RM sets the standard. Bravo!

  • 20 August 2020
  • 2 min read
  • 4 images
RM sets the standard. Bravo! image

The RM team could have faced anything: pandemic, switch to virtual, cancellation of certain auctions. But they should never have cancelled Pebble Beach. With over $100,000,000 taken last year (and over 20 million in commissions) it was a devastating blow to give up their crown jewel.

So they decided to switch from real to virtual and, by announcing Shift, they showed all the firepower they were able to muster. They called it “an auction unlike any other” and the marketing division did a superb job, earning full marks for their effort. Spectacular videos, million-dollar cars and the typical knowledge and professionalism that has guaranteed them a place at the very top of the rankings.

The result, therefore, was perfectly aligned with expectations testament to the commitment they put into the event. From the $47,372,000 on offer (more than double Gooding’s) they pulled in a turnover of $29,668,650 (more than Bonhams and Gooding combined) with a very respectable 62.63% and did even better with the sales percentages of the lots: 75 out of 109, or 68.8%.

In my opinion, this was such an important sale that I decided to split my comments in two: in this case I will talk about the cars that many of us can only dream of, those with a six-digit price tag (or even seven).

Moving on to individual sales, things don’t change much. Out of the 75 cars that changed hands, only 23 did not reach their minimum estimate (slightly over 30%) while ten or so cars even managed to exceed their estimates by an impressive 30%.

From a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti with a manual gearbox sold for $324,500 (estimate $250-275,000) to a BMW M1 Procar at $913,000 ($600-800,000), and a Dino 246 GT (L-series) estimated at $300-350,000 which went for $440,000. Not forgetting the children’s Ferrari California which, estimated at $12-16,000, went for an astounding $105,600. But the most incredible by far was the 1954 Edwards America Roadster. Estimated at $100-120,000, at just one day from the end the sales it was languishing at $35,000, which made me think of an absolute bargain in the making, but then the offers became more and more aggressive and eventually it was sold for $148,500.

The most expensive car at the auction was a 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive. The second of only 12 produced, it was used from new by Prodrive itself (which took it to Petit Le Mans and then to the Sebring 12H) before being passed on to BMS Scuderia Italia in 2002. With this team it participated in the FIA GT1 Championship and won at Jarama, Anderstorp, Oschersleben and Estoril. After a somewhat lacklustre 2003, the next year she triumphed at Magny-Cours, Valencia and the Spa 24 Hours, the peak of her career. With 14 wins in total, 15 pole positions and 29 podiums in 48 races (at the highest level), she has the potential to become, in a few years, the spiritual heir of the 250 SWB Competizione or the 275 GTB/C resulting in a guaranteed revaluation. The estimate of $3.85-4.85 million (in addition to 2.5% if she remained in the USA), in my opinion was decidedly optimistic but in the end the car passed under the chequered flag at $4,290,000. A new record for a car sold at an online auction.

Ferrari-550 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive sold for $4,290,000

Jumping from a 21st century racing car to a glamour car from the 1930s, the second car I have chosen is the Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan. Delivered new to the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California, which was entrusted with the task of dressing her, by 1949 she had already had five owners. In 1960 the car went to a collector who used it to pay for the restoration of his other Duesenberg. In the 1970s the owner of the time added a supercharger and converted it to “SJ” specification and after another couple of ownership changes, it ended up in the garage of Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and, at the time, one of the most important collectors in the world and the owner of the Bugatti Type 41 Royale Berline de Voyage. In 1990 the current German owner bought it from a small company that was being formed called... RM Classic Cars. Yes, this was the first big deal closed by RM. Estimated at $850-1,100,000, it was sold for $781,000, a price that was fair for both parties.

Duesenberg-scaled 1929 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan by Murphy sold for $781,000

The car I was waiting for the most wasn’t a million-dollar car, but a 1950s Jaguar XK120 Alloy Roadster. The reason in this case are two words that some time ago were purely magical: “barn find”. Until a couple of years ago, applying the “barn find” tag to a piece of scrap was a way of multiplying its value. A car discovered in a barn got the same price as a well-restored model, perhaps for the thrill of feeling like a mini “Indiana Jones”. Over the last two years, however, this multiplier has disappeared and the question I asked myself was: “Has it gone because they are no longer there, because they’re more reticent to define them “barn finds” (because it increased the value the term barn find had been used cheerfully) or is it because it no longer increases the value?”. Last month in Monaco, during the Artcurial auction, another restored XK120 Alloy example went unsold at €240,000 (roughly $282,000) which, once commissions had been added equates to over €300,000. The RM example changed hands for $165,000, just over half. So we have the answer: the market, recovering from the barn find hangover, has evaluated these cars for what they are. Cars to be restored.

Jaguar-scaled 1950 Jaguar XK120 Alloy Roadster sold for $165,000

If barn finds are no longer fashionable, then what is? Hot rods, or rather resto mods. After their heyday between the 1950s and 1970s, hot rods had been put in the attic, broadly seen as objects that no longer represented collecting but that were a sacrilege to historic cars. Thanks to the determined actions of several Porsche restorers (principally) the resto rods are cool once again. Singer, for example, sells its modified 911s “from” a million dollars, and has a queue of customers. The 1960 Porsche 356 MOMO RSR Outlaw is one of the greatest representations of this trend. Built on a Porsche 964 chassis, with a 400 horsepower twin-turbo engine, only the body of the original 356 remained (duly stretched and enlarged), but this too was also modified, leaving no doubt about its intentions. It was sold for the largest increase over its original estimate out of all of the lots: estimated at $450-650,000 it went for $858,000.

Porsche-scaled 1960 Porsche 356 Momo RSR Outlaw sold for $858,000

This RM auction was the best online auctions ever, but the same Auction House has already made it clear that it has no intention of continuing with this format, relegating it to some minor auctions (for example the Mitosinka collection that will be offered in a few weeks). From 3rd September RM will return to the halls with one of its great classics: the Auburn Fall Auction. Because online auctions might be practical and comfortable, but a real auction is another thing entirely.

As the great Danish collector Henrik Frederiksen once said: “When you are a car collector, it’s as much about the social aspect as the automotive passions you share. When you are among good friends, the car isn’t as important as the friendship – it is literally a vehicle by which you are brought together. It’s like if you have a dog, you talk with other people in the street that have one.”