“America first"

  • 31 January 2020
  • 5 min read
  • 7 images
“America first" image

“America first” was Donald Trump’s campaign slogan during the 2016 election and it seemed like this year’s theme in Arizona as well. Indeed, despite the lack of some real gems, the American automotive auction house, Gooding, managed to take home the best result of the three majors (RM is Canadian while Bonhams is British), an impressive $36,098,000.

The percentage of cars sold rose from 85% to 89% and this is just the start. Gooding beat the other auction houses and brought out the best from the lots, selling 36% of the cars on offer at or above their initial estimates while some sales were truly astounding.

The global results shouldn’t fool anyone because it is, of course, closely related to the cars proposed as top lots: in 2018, three cars were sold above $5m while this year the most expensive one went for $3.2m. And this is where the difference in total sales lies, as in 2018 it was $48.2m.

Let’s take a look at the most interesting cases: to begin with, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evo 2 from 1990. The example on offer was the 256th model of the 500 produced, just 7,600km on the clock and in absolutely perfect condition. It began with an incredible estimate: $340-380,000. But this did not scare buyers away, if anything quite the opposite. As the offers flooded in, it quickly reached an extraordinary $434,000. Needless to say, this is a new world record. Are you ready for Radwood? 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

Moving on to the other end of the age spectrum, same result. This time, a 1937 BMW 328 Roadster, owned by the family of Major Edward Giller since 1945 when he was stationed in Germany. Edward Giller was a World War II hero with active missions in Normandy, the Ardennes and Rhineland at the helm of his legendary Mustang P51 single-seat fighter plane. This detail more than likely influenced the price, because the estimate of $350-450,000 quickly turned into an offer of $830,000. Oddly enough the day before at Bonhams another example had gone unsold at $400,000 (against an estimate of $425-475,000) – mysteries of the market that are difficult to answer. 1937 BMW 328

Gooding wasn’t just about skyrocketing prices but also some fantastic deals, which the no-reserve price policy clearly favours. The most interesting for buyers was, without a shadow of a doubt, the 1956 Fiat 1100/103 TV Coupé bodied by Vignale. One of just three models made, this example was exhibited at the Turin Motor Show in 1956 where it was immediately purchased by the first owner. He kept it until 2014 and restored it in 2008. Perhaps the estimate of $225-275,000 was slightly optimistic (but not too much) but, thanks to the absence of any reserve price and perhaps even the right buyer, she went for just $95,200. Charming Italian craftsmanship at sale prices. One of the many risks and opportunities of auctions. 1956 Fiat 1100/103 E TV Coupe Vignale

Another great deal was the 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster. The colour was not original (it left the factory grey but was presented here in a pastel burgundy) and it lacked all the most desirable specifications: sports engine, disc brakes and aluminium block. However, it was the cheapest of the 300SLs offered in this edition at $775,000, perfectly in line with estimates of $700-900,000. It must be said that the 300SL Roadsters are dropping steadily. Since 2013, not one has been sold above the all-important million. This year, of the 5 examples on offer, not one exceeded that threshold and, given the high number of unsold vehicles, we wouldn’t expect this trend to change anytime soon. 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

But now, the top lot: a 1995 Ferrari F50 sold for $3,222,500. If we rewind the clock 8 years, we can find this same car with 100 miles less (5,100 vs. 5,200) offered by the late Benny Caiola, known for his passion for Paganis. The price back then? $842,500. $2,380,000 more! Now that’s money… 1995 Ferrari F50

Gooding also took home an incredible success for a complete outsider. What are the necessary characteristics to break through right now? Being a young-timer? Well this one wasn’t, it was a pre-war. Being sporty through and through? Well this one wasn’t because it was polished like it was off to Pebble Beach. Have a prestigious brand on the bonnet, preferably Italian? Again, not this time. And yet the 1932 Hispano-Suiza J12 Dual Cowl Phaeton by Binder literally destroyed its pre-sale estimate of $1.5-2m when the gavel dropped at a mouth-watering $2,425,000 – much to the astonishment of almost everyone present. Oh, I almost forgot: do you know the names of the last two owners? Briggs Cunningham and Miles Collier. Now, perhaps, you begin to understand… 1932 Hispano-Suiza J12 Dual Cowl Phaeton