Bonhams, Goodwood and the Battle of Britain

  • 13 September 2023
  • 3 min read
  • 9 images
Bonhams, Goodwood and the Battle of Britain image

Photo credit: Bonhams

Cliff Goodall’s view

Ninety-eight cars went under the hammer, with sixty-three finding new owners (a 64.29% sales rate). This result for Bonhams at Goodwood was only slightly lower than last year’s 64.91%. However, the real surprise was in the final sales value, which fell significantly short of pre-auction estimates. Expectations were eerily close (£16,656,000 in 2023 and £16,644,000 in 2022), a difference of less than 0.1%! Yet, the final takings totalled just £8,390,882, a noticeable decline from last year’s £11,354,900. It’s important to note that these figures are based solely on the cars; the Supermarine Spitfire listed in the catalogue, not being a car, is not considered.

Bonhams Goodwood Revival, 9th September 2023 Bonhams Goodwood Revival, 9th September 2023 We begin by focusing on the two top lots that went unsold: the 1973 Porsche 911 3.0 Carrera RSR, presented with an impressive pedigree: ex-works team, Martini livery, ex-Herbie Müller, ex-Hurley Haywood, fourth overall at Le Mans. However, it had a strange quirk, as its identity had also confirmed by an American court. Why? Recently, the “R7” (as it was known within the factory team) has been in the specialised press due to a significant legal dispute regarding its originality. Clearly, this is not a good way to start the sale of any car. Given its historical importance, the estimate of £3,750,000 to £5,750,000 would have been correct, but because of this “blemish”, a small discount would have been appreciated. The highest bid was £3,000,000. Rejected.

11973 3-litre Martini Racing Works Team Porsche Carrera RSR 'R7' Endurance Racing Coupé went unsold at £3,000,000 (€3,501,350)

Moving to the second top lot, the Second World War Supermarine Spitfire, a proud symbol of English history during the Battle of Britain. However, it faced several limitations, including its extremely limited utility and the requirement for specialized piloting skills to attend events like the one at Goodwood. Furthermore, it came with an unattractive estimate: a minimum of £3,500,000 and a maximum that “soared” to £4,500,000. The offers were there, but they stopped at £3,100,000, insufficient.

21943 Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX Single-Seat Fighter went unsold at £3,100,000 (€3,618,075)

Setting aside these two challenging cases, we find that buyers literally queued up for some cars. For instance, the 1989 Lancia Delta Integrale 8V. The younger sister of the much more famous and expensive Integrale Evoluzione, even the less prestigious 8Vs are benefiting from a rise in values. Fresh from a restoration by Richard Hammond (ex-Top Gear) and the subject of an episode of his new TV series, with the entire proceeds going to charity, the estimate of £20,000 to £30,000 was literally shattered, reaching £41,400.

31989 Lancia Delta Integrale 8V sold for £41,400 (€48,350)

At a much higher tier was the Toyota 2000GT. Sold new in Mozambique (therefore right-hand drive), it arrived in the United Kingdom in 2012. Best in Show at last year’s London Concours, it was interesting because it was the first Toyota 2000GT to be offered in the UK in at least a decade. Estimated at £700,000 to £900,000, it sold for £799,000, making it the most expensive car of the auction.

41967 Toyota 2000GT Coupé sold for £799,000 (€932,525)

The 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS Touring also did very well. Compared to its racing sister, this road version had no origin disputes and not only that, it was one of the first 500 examples – making it highly desirable – a single owner for 23 years and was presented in immaculate condition. The estimate of £650,000 to £750,000 might have seemed ambitious (it would have been the most expensive example sold recently) but at £703,800, the market proved it was correct. A new European record for a Touring version.

51973 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS Touring sold for £703,800 (€821,420)

As a personal aside, I will admit that I would have wanted all seven Land Rovers from the Estephan collection: from the one used by Queen Elizabeth for her Australian Tour (£86,250) to the one used by the SAS – British Special Air Service – at £71,300. But for a slightly higher amount, you could have taken home the 1948 Land Rover S1 80” chassis number 2, the second Land Rover ever built. Ok the estimate of £100,000-£150,000 was five to six times a standard example but it is the equivalent of a new Defender bought from the dealer. Sold for £109,250, a value I believe is more than justified.

61948 Land Rover Series I 80" 4x4 Utility sold for £109,250 (€127,500)

Interesting for those who follow us was the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster, with just 175 km on the clock. It was presented with no reserve and an estimate of £120,000 to £160,000 but ultimately sold for a very impressive £408,250. While the car itself may not have been particularly interesting, it came from that collection known for its unique approach at auctions: no reserve and low estimates. Common characteristics: very low mileage, Swiss or GCC specifications and stationary for at least a decade, therefore requiring extensive maintenance before returning to the road.

72007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster sold for £408,250 (€476,475)

Digging a little deeper, some absolute gems popped up like the 1961 MG Midget MkIII Roadster. One of the first examples produced, modified for sporting use by the famous driver and World Champion, Jack Brabham, who ran his own garage that later grew to produce even Formula 1 single-seaters under his name. The small Midget had a Coventry Climax 1220cc engine, front disc brakes, close-ratio gearbox and even an anti-roll bar. The 83bhp obtained (80% more than a standard one) increased the top speed from 140 km/h to 180 km/h. A great opportunity missed, and I’m still kicking myself over it. Sold for just £18,400.

81961 MG Midget MkI Roadster by Brabham sold for £18,400 (€21,475)