Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy

  • 03 February 2024
  • 4 min read
  • 11 images
Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy image

Photo credit: Barrett-Jackson, Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s

Is there a chill in Arizona, or has the clock turned back, restoring Scottsdale to its original glory as a major auction hub for relatively commercial vehicles with an average price around £100,000, firmly under Barrett-Jackson’s steady control?
Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale, 28th January 2024
The modest, to put it kindly, results of RM and Bonhams call for a cautious interpretation: in the aftermath of Kissimmee’s excess and anticipating Retromobile, we remain quietly at the window. However, it’s true that RM’s revenues have fallen from around $40m in 2023 to just $22,746,760.
Bonhams, Scottsdale, 25th January 2024
Bonhams, starting from approximately $19.5m, only achieved $11,800,800, with nearly half of that from just one lot. Perhaps Scottsdale is simply returning to its roots from about fifteen years ago: a gigantic Barrett-Jackson marquee surrounded by a few other sales. And there was a certain charm to that era.
RM Sotheby’s, Scottsdale, 25th January 2024
To try to understand, let’s take a closer look:

We’ll begin with Bonhams and the top lot of the weekend: the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+. The Bugatti Chiron line is known for its excessiveness, and the 300+ takes it to the extreme, most notably with its “300+” name indicating a top speed of over 300 mph (the first street-legal car to break this barrier). Its rarity is another draw, with only 30 produced, including just 8 for the American market. And then, what “interests” us, is the price: Bonhams listed this black and orange-striped model with 250 miles on the clock at $5m-$5.5m million. Despite its late entry into the auction (in fact, the lot was number 42-bis), it sold perfectly within the estimate at $5,175,000.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 12022 Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ sold for $5,175,000 (€4,775,350)

It is interesting to note, then, that it was Barrett-Jackson who monopolized the ranking of the most expensive lots: the second, third, and fourth cars were all theirs. The Arizona company’s top lot was a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe. Originally sold in Rome, it remained with the same owner until 2020 when the current owner acquired it. It underwent a restoration by the experts at Coachwerks, adhering to the original specifications (Silver Grey Metallic, trimmed with a natural leather interior with green cloth inserts). Fresh out of restoration, the owner decided to focus on a new “idea” and sold it aiming for $2.6m, a record for the model. Instead, it shattered expectations and set an almost unfathomable world record of $3,410,000. A side note: two other Gullwings, one each from Bonhams and RM (valued at $1.5m-$1.7m), failed to find buyers.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 21956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing sold for $3,410,000 (€3,146,650)

It’s challenging to discuss RM, especially when only 5 out of 15 lots with estimates above the magical million mark were sold. The saving grace was their top lot, a 2020 McLaren Speedtail with 54 miles from new, which sold for $2,012,500 (within its $2m-$2.5m estimate). The most interesting car for me, however, was a 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra. It was the first 289 Cobra ever produced, it had covered just 27,200 miles and had never been restored, meaning it had immense historical significance. It’s no surprise that its estimate of $1.2m-$1.4m was even higher than that of a 427 Cobra ($1.1m-$1.3m). The market understood its value, and it sold for $1,215,000.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 31963 Shelby 289 Cobra sold for $1,215,000 (€1,121,170)

Barrett-Jackson auctioned a Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster previously owned by a notably “controversial” individual: Donald Trump. Purchased new in 1997 and sold in the summer of 2002, it was in Le Mans Blue, a colour not available at that time, entering a market where the record for this model stood at $467,500 for a 3,000-mile example sold in 2022. Despite having over 15,400 miles on the clock, Trump’s Diablo shattered this record and sold for $1,100,000.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 41997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster ex-Donald J. Trump sold for $1,100,000 (€1,015,050)

To find the only other vehicle in the “million-plus” category, we head to Bonhams for a Bugatti 57 Atalante, distinguished by its rarity. Sold new in 1936, it was one of just four models with a sunroof and the only one to have participated in the 1938 Rallye des Alpes. In February last year, this car was auctioned by Artcurial, then estimated at €2m-€3m, and it was a surprise when it went for €1.75m post-auction. Less than a year later, here it is, estimated at $1.5m-$1.8m. It sold, but again at a discount: $1,380,000. I can only express my congratulations to the buyer.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 51936 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Sunroof Coupe sold for $1,380,000 (€1,273,450)

From Barrett-Jackson, good news for Ford enthusiasts. The Ford Mustang Mach 1 might not be the dream model of the Blue Oval for everyone, even in its most sought-after versions. However, owners of the Mach 1 Twister (a rare version limited to 96 examples with the powerful 428 Cobra Jet engine) should be grateful to this auction house once again. After setting a record for the model in 2022 at $231,000, they’ve now surpassed it two years on, reaching $275,000, an increase of almost 20%.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 61970 Ford Mach 1 Twister Special sold for $275,000 (€253,750)

I’ll conclude with a double curiosity. Even though the auctions in Arizona’s desert were largely unsuccessful, RM managed to achieve truly interesting figures for cars that seemed unsellable in this market: a 1952 Bentley Mark VI Cabriolet, coachbuilt by Graber, exudes classic elegance with its white exterior and tobacco interior. It underwent a thorough restoration in 1993, a refurbishment now three decades old. Estimated at $125,000-$175,000, it surprised everyone when it sold for $257,600.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 71952 Bentley Mark VI Cabriolet by Graber sold for $257,600 (€237,700)

A similar story for the 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Tourer bodied by the renowned coachbuilders Thrupp & Maberly. Its lines sent collectors into raptures between the 70s and early 2000s, but at least two generations have passed since that period. Its estimate of $125,000-$175,000 was soon forgotten, and it reached $235,200 with remarkable ease.

Storms and chilly breezes in Arizona: RM and Bonhams rather battered, Barrett-Jackson healthy - 81935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Tourer by Thrupp & Maberly sold for $235,200 (€217,000)

CLASSIC CAR MATCHER