Believe the hype

Bernie’s Mercedes-Benz makes mega bucks as market booms

Speculation was rife recently that the market for historic cars was going to come to a grisly end, with machines with strong race pedigrees being left to gather dust rather than face the humiliation of an ‘unsold’ notice in an auction results table.

Except this is not proving to be the case. H&H achieved £1.25 million in its inaugural Duxford sale, while the Bert Hadley archives set a new H&H house record for automobilia, netting a huge £17,088.

Coys racked up $10 million over three auctions in Ascot, Berkshire and Padua, and then came RM’s first UK auction at Battersea Park. Formula 1 czar Bernie Ecclestone was in the front row rubbing his hands with glee as his Mercedes 540K Special Roadster sold for £3.9 million, while the final amount raised in this much-hyped sale was a staggering £18 million.

However, there will always be a market for the super-rare; it’s the cars that go for around the £100,000 mark that give a better indication of where the market is heading. Judging by the RM auction we have little to worry about. The ex-George Harrison Aston Martin DB5 sold for £233,500 (almost £100,000 above estimate) while the 1931 Reo racing car from the Abba Kogan collection, as raced in period by Ernesto Blanco, had the phone lines buzzing with Argentinians screaming más dinero and finally went for £470,000 (over £250,000 above the top estimate). On a less positive note, the Delage featured in the November issue was unsold, only reaching half of its £1.2-1.8 million estimate. Racing cars which did sell included Kogan’s 1986 Ferrari F1/86, a 1982 Renault RE30B and a 1971 Brabham BT36 F2 car.

Judging by the success of the past few auctions, and the usual willingness to spend one’s life-savings at Christmas, Bonhams (December 4), Coys (December 5) and Gooding and Company (January 12) are in for bumper winter sales.

The Coys ‘True Greats’ auction at the Royal Horticultural Hall has a beautiful 1934 Bentley 4¼-litre van den Plas tourer which belonged to Siamese ace Prince Bira – who painted the car cornflower blue to match the evening dress of a girl he met at a party, which subsequently became his race livery – to an ex-works Austin-Healey 3000 that participated in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1962-1963 (estimate: £180-240,000).

In the same sale is one of two ex-Jim Clark Lotus-Cortinas set to go on the block in successive days. KPU 386C was used by the Scot in his first international rally (1966 RAC) and is estimated to reach £40-50,000. At Bonhams’ Olympia sale, the other Cortina, JTW 498C, is estimated at £60-80,000: it was raced throughout 1965 by Clark, Jack Sears and Sir John Whitmore. Highlight of the sale, however, is likely to be the reconstructed ex-Jo Bonnier BRM P25 in which the Swede scored the marque’s first Grand Prix win at Zandvoort in 1959 (estimate: £750,000-£1 million).

Bonhams is also hosting its annual Ferrari and Maserati auction in Gstaad on December 19 where among the mainstream Italian exotica is a freshly restored Siata 208 for sale. This custom-bodied coupé was commissioned by US motor mogul Stanley H ‘Wacky’ Arnolt and was first shown at the 1952 Paris Salon. Entries for Barons’ March sale are beginning to flow in, an ex-Jo Siffert Chevron B19 likely to be of most interest to Motor Sport readers. That same month, RM’s sale at Amelia Island, Florida will undoubtedly witness fierce bidding for the fabulous 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster designed by E T ‘Bob’ Gregoire for Edsel Ford.

So it would appear that the historic car market isn’t about to turn turtle. With over five major auctions at the beginning of 2008, we expect to see yet more evidence that the good stuff will always receive serious interest.

Around the dealers
Competition cars currently for sale here and abroad

1971 Ferrari 312 B2
Ferrari number 007 is the ex-Mario Andretti and Clay Regazzoni chassis which was campaigned during the 1971 and ‘72 seasons: best result was second place at the German Grand Prix in ‘72 with ‘Regga’ and, in the previous season, fourth place at the same circuit when driven by Andretti. Of the 12 starts it made throughout these seasons, 007 finished eight races. Since leaving the Ferrari factory, this car has had only two long-term owners and is in original condition. A definite entry to most of the prestigious historic events worldwide. For sale at, POA.

Ferrari F1 126C4
Michele Alboreto and René Arnoux raced chassis number 074 throughout 1984 with a win at the Belgium Grand Prix, a second at the Nürburgring and a fourth at Estoril in Portugal. Recently the car has been rebuilt mechanically by Bob Houghton at a cost of over £186,000 and was then driven at a F1 Clienti meeting. €600,000

Alfa Romeo GTA
This aluminium-floored 1965 Autodelta Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA was one of two works cars entered into the very first Trans-Am Race, the 1966 Sebring 4 Hours, where it was driven to victory by Jochen Rindt. The car has been sympathetically restored to its original Sebring specification. POA. Tel: 01242 821 600

Lotus MK9 chassis 85
This is the only Mk 9 to be built with a Ford side-valve engine from new. It has never been restored and remains almost as it was when it won the 1172 Formula Championship in 1956 with Anstice Brown driving. In recent years it has completed the Mille Miglia and the Le Mans legends race. POA Tel: 01380 859 989

Auction diary

December 1 Oldtimer Galerie Toffen, classic cars, Switzerland.

December 2 Bonhams and Goodman, collectors’ cars, Melbourne. Tel: 00 61 (0) 3 8530 3900

December 3 Bonhams, important collectors’ cars and automobilia, Olympia, London. Tel: 020 7468 5801

December 5 Coys, True Greats, Royal Horticultural Hall, London. Tel: 020 8614 7888

December 8/9 Barons, classic, collectors’ and historic cars, Sandown Park, Surrey. Tel: 0238 066 8413

December 19 Bonhams, exceptional Ferrari motor cars, related automobilia and fine watches, Gstaad, Switzerland. Tel: 020 7468 5801

January 12/20 2008 Barrett-Jackson, Greatest Collector Car event, Scottsdale, Arizona. Tel: 00 1 480 421 6694

January 12/20 2008 Gooding and Company, Scottsdale, Arizona. Tel: 001 310 899 1960

January 12 Coys, Autosport, Grand Prix, competition, touring and rally cars and collectors items, NEC, Birmingham. Tel: 0207 8614 7888

January 18 RM Auctions, vintage motor cars, Phoenix, Arizona. Tel: 00 1 519 352 4575