Good cars or great cars attracted buyers and although prices have a little way to go, there is a market out there for well presented Astons with a good provenance
Many years ago, radio presenter and car enthusiast Chris Evans was interviewing Lord March about the Festival of Speed and he asked what was the plan if it rained. The reply came that the event was scheduled for the British Summer so they planned for rain and if the sun shone, it was a bonus.
I remembered that wise counsel as I walked though the rain towards Goodwood House and the Bonhams marquee but could not have imagined the driving rain that almost drowned out the auctioneers as it bounced off the roof then came the astonishing news that Saturday’s event had been cancelled!
The weather may well have been the reason for two enforced breaks due to IT failures – the first when the returning and guest auctioneer, Jamie Knight, had just gone to great lengths to describe an Aston Martin DB6 only for the system to suddenly fail. Not sure whether he overstepped the mark by offering free drinks on Bonhams but the rush to the bar area proved it a popular distraction, although he kept making enigmatic references to a “Drambuie” joke which was clearly not for public consumption – he certainly did not try it out on the audience!
A later break was announced by Malcolm Barber as a precautionary move that again added to Bonhams tab at the bar.
And that is a pity because a lot of the bidding came from the live audience most especially the star of the show, a 2007 Koenigsegg CCGT GTI Competition Coupe which hit a hammer price of £2,950,000 (£3,319,000 with premium).
And one cannot help wondering if the structure of the sale has an impact on pricing and sales – early in the sale, in the queue of a refreshing cup of tea, I was chatting to an American enthusiast who felt that the prices were below estimate and whilst that needs proper analysis, the sales rate of 62% must be tempered by the fact that nearly half the cars sold (23 of 49) were No Reserve Lots, i.e., guaranteed sales.
And when the prices did fly a little higher, it was normally as a result of spirited and competitive bidding rather than market influences.
Which brings me to a personal bugbear – when I go to a BCA sale at Frimley, bidding is often called unintelligibly by auctioneers who fancy themselves as American tobacco auctioneers but you can follow on screen the live bid position, online and in the room.
Classic car auctions have embraced technology and have remote bidders but we are reliant on the auctioneer reading a screen and calling the bids. Some who indulge in online bidding, report that the price on their screen is often a step behind live – for example showing £95,000 when the auctioneer is calling £100,000. But there remains a mystique which could, to the cynical bidder, hide run bids.
It is noticeable, for example from Friday’s results that only one sale, that shows post sale closure of a potential underbidder – auction houses are usually so hot on that activity that there must be a reason for an underperformance!
But for Aston Martin enthusiasts, there was excitement mixed with a little trepidation about the sheer volume of Aston Martins in the inventory – 28 Aston Martins and Lagondas in a 79 inventory seemed excessive. Of course, when you reflect that we al used to line up in May at Works Service and watch an even larger volume of Astons going through the block – but that was in halcyon days of audiences of enthusiasts before the recent flood of cars from the Middle East commoditised our favourites.
Looking at the inventory though, there were a good volume of high-quality collectors’ Astons and we hoped for some positives. Let us just look at those.
First up was a 1976 Aston Martin V8 Series III – from the Middle East, she needs recommissioning and sold for £32,000 on the hammer (£36,800 with premium). She was followed by a DB6 Mark 2 Saloon from the same stable and, requiring thorough recommissioning, sold without reserve at £115,000 (£132,250 with premium).
Branded solely Lagonda, we keep an eye on Lagonda Tarafs that were built for the Middle East but appear to have a following and here was another example that was a Friday rarity insofar as it beat its estimate of £150,000 and selling in the room for £195,000 (£224,250 with premium).
Then came lots 219-222 – four sparkling Astons from a private collection – a 1980 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Saloon with a 5.7 lite upgrade was bid to £140,000, she was followed by an equally fine DBS Vantage with a 4.2 litre upgrade that was bid to £125,000. Stepping back an era, there was a 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead – this car had contemporary Targa Florio history and was a multiple AMOC Concours winner and was bid to £270,000. All these cars failed to make their bottom estimate and remained unsold.
Then the fourth car of the collection, a classic Silver 1964 Aston Martin DB5 – again, bidding fell short of the £600,000 bottom estimate but the car sold at a hammer price of £545,000 (£625,400 with premium).
The next Aston Martin was again a DBS but one that jumped forward a couple of generations – a 2012 Ultimate Edition. Ordered new to Swiss specification, it had 205km on the clock and was unused needing recommissioning so £85.000 was fair given tax as well as other costs that was (£97,750 with premium).
