Boom and bust

Cars are still selling but the Credit Crunch looms…

The very first production D-type going under the hammer was always going to cause quite a stir, and sure enough the 1955 Jaguar D-type Sports Racing Car ‘XKD 509’ sold for a world record-beating £2.2 million at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale. It is now the most expensive Jaguar ever to be sold at auction, which is even more impressive when you consider that the economic outlook is currently as bright as the British winter.

Having originally bought the D-type from New York-based American distributor Chuck Hornburg, Albert R Browne of Menlo Park went in search of a competent driver to campaign it. D Lou Brero Sr, a lumberman by profession who also happened to be extremely quick behind the wheel, campaigned the car in the US for a number of years before he passed away and his son inherited it.

Brero Jr sold the car in 1974 to Brian Classic, who brought it back to the UK where it was acquired by Nigel Moores. His son James, who inherited ‘XKD 509’ in the late 1980s, offered the car for sale via Bonhams at the Festival of Speed.

It does seem that cars of this stature, whether they are road cars with history (like the ex-Coburn Ferrari that Chris Evans recently bought) or extremely rare racing cars, hold their value just as well during times of economic difficulty.

To find out why this might be and how much more auction houses need to push because of it, Motor Sport caught up with James Knight, international managing director of Bonhams’ motoring department.

It may look as though auction houses just print a glossy brochure and be done with it, but there’s a lot more to it than that, especially when they are faced with the daunting prospect of asking a client to part with £2m. When asked whether they actively pursued potential buyers, James paused and leant back, “Yes we do. With a car with that profile, of that value, there are a limited number of people on the planet on any given day who are looking to own one.

“Yes, we did mailers, the catalogues, the advertisements, the press releases, all that sort of thing just to open up to a wider network because you’ll be surprised how much new blood is coming onto the market. But equally there are some people out there who we phoned up and said, ‘Boy have we got a great D-type that would fit nicely into your collection’.

“I think it would be naïve of me to turn a complete blind eye to words such as Credit Crunch and sub prime. Has it affected the motor car market to date? No, it hasn’t. Will it? It might. I would say the more modestly priced cars first, cars that are under £50,000.

“When you are dealing with more valuable motor cars everyone can be affected by market fluctuations, but generally speaking when people are incredibly wealthy they’re not down to their last few quid. I think the mid- and top-end of the market will be much more resilient to how the economic climate goes forward.

“You can look back to the late ’80s and early ’90s and draw some comparisons, but you can’t say that this is a template for what is going to happen again. After Black Monday the motor car market saw its two, three years of best ever growth. We know the stock markets aren’t behaving themselves at the moment, but will we see two, three years best ever growth in the car market now? I don’t think so.

“More people now are buying cars from saved funds. In the 1980s and ’90s, people were financing them, interest rates went through the roof and they had to ask themselves, ‘Do I keep the roof over my head or do I let the car go?’

“They let the car go. It completely upsets the supply and demand balance and at the moment it’s pretty good. There’s a healthy supply, but there’s a healthy demand as well.”

With all this in mind, it’s worth watching out for various ‘high flyers’ in the coming weeks. Most notably RM Auctions is selling a 1956 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Berlinetta Scaglietti which competed in the Tour de France Automobile at Monterey on August 16. Chassis 0563 was the eighth of 72 Tour de France Berlinettas built (POA). Other highlights include a Concours 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT (£750,000-1m) and a 1936 Lagonda Rapide LG45 (£600-750,000) courtesy of Bonhams and Butterfields on August 15. Then there is an ex-Michael Schumacher Benetton B191-5 F1 car and a 1985 ex-Paris-Dakar rally Porsche 911 from Coys on August 9.