Auction expert: December 2018

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The main thrust of the sales season might be over, but plenty of things have still caught Max Girardo’s eye

While the world is rejoicing over pumpkin spiced lattés, changing of the leaves and knitted jumpers that autumn brings, us car folk are lamenting the end of our peak auction season. But there’s no need to pine for too long because you can still uncover some great finds in the autumnal classic car auctions. Take these three recent examples…

The first was Bonhams’ Zoute sale in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. Known as the “Monaco of the North Sea”, Knokke-Heist is a coastal Flemish retreat. The Zoute Grand Prix, held in the centre of all the opulence, has grown to be one of my favourite classic car weekends and, judging by the results, it also seems to be a favourite for the Bonhams Motoring Department. The first surprise of the weekend came from the Aston Martin brand: the DB4 Vantage. Prior to the sale, the general consensus was that the estimate was aggressive, but we were all proven wrong.  The car sold for €1.12 million, a world record for a LHD DB4 Vantage. And once again, it goes to show that buyers are valuing quality, specification and history. The other result of note was the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow convertible, which sold for almost three times the catalogue estimate with a hammer price of €115,000. Why you might ask?  It was ordered new by one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century (see left), proving that celebrity ownership does make a difference.

On the other side of the pond, Bonhams held its second classic car auction of October: The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum sale in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — the City of Brotherly Love.

An international showing of 50 (mostly) pre-war cars in an automotive museum that focuses on “the spirit of competition” and has its own collection of racing sports cars might seem a bit odd, but the focus of the Bonhams sale was on originality, which is also a common theme throughout the museum cars.

Although the cover lot did not find a new home, there was another Bentley, a Gurney Nutting-bodied 4¼ named the Airflow Saloon, that claimed the title of the most valuable car of the sale when it achieved $190,000. And I have to say, out of all the lots, it was without a doubt the one I would have taken home.

Not to miss out on the autumnal auction action, RM Sotheby’s held its annual sale in Hershey, Pennsylvania — less than 100 miles from Philadelphia — on October 11-12. This is the auction for all those who can appreciate some pre-war Americana. And interestingly, two thirds of the cars were offered without reserve.

I can tell you from experience that in every auction there is always one lot that will sell for more money than it is worth and one that will sell for less. If you are a lucky seller, you have the car that makes more than it should; if you are the lucky buyer, you get a bargain…

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