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Times are hard, but racing memorabilia is still selling

Even in these troubled times, auction records are still broken on a weekly basis. In fact, an auction hardly passes without a press release containing the words ‘record price achieved’ or ‘new world record set’. But when a car registration number sells for £397,500 at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale, setting a new record (the previous was also held by Bonhams for ‘M1’ at £331,500), it’s hard not to sit up and ask whether it is worth such a price. Especially since the new owner, a numberplate dealer, says he is going to mount it on “an old red Skoda”.

This is no ordinary registration though: ‘S1’ originally belonged to Sir John H A MacDonald, who became the owner when registrations were first introduced in 1903. ‘S1’ was the first number for Edinburgh that same year and, what’s more, the registration has been in the same family since then, something that Toby Wilson, head of automobilia at Bonhams, says is especially interesting to prospective buyers.

“There’s always a great deal of interest in items of quality with a good provenance and an interesting history, and items that haven’t been on the market before,” he says. And that is exactly what the automobilia section of the Revival sale included.

Although the automobilia at Bonhams counts for a relatively small percentage of the motoring business in terms of the amount of money changing hands, Wilson is keen to point out that it shouldn’t be overlooked, especially at a sale like its annual Revival auction. “Bonhams has the largest automobilia department in the world. We have more automobilia sold than any other auctioneers and we have three major sales a year: the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Revival and our London Olympia event.”

But is Bonhams worried about the latest headlines involving the collapse of American bank Lehman Brothers? “As long as it’s got a good provenance and the authenticity is correct, then it’s worthwhile buying,” he assures Motor Sport. “In these fluctuating markets, in this day and age… If a person pays £1000 for a silver cup he doesn’t know whether silver’s going to hold its value. But as far as automobilia is concerned, if the cup was presented to Elsie Wisdom for winning a specific race at Brooklands, then there will always be people who are interested in it, because of that race, because she was driving a Riley at that race, or because she participated at Le Mans in a different car.”

Although Wilson points out that there are investors in the automobilia world, he believes some items are popular just because they are aesthetically pleasing. “We do get people who invest in automobilia, and you see them buying properties that they will eventually build into a collection and will offer for sale when the time is right.

“But most people collect automobilia because they love it. You walk into a garage where a gentleman maybe owns two or three cars and the walls are decorated with enamel signs – it just looks superb.” A point that goes some way to explaining why one of Graham Hill’s BRDC cufflinks sold for £518.

While at the Festival of Speed auction back in July, Bonhams informed us of three cars that were being sold at its annual Beaulieu sale on September 13. These weren’t going to be the most expensive cars ever sold, nor were they going to raise a huge amount of interest outside the UK. However, the three GNs which were part of the Stafford East Collection – 1086cc V-twin ‘Kim II’, 1922 ‘Akela’ 1100cc 200-Mile Race car and 1086cc Vitesse two-seater – were certainly worth keeping an eye on.

The cars, in East’s ownership since the Second World War, have made the odd appearance at Brooklands over the years, and indeed in Motor Sport’s pages, but haven’t been ‘out’ in public for 10 years or more. Stewart Skillbeck, a consultant at Bonhams, has been keeping tabs on the collection for 20 years.

Perhaps the most interesting of the three is ‘Kim II’, which was successfully campaigned by Archie Frazer-Nash in the 1920s. So successfully in fact that it won every race it entered at Brooklands in the 1920 Junior Club Whitsun meeting. ‘Kim II’ came into being after Frazer-Nash crashed the first ‘Kim’ that year, leaving only the engine intact; the Bonhams catalogue reminds us that the Scot said, “all racing cars should have a good crash as it releases any stresses in the engine”. He certainly managed that after his August Bank Holiday ‘moment’. The car was completely rebuilt and renamed ‘Kim II’, continuing to race with enormous success.

The car was dismantled by a later owner, but long-term GN addict Stafford East obtained the engine and, aided by GN engineers, built up this fine recreation with many original parts.

Let’s hope the three UK buyers get the cars running and bring them to Brooklands or Shelsley Walsh so we can all enjoy them once more.

