At the Tuesday Preview evening, there was plenty of opportunity to see why RM are at the top of their game. In one corner, the valeters had masked the chrome on a DB5 Convertible to ensure no blemishes from their efforts with the electric polishers. All the cars were displayed with thought and at the best possible advantage and interestingly the layout had changed with the catering area now facing the rostrum so no-one missed the action
And that attention to detail could be seen at the sale itself – a huge attendance and an atmosphere as hot as the dishes of spiced noodles served by the army of waiters and waitresses, who ensured the flow of champagne and general RM bonhomie throughout the event.
The ten minute delay in the start just contrived to build expectation before Max Girardo took to the rostrum and dazzled everyone with his normal machine gun, multi-lingual delivery. And the wave of enthusiasm rolled on with lot after lot delivering prices above estimate as the Dutch Zegwaard Collection was sold but then a road block of American Rock ‘n Roll Classics tempered the mood and the focus shifted back to the reality of the sale rather than the show business razzmatazz.
Nonetheless, the first Aston through was a left hand drive 6.3 Virage Volante that made a creditable £37,500 (£42,900 with premium) even with a trail of mastic that had melted under the heat of the lights and flowed down the rear wing. This was followed by a 1967 DB6 with a Webasto roof and oversized tyres – nicely presented with a restoration in 2005, the hammer came down at £135,000 (£154,440 with premium) – so DB6 is holding up well.
The good news for Aston Martin continued with a prominently presented DB4 Series II. RM specialist Don Rose was overheard describing the car to a potential client – “The more I look at the car, the more I can forgive its little imperfections” – and that pretty much summed up the car, nice not perfect but a hammer price of £210,000 (£240,240 with premium) meant the market still has time for a good DB4.
A 2001 Vanquish Prototype sold at a market average of £52,500 (£60,060 with premium) but the first Aston disappointment of the night came with a very Red left hand drive Zagato V8 Volante Automatic where the bids were being conjured out of thin air rather than the audience. But that was countered immediately by the next lot, a 1990 Vantage Volante X Pack that was sold for an exceptional £140,000 (£160,160 with premium).
In the midst of this ebb and flow for Aston Martin, RM were seeing the same with the overall sale – spirited bidding took a Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France to a hammer price of £1.75 million but its modern day cousin, a 1998 Ferrari F300 Formula 1 car failed to sell when bidding stalled £70,000 short of its £440,000 estimate.
And the auction roller coaster continued for Aston with a bright but shabby 1967 DB6 failing to excite those in attendance and inevitably finding a new home with a telephone bidder. The car is now on its way to its new home in Germany selling for £80,000 (£91,520 with premium).
There was also disappointment for the owner of the DB6 Shooting Brake – unfortunately the car’s prominent display made the rather “wavy” off side rear wing stand out and this may have contributed to the bidding going no higher than £300,000 - £25,000 short of estimate.
But with these ups and downs, there was one constant feature of the sale – the skill of Max Girardo on the rostrum and there was no better demonstration of that skill when the next Aston came up, “Paul McCartney’s DB5”. We have seen other auctions try and fail with this car, most recently H & H in September 2011 and the reality is that the provenance outweighed a quite average car, but Max bullied, cajoled and sweet talked his way to a price of £307,500 (£351,780 with premium).
And AMOC race events will be graced with a new owner of a 1961 DB4 Series II Lightweight Racer who won the race for the car with a bid of £140,000 (£160,160 with premium).
By now it was past 10 o’clock and the audience was thinning but there were another 25 lots to get through including the last Aston Martin, a beautifully restored and presented DB5 Convertible. But while it was late, it wasn’t past the buyers’ bedtime and it proved the icing on the Aston cake with a sale price of £565,000 (£646,360 with premium).
So what did the evening tell us about the market?
For one of the Byron team, it was their first experience of an RM Auction and he described the event as the best auction he had been to, and that kind of reflects the reality of today’s market place. There were highs, and there were lows, but RM got the best they could by sheer hard work and professionalism.
For Aston Martin – the news was really “business as usual” – there is a vibrant market for the best, like the Vantage X Pack but the more specialised cars like the Zagato and the Shooting Brake need the time and consideration that an auction environment never allows.
But well done RM and well done Max, you earned your bonus last night!