Pricing is the key

RM Auctions sold lots of cars at Amelia Island, but not all reached their estimates. It’s inevitable in a recession

Back in 1996 Bill Warner of Road & Track magazine bent to the Florida motoring enthusiasts’ wish for a show like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on the west coast and staged a similar event at Amelia Island.

Attendance was a paltry 2200 people that year, but this March the show attracted more than 20,000.

So it’s no surprise that RM Auctions hosts one of its largest sales of the year on the 13-mile long island.

Having sold £12.7 million worth of cars at Scottsdale earlier this year, it seemed little would slow RM’s progress. But while you’d be hard- pressed to call the Amelia sale disappointing – the auction house shifted 83 per cent of cars going under the hammer at this smaller event – some interesting lots did fail to sell and others went to new owners for less than the reserve price.

One of the leading lots – a 1963 AC Cobra which raced at Le Mans that year – failed to reach its estimate, with a top bid of £562,910. Meanwhile two interesting Ferraris – a 1959 250 GT LWB California Spyder with an estimate of £1.7-2m and a 1966 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta with an estimate of £500-650,000 – didn’t quite reach the mark.

Other cars such as the 1966 AC Cobra 427, a Best in Class winner at Amelia Island with only 6000 miles on the clock, sold for £18,000 less than the lower estimate of £500,000.

But such results can’t solely be blamed on the current economic climate.

The 1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Coupé sold for £759,330, and the official pace car for the 1941 Indianapolis 500, a 1941 Chrysler Newport Dual Cowl Phaeton, went for £486,620, while the 1911 Oldsmobile Autocrat ‘Yellow Peril’ sold for £467,250. In other words there are still buyers out there willing to part with their money as long as the car (and the price) is right.

Trying to judge an estimate is always difficult, so it’s no surprise that sometimes they are a little off, but it does seem that RM overestimated a few of its lots. That doesn’t mean it thought the cars were worth more than they are, it’s just that on the day the buyers didn’t agree. And that’s what counts.