RM Auctions - Automobiles of London 29th October 2008 - Review

RM had to contend not only with today’s distinctly cooler financial climate but also the vagaries of the British weather, when attendees of its superb pre-event party were met by a snowstorm on leaving the venue. Winter chill apart, thanks to tremendous hard work and a publicity campaign of unprecedented proportions, the company still achieved an overall total of £14,796,950 – not bad going in these straitened times.

The cult 1960s TV series ‘The Avengers’ was the theme for Wednesday night’s party. While go-go dancers circulated the Thameside venue to the sound of Buffalo Springfield and the Rolling Stones, partygoers’ attention was firmly fixed on one topic: would the next day’s sale be the one when the ever-upward spiral of top-level classic car prices ended? Well, the answer to that, inevitably, was ‘yes’. However, rare, quality cars will sell – and sell well as the F1 did.

The single-ownership, 437km-from-new silver 1997 McLaren was the highlight of the night. RM was fortunate to have one very determined bidder who was going to have that car come what may. Auctioneer Peter Bainbridge’s triumphant “Sold! The RM way…” came as a relief to all as the hammer came down on a world record for the model. The US buyer - in the room - paid £2,530,000 for what many consider to be next best to a Ferrari 250 GTO, and almost as hard to source.

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Recreation - Sold for £330,000

1959 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta - Sold for £2,255,000

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta - Sold for £577,500

1962 Lancia Flaminia Touring 3C - Sold for £18,700

With sterling’s recent depreciation against the US dollar, the car’s new owner would be satisfied at a considerable saving over the equivalent amount of British currency six months ago. This works the other way, of course, leading to US vendors holding firm on dollar-based reserves that, despite strong bidding, stopped the sale of the highly fancied 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO, for example. It reached £325,000 (£357,500 with buyer’s premium) – a good UK retail selling price.

An early success in proceedings was the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta that went for £2,255,000 (a figure including buyer’s premium, as all our prices do), right on upper estimate and looking a fabulous car. The 1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback sold (for £308,000), as did the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione Replica (£187,000) – both cars recently driven on Classic Driver.

1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante - Sold for £660,000

Much was expected of pre-War entries such as the Horch and the fantastic ‘Jumbo’ Goddard turbocharged Bentley. The unrestored 1938 Horch 853 Special Roadster sold at probably the correct price of £1,127,500 - although neither of the big-ticket Bentleys found new buyers (the 1924 Bentley 3/8 Litre Sports Roadster was bid to £475,000, the magnificent 1932 Bentley 8-Litre Short Chassis Fixed Head Coupe to £500,000). The unrestored (but driveable) 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante sold for £660,000, against an estimate of £600,000 – 800,000.

British TV and radio personality Chris Evans - of 7m euros ex-Coburn 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder fame - was sitting in the front row when Lot 274, a matching-numbers, open-headlamp 1963 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder came up for sale. Estimated at an attractive £3,000,000 – 3,500,000, bidding stopped tantalisingly short at £2,625,000, despite Rob Myers’ best efforts with a recalcitrant client on the telephone. At today’s exchange rate that’s around 3.3m euros, just less than half Evans’ car – but don’t ask me to draw any conclusions from that.

Max Girardo and Peter Bainbridge - hard at it, as ever...

The Andy Saunders collection of No Reserve custom novelty cars produced some highlights; cars such as the £18,700, 1983 Bentley Mulsanne Turbo 'Mentley Insanne', as well as the only ‘straight’ vehicle in this group, the 1936 Cord 810 Convertible Coupe selling for mid-estimate £99,000.

1916 Packard Twin Six Experimental Racer - Not Sold

1965 Ferrari 275 GTS Sold for - £300,000

Finally, a benchmark car of recent years has been the Ferrari 275 GTB/4. Three were entered and only one sold: the silver, unrestored 1966 car with alloy wheels for £577,500. That’s still a good price, taking into account an extensive restoration to bring it anywhere near the level of the blue example sold at Maranello in May (1,320,000 euros, £1.05m at today’s exchange rate), but clearly significantly lower than before. Neither of the other cars sold, having been bid to £600,000 for the black 1968 car, and £700,000 the red 1967.

The ex-Travolta 1955 Ford Thunderbird sells for £18,700

And that was it for RM’s European events in 2008. They did a superb job in London in the most difficult market circumstances possible. It would be a brave man to guess the mood of next May’s all-Ferrari sale at Maranello, and you can’t even rely on the weather; the 2008 Mille Miglia weekend was a total wash-out weather-wise, but a storming success at the rostrum. A lot can happen in six months...

To see the full results of the October 29th 'Automobiles of London' auction please CLICK HERE.

RM Auctions in association with Sotheby's
34-35 New Bond Street
London W1A 2AA

UK Telephone: +44 (0)207 293 6336
Fax: +44 (0)207 293 6337

North America Telephone: +1 519 352 45 75

Website: www.rmauctions.com

Email: [email protected].

Text: Steve Wakefield
Photos: Classic Driver / Kidston SA (McLaren on rostrum)

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