Muscle makes a mint

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Shelby’s snakes star, but European exotics carry the biggest price tags in Bonhams’ Greenwich sale

The private collection of Carroll Shelby took $2,177,240 at Bonhams’ Greenwich Concours D’Élégance Auction in Connecticut, America, on June 3.

The 23 lots chronicling Shelby’s career from the 1927 Ford Model T to the 2012 Shelby GT500 Super Snake gave bidders the chance to purchase a piece of history belonging to the late car designer, driver and entrepreneur, who started Shelby-American in 1962.

Selling for $313,000, the 1999 Shelby Series 1 claimed the highest spoils from that collection. Just one of 249 Series 1s, the V8-powered muscle car was the spiritual successor to the Cobra, and the only car Shelby designed from start to finish. Development began in 1994 and the car was finished in 1998, with a price of $181,824 when it rolled off the production line in 1999. Fewer than 25 per cent of those cars were fitted with the beefy prototype Shelby supercharger – and this Series 1 is one of them.

Other stars from the collection included a 1965 Shelby 427 Continuation Series Cobra, produced in the late 1980s, which sold for $259,840; a 1987 De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S that was used as the test bed for the Dodge Viper ($226,240); and a Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Convertible – one of 12 continuation series GT350s produced to 1966 specification from 1980-82. The GT350 went for $201,600.

The 23 Shelby-owned lots are salient pieces of American automotive history, with many serving as prototypes for formative road cars, such as his 1983 Dodge Shelby RAM Prototype – a one-of-a-kind Shelby pick-up – which fetched $33,040. The first example of the Dodge Shelby Lancer, used as Shelby’s daily driver when he bought it in 1987, fetched $19,040.

But it was the 1997 Shelby Aurora V8 Can-Am that turned heads. This racing concept is a one-off, and signalled Shelby’s aspirations to return to racing. Powered by an Oldsmobile Aurora V8 producing 500bhp, the stunning single-seater was intended to be an inexpensive way for drivers to race. The following Shelby Can-Am series ran for six years from 1991 in America, with another series taking place in South Africa from 1998 onwards.

Of course, with 224 lots offered in this auction, high numbers weren’t just reserved for Shelby’s collection.

The 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible, which was delivered brand new to sports car driver Michael Goth of New York in 1964, is still in its correct Goodwood Green scheme, over beige leather. Just 39 left-hand-drive convertibles were produced, and this one received a repaint and fresh interior two decades ago after being sold by Goth, who gravitated towards Australia for the Tasman Series. The car now has a third owner, who spent $1,450,000 for the privilege.

Mercedes 300SLs continue to draw big money in the United States and one of only 1858 300SL Roadsters, a 1959 example with one previous owner, finished in a creamy white, fetched $895,000. While muscle powered Bonhams’ Greenwich auction, it was the European classics that made the headlines.

CLOSER TO HOME, the H&H Classics’ Motor Sport Hall of Fame auction featured an eclectic mix of road and race cars, such as the 1973/2018 BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ Evocation, an ex-Stirling Moss Jaguar E-type ‘Semi-Lightweight’ Roadster and a scooter once ridden by Michael Schumacher.

While the ex-Moss E-type didn’t sell, another 1972 Jaguar V12 E-type Roadster did – for £81,562, thanks to its recent extensive restoration. A 1955 Austin-Healey 100 fetched above estimate as well, selling for £48,375.

But the lucky bidders who came away with two Costin Prototypes for four-figure fees left the grounds of the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park with pieces of motor sport history – for, relatively speaking, pocket money.


AUCTION EXPERT

The principality’s F1 race might have been dull, but for collectors Monaco’s auctions last month were very lively, says Max Girardo

No one can resist the glitz and glamour of the Monaco auctions, held in conjunction with the biennial Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. They’re attended by some of the most knowledgeable collectors and a strong indicator as to the state of the market.

This year, RM Sotheby’s returned to its former venue, the Grimaldi Forum, the vast conference centre right on the eastern seafront. The place has a special meaning to me because it was here that I first commandeered the auctions back in 2010 then again 2012 and 2014 — and let me say, those were the days. Those sales were the highlights from my time at RM Sotheby’s. There’s never been a buzz quite like that in the room since then. I remember I sold the Ferrari 625 TRC Spider in 2012 for €5,040,000, but it wasn’t the price that was memorable – it was the bidding. The underbidder was on the phone against another telephone bidder and, much to his dismay, he lost out on the car — only later to find out that his wife held the winning bid. So although he didn’t technically buy the car in the room, he got it in the end, for his birthday!

From the 2014 auction, my clearest memory is the sale of the Ferrari 275 GTB/C for €5,712,000. I had been chasing the car for more than seven years and finally consigned it — a great satisfaction. And to be the person to sell it was truly memorable, the cherry on the cake being that David Gooding was the underbidder. Who doesn’t love a little collector car auction house rivalry?

This year, while RM Sotheby’s returned to its old venue, that same buzz was missing. I know everyone looks back at things through rose-tinted glasses, but I felt the room was more subdued this time around. Perhaps it’s a sign of the market — or maybe the 3:00pm start time. Personally, I would have held an evening sale and consigned fewer lots.

In comparison, Bonhams’ sale, held the previous Friday at 6:00pm, drew a more vibrant and energetic room. I believe that the later time, plus fewer lots, made it more exciting and easier for the auctioneer to hold the room’s attention. Sometimes less is more, and Bonhams proved that in Monaco despite a lower sales total.

Moving back to the UK, the former Aston Martin Works Sale, held by Bonhams, took place in Reading in conjunction with the Aston Martin Owners’ Club Spring Concours on June 2. There were more accessible cars on offer than in the past and, interestingly, 2 VEV was held back. It will be offered instead at Bonhams’ July Goodwood Festival of Speed auction, which looks mega. It’s probably the best selection of cars I’ve seen at Goodwood in recent years and I’m already looking forward to collecting my bidder’s paddle.

Max Girardo is the founder of classic car specialist Girardo & Co. Before that he spent 20 years in the classic car auction world, where he was the managing director and head auctioneer at RM Sotheby’s

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