Record-breaking Mercedes

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300 SL goes for big money, while NASCARs sells for less than a Ford Focus

Artcurial’s Le Mans Classic sale painted a puzzling picture: out of 114 lots, 51 were left unsold. That’s not unknown; numerous lots leave without a new owner in auctions all over the world, week in, week out. But with such an incredible list of cars, many of which are eligible for the Le Mans Classic, and at the sun-baked Circuit de la Sarthe itself, this auction of seminal sports racers seemed destined to make the numbers.

That’s not to say records weren’t set on July 7. This was the highest take for a sale at Le Mans Classic, with €12,612,810 (£11.14m) making its way to various coffers. About a quarter of that – €3,143,440 (£2.78m) – went on a 1963 Mercedes 300 SL Roadster. That staggering amount is a new world record for a 300 SL, this example of which has covered only 1380km. Swedish dentist Gunnar Giermark had been its only owner from new and the car was preserved meticulously away from the seasonally bracing Scandinavian climate. At the request of the Swedish government, it was auctioned to raise money for the education of underprivileged children and raised double its estimate.

Another 300SL, a 1956 ‘Papillon’ (named after its butterfly-style doors) sold for €1,013,200 (£900,000). This one was also owned by Giermark, who seemed to have a penchant for preserving his cars. It’s no surprise that such prices are being commanded for rare, pristine 300SLs, with a ’59 Roadster fetching almost $900,000 (£680,000) at Bonhams’ Greenwich auction (June 3) in the United States.

This wasn’t, however, an auction designed to sell record-breaking road cars, as Artcurial consigned a grid of racing cars fit for La Sarthe.

One of two Group 4 prototypes built, the NART-run 1969 Ferrari GTB/4 Daytona (below) was estimated to go for €6,500,000-€7,500,000 (£5.75-6.63m). This is a car with an illustrious history (for a full profile and gallery of images, visit www.motorsportmagazine.com and type ‘1969 Ferrari Daytona’ into the search tab), but no potential new owner stepped forward on the Daytona’s 50th anniversary. Ten years younger, a ’79 Ford Zakspeed Capri which picked up numerous European race wins in the DRM and European Hillclimb Championship failed to sell.

The Ford vs Ferrari battle defined an era of the Le Mans 24 Hours, but there wasn’t a GT40 or 330 P4 to be found. Instead, it was the flag that started the 1967 race – eventually won by Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt – that starred, selling for €35,000 (£30,100), rather higher than the estimated €1500. A five-kilometre concrete sign from the Mulsanne Straight, one of few remaining examples from about 1930, sold for €11,050 (£9770), right on estimate.

Other cars with a motor sport heritage did sell handsomely. GT3 versions of the Maserati Gransport and an Aston Martin DBRS9 went for €166,880 (£148,000) and €220,520 (£195,000) respectively. Both are race-ready machines, and with historic events rapidly changing to include contemporary sports cars, we might well see these out on track soon.

Across the Atlantic, Barrett-Jackson sold a pair of NASCAR stock cars at its Northeast 2018 sale on June 21-23. Both from 2007, sporting typically colourful liveries and including 800bhp-plus race engines, they were snapped up for less than $35,000 (£26,500) each. Dale Jarrett’s no88 Ford Fusion fetched $33,000 (£25,000), while Casey Mears’s no 25 Chevrolet Monte Carlo took $28,600 (£22,000). For less than the price of the 1965 Lamborghini 2R tractor that sold at Le Mans Classic for $42,000 (£32,000), bidders in America managed to pick up formidable, albeit comparatively cumbersome, racing cars and retain ample spare change.


AUCTION EXPERT

All of the chatter ahead of Monterey surrounds a Ferrari 250 GTO, but don’t expect miracles, says Max Girardo

The marvellous Monterey auctions are fast approaching, and the ‘Big Three’ auction houses — RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Company and Bonhams — have been slowly revealing the headlining cars of their sales, as you can read about elsewhere in this month’s magazine. Whilst many believe they hold back announcing cars until the last moment to generate extra hype, the cynical ones amongst us will say it’s no marketing strategy, just late consignments. But nevertheless, there has been a lot of hype surrounding one of the biggest cars of the weekend — and the most valuable car ever to be offered at auction — the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, which RM Sotheby’s announced just a few weeks ago.

A Ferrari 250 GTO coming to auction is always a milestone event in the world of classic cars. In the past 30 years, there have only been three GTOs offered at public auction. The most recent was offered by Bonhams in 2014 (chassis number 3851) and sold for $34,650,000 (£26.2m) — considerably less than most expected. Fourteen years prior, the second one was offered during my time at Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams): the 1963 Le Mans podium finisher, chassis 4293. Unfortunately, it failed to sell. Whilst the first to cross the block was in May 1990, when Christies ‘sold’ a car (chassis number 3607) for $9.5m (£7.1m) plus premium to a client, who incidentally never ended up paying for it. It was then sold one month later for less than it had notionally achieved at auction.

Historically, Ferrari 250 GTOs haven’t achieved their best results at auction, and RM Sotheby’s example may appear to have an ‘inexpensive’ estimate — if that word can even be used in the same sentence as a GTO. Today, the most desirable examples are the Series I ’62 cars, where this one is a later Series II ’64 car, and its price tag reflects that — interesting to see how the market, even at this level, differentiates. However, with the international press recently reporting the sale of a car privately for (allegedly) over $70m (£53m), and the powerful marketing and deal-making capabilities of RM Sotheby’s, our Canadian friends will no doubt result in a successful outcome.

To help aid the auction companies in finding potential buyers, the whole of Monterey car week, from auctions to concours to racing, has been moved from the traditional third week of August to the fourth to accommodate the United States Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links, and they’re using every second of this extra week to their advantage. They’re in the final stretch, and things around the auction offices are surely gloriously mad. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be on the West Coast to see the results of the Big Three’s efforts for myself.

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