Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough

  • 10 February 2024
  • 4 min read
  • 13 images
Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough image

Photo credit: Artcurial, Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s

Interesting to see what's happening in the market, and not just for the auctions: consider that at the Retromobile stands there were two Ferrari 250 GTOs for sale. Turning to the three auctions by RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Artcurial, let's start with some numbers: even though it sold fewer cars than all (59 compared to Bonhams' 81 and Artcurial's 91), RM Sotheby’s had the highest turnover, even exceeding the sum of its competitors: €34,401,000. RM Sotheby’s, Paris, 31st January 2024

Bonhams closed at €15,564,708 (out of €19,020,000 offered) and achieved the highest percentage of lots sold: 84.4%. Bonhams, Paris, 1st February 2024

More struggle for Artcurial, which had a good turnover (€17,321,200) but far from the pre-auction estimates (€44,947,000). The reason? The top lots were not awarded, even though they sold two-thirds of the proposed cars. It should be noted that Artcurial had the fewest cars without reserve (less than 4 out of ten) compared to around half for RM and over 60% for Bonhams. Articurial, Paris, 3rd February 2024

Top lot of the three-day event, the yellow Ferrari 250 SWB GT Berlinetta Competizione, with a clear history: born with the most powerful engine, the type 168B that few specimens had, raced in the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring, and finished second at the Nassau Speed Week behind Stirling Moss in his famous dark blue and white 250 SWB from Rob Walker. In its second life as a collector's model, it has appeared in competitions, and in 2014 it went to auction but remained unsold at $13 million (at the time €11.5 million). Nine years later, it was certified by Ferrari Classiche and thus presented in Paris: a more cautious estimate of €9-11 million sold for €10,158,125, which I consider a real bargain for the buyer.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 11960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione sold for €10,158,125 ($10,943,195)

Moving on to the cars of the "new" generation, still from RM, it's a Porsche which is driving the market with a couple of 911s that have illuminated the City of Light. The magnificent 1989 Porsche 911 3.3 Turbo from 1989, perfect gray shade, G50 gearbox - the most desirable in production - limited-slip differential, sunroof, electric seats, a perfect mix of sportiness and elegance. 66,000 km traveled. Estimated at €100,000-140,000, sold for €172,500!

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 21989 Porsche 911 Turbo sold for €172,500 ($185,850)

And it doesn't end here: the next lot was a 1993 Porsche 911 (964) Turbo 3.6 in a fantastic dark metallic green. Much rarer (only 1,500 units produced) and more powerful (360 hp), it had been in the same hands for over 20 years but had covered 116,000 km. The estimate of €175,000-225,000 seemed even excessive, but it sold for a shocking €511,250.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 31993 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.6 sold for €511,250 ($550,750)

You might ask: why does the 1958 Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano deserve to be among the most interesting cars of this auction? Made in only two copies, this one belonged to Gianni Agnelli, a recognized playboy, trendsetter, art collector and, last but not least, owner of Fiat and celebrated as the "King of Turin". Displayed in 2018 at Villa d’Este and never restored, with an apparently monstrous estimate of €270,000-290,000 it reached €370,625: a further confirmation of the value for former owners.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 41958 Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano ex-Gianni Agnelli sold for €370,625 ($399,265)

Bonhams' sale brought to light a phenomenon that seemed dormant, the Ferrari Testarossa. It had been a couple of years since records were set for the model, and although new records were not established, we can certainly confirm the good health of the model. The first sign came from RM itself, where a red Testarossa with 371 km changed hands above the estimates (€180,000-220,000) for €252,500. Bonhams pushed it further: a Testarossa, this time black (even more beautiful), but with a whopping 45,000 km, estimated at €140,000-180,000, I would say almost excessive, went for a remarkable €212,750. And it doesn't end there: a high-mileage 1996 512M, red with a black interior and a solid 68,000 km, realistically estimated at €250,000-280,000, was sold for €299,000. The Testarossa is on the move!

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 51988 Ferrari Testarossa sold for €212,750 ($229,200)

However, the top lot of the sale was another Ferrari, a black 2004 Enzo with only one previous owner and 9,500 km. The red interior isn't ideal, but it struck a chord with the collectors present: the estimate of €3.5-4.5 million seemed a bit high to me, but the hammer fell at €3.91 million. What surprised me is that just the day before, another Enzo (with 15,000 km) remained unsold despite an estimate of €3-3.5 million. Who knows, perhaps it's the color, perhaps it's the energy of the room.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 62004 Ferrari Enzo sold for €3,910,000 ($4,212,200)

At Bonhams, there was the car I would have taken home: a 1981 Lamborghini Countach LP400S Series II. It had everything to impress me: a rare Low Body version, exhibited at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show, in an Electric Blue that enchants (even if it wasn't born that way), and only two owners. With the rise in Countach prices, at €580,000-700,000, it could even be a good investment. Sold for €621,000.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 71981 Lamborghini Countach LP400S Series II sold for €621,000 ($669,000)

Next in line, Artcurial at the Retromobile pavilions. This sale didn't go well, but there were deals to be had: for example, the 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Roadster, the seventh unit produced and restored for €45,000 in 2023, therefore in perfect condition, but with an engine from a 280SE sedan that lowered its value, estimated at €120,000-160,000, was sold for €109,040. Not a bad deal.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 81968 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL sold for €109,040 ($117,500)

Where did Artcurial's troubles come from? Certainly from the non-sale of two Ferrari 250s from the same Swiss collection, a 1964 250 GT Lusso and a 1958 250 GT LWB California Spider. Both Ferrari Classiche certified, they were estimated at €1.6-2 million and €8.5-11.5 million respectively. "Losing" these two lots affected the entire sale. At the top of the sales, then, two Mercedes: a 1955 Gullwing with the highly desirable Rudge wheels sold easily for €1,391,200, while a 1962 Roadster already equipped with disc brakes but not the aluminum engine block in a beautiful blue livery and ski rack, easily exceeded half of the estimate of €1.2-1.4 million at €1.324 million. Missing out on the role of Top Lot was a heavily used 2014 McLaren P1 - 9354 km - which went for €1.324 million just above the minimum estimate of €1.2-1.5 million.

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 92014 McLaren P1 sold for €1,324,000 ($1,426,325)

However, the big flop, across all three auctions, was the recent hypercars, which experienced a series of unsold excellence: in the case of Artcurial, a 2021 Ford GT Heritage Edition estimated at €800,000-1 million, a 2020 McLaren Speedtail, and a 2018 Senna respectively for €2.5-2.8 million and €950,000-1,15 million, and a Lamborghini Sian estimated at €2.5-3 million, remained with their owners. Does the now certified speculation that characterizes this segment of the market begin to exceed demand or, more likely, is it the realism of those who want to buy that gives signals to the market?

Auctions Retromobile. RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Artcurial: when the game gets tough - 101962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster sold for €1,324,000 ($1,426,325)

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