Matra magnet

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The first MS650 is sure to draw buyers to France next month, while online auctions are also a big pull

Every year Porte de Versailles in Paris fills with thousands of classic car enthusiasts for Rétromobile. If an auction house was looking for the right market, this is it – something that Bonhams proved last year by selling a 1929 Bugatti Type 43 Grand Sport for £1.2 million and a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 26/120/180 S-type for well over £2m.

This year, the day after the Bonhams sale on February 7 (which includes a 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante with an estimate of £2.6-3m), French market leader Artcurial is selling the first Matra MS650.

In 1969 Matra, by now heavily involved in Formula 1, didn’t manage to race its 650 until Le Mans thanks to a variety of setbacks; up to that point the 630 and an updated open version were used. Three MS650s were built and for the car on sale at Rétromobile, chassis number 01, the 24 Hours was its first race.

The car was an instant success, finishing fourth with Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Piers Courage at the wheel behind the Ickx/Oliver GT40, the Hermann/Larrousse Porsche 908 and the Hobbs/Hailwood GT40. The car wasn’t as fast as the 908 or the Ferrari 312, which had been dominating the season, but it proved Matra was not to be underestimated.

The following month chassis 01, this time driven by Johnny Servoz-Gavin and Pedro Rodriguez, finished fourth in the Watkins Glen 6 Hours and eighth overall in the following day’s Watkins Glen Can-Am, with Servoz-Gavin driving again. Following a DNF in the Austria 1000Kms, the car was sent to France in October for the Paris 1000Kms. Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo drove the car to its first and only victory.

In 1970 chassis 01 was driven by Jack Brabham and François Cevert in the Daytona 24 Hours (finishing 10th), in the Sebring 12 Hours by Servoz-Gavin and Pescarolo, and in the BOAC 1000Kms by Beltoise and Brabham.

MS650 01 is race ready, and with one of its sisters in the Matra museum in Romorantin, France and the other in a private collection, this is perhaps the only opportunity there will ever be to buy such an historic car. The estimate of £1.3-1.8m seems reasonable, as in the words of Artcurial’s director François Melcion, it is “a very, very good car”.

Following its withdrawal from Formula 1, some of you may remember that Super Aguri sold a large part of its equipment – cars included – in an online auction last July and August. Admittedly 792 of the 1303 lots had been snapped up before the auction even started, but with 511 items still remaining the sale was deemed a huge success.

Given the – dare we mention it again –current economic climate, online sales might be a sensible way for many a small auction house to go. Not only are there no constraints time-wise – bids can be placed 24/7 – but there are also no limits geographically, which is a good thing when the £10,000 you’re spending on a car is supplemented by a further £1000 on flights and accommodation. What’s more, you’ll always get more bidders and sellers online than at a real-life auction.

Take the MGB for example – an affordable classic as Richard Heseltine points out in our feature on page 118. Type those famous three letters into any auction site and you’ll be lucky to find two or three cars for sale. Type them into Ebay and there are so many it almost, almost, puts you off buying one.

One such online sale is the Simon Charles race and rally car auction on February 18/19 (see left). Although there will be a live auction in Manchester, you’ll also be able to sit at your computer, anywhere from Abingdon to the Antarctic, and bid on that lovely 1972 BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ touring car you’ve being promising yourself (that particular car is, in fact, included in the sale!).

So in an effort to save costs, perhaps more small companies will be looking at selling online. The only thing the buyer has to watch out for is less trustworthy ‘hosts’. We don’t want to be blamed for someone buying what they thought was a mint Audi R8, when it fact it was built from a 2003 Audi TT by someone called Jeff…

Around the dealers
Competition cars currently for sale here and abroad

1990 Repsol Porsche 962C
Chassis 962-163 was built in July 1990, making it the very last example to run in the 1990 World Sportscar Championship. The car was run by top privateer Walter Brun, it only competed in the last two races of the season and has never been damaged. This 962 offers a great chance to enter Monterey next year, where Porsche is the featured marque, or it could be extremely competitive in the Group C racing series.
£575,000, www.historicclassics.com, Tel: 01825 831028

1954 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta
One of four lightweight Berlinettas, this is an original left-hand drive, all-alloy competition Ferrari with a full history. The car was raced by Paolo Lena in the 1956 Tour de France as well as that year’s X Coppa Inter-Europa. Just one of two left, the car is freshly restored.
£2m, www.autosportdesigns.com, Tel: 001 631 425 1555

Salmson GP San Sebastian
Chassis 602 is one of the four factory supercharged cars that came to England in 1927. The car competed in the 250-mile Light Car Club Relay race at Brooklands in 1932, finishing second, and also won that year’s Junior 10 lap Mountain Handicap race.
£151,000, www.vdvgrant.be.com, Tel: 0032 (0) 2 770 7292

1951/52 Ferrari GP Monoposto
This car started life as a 166 F1/F2 chassis, after which Ferrari experimented with a variety of engines. Career highlights include four GP wins in 1951 at Syracuse, Monza, Rome and Naples where it was driven by Serafini, Villoresi, Marzotto and then Villoresi again.
POA, www.dkeng.co.uk, Tel: 01923 287687

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