Buying with reason. Insights from Pebble Beach

Cliff Goodall’s view

  • 08 September 2022
  • 3 min read
  • 15 images
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Whereas the Italian and German cars presented and sold – or not sold – at the Pebble Beach auctions allowed us to draw conclusions about the Italian and the German brands' market trends in the last two weeks.

The 17 cars I’d like to examine today, American, British, Japanese, and beyond, indicate only one thing: more than the particular model, what teases buyers is the car itself, together with its individual history and characteristics. And not only that: the market, despite an undeniably positive liveliness, is governed by its own set of rules. The example of the 938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi, also known as “Goutte d’Eau” - literally “water drop” is illuminating. I was stunned when an example from Gooding was sold for $13,420,000 last March, well over double what I considered to be the correct price.

At Pebble Beach, RM offered the one from the esteemed Oscar Davis Collection with an estimate of $9m-$11m. Strategically prudent? Hardly, because the hammer price was $7,265,000.

What happened? Perhaps, simply, it was Gooding’s car that went out of orbit and the price range has now returned to where we left it.

1-1938-Talbot-Lago-T150-C-SS-Teardrop-Coupe-1536x10251938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupe by Figoni & Falaschi sold for $7,265,000 (€7,295,875)

The trend towards price stability of important Pre-War cars was also confirmed by the Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante, Gooding’s top lot. Originally a 57S (therefore without a supercharger), it gained the C (compresseur) shortly after. One of the 17 examples equipped with Atalante bodywork, it is the pinnacle of road-legal Bugatti production. The last one to come to auction, with a similar history, was sold by Gooding in September 2020 for £7,855,000, roughly $10.4m at the time. The estimate of $10m-$12m was therefore spot on and the market confirmed this substantial stability when it sold for $10,345,000.

2-1937-Bugatti-Type-57SC-Atalante-1536x9661937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante sold for $10,345,000 (€10,388,965)

Turing our attention momentarily to the “Italian” Bugatti, the one produced from 1991 to 1995 with the EB110, we find another demonstration of the increased interest for models closer to us: the EB110 SS offered by Gooding from 1994 with just 991 km to its credit from new, confirmed the vertical growth in the price of these models: from the previous record of $2,755,000 to this more than impressive $3,167,500. How far can it go?

3-1994-Bugatti-EB110-Super-Sport-1536x9661994 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport sold for $3,167,500 (€3,180,960)

Analysing Jaguar is slightly more complex: The E-Types offered by Gooding went well, both examples with the outside bonnet locks, a coupe and a roadster. The Coupe (one of just 12 built) returned to the top by selling for $632,000, while the Roadster at $483,500 set the new record for the model.

4-1961-Jaguar-E-Type-Series-1536x9661961 Jaguar E-Type Series I 3.8-Litre Roadster sold for $483,500 (€485,550)

In contrast, Bonhams failed to sell their Jaguar E-Type Lightweight. Since 2017 no example has come up for sale at auction and, curiously, the last one to do so was this exact same model offered at this event. At the time, it was sold for $8m and the estimate of $7m-$8m seemed artificially low to me, but when offers stopped coming in at $6,300,000 the signal was a very bad one. In five years it has lost 20% of its value… As a result, Gooding’s 2020 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight continuation also struggled to receive offers and when these stopped at $1.05 million, far from the $1.2m-$1.5m expected, the owner took it home.

5-1963-Jaguar-E-Type-Lightweight-Competition-1536x10241963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition went unsold at $6,300,000 (€6,326,775)

In this edition, the sight of an Aston Martin was definitely a rare event, but one in particular shone more than the others. The DB5 that once belonged to Sean Connery is the one that most warmed the hearts of bidders. It may not have been the original one used in the Goldfinger movie with its “combat accessories” but it was as close as you could dream of. The estimate of $1.4m-$1.8m was soon forgotten and the hammer dropped at $2,425,000. 

