Auctions - Ups and downs

Individual lots continue to make big numbers, but some overall yields have dropped

A few lots were left unsold after Artcurial’s Automobiles sur les Champs 12 in Paris – and the overall take was significantly down on the previous sale, which took place last November.

Of course, last year’s auction numbers were boosted by the sale of a 1925 Bugatti Type 35, which went for €1,438,880, and the 1954 Bentley Mulliner Continental that fetched €792,280. A total result of €5,737,528 towered over this year’s take of €2,641,773 – a dip of €3m – and even 2016’s auction yielded a million more euros than the most recent.

Among the 23 cars that didn’t sell were a 1996 Renault Spider, a 1989 Ferrari F40, a 1972 Maserati Ghibli and a 1927 Bugatti Type 43 Roadster Grand Sport, which was estimated to fetch more than half a million euros, while the F40 was expected to reach at least €750,000 (a handful of F40s fetched more than €1m at auction last year).

A pair of interesting hot hatches – a 1983 Renault 5 Turbo and a 2003 Renault Clio V6 – also remained unsold, although a 2018 Alpine A110 did attract a winning bid of €73,904.

Unlike the F40, a number of Ferraris did sell including a polarising – and sometimes maligned – 1982 400i for €90,592, well above its €85,000 estimate. Its manual gearbox might have gone some way to spurring bidders on. A 1993 512 TR and 2004 Ferrari 575M HGTE fetched ballpark figures – about €100,000 each – but it was the unsold F40 that created more of a stir. Its trip reading (52,784km) might have set it back, but it remains a highly desirable supercar.

A quartet of Mercedes-Benzes also attracted bids and a 1969 280SL W113 Pagoda, extensively restored a decade ago, fetched €83,400 – above estimate. As this one proved, there remains a demand for Paul Bracq’s timeless design – even for cars that have been regularly used.

Forecast to fetch between €160,000-€210,000, a rare 1961 Porsche 356 BT5 Roadster did indeed meet its estimate, with the winning bidder now in ownership of one of just 473 examples of the model.

The D’Ieteren-built car has covered only 4000km in the last decade and B-series 356s are continuing to gain momentum in the market.

Another rare cabrio also fetched six figures: a Citröen DS21 convertible, one of just 95 built, bid to €127,280.

The star lot, however, was a 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Spider (main picture), offered without reserve with a broad estimate of €200,000-€300,000.

Having been entered in the Mille Miglia Storica, this covetable straight-six tourer combined performance with nearly eight decades of detailed history and the new owner parted with €274,160 to secure it.

Of course, comparisons to last year’s November event aren’t entirely fair, as a number of lots (17) this year were assigned to scooters – Lambrettas and Vespas – which all sold for less than €10,000. The lack of anything quite like the aforementioned Bugatti Type 35 also failed to help numbers.

Sotheby’s Fort Lauderdale auction proved to be fruitful, with $19.1m in total sales beating 2017’s take by $2 million. A pair of Mercedes 300SLs starred, with one 1962 example selling for $1,540,000 over the phone while a ’57 Gullwing 300SL fetched $1,193,500 (and all proceeds went to the former owner’s local YMCA in Jackson, Michigan).

There was also a rare Porsche 944 Turbo racer, one of 36 built for the Rothmans Cup series in 1988. It went for $49,500.

Americana might have dominated, but – as those Mercedes figures underline – European exotics still fetch staggering numbers in the States, and some for a very worthy cause.