Auction diary
Our pick of the upcoming sales and the items you can’t afford to miss

October 4 Bonhams and Butterfields: vintage collectors’ motor cars, Larz Anderson Auto Museum, Brookline, MA, USA, Tel: 001 415 391 4000

October 4 Coys: fine automobiles and associated collectables, Ascot, Berkshire, Tel: 020 8614 7888

October 10 RM Auctions:vintage motor cars at Hershey meet, Hershey Lodge, West Chocolate Avenue & University Drive, Hershey, PA, USA, Tel: 001 519 352 4575

October 12 H&H: Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, Tel: 08458 334455

October 16-18 Barratt Jackson: collector cars, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Tel: 001 480 421 6694

October 19 Bonhams: collectors’ motorcycles and related memorabilia, Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford, Tel: 08700 273618

October 20/21 Barons: classic collectors and historic cars, Esher Hall, Surrey, Tel: 02380 668413

October 22 Brightwells: classic cars, Leominster, Herts, Tel: 01568 611122

October 24-26 RM Auctions: classic cars, International Centre, Airport Road, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Tel: 001 519 352 4575

October 25 Bonhams and Butterfields: Important motorcycles and motorcars featuring the personal effects of Steve McQueen from the Neile Toffel-McQueen Collection, The Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California, USA, Tel: 001 415 391 4000

October 25 Coys: Auto Moto d’Epoca, Fiera di Padova, Padova, Italy, Tel: 020 8614 7888

October 29 RM Auctions: classic cars and automobilia, Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, London, Tel: 020 7293 6336

October 31 Bonhams: veteran motor cars and related automobilia, New Bond Street, London, Tel: 08700 273618

Around the dealers
Competition cars currently for sale here and abroad

David Sutton Collection
This collection of rally cars was formed over the last 10 years by David Sutton and has been on display in his museum. Headlining the group are seven Audi Quattros ranging from the early Group 4 derivatives through to two of the ultimate S1 E2 variants. The progression of Lancia’s rallying heritage is covered by a Stratos, 037 and a Delta S4. This is without doubt one of the most impressive rally car collections in the UK. A buyer is being sought for the whole collection.
Please contact Mark Donaldson on 01252 845818

1969 Lotus 61M
One of a batch of cars built for export to the USA, this example was held in stock until it was upgraded to 61M spec in 1970. It subsequently returned to the UK via New Zealand, where specialist Stephen Beattie restored it. Little used since, this historic Formula Ford is in immaculate condition.
£12,950, www.cheshire-classics.co.uk, Tel: 01270 886134

1952 Racing MG YB
This unique racing MG YB has a continuous history. It is in ‘time-warp’ condition, is eligible for FIA papers and would be a contender for the Goodwood Revival. It was first owned by Dick Jacobs, head of MG’s competitions team, who used it to win the Daily Express International Trophy in 1952-54.
£18,000, www.oldracingcar.co.uk, Tel: 01692 538007

1964 ex-works
Austin Healey 3000
This powerful 3-litre titan of the rally world was prepared by the BMC Competition Department for Timo Mäkinen and Paul Easter to use in the international 1964 season, which included the Liège-Rome-Liège rally and a hard-fought second on the RAC Rally.
POA, www.fiskens.com, Tel: 020 7584 3503

Auction results
What happened to the latest classic cars to go under the hammer

August 30 The World Wide Group
• 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4 prototype: unsold
• 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster: £306,048

September 13 Bonhams (Beaulieu)
• GN 1086cc V-Twin Cyclecar ‘Kim II’: £65,300
• 1922 GN ‘Akela’ 1100cc 200-mile race car: £56,500
• 1922 GN 1086cc Vitesse two-seater voiturette: £63,100

September 14 Bonhams and Goodman
• 1945 Supermarine Spitfire aircraft: £1.1m

September 19 Bonhams (Goodwood)
• Ex-Robert Buchet-Ben Pon, 1965 Le Mans 1964 Porsche 904 GTS coupé: £485,500
• Ex-A J Lees 1931-Type Maserati Tipo 8C-2800: £243,500
• 1967/72 Lancia Fulvia HF1600 ‘Fanalone’ Group 4 rally car: £23,000
• Ex-works/Maurice Toulmin/Austen May 1935 MG PB ‘Cream Cracker’ trials car: £54,300
• 1971 Merlyn Mk20A Formula Ford 1600: £14,375
• 1999 Harrier Le Mans Prototype (LMP): £25,300
• 1976-77 Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 competition coupé: £80,700
• 1986 AC Cobra Mark IV ‘460’ roadster: £80,700
• The Nuffield Trophy-winning c1935 Lagonda Rapier single-seater: £56,500

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