2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed Classic Auction


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Back to normal – not quite!

It is sometimes difficult to properly understand the numbers involved with this pandemic especially when they quote the millions who have had both jabs.  A visit to this year’s Festival of Speed helped lend perspective to those numbers.

Ticket holders had been told, via the website, of entry requirements and the need to show a Covid Pass – not the stamped chitty we all received wen we got our jabs, but the official NHS Pass.  Arriving, one had visions of arguments as people attempted entry with the wrong credentials or perhaps much smaller crowds.

The public car parks on arrival immediately confirmed that the crowds were as big as ever and the long and orderly queues to present our passes – long before our tickets – were good humoured and trouble free!

And clear of the ticket checking, the undiminished scale of the event and the attendant crowds was plain to see. It was an appropriately carnival atmosphere with a sense of freedom but a worrying disregard for the notices asking for social distancing.  The other portent for the future was the prominence of electric cars from individual stands for newcomers like Polestar to grand displays showing all the manufacturer’s products side by side.

But blazing sunshine, blue skies and the Red Arrows kept smiles on everyone’s face.

Over the bridge to Goodwood House for the sale and more crowds and stern- faced security men keeping the crowds behind a rope barrier. “No entry until after the presentation from Lotus” was the reason given as to why so many people holding catalogues were added to an already large audience to watch the entry of Lotus’ new model accompanied by a over amplified orchestra and spectacular fireworks leaving the roof of the house wreathed in yellow and green smoke in honour of Lotus.

So late entry into the house and a start delayed 15 minutes in consequence and Sholto Gilbertson at the rostrum.  What appeared to be a healthy crowd at the beginning soon thinned out and the sale did not seem the major event of past years.  Socially distanced seating replaced the heaving audience of previous years when they used to have the air conditioning units blasting and containers full of ice providing welcome relief from the water bottles, they were refrigerating but away we went. 

It is never good to start a sale with a miss and Goodwood stuttered a little with an Ogle Competition Coupe and Subaru Impreza, respectively the first and third lots failing to find a buyer.

And it was not long before an Aston Martin joined the “not sold” column.  A very nice and patinated DB5 from long term family ownership was bid to £440,000 well short of its optimistic estimate but realistic in this quite critical marketplace.

Perhaps reflecting the resurgence of the Formula 1 team, a McLaren Mercedes was unusual in getting bid over its top estimate to £250,000 (£287,500 incl. premium) but more probably assisted by its “No Reserve” status.

Then a few lots later, a DB6 Mark 2 Vantage that Byron knew well – our sale of the car in 2008 was noted in the catalogue – and was one of several Astons coming back from overseas and frankly undersold in this environment with pessimistic estimates, “No reserve” status and little in the way of history.  With plenty of AMOC history from before 2008, this car at least attracted some trade bidding and sold for £225,000 (£258,750 incl. premium) with its 5% tax liability and recommissioning costs, it was a realistic price paid.

As the sale progressed, the prices bid continued to undershoot catalogue estimates yet still sold – an example was a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta that had a bottom estimate of £700,000 yet attracted a successful top bid of just £490,000 (£514,166 incl. premium).

So no surprise when another Aston Martin DB6 with a damning engineer’s report, again returning from overseas and carrying a tax liability was bid to a miserly £89,000 (£102,350 incl. premium) and, as a no reserve car, it sold.

Then there was the star of the show, another Aston Martin with astonishing provenance, a 1965 DB5 Convertible with film star Peter Sellers and Lord Snowdon as previous owners.  Presented on its own stand, it was opened at £800,000 and fell way short of its estimate with a top bid of £920,000. 

But when you disregarded the gloss and the photographs and forensically examined the car you began to understand – Jan Calrzon a great aviation innovator with Scandinavian Airlines said “if you clean the seats, the passengers will believe you serviced the engines”.  When you began to examine the DB5 you saw the beginnings of the rust bubble on the passenger door and then more and more, albeit quite small, defects.

At Byron, we have seen this before where ambitious price estimates from customers are thwarted by clear and obvious defects.  An auction house would not put a piece of china on sale with chip, or a painting with a tear, and expect it to achieve record pricing – why not a car?  Tiny tears in a convertible roof, rusty manifolds, defective chrome – we have seen them all and presentation counts when you are trying to achieve ambitious prices on behalf of a Seller.


A better result for an Aston Martin DB4 Series IV Vantage, even if Sholto announced it as a Series V!  An older restoration gave the hint that there was work to do and a bid of £285,000 (£327,750 incl. premium) was about realistic as was the result on a 1981 V8 Oscar India – converted to left hand drive and attracting a 5% levy if registered in the UK, she made £65,000 (£74,750 incl. premium).

Slightly more surprising was the result on a Vanquish Ultimate – one of the end of the run of the original Vanquish, we have seen these cars selling +/- £200,000 which was the top estimate for this car, so the acceptance of a bid of £135,000 (£155,250 incl. premium) was a bit of a shock.

The next Aston offered was the end of the line DB6 Automatic – unrestored and in the same ownership since 1972, it had a very modest estimate and an equally modest bid - £95,000.  We are glad that the owner declined to sell – the car is worth far more in provenance and opportunity than that bid suggested.

The we had another Byron International credit in the catalogue for a DB Mark III that we had previously sold twice, the last time to an overseas buyer in 2012.  Again, offered with No Reserve, little history and a 5% levy due – the price of £112,000 (£128,800 incl. premium) whilst on the low side was, perhaps, realistic.

Inevitably with an auction sale, there were those cars that clearly did not meet their reserves but were sold post event with deals done in all directions – reduced premiums, improved bids or mute acceptance of Sellers under time pressure to accept a bid.

Feelings after the sale?  The inventory was about right in volume and content and it was good to be back at a live venue.  But the influence of “Virtual” auctions and online competition is still very apparent.  There remains too little “sell” from the rostrum and too much intoning bid values – to make the difference, the principles of selling must return – presentation and importantly a reason to attend.

The volume end of car auctions is moving almost entirely online but that is because the values of modern cars are much more empirical.  Classic cars – especially the older ones – need a platform where buyers or their agents can properly assess their condition, history and integrity and in an environment where the market expertise of that sales platform is built on product knowledge rather than the power of the algorithms they employ.

BUT it was great to be back at Goodwood in the sunshine rejoicing in the history of the motor car and the symphonic wail of the Aston Martin Valkyrie on the Goodwood Hill.

© Byron International

Results;  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1P-SnQG3yu0Dr-G0Rnt1mkWxzbBUeg-sA/view?usp=sharing

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