Mixed Messages for the Market?
The number 79 was over everything yesterday as the 79th Members’ Meeting hosted Bonhams for their Spring sale but perhaps the 90% sales rate was a more important number for those attending.
And it was a fair crowd in the marquee and Bonhams had upped their game with a complimentary bar and large seating area for registered bidders and it was a nice touch that early buyers received complimentary glasses of champagne after a successful bid.
With the sound system competing with the on-track activity, the sale got under way promptly at 1.00 pm with a good audience and there were encouraging noises with early lots like the Porsche Tractor and the late Duke of Edinburgh’s Albatross Sports Runabout boat making well over estimate and Aston watchers were pleased to see a very average DB5, but with a cracking history, make £440,000 on the hammer (£506,000 incl premium) which was substantially ahead of estimate.
Sholto Gilbertson who took first stint on the rostrum, kept a steady pace and was unfazed at the first “miss” that came with a very smart AC Aceca, part of the Irvine-Fynn collection. But then came the first of a number of Astons from the collector whose disposals have rather rocked the market – a DB4 Race Car. Starting at just £100,000, the hammer came down at £205,000 (£235,750 incl premium) and it was noticeable that all the subsequent Astons from that source started with low expectations – ultimately a set of self-fulfilling outcomes.
It is a pity because there were a number of other makes/models with that same constraint of 5% VAT if the car remained in the UK and, of course, re-commissioning costs. A Porsche 911 with a 20% VAT liability and an estimate of £50,000-£80,000 started at £55,000 but delivered a hammer price of £120,000 (£138,00 incl premium) – but then it was left hand drive and an online sale, so maybe destined for foreign shores!
Another car with a 20% liability was the next Aston Martin – a Vanquish Ultimate that has been re-upholstered in a Yellow Leather that deserved sunglasses. Starting at just £25,000 it beat its top estimate with £90,000 on the hammer (£103,500 incl premium) and was another one probably destined for overseas (via a trimmer!).
The next Aston was a rather lovely DBS Vantage and auction notes recorded that the vendor purchased the car from Byron International whose detailed and lengthy summary of all works carried out between November 1986 and July 2009 is on file. Nice to be recognised for doing the job properly!
This was also a moment of comedy as Sholto Gilbertson noted that he was taking bids on the car from the floor from his former boss, Jamie Knight who was the under bidder but helped the price to £80,000 (£92,000 incl premium). The rostrum then acknowledged Mr Knight’s contribution to many of the sale’s consignments!
Immediately there followed a rare Aston Martin Lagonda Series 1, 7 litre saloon – sold to the collector by Bonhams in 2012, the car made a creditable £240,000 (£276,00 incl premium) – an equally rare Aston Martin, a 1953 Sigma Sports, Paul Jackman special made £135,000 (£155,250 incl premium)
In between those two lots, there was another departure for Goodwood and one that the auctioneers found a little difficult to handle – a Bonhams advert playing out on the screens. It was something that was repeated during the sale and an opportunity missed for a bit of repartee with the audience.
It probably didn’t help that it coincided with a change of auctioneer with Maarten ten Holder, International Managing Director taking the gavel – it also marked a change from Gilbertson’s loud and languid delivery to Maarten’s staccato machine gun style. If this is to be a regular feature, he could do with slowing down because there could be the impression of not giving bidders the time they need.
His first car was the third Aston in a row and delivered another sale – an unremarkable but tidy Vanquish 2+2 whose claim to fame was Hugh Grant as the original owner – sadly he did not rate in terms of provenance value and the car sold for £53,000 (£57,917 incl Premium).
Then we were back with the repatriated Astons, a poorly presented and frankly dull looking Green DB6 that the rostrum started as low as £40,000! It struggled to a sale at £130,000 (£149,500 incl premium). But that one didn’t start as low as the next – a 1968 DBS Saloon manual that opened at just £20,000. Again, it made over its bottom estimate with a hammer of £52,000 (£59,800 incl premium) to an online buyer.
An equally low start for the next Aston, a Series III V8 Manual – online bidding took the car to a sale at £70,000 (£80,500 incl premium). It is not surprising that there was little competition in the room because close inspection showed some serious scratches and corrosion in the usual places.
Some years back, Byron International were privileged to market a lovely DB6 finished in Primrose – that was the original colour of the next Aston, a DB6 Mark 2. Sadly, the car had been repainted but it was not Primrose and its colour resembled a rather garish 1970’s bathroom suite. Perhaps that was why it went to another online buyer at £132,000 (£151,800 incl premium).
Yet another V8 Series III came through – this one an Automatic, poorly presented with damage on the boot and not helped with a £20,000 opening – it sold for £52,000 (£59,800 incl premium) in the room. Equally poorly presented but opening at £25,000 was a Lagonda Rapide from the same stable – dents in the wing and roof along with micro blistering in the paint and rusty bumpers made the price of £35,000 (£40,250 incl premium) less of a bargain that it looked.
The contrast of presentation from that Rapide to the Aston Martin Vantage V600 that came up next made it hard to believe these cars came from the same owner! That didn’t encourage a more optimistic starting price - £20,000 translated to £85,000 (£97,750 incl premium) but with a 20% VAT liability and recommissioning to add – the price was realistic.
The sale room by now had thinned considerably – a gaggle of bidders taking advantage of the free hospitality and others spread around the marquee but a definite sense that things were slowing – but time for more Astons!
Next was a Silver DB6 that had lost a little bit of its shine but starting at a low £50,000 it made it up to £142,000 (£163,300 incl premium) with the buyers in the room. But it was an absent bidder who bought the last car – another V8 but this time a Series II car. Finished in Gold, the car had a real period feel with a pop-up glass sun roof and not inconsiderable corrosion so its hammer price of £40,000 (£46,000 incl premium) may look cheap, but recommissioning, let alone VAT liabilities will make the final investment substantial.
And that is why this Byron Report notes mixed messages for the market – a 90% sales rate is good news, the prices on some of these cars were good but even those that looked poor were not unrealistic.
What is not obvious to someone just looking down a list of realised prices is an understanding what makes up the final level of investment. Philip Jones has an oft repeated mantra “There is no such thing as a cheap Aston, just the opportunity to spend a lot more in the future.”
Even that beautifully presented Vantage V600, it looks great value even with the 20% VAT liability – but static display since 2011 with a V600 engine? And that will just be the start.
And that impression is not helped by low starting prices from the rostrum – it offers the impression of an impending bargain and relies on the old adage of Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware. We noticed that even when they praised our comprehensive and well researched history on the DBS it is immediately followed by a bracketed “inspection recommended”
In summary – the Goodwood crowds were back for the Members Meeting and quite a few were there to buy cars – there is a recovery in the air but some of the recent Aston bargain hunters may have surprises in store.
© BYRON INTERNATIONAL
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