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British auction market proves chilly at RM Sotheby’s Cliveden House sale

Words: Nathan Chadwick | Photography: RM Sotheby's

The British summer has thus far been largely a chilly one – with the UK auction market struggling compared with that in Europe, let alone in the US. However, RM Sotheby’s inaugural Cliveden House sale, on June 12, 2024, saw just 15 of the 61 cars offered for sale fail to find homes. However, around 40 per cent were offered with no reserve, leading to many selling below their pre-sale estimates.

The leading car in the sale – a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB (pictured above) – failed to sell, with a high bid of £4.5m, but most Ferraris found buyers. A 1967 330 GTS (main image) sold for £1,242,500 against a £1.3m-£1.6m estimate, and a Fantuzzi-bodied 1963 250 GT/L went for £1.13m against a £1.1m-£1.5m estimate.

More modern Ferraris hit their marks, with a 2003 360 Challenge Stradale selling for £184k against a £180k-£220k estimate, a 2006 575 Superamerica selling for £230k against a £230k-£300k estimate, and a 2001 550 Barchetta selling for £253k against a £250k-£320k estimate. A 2009 430 Scuderia Spyder 16M sold for £331,250 against a £325k-£375k estimate.

Despite being on home turf in Berkshire, British cars struggled to find homes throughout the sale. An Aston Martin DB4 Convertible (pictured above) was estimated at £600k-£800k, but ran out of interest at £420k, while a DB5 Convertible estimated at £800k-£1m petered out at around £720k, and went home with its vendor. Newer Aston Martins were similarly struggling, with Vanquish Zagato models in either Speedster or Volante form failing to find homes.

Worse was to follow for a 1959 Jaguar XK150 S FHC, 1966 Bristol 409 and 1961 Bentley S2, which all sold for between 61 and 68 per cent less than their pre-sale estimates. While these three cars were in need of mechanical refreshment after years of static display at the Hellenic Motor Museum in Greece, the estimates did seem reasonable pre-sale; a sign of nerves about a long-term project (which these restorations would become)?

Struggling project cars was a general theme of the sale – other models from the same museum collection also fell short of their pre-sale estimates, most notably a 1974 Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 (pictured above), which sold for £36,800 against a £60k-£70k estimate. While this often maligned car is being reassessed and admired with fresh eyes after years in the doldrums, the estimate seemed a little fanciful – but not quite as much as the opening lot, a 1979 400i. Offered without reserve, it was an ex-Hong Kong car “in need of recommissioning or restoration” and without registration papers. Estimated at between £30k and £50k, it sold for £11,700.

Other project car highlights included an ex-museum Iso Rivolta Lele, which sold for £17,250 against a £30k-£40k estimate, and a 1959 Borgward Isabella, which sold for £5750 against a £20k-£30k estimate.

One Ferrari that did particularly well was this 1993 Ferrari 512TR (pictured above). Originally owned by Reg Vardy, it is one of 88 finished in right-hand drive, and among a handful finished in Tour de France blue; such rarity led to a £195k result against a £140k-£180k estimate. A 1992 512TR, finished in the more familiar shade of Rosso Corsa, failed to drum up the same level of interest – bidding stopped at £190k, some way shy of the £220k-£260k estimate.

Bentleys and Rolls-Royces were also afflicted by the British malaise, with sale prices significantly lower than their pre-sale estimates. The pictured Bentley 4 1/4 Litre Sedanca styled by Henri Chapron sold for £63,250 against an £80k-£140k estimate, while a 1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Two-Door Faux Cabriolet by HJ Mulliner sold for £21,850 against £30k-£50k estimate, and 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I styled by Jarvis reached £86,250 against a £90k-£120k estimate.

A 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Tourer ran out of interest at £65k against a £90k-£120k estimate, and a 1931 Bentley 9 Litre Open Tourer made it to £410k against a £450k-£550k estimate before hands returned to people’s laps. However, a Bentley 6 1/2 Le Mans Tourer sold for £488,750 against a £450k-£550k estimate, and a 1954 Bentley R-type Continental Fastback by HJ Mulliner sold for £511,250 against a £450k-£550k estimate.

It wasn’t all grim news in the world of British classics, with the 1924 Austin Seven Chummy Tourer far exceeding its £6k-£9k estimate. Offered from the Reg and Geoffrey Parker collection, it is a scooped-scuttle example with a pram hood. It sold for nearly twice its high estimate, at £17,250. Another British car to perform well was a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk1, which sold for £66,700 against a £50k-£70k estimate.

Another success story was the above 1988 Lamborghini LM002. Originally sold to Sweden before later spending time in Italy at the Ferruccio Lamborghini museum, it called the Netherlands home in 2015, then the UK. It then went to Kuwait in 2017, before heading to the UK again in 2023. Against a pre-sale estimate of between £225k and £275k, it sold for £342,500.

One of the most fascinating cars in the sale was this unique 1955 Jaguar XK140 SE styled by Giovanni Michelotti. Supplied new through Charles Delecroix of Paris, it was later damaged in an accident and rebodied in its current style. Michelotti applied his flourishes inside and out, with much of the interior switchgear showing the influence of Lancia.

It was found in France in 1979, and later sold to Belgium in 1999. A restoration had been started, but in 2016 the owner passed away, and in 2018 it was sold to Jaguar Classic. Although many parts were found for the car, a restoration was never started. It failed to find favour at Cliveden House, with bidding stopping at £150k against a £300k-£350k estimate.

To end on a high note, this 1965 AC Cobra MkIII 427 S/C Continuation is one of 16 examples finished in 1996 by Autokraft. It was fitted with a Ford FE 427ci (7.0-litre) side-oiler V8 race engine at the request of its first owner, a Bill Kemper of Illinois. He sold the car to Jersey in 2013, and was imported to the UK a year later. It was acquired by the vendor in 2021 and set up for road use, and fettled with a new clutch, flywheel and fuel pump. Against a pre-sale estimate of £160k-£200k, it sold for £232,813.

RM Sotheby’s has also announced a new venue for its traditional end-of-year London sale. The 2024 auction takes place on November 2 at the five-star Peninsula Hotel London in Belgravia. For information on the London sale and more details on the Cliveden House auction, head here.

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