over £207m, vendors reserves for 546 unsold cars in California and 257 no sales in UK were too much for buyers.

AUGUST SALES REVIEWED by Richard Hudson-Evans

Although the $248.31p (£203.61m) with premium spent by buyers on 769 collector automobile in less than a week at the annual sales on the Monterey Peninsula in overheated California were big bucks, the total for the six sales was actually 34% down on the $370.9m (£304.14m) gross spent on 849 cars at the same auctions last year.

Whilst 58% of cars sold this time, the 2009 sale rate was also 4% less than it was one year ago, while the $114,559 (£93,938) average spent was 26% less than it was last August. Although ten cars did exceed £3m ($3,635,000) including premium, the 546 unsold and therefore over-reserved cars this year was also another first for California auction week.

Nonetheless, there were still a few new world record breakers led by a 1994 McLaren F1 road car with Le Mans upgrades that was driven across the RM Sotheby’s stage and knocked down for an applauded $19,805m (£16.24m). Even though less than had been forecast, this was still the highest price ever paid at auction for any McLaren which was also by far the most expensive classic at this year’s Californian sales.

A 007-spec 1965 Aston Martin DB5 with a full set of working Q gadgets that had been employed solely to promote (rather than appear in) the Thunderball Bond movie made $6.39m (£5.24m) at RM Sotheby’s to become the most expensive DB5 ever sold at auction. In the same sale at the Monterey Conference Center, a 1965 DB5 Shooting Brake, one of only a dozen converted by Radford, realised $1.77m (£1.45m), making it the highest priced shooting brake/estate car ever auctioned. By contrast, a 1953 DB3S works race car was high bid to $7.5m (£6.3m), but failed to sell, whereas the Prototype 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster chassis GT/108 realised $7.65m (£6.273m) to take fourth place overall in this year’s Monterey Top Ten .

Ferraris occupied second and third places overall in California this year with a closed headlight 1958 250 California LWB-Spider selling for $9.905m (£8.122m) at Gooding and a 1963 250GT SWB-Coupe for $8.145m (£6.679m) at RM Sotheby’s, where a low mileage 2006 FXX from the Ming Collection became a model record holder when sold for $3.525m (£2.996m).

At Gooding, a closed headlight 1958 250GT S1 Cabriolet made $6.8m (£6.273m), the F1 1975 French GP winning Ferrari 312T driven by the late Nicki Lauda raced to a $6m (£4.92m) and fitting tribute result and a 1958 250GT Tour de France Coupe found $5.1m (£4.182m). Bonhams prices meanwhile were headed by the $3.635m (£2.98m) paid for a vigorously contested 1951 340 America Berlinetta from 50 years of single family ownership, whereas a 1959 250 Monza failed to find the $20m (£17m) sought at Mecum.

The percentage of cars sold at the three mainstream sales reviewed during August in the UK meanwhile averaged 59%, nearly the same sale rate as the 58% in the US. The 350 cars sold in UK auctions did so for £3,779,690 with premium, an average for the month of £10,799 therefore being spent per car.

The headline performance at the latest CCA sale, where a house record 181 ‘Everyman Classics’ went under the hammer beside the Fosse Way near Leamington Spa, was a 2000 Nissan Skyline GTR V-Spec, which raised £62,715, more than twice the lower estimate. Among 107 cars re-homed were a 2003 Mazda RX7 Spirit R Type A for £41,625 and the Wood & Pickett enhanced Mini 1000 MkIV auto gifted by Cilla Black’s husband to the TV star in 1977 for £20,535.

Later in the month on the Errol Airfield in Perthshire, there were buyers for both Porsche 911 Type 930s from the 1980s with a mid-estimate £60,375 available for a 1984 Turbo and a low estimate £42,000 for a fuel injected 1987 Wide Body. While an ex-City of Glasgow Police 1951 Albion Black Maria that transported a notorious serial killer to the gallows among others was cheerfully captured for £21,525.

Even on one of the hottest days of the year and with no shortage of Bank Holiday weekend distractions along the North Norfolk coast, a 238 strong classics entry for the latest ACA ‘Drive Through’ proved to be a powerful magnet for another large crowd of punters. One of the star turns was a left to right-hand drive converted 1965 Jaguar E Type S1 4.2 Coupe with age-crazed paintwork, but rebuilt engine and transmission, which fetched £47,700, £2700 above top estimate.

Significantly, 53 classics had been consigned Without Reserve by the King’s Lynn firm and these No Reservists accounted for 22% of the 181 cars sold. A 1991 Saab 900 Turbo 16v Carlsson with all the aero-panels recently repainted after 148,490 mileage was one of them and went on to make £14,204.

Another stand-out lot was an ex-Vauxhall and totally mint 1972 VX 4/90 with factory custom body kit and period buttoned-fabric upholstery. Driven only 18,916 miles by the one and only owner, the rare and possibly unique survivor raised a more than forecast £12,296. Even before any post-sales had been concluded, 73% of consigned cars had changed hands before sundown.

At the sales reviewed during the most popular ‘away on holiday’ month of the year, 239 classics were unsold at auction in August, 41% of those consigned. While there may simply have been nobody out there for individual cars on the day, more likely most had been over-reserved. The vendors of 350 cars that did sell however had tuned in to current market reality.