6-1964-Aston-Martin-DB5-1536x9601964 Aston Martin DB5 sold for $2,425,000 (€2,435,305)

Remaining with the British for a moment, but sliding down the budget somewhat, Gooding managed to set a new record for an MGA Twin Cam Roadster. A 1959 model that had been completely restored. With an estimate of $80,000-$110,000 (without reserve) it changed hands for $168,000. A very nice jump indeed.

7-1959-MGA-Twin-Cam-Roadster-1536x9661959 MGA Twin-Cam Roadster sold for $168,000 (€168,715)

Bonhams pulled off a magic trick with the 1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster when they managed to sell it for $1,325,000 against an estimate of $450,000-$600,000. Silver Ghosts are becoming increasingly rare cars at auctions and when perfect examples with clear stories arrive, a flurry of bids is not an uncommon sight to see.

8-1926-Rolls-Royce-Silver-Ghost-Piccadilly-1536x10241926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster sold for $1,325,000 (€1,330,630)

For the Americans, a similar case is the Duesenberg: just 6 were offered including the Model J Convertible Coupé by Rollston, it was the only one with a sports body and without dubious history, as the seller had owned it since 1967. Estimated at $4m-$4.5m - four times a sedan - it didn’t struggle to find a buyer at $4,680,000. 

9-1935-Duesenberg-Model-J-Convertible-Coupe-1536x10641935 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe by Rollston sold for $4,680,000 (€4,699,890)

In similar fashion, the 932 Stutz DV-32 Super Bearcat by Weymann did not struggle to find a buyer willing to pay $1,930,000 for it (double the estimate of $1m-$1.3m, 30% more than the current record).

10-1932-Stutz-DV-32-Super-Bearcat-1536x10311932 Stutz DV-32 Super Bearcat by Weymann sold for $1,930,000 (€1,938,200)

Returning to something more modern, I have already mentioned the Ford GT Heritage Edition offered by Gooding. With sales prices for regular examples currently well over $600,000, the one offered at auction had travelled just 116 miles and if I’m honest, I wondered what was behind the low estimate of $575,000-$650,000. There was no need to worry, the market hadn’t disappeared because it sold for $731,000, $16,000 over the previous record.

11-2006-Ford-GT-Heritage-Edition-1536x9672006 Ford GT Heritage Edition sold for $731,000 (€734,105)

However, there was some disappointment for the Japanese after what to many seemed an unstoppable rally,

This edition’s only Toyota 2000 GT went unsold at $820,000, far from the $1m-1.2m requested.

12-1967-Toyota-2000GT-1536x10241967 Toyota 2000GT went unsold at $820,000 (€823,485)

The Acura NSX Zanardi Edition was sold for $240,800, only slightly inside the estimate of $240,000-$280,000 but far from the record of $277,000.

13-1999-Acura-NSX-Zanardi-Edition-1536x9611999 Acura NSX “Zanardi Edition” sold for $277,000 (€278,175)

For what concerned the army of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs on offer (7!) only one was sold within its estimate, but a 1971 Hakosuka was sold for $179,200, about $50,000 lower than its estimate of $225,000-$275,000. Even the famous GT1 by Hasemi, a car that won the touring car championship in Japan (JGTCC) managed to muster up just over half its estimated value, without reserve, of $500,000-$550,000. Sold for $280,000.

14-1994-Nissan-Skyline-GT-R-1536x10241994 Nissan Skyline GT-R 'JGTCC-GT1' by Hasemi Motorsport sold for $280,000 (€281,190)

Only the Skyline R34 GT-R V-Spec II used by Paul Walker to promote the Fast & Furious movie (not the one actually used in the film however) set a new record for the model at $577,500, but even this one struggled to get there. Its estimate was $750,000-$850.00.

15-2001-Nissan-Skyline-R34-1536x8642001 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R V-Spec II sold for $577,500 (€579,955)