Is the wind in the trees of the classic car market?
By all accounts Bonhams’ Revival auction was another well choreographed event with a an extensive line-up of cars at the world’s premier classic motorsport event.
The main talking point in the run up to the sale was the news that Chris Evans had consigned a dozen cars from his collection, and the main post-sale chat will no doubt revolve around the fact that only half of them sold. The media are beginning to circle around the story that classic car values have stopped going up (consider this – how do they know?); the Mirror has been quick to jump on the Chris Evans “story” – Chris Evans fails to sell half of his classic car fleet at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival – and the New York Times published Luxury Automobiles on the Firing Line on the first day of the Revival meeting.Why let reality get in the way of a good headline?
Short of going through Bonham’s catalogue line by line, the overall figures were as follows :
|Sold over estimate||9||10.84%|
|Sold under estimate||25||30.12%|
|Sold in lower half of estimate||11||13.25%|
|Sold in upper half of estimate||2||2.41%|
|Sold in lower half of estimate or below||36||43.37%|
|Sold in upper half of estimate or above||11||13.25%|
|Sold at median estimate||1||1.20%|
|Sold within estimate – ACCURACY||14||16.87%|
£10.5 million of cars sold including buyers premium – not a bad day all things considered. Yes, in an ideal world you would probably want to see a sell-through rate of 70%+, but just a fraction under 50% of the sold lots went for estimate or above – something that any auctioneer should be pleased with.
Generally speaking, those in the know seem to agree with our feeling that in general cars at auction are selling for around their actual market value – and those values are still high. The best, most desirable cars are still selling well ( just ask Chris Evans what he thought of £82,140 inc premium for his Daimler SP250 “Dart” or the owner of the Fiat-Bartoletti transporter which drew a winning bid of £585,000) but some consigning owners are still struggling to tell the difference between a good car and an average one. As are the media.
In the opinion of race car expert James Hanson of Speedmaster, the classic racers sold well. Classic race cars results are notoriously fickle when it comes to selling at auction and he noted that the Scarabs sold well for cars that are neither stunningly beautiful or particularly easy to campaign, as did the “semi-lightweight” E-type. The ferocious Porsche 908 didn’t find the committed and well-heeled new owner required to take it on at the price asked.
Modern classics continue to perform strongly in many cases and a mention has to go to the 2005 ex-Bamford Ford GT (one of the 28 official UK cars) which sold for an impressive £326,000 inc premium and a Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG coupe which sold for a pre-credit crunch matching £225,500. Keith Richard’s storied 1965 Bentley S3 Continental Flying Spur “Blue Lena” also raised a few eyebrows (and not for the first time) as it reached a whopping £763,100 inc premium. Chris Evan’s Ferrari 250 GT SWB recreation reached a healthy £606,300.
Interesting non-sellers? Evan’s Ferrari 250 Lusso failed to sell despite sensible bids as did his unusual GTO-aping green Ferrari 275 GTB/6C. An Ferrari F40, Testarossa and an alloy bodied Jaguar XK120 also failed to find new homes.
Buy the best and forget the rest
We are going to be hearing about a levelling-off of classic car values in the financial media in the coming weeks – it’s the easy option for busy journalists. Whether that will be reflected in the classic car press is another matter and their relationship with advertisers may depend on how they report it. In reality, the prices being asked at the top of the market has been correcting slowly for nearly 12 months now – except for the best of the best. Those claiming strong price gains and waving the “investment potential” flag will need to be a little more careful for the time being . However, we are seeing a lot of activity in the sub-£100k market – perhaps that is where we will see the next growth spurt. Certainly sellers and dealers who are new to the classic car market should tread carefully.
THE FACTS. The media have very limited access to correct, independent data and opinions on classic car values – they are in the main around 12 months behind the curve. Auction sales results are not representative of the market as a whole and although enthusiasts such as Chris Evans have the ability to build large collections and also exert a degree of influence over the aforementioned media pundits, the fact that some of his cars did not sell for what he hoped to isn’t news. Nor should it influence the buying decisions of others.
From our perspective, the market is still looking strong and healthy and we note that dealer confidence is still high amongst those who didn’t get carried away when pricing their cars. Which ever way classic car values are going, 10-15% of the cars sold will be funded in some way or another and there are still plenty of enthusiastic buyers in the market place. In fact, now might just be a great time for the real enthusiasts to step forward.