We then jumped right to the top of the classic Aston Martin market with a DB4GT. This entry was a famous car with cinematic provenance from the Peter Sellers film “The Wrong Arm of the Law” and the star’s ownership of the car. Sadly, that fame does not properly counter its lack of originality with an engine change. Furthermore, as owners are often counselled, over exposure does not enhance values – a couple of enthusiasts in adjacent seats at the sale were talking about having seen it for sale at a higher price and it has been through auction before – the hammer price of £2,020,000 seemed close to bottom estimate but did not see the car enter the sold column.
Again, we looked at a private seller with a DB4 Series V that was coming from 40 years of family ownership – it had an obvious patina and perhaps that is what stopped the car being bid to higher than £220,000 well short of bottom estimate and she went home again unsold.
A classic William Towns Lagonda Series 4 Saloon was the next Aston offering and made a creditable but not spectacular £58,000 which was not enough to put up a sold sign on the car. But next along was an altogether more questionable car from that Middle East vendor – a 1970 Aston Martin DB6 Mark 2 FI Saloon. A requirement of recommissioning was one thing, but buyers were recommended to check the car because there was no chassis number stamped on the front crossmember and the chassis plate did not identify the car as an FI – however, enthusiastic bidding saw the car make bottom estimate of £150,000 (£172,500 with premium).
And yet another Aston requiring recommissioning was a 1958 DB Mark III – presented quite nicely in Red, the car was bid to £90,000 (£103,500 with premium).
After these cars it was refreshing to get to a 1967 DB6 Vantage, presented so eloquently from the rostrum before the IT collapsed. Bidding was opened at £150,000 and the car sold at £220,000 (£253,000 with premium) a cracking buy for its new owner.
Contrast that with a 1970 DBS Vantage needing recommissioning that came up a couple of lots later – a later model that got to £42,000 (£48,300 with premium).
We then had the pleasure of contrasting the DB4 Series V that did not sell with a rather fine example of a Series III Vantage with overdrive that had an earlier cosmetic restoration and was presented immaculately – still a little short of its estimate but the bid of £230,000 won the day (£264,500 with premium).
The Aston Martin V8 Volante LWB is an aristocratic example of open top motoring and with only 64 examples having been built it should command a premium. Returning from overseas and requiring that recommissioning, meant that the 1999 example offered by Bonhams stalled at £52,000 (£59,800 with premium). Perhaps their pessimistic estimate of £40,000 offered the wider public the wrong message!
Back to DB4 and another Series V car but one that the auctioneer could wax lyrical about RS Williams’ restoration and engine upgrade - £220,000 bid and sale agreed (£253,000 with premium) – one wonders if the owner of the Red car regrets not accepting the bid!
There is, you may have noticed, a pattern emerging – great cars attract better prices and the next Aston was no exception it was a 1988 V8 Vantage X Pack and at the risk of sounding like an advert of RS Williams, this was another of their upgrades with a 7-litre engine. The catalogue estimate was £160,000 and the bidding made a nonsense of that as it topped out at £270,000 (£310,500 with premium).
Also exceptional was a 1979 V8 Volante, a rare manual version that was bid to £115,000 and sold (£132,250 with premium). Very different to another DBS Vantage from overseas, no reserve and requiring recommissioning that was bid to £60,000 (£69,000 with premium) while the later iteration of the same model, a 1972 DBSV8 Automatic from the same source with the same constraints made £42,000 (£48,399 with premium).
From a private UK collection, next came a 1955 DB2/4 Drophead – modestly estimated, it made a frankly modest bid of £125,00 but sufficient to sell (£143,750 with premium).
The Astons continued to come thick and fast – very fast with the next car a 2013 Vanquish 2 + 2 Coupe – Swiss specification, 310km and left-hand drive, she was bid to £66,000 as a no reserve car (£75,900 with premium). She was followed by a privately entered V8 Series III saloon, bid to £52,000, it remained unsold as did the 2018 Aston Martin Vantage V600 “Dreadnought” Roadster – the bid on this rocket ship reached £460.000 but she remained unsold.
That contrasted with a “Project” DB5 – in pieces and without reserve, spirited bidding took it to £284,000 (£326.600 with premium). And the final Newport Pagnell offering as a 1996 V8 Coupe – these lovely cars still suffer from association with the unloved Virage and it was a bargain at £48,000 (£55,200 with premium)
How do we look at the Aston Martin market right now? Enthusiasm for the marque has always been driven by the heart not the head – an acquisition where a car changes from being an Aston to “My Aston.” Over recent months the sheer volume of cars from a certain source has served to commoditise what are great cars impacting values and hurting owners.
If you look at Friday’s sale – good cars or great cars attracted buyers and although prices have a little way to go, there is a market out there for well presented Astons with a good provenance – mediocrity will remain in the doldrums for a while and hold full recovery back. But if you are a seller, realism about the market and attention to presentation will see those seeds of optimism delivering change.
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