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Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s
Cliff Goodall’s view
There was a time when RM's London auction signalled the season's end, yet the landscape has shifted. Now, five additional auctions are lined up over the final eight weeks of 2023 (8 weeks!), culminating in the highly anticipated New York sale of a 1962 Ferrari GTO at Sotheby's modern and contemporary art auction.
A closer inspection of the numbers reveals a significant caveat, which we will return to later: 62 cars were on offer this year, up from 50 last year, with 44 finding new owners compared to 38 in 2022. While the quantity sold remains relatively stable, the total value tells a different story. This year's takings of £13,469,000 are substantially lower than the previous £27,194,125, yet it's essential to consider the pre-auction estimates, which were £21,138,000 this year versus £37,680,000 last year. If we broaden our view to the last five years, in no edition has the difference ever exceeded £10,000,000 — this is a more accurate context to interpret this event's results.
RM Sotheby’s London, 4th November 2023 The top lot was a 1993 Ferrari 512 TR Spider, one of three examples produced for the Sultan of Brunei and the only one painted in Blu Cobalto with a Blu Scuro Connolly leather interior. Never claimed by the Sultan, it sat pristine in the Ferrari importer's Singapore storage facilities until now. Not only was it practically unique, but since it had always remained with the seller, it had only covered 570 km. A true collector's piece (by the way, it had not been seen in public since the Ferrari 50th Anniversary in Rome in 1997) but was it really worth £2.1m-£2.7m? The market said yes: £2,226,875. Spectacular.
1993 Ferrari 512 TR Spider sold for £2,226,875 (€2,569,255)
At this sale, there were 24 Ferraris (plus two Dinos) out of 62 cars offered, accounting for nearly 40% of the lots. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the podium was dominated by the thoroughbreds from Maranello. In second place, we find a 1990 Ferrari F40. A catalytic converter version but lacking electronic suspension, it had been sold new in Italy and had covered 21,000 km (but with a service carried out 12 km ago). The Ferrari Classiche certification and Schedoni suitcases brought it to £1,962,500 (within its estimate of £1.9m-£2.1m).
1990 Ferrari F40 sold for £1,962,500 (€2,264,235)
Another Ferrari on the podium was a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso. Offered in its factory-correct combination of Grigio Notte over a Rosso leather interior and restored between 2014 and 2017, it also came with Ferrari Classiche certification. Perhaps due to its left-hand drive configuration or because the market seems less sensitive to models from that era (barring notable exceptions), it sold for £1,186,250, just shy of its £1.25m-£1.5m estimate.
1963 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso sold for £1,186,250 (€1,368,635)
The sale of the Mercedes-Benz 370S Mannheim Sport Cabriolet was a highlight. Initially sold in 1933, likely in Berlin, it resurfaced in the UK in 1955, courtesy of an RAF pilot as often happened at the time. It changed hands a few times before the seller's father acquired it in 1958 and was used only a couple of years before it was stored away. Presented in its untouched restoration state, complete with a thick layer of dust and minimal rust, it was a sight to behold. My personal second favourite, it clearly resonated with others too, as it soared past its £150,000-£180,000 estimate to reach £280,625.
1933 Mercedes-Benz 370 S Mannheim Sport Cabriolet sold for £280,625 (€323,770)
What was my favourite car? As always, I’ll save it for the end, so let's move on to the 1963 Aston Martin DB5. In need of full restoration, it underwent an engine replacement in the mid-70s and was later repainted. Its history from 1971 is well-documented, having been cherished by a single enthusiast until it was auctioned in 2011 for £254,500 (far above its estimate of £70,000-£90,000) to a Kuwaiti collector. This time the estimate was higher: £300,000-£350,000 and the hammer price was perfectly within that range, £342,500 (a year ago, an identical Aston, same provenance and condition, was sold for roughly £427,000).
1963 Aston Martin DB5 sold for £342,500 (€395,160)
This year's auction, which was notably sparse in British cars with only seven sold, saw a 1970 Aston Martin DB6 Mk2 Vantage find a new home for £210,000, significantly below its £250,000-£300,000 estimate. Three other Astons weren't as fortunate: a 1960 DB4 S2 Saloon, a 1963 DB4 Convertible (the only example with an original DB4 GT engine), and a 1965 DB5 Saloon failed to meet their reserve price.
1970 Aston Martin DB6 Mk 2 Vantage sold for £210,000 (€242,285)
Speaking of "millennial idols," a couple of cars stood out from the rest.
The first was the 1994 Nissan Skyline GT-R competition car. The 90s were the heyday of Japanese cars in motorsport and this car, belonging to the Hasemi Motorsport team at the time, achieved excellent results in the Japan Grand Touring Car Championship. First place at Sendai and victory at the 24 Hours of Tokachi, it’s the only R32 to have won a 24-hour endurance race. Previously auctioned in Monterey in 2002 for $280,000, it was expected to fetch between £225,000-£275,000 in London (roughly $275,000-$340,000), but it sold for £230,000.
1994 Nissan Skyline GT-R “JGTCC-GT1" by Hasemi Motorsport sold for £230,000 (€265,360)
The Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series, a hardened, more aggressive, and significantly pricier version than the base model, was one of just 350 units produced. This 2009 model, which had previously changed hands in October 2019 with just 923 km on the clock for £224,250, returned to the auction circuit with 1,340 km under its belt and an estimated value of £275,000-£325,000. It ultimately sold for £353,750, no doubt delighting the seller.
2009 Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series sold for £353,750 (€408,140)
Finally, the moment has arrived to unveil my personal favourite... Ok, I'll reveal the name right away: the Amilcar C6 Voiturette. This 1927 example, fitted with a supercharged 1100cc engine, was a formidable competitor to the cars from Bugatti and Maserati in its racing days. Its history is as captivating as its performance: discovered in East Berlin in the '60s, it was secretly whisked away to Switzerland, later journeying to Florida, and eventually returning to the UK in 1982. With Amilcar chassis numbers not originally stamped, a number was creatively assigned, as was the case with its non-original engine. Despite questions of authenticity, where else could you find such a Voiturette from this period for £161,000, comfortably within its £150,000-£200,000 estimate?
1927 Amilcar C6 sold for £161,000 (€185,750)
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER