Supercars at Bonhams... Fascinating but cruel

  • 15 April 2021
  • 3 min read
  • 9 images
Supercars at Bonhams... Fascinating but cruel image

The original sin was the F40. How can you stem a demand which led to three, four, five, even six times the market price to take one home? Even Ferrari’s blatant violation of the limited number series did not calm this frenzy and today this model continues to be a dream for collectors. A very well-paid dream.

1-3-1536x1536Just like behind the wheel, everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

But let us speak of sins, as sins tend to be burdened with guilt and punishment. The guilt in question here lies in the models proposed as special and valuable. Let’s make a comparison: the F40 was a pure, hardcore Ferrari, a symbol of a fifty-year old legend, one that remained unique, without a second series or variants to attract new customers. Another legend similar in vein is the McLaren F1. In this case, the reason for the astronomical rise of its price derives from its original failure: initial sales difficulties and the interruption of the production run before the promised cycle was completed, made the car very rare indeed. Whereas more than 1,200 F40’s were produced, McLaren stopped production after just over a hundred cars had left the factory. And the books, well I’m not saying they balanced, but you can see why.

2-3-1536x1152The 1988 F40 was the first and perhaps the most spectacular phenomenon of cars wanted at any price. Its price reached five times the original list price within a year

We could mention other examples, and here Porsche would give us plenty to talk about, but it’s time to take a closer look at Bonhams Contemporary Cars auction that used the online auctioneer technique. How did it go? Let’s take a look at the numbers and answer that for ourselves: just 12 cars out of the 31 on offer were sold, an estimated value of over 10 million dollars produced takings of just $2.27 million. And not only that: none of the six main lots were sold.

3-1536x1536Having reached only 21.8% of the total potential turnover was an unequivocal indication of the modest result of the Contemporary Cars auction in Los Angeles

What does this mean? Nothing and everything at the same time: nothing because it will always remain a naturally “gluttonous” market, in which “gluttony” means: “I want it, I want it at all costs and immediately”. The manufacturers, first and foremost Ferrari, know exactly how to feed the irrational market: they sell their special cars only to those who guarantee not to use them as a speculative opportunity. The result: those who are not accepted into the Gotha of the privileged few go wild and offer any amount to have them. And since there is a threshold beyond which even Saints will sin, some of these “protected” cars end up reaching the market at astronomical prices. But is that really their value? Let’s take a simple example of a model that everyone recognizes: the Porsche 911 R. When it was presented (in February 2016), the list price was €200,000 ($240,000), at Christmas it had risen to € 600.000 (€720,000) and now, five years later, it’s so easy to find one that prices have returned to initial ones. The moral of the story? The modern supercar market is similar to stock market speculation with risky products. You can earn some serious money but it’s far too easy to lose. And don’t tell me that this is a position taken by someone who deals with classic cars. The Classic car market is determined by supply and demand. But it is based on well-defined trends built over years and analysed the moment a person raises the stake by making an offer.

4-3-1536x1024Unlike the F40, the McLaren F1 had sales difficulties that meant production stopped after just 106 units. This limited number means it is one of the most coveted models today with prices exceeding $10 million

Let’s briefly see what happened at Bonhams: despite being experts with a capital E, they burned their fingers with an auction of Contemporary Cars. I really liked the idea because it could have been compared to the contemporary art auction held a few months ago with Alfa Romeo BAT cars (here’s the link to the sale of the Alfa Romeo BAT cars). The cars on display at the Petersen Museum were certainly promising. What complicated things, perhaps, was the fact that the sales were online-only. The result? Against an estimate of $10,375,000 (€8,672,001), they managed to close sales worth just $2,266,380 (€1,906,309), not one of the top six lots was sold, and only 12 out of 31 cars changed hands. A result that was far from flattering, especially considering that 4 were without reserve.

5-4-1536x1025The 2016 Porsche 911 R immediately multiplied its asking price but has since returned to its original value

The best sale of the day was a beautiful Ferrari 458 Speciale. In Bianco Italia livery with the Nart Blue stripe and a red interior, it was ordered with a very long list of accessories including a quantity of carbon fibre that would have made a Formula 1 car blush. With just 2,200 miles on the clock, it was estimated at $360-410,000, a correct figure since it sold for $369,900 (€310,735). It was a different story for the other 458 Speciale on offer, this time red with a Blue/White Nart stripe and black interior with less carbon and more alcantara. With 8,100 miles on the clock, it was far less desirable and the price difference was too small ($330-370,000). It stopped at $285,000 (€238,200) the auctioneer was forced to say “Sorry.”

6-32015 Ferrari 458 Speciale sold for $369,900 (€310,735)

Some 6 McLarens  were offered at this auction. One Elva (withdrawn), one Senna, one Senna GTR, one 600LT Coupé and one Spider and, finally, a 720S. Of these, only two were sold: the 600LT and the 720S: $259,200 (€217,741) for the latter was higher than the $251,100 (€ 211,079) taken for the 600LT, but lower than its estimate of $270-310,000. 

7-32019 McLaren 720S sold for $259,200 (€217,741)

Honestly, the car I would have bid on was the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S. I don’t know if you feel the same way too, but it reminds me a lot of the Jaguar E-Type... OK, let’s go back to the AMG GT-S; a special order by the German car collector, Gerhard Schnuerer, it was not in a simple yellow but in a stunning Solarbeam livery. The collector picked it up at the factory and immediately tested it on German Autobahns before shipping it to the United States where it travelled roughly 5,000 miles. Here, too, the estimate of $70-90,000 was correct because the new owner paid $81,000 (€68,044) for it, despite it being without reserve.

9-32016 Mercedes AMG GT S sold for $81,000 (€68,044)

The last of the most interesting cars was a 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Surely every enthusiast would have wanted it in their garage (myself included) and I must say that I would have kept it without the rear wing to increase its “uniqueness”. With somewhere close to $250,000 in options, the car had another card up its sleeve: the first owner, Jerry Seinfeld, is a famous American comedian but, in the world of enthusiasts, he is a legendary Porsche connoisseur. Sure, he’s not Steve McQueen, but in the future he may well someone who increases the value of his cars. For now you could have taken it home for $356,400 (€299,395) – about $100,000 less than the list price – but tomorrow, who knows?

8-42016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS sold for $356,400 (€299,395)