The forecasters had warned of rain. But the organisers are ready for that – Lord March was once asked how they cope with bad weather and said that they plan for rain and if it doesn’t come then it is a bonus. And the crowds had that bonus on Friday – lots of furled umbrellas together with carried coats added to the burden of carrying a Bonhams catalogue around the event – this year’s was the size of a telephone directory and reflected a rather bloated inventory.
The sale room set up behind the main house saw a welcome improvement for 2014 – a number of very smart portable air conditioning units ensured that the audience would not melt in the hot and crowded marquee. Although there was standing room only, the crowd seemed a little thinner this year.
Robert Brooks lead the sale at the start and quickly got into a rhythm that saw early lots on or over estimate showing a promise that the sale didn’t quite fulfil. The pace slowed a little and the first one to miss its estimate was a 1959 Aston Martin DBR4/250 Formula 1 Re-Creation. The £350-400,000 had seemed a little optimistic and so it proved as the bidding reached a creditable £290,000. But the topsy turvy nature of the bidding showed just 2 lots later when a Type 23 Bugatti with a top estimate of £250,000 saw the hammer fall at £390,000. But that was balanced immediately by a very presentable DB4 Convertible – restored over 20 years ago, it had been in a collection since 1993 and only covered 100 miles in the intervening years. So there was work to be done but the hammer price of £625,000 fell short of estimate (although add buyer’s premium and you make up the difference!).
Bidding on the Aston was probably unconsciously brought to a premature conclusion anticipating the next lot, a 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus Sports Racer – opening at £2 million, it climbed steadily to a hammer price of £9.6 million (the headline price of £10.753 million includes premium). But with that result, and even though there were still million pound cars in the inventory, the crowd that was there for the show melted away leaving only focussed buyers in the audience.
There were Aston Martins among that inventory – a quite dreadful looking DB2/4 resplendent in Canary Yellow inside and out achieved a deserved low £60,000 on the hammer and an appallingly presented DB6 painted badly in two tones of silver and with open corrosion on both wings failed to sell. In contrast, a very nice DB6 Automatic achieved a creditable £155,000 while a left hand drive DB2/4 Coupe raised an astonishing £245,000
But the car that, with better awareness and marketing, could and should have been a star – the unique and historic Aston Martin Atom – was bid to £570,000 and was not sold. A creditable and realistic bid in the circumstance, but this piece of automotive history deserved a better shot.
In summary – today’s is neither a Seller’s nor Buyer’s market – it is simply one where the car is the star. There is always a market for the best and there will funds to pay for the best. It will keep the market on its toes with the appearance of buoyancy – but the rest will need work to find a ready buyer.