Legendary NASCAR Fabulous Hudson Hornet heads historic collection of American classics
A host of Hudsons – the world’s largest collection – was put on offer by Worldwide Auctions on August 4, with a claimed 32 records broken as 69 cars changed hands.
The last Hudson rolled off the factory floor in 1957 after almost five decades of production by the Detroit, Michigan-based manufacturer.
This collection of Hudsons was owned by late collector Eldon Hostetler and displayed at the Hudson Auto Museum, Indiana.
Of the 69 cars on offer, the 1952 Hudson Hornet 6 ‘Twin H-Power’ ‘Fabulous Hudson Hornet’ set a record for a Hudson at auction, fetching $1,265,000. Herb Thomas finished second at the wheel of the ‘Fabulous Hudson Hornet’ in that year’s NASCAR Cup Series behind fellow Hudson driver Tim Flock in a period of stock car racing dominance for the marque. A recreation of the ‘52 Hudson NASCAR stock car sold for $165,000 at the same auction.
Other highlights included a 1955 Hudson Italia, which fetched $682,000. Only 26 of the models, a formative two-door coupé that preceded the Ford Mustang by a decade, were produced. A 1937 Railton Special Limousine changed hands for $462,000, and a 1942 Hudson Commodore Eight Station Wagon sold for $88,000, having been recovered from an abandoned California mine by its previous owner.
Bonhams’ Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on July 13 found new owners for cars such as a record-setting Aston Martin, a rare BMW owned by John Surtees, and some significant motor sport memorabilia.
It was the 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Coupé that stole the show, fetching £10,081,500 – a new record for a British car at a European auction. Only 19 were built, but this one was one of three prototype racers. Sporting numberplate ‘2 VEV’, it was immortalised by Jim Clark at the 1961 Goodwood Tourist Trophy – he was determined to get it sideways. A seemingly summital price tag, perhaps, but it didn’t match the heights of DBR1 chassis no1’s £17.5 million at Monterey 2017.
John Surtees’ BMW 507 Roadster, offered by the family of the late world champion, sold for £3,809,500. One of 252 to be built, it was gifted to him by Count Domenico Agusta, and Surtees described it as “a car with many memories and one where purely its original specification makes it very, very special” in his personal memoirs.
Other stirring sales from the Festival of Speed included the Aston Martin DB5 that featured in Goldeneye (sold for £1,961,500) and a Land Rover Defender – that starred in Spectre – which sold for £365,500.
As for memorabilia, all eyes were on racing helmets of Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn and Ayrton Senna and a trophy of Jim Clark – their owners having accumulated nine Formula 1 world titles between them.
Out of those, it was Hawthorn’s whose sold. His Herbert Johnson helmet, complete with visor and cork and leather lining, was expected to fetch £10,000-£14,000. After decades on display at the Donington Grand Prix Collection, it found a new owner for the price of £21,250.
Clark’s Lady Wigram Trophy, which he won having battled the likes of Richard Attwood, Denny Hulme, Frank Gardner and Jackie Stewart in New Zealand, sold for £7750 having been estimated to fetch up to £7500.
Another notable piece of automobilia was Graham Hill’s overalls from 1973, which he wore when his eponymous racing team was launched to field a Shadow DN1. John Young, his friend, 1950s racer and car collector, was given the overalls. They were expected to sell for £1000-£2000 but sold for £5250.
After Goodwood, the Silverstone Classic took the attention of budding historic racers and fans alike. The Silverstone Auctions Race Car Sale on July 19 offered such lots as a 1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth Group A Rally Car, a 1988 Rouse Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, and a rare, original, 1965 Alfa Romeo 101 Spider Veloce; all left unsold.
However, a 1964 Ford Lotus Cortina Mk1 that has taken several HSCC race wins and championships, with eligibility for a host of historic racing events such as the Classic itself, fetched £56,250.
Everybody wants to break a record at an auction, but ‘2 VEV’ could instead become a bit of a bargain, says Max Girardo
Whilst some believed that the 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’ would become the most expensive British car sold at auction — everyone wants to break a record — that price is still reserved for the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 RM Sotheby’s sold in Monterey last year for £17.5m ($22.5m).
Technically, the DB4 GT could be given the title of the most expensive British car sold at an auction in its homeland, with a price of £10,081,500, but that’s just getting fastidious now, isn’t it? Having had the pleasure of being in the room both leading up to the moment ‘2 VEV’ was sold and a few hours after, it was very interesting to hear the chatter amongst the experts and collectors.
On the one hand, many believed the car to be inexpensive and a good buy (if you could ever say that about a £10-million car). “It really deserved to make at least £1 or £2 million more,” I was told. On the flip side, others were of the opinion that the car wasn’t undersold but actually achieved a fair price. Speaking to one Aston Martin specialist after the sale, he confirmed that the car was good value in the eyes of the Aston community.
I believe that despite its busy life, ‘2 VEV’ is an important Aston Martin with period racing history and, although much cheaper than its Ferrari rivals, it sold for what it’s worth. Bonhams couldn’t have done any more in marketing the car. And one thing’s for sure, the vendor of the car wouldn’t have ever imagined that when he bought ‘2 VEV’ some 45 years ago he would see a £10 million return.
Whilst Bonhams may have chosen ‘2 VEV’ as its headliner car months earlier, the bidders in the room that afternoon had a different car in mind for that honour: the show-stealing 1957 BMW 507 Roadster, which sold for £3,809,500 including premium, almost £1 million over top estimate.
Gifted from new by Count Agusta to John Surtees — its only owner — there’s no doubt that this is simply the best BMW 507 in the world, and the price it achieved proves that the market puts a huge amount of value on provenance. Although the car was purchased by one very well-known dealer, there’s plenty of speculation that it will be going to an important UK-based collection. Wherever it does end up going, the buyer is sure to be delighted with the car and happy with the price. Within reason, it’s not possible to pay too much for a car like this one, as it will never be worth less than what was paid for it that day. The bar has been set.
Overall, competition cars still seem to be attracting more attention than road cars (Monterey aside), so it will be interesting to see how this will this affect future sales, specifically the RM Sotheby’s London sale on 5 September, which consists predominantly of road cars.
Max Girardo is the founder of classic car specialist Girardo & Co. Before that he spent 20 years in the classic car auction world, where he was the managing director and head auctioneer at RM Sotheby’s
Max’s top three from RM Sotherby’s London sale
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing: This Mercedes also has Agusta family provenance — over six decades of ownership — and it will be interesting to see if the family connection will have a similar effect on the price
1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 S by Bertone: This Miura formerly owned by Rod Stewart has been fully restored by Lamborghini’s Polo Storico. Supercars and hypercars are all the rage now. A Miura never gets old
Tuk-Tuk: This Tuk-Tuk was allegedly used by henchman Gobinda in Octopussy to chase Roger Moore’s James Bond. It’s looking a little worse for wear, but the Bond connection is great provenance
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