Car Sales and Concours
Techno Classica at Essen is incredible as a feast of classic cars but to the locals, it is just another exhibition at Messe Essen. When you get to the Monterey peninsula in motoring week, you get some idea of how important the week is to the residents and local businesses.
It’s hard to put the events into some sense of order – it is like a restaurant menu that has every one of your favourites – Quail, Laguna Seca, Pebble Beach and auctions from RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Mecum and Goodings.
The Byron team were there to support a client’s class winning Aston Martin at Pebble Beach but we wanted to know how the market was standing up and, already planning to attend Goodings at Hampton Court, we took in their Monterey sale while keeping a weather eye on the others. Mecum were very close at hand based as they were at our hotel and the sheer scale their inventory of principally American metal was monumental.
That said, RM Sotheby’s were first off the mark and amongst all the superlatives, the huge – some would say bloated – inventories of these Monterey auctions puts the financial bragging rights in the hands of our American cousins.
At RM a 1970 left hand drive Aston Martin DB6 Mark 2 Vantage made $475,000 with premium and with the exchange rate at only $1.15 to the pound that is better than we have seen in the UK recently. They had a 2003 Aston Martin DB AR1 for sale that made $346,000 with premium as well as a 2018 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Volante making $637,500 with premium – both cars around $100,000 ahead of the prices achieved by Goodings on similar cars.
They had a DB5 saloon which remained on the “available on request” list and there was even less excitement for Aston Martin with Bonhams at Quail – a 1995 Aston Martin V8 Vantage V550 Coupe, offered without reserve made $100,800 with premium whilst a 1935 Aston Martin Ulster remained on the unsold roster.
But the real attitude of the US players came with their press releases “$239.2 million in sales” trumpeted RM Sotheby’s – “Over $109 million in sales” countered Goodings
Mecum, with their camp set out at our hotel and the adjoining golf course, they offered a real sense of something different – theirs is a real show, running live on Motor Trend TV and with a public entrance deal to view the cars displayed for the sale it is very different to the others – although predominantly American cars – their star cars were Ferraris and Bugattis The hotel was full of people wearing their Mecum bidding lanyards with pride and it reflected that Mecum seem to have a very different approach to the selling game but still they shout the same type of headline “$52.1 million in sales”!
But it is not all auctions at Monterey car week – Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance starts with “The Tour” taking entrants along the beauty of the 17 Mile Drive. A huge spectator draw, it was reminiscent of the old RAC Rally with spectators taking any vantage point along the route. For the owners who complete the course, their reward is a huge green rosette which has to be displayed at the main event to prove that their car is functional as well as beautiful.
And for fans of seeing classic cars performing as they were meant to, Laguna Seca Raceway a few miles up the road was the place to be. Tremendous support from volunteers who were happy to run us up to the top of Corkscrew Hill in a buggy for a contribution to their Armed Forces Veteran Fund and that investment was worthwhile – watching all those classics choosing their lines down those Corkscrew curves. Of course, our favourite was DB4/919/R – beautifully prepared and running with the race number 77 – maybe not the quickest but certainly the prettiest.
Friday was the first of Goodings auctions – slightly disappointed that the theatrical Charlie Ross was not on the gavel but David Gooding clearly likes a Brit because the rostrum was in the hands of Thomas Forrester, another familiar face from the plethora of antique programming from the BBC.
There were some real high points in terms of the occasion – firstly, regular auction goers in the UK have endured not only too many mediocre Astons filling certain inventories but also the lack of “star car’s” – the show stoppers, the ones people put on their “if I win the lottery” lists. At Goodings, there was an embarrassment of such cars and they were all immaculately prepared and presented.
Then there was the scale of the audience that a West End theatre would have given anything for, all served by a team of catering staff delivering food, coffee or drinks. A real sense occasion – and the final delight – POPCORN! There were trolley loads of the snack coming out regularly, clearly to the delight of auction goers who chased the trolleys and grabbed armfuls.
Forrester got off to a cracking start and there seemed to be a love of German cars with apparently never-ending Porsche lots making great money and even when one missed the boat – a 1976 Porsche 934 – the Goodings team were on the ball closing the deal post sale.
First Aston was a 2017 V12 Vantage S offered with no reserve. It made its top estimate of $225,000 ($252,000 incl. premium). Straight after, came a 2007 Porsche RS Spyder Evo at $5,100,000 ($5,615,000 incl. premium) – the $1+ million cars passing almost unnoticed.
Then a few lots later a Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante made the Porsche look a bargain with a winning bid of $9,400,000 (10,345,000 incl. premium).
Next Aston was a 2003 DB AR1 offered with no reserve, she made $230,000 ($257,600 incl. premium), short of bottom estimate. In fact that was the case with a lot of cars – whether it reflected higher catalogue estimates making buyers view their purchases as bargains or great preparation by the Goodings team, one cannot tell. It was probably a combination of the two, but a number of cars were declared “In the Market” well short of their estimates.
One of the downsides of a theatre scaled crowd is that if they leave after the second act, the atmosphere goes a little flat – and Thomas Forrester flagged a little when big spaces started appearing. The scale of a 70-car inventory showed with the clock running, making people look to their watches and he tried keeping the pace. But perhaps he allowed the bidding steps to drop, making it take longer to hit target price and there were also some pretty obvious “run bids”. But top marks for stamina because next morning, bright eyed – apparently bushy tailed – the team were ready for day 2.
We were there to see the other Astons through and the first was a 2018 Vanquish Zagato Volante, the top bid $490,000 ($544,000 incl. premium) was short of bottom estimate and a long way short of what RM achieved with a similar car. But a 2009 DBS offered with no reserve made a creditable $170,000 ($190,400 incl. premium) while a 1988 V8 Volante sold in spite of being short of estimate at $415,000 ($461,500 (incl. premium)
A busy schedule precluded staying to the end of the sale but even with a $6million Ferrari, there was a sense of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” – Friday night was the one to watch – but the message? The market was vibrant, the prices strong but they work bloody hard to achieve the results.
And that was obvious at Hampton Court – the Concours was bigger and busier than last year – long way to catch up Pebble Beach but clearly on the right trajectory. The seats were the same as California, David Gooding was in place and they even had POPCORN! But in terms of the show, no longer reliant on the capable understudy, Mr Theatrical, Charlie Ross was back on the gavel.
After the over running time at Monterey, here was an auctioneer totally in command of his audience – occasionally gently insulting, refusing bids out of step with the rhythm he had set and bringing an energy to the room, the timetable was set as 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm and he was done and dusted at 4.45 pm. There were a few misses – an overall sales rate of 80% of cars offered for sale was creditable but sadly the first miss was an Aston Martin. She was a beautifully presented DB5 Convertible – restored by Works Service over 10 years ago, she was estimated at £1.25 - £1.75 million so the top bid of £920,000 was not enough..
And compared with Monterey, Porsches even Ruf models did not excite UK buyers as much as they had the American audience. Star car was a Ferrari 250GT that made £6.9 million on the hammer (£7,762,500 incl. premium) and a number of other cars saw the million-pound barrier broken.
But Goodings work hard – Charlie attracted the inevitable audience with his dramatic flourishes but once the major star car was sold, the audience thinned and the Goodings team were inviting spectators into the audience to maintain appearances – the bags of popcorn now proving a valuable incentive.
Like the hosting Hampton Court Concours, Goodings London Auction was bigger and a bit better in 2022 – with one of their sponsors, Cosdel Transport, linked to Pebble Beach, I am sure that 2023 will see the comparisons will be closer than just the popcorn.
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