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Busy auction week proves chilly for some as top cars fail to sell

WORDS: NATHAN CHADWICK | PHOTOS: AGUTTES, BONHAMS, RM SOTHEBY’S, HISTORICS

The weekend of the November 24-26, 2023 saw four major auctions across the world, with Aguttes in Paris, France, Bonhams in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Historics in Weybridge, UK and RM Sotheby’s in Munich, Germany. The biggest and most hyped lots were at Bonhams, with The Wolf of Wall Street Lamborghini Countach and an ex-Kimi Räikkönen McLaren F1 car among the temptations. On the night, the desire for seven-figure cars just wasn’t there, from a McLaren Elva to an ex-Andretti Lotus Type 79. However, RM Sotheby’s Munich sale – while perhaps not quite as starry as Bonhams’ lot list – provided some food for thought; while Astons are awkward, BMWs are a boon.

There was also a chance to take the temperature of the UK and French market at Historics Auctioneers at Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge, Surrey, and the Automobiles de Collection, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris. The Historics auction demonstrated that sellers are yet to cotton onto the realities of the British market in particular – high low reserves were not met, and subsequently many lots were not sold. Over in Paris, Aguttes’ results point to more accurate estimates for the cars that sold, but there were still several no-sales. Both events did throw up some oddities, however, which we’ll profile below.

We’ve singled out some of the more interesting sales and no-sales below. It will be interesting to see where the market heads over winter.

Bonhams, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Although it wasn’t the highest-estimate car on Bonhams’ roster, this was the car that dominated the pre-auction hype. As discussed here this particular Countach was the most used in The Wolf of Wall Street film, and was on sale directly from an unnamed member of the production team. Against an estimate of between $1.5m and $2m, the bidding got to $1.35m and, at the time of writing, remains unsold.

Other notable unsold lots included a McLaren Elva that was originally supplied to F1 driver Fernando Alonso and had just 4km on the clock; it boasted a $2.5m-3m estimate. Also unsold was the ex-Mario Andretti 1978 Lotus Type 79 that took the American to victory at the Dutch Grand Prix and helped secure the World Championship at the Italian GP; it had a $6.5m-9m estimate, and got as far as $3.4m before time was called.

Bonhams had better F1 success with the ex-Kimi Räikkönen 2006 McLaren-Mercedes-Benz MP4/21. Chassis no. 2 for the season, its notable results included second places at the Bahrain and Australian Grands Prix, plus two fifths and a fourth, before its notorious engine fire at the Monaco GP. Rather than head back to the pits, the Finn took to his boat to relax – an event that has become part of internet folklore via YouTube. The car ran once more in 2006, before being replaced by another chassis. The MP4/21 was extensively restored by McLaren, and hasn’t covered any mileage since; it sold for $2.76m.

The highest-selling road car was one that has seen very little road at all. The 1993 Porsche 964 Carrera RSR 3.8-litre (pictured above) had covered just 10km. It was one of two road-going RSR models built by Porsche Motorsport, out of a total production run of around 50 cars. In the hands of the current owner since 2017, it remained in unused and uncleaned condition. It sold for $2,127,500.

The third-highest seller also came from Porsche – a Middle East-specification 918 Spyder with less than 650km on the clock made $1.610m.

RM Sotheby’s, Munich, Germany

The highest-selling car at RM Sotheby’s sale was the 82nd of 121 factory-built Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyders. Chassis 16689, finished in Nocciola Metallizzato over Pelle Beige, was first supplied to Robert Lindner of Cincinnati in 1973. He kept it until 1991, when it was imported to Germany having covered nearly 41,000 miles. Restored by Zanasi between 2013 and 2014, it subsequently achieved Ferrari Classiche Red Book certification in 2016. It sold for €3,098,750. Other Prancing Horse highlights included a 1973 Dino 246 GT finished in Blu Chiaro that sold for €325,625.

Here was a fascinating result for a type of car for which bone-stock originality is desired – and which also provides an interesting addition to John Mayhead’s take on restomod cars. This 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, which had formerly called the US home before heading back to Germany, was restored to ‘Outlaw’ style by marque specialist Lars Rombelsheim at a cost of more than €400,000.

As part of the restoration, the car was was fitted with a five-speed ZF gearbox, front disc brakes, an upgraded ignition system with a modern alternator, and an altered diff ratio. Inside, aluminium SLS seats were fitted. The spare and old parts from the restoration came with the car, should the new owner wish to take it back to the original style. It sold for €1,096,250 – more than the £860,000 achieved by Historics in the UK over the same weekend for a US-spec 300 SL Roadster.

Given that RM Sotheby’s sale was in Munich, it’s no surprise that BMWs formed many of the lots, with enthusiastic bidders – and all but a 1955 BMW 501 Sechszylinder Cabriolet by Baur selling. The outstanding result – and second only to the above Ferrari Daytona Spyder – was this 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL. One of 50 hand-built at BMW’s Dingolfing plant, it had covered 33km. Based heavily on the BMW M4, this homage to the original CSL ended up costing more than three times the result of one of those originals in the sale. The final price was €1,017,500.

RM Sotheby’s had less luck with another hand-built modern car – the 2021 Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign was unsold at the time of asking, with an asking price of €975,000.

Aguttes, Paris, France

The stand-out result from the Aguttes sale had to be this 1956 Bentley S-type Continental Mulliner Sports Saloon. Ordered new by Parfums Carven Haute-Couture in Paris via Franco Britannic Automobiles, for the use of its founder Madame Carven, it is one of just 26 left-hand-drive S-type Continentals built. It was later owned by French singer Florent Pagny for just a year, and has since lived in Switzerland. Estimated at €250k to €350k, it eventually sold for €560,660.

Aguttes had less luck with this 1939 Delage D6 3 Litre Le Mans, chassis no. 51821. Louis Gérard and Georges Monneret led the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours for 20 hours before losing time with a valve-spring problem, handing victory to the Bugatti Type 57 Tank of Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron. The Delage would be successful at the Grand Prix du Comminges, with Louis Gérard winning the 3.0-litre class. It was also entered into the 1940 Mille Miglia for Piero Taruffi and Luigi Chinetti, without success.

The Delage was raced again in the 1950s as a ‘modern’ example, before being sold to Count Emilio Eminente du Benedetto. He commissioned Figoni to body the car as a Coach Grand Sport in the style of a Delahaye 235, to race in GT events. After passing through several collections, it was restored to 1939 Le Mans specification by François and Josy Jolly. It remained in the collection of the Jollys since then. It failed to find a winning bid against a €800k-€1.2m estimate.

Here’s something truly unique – this is a Citroën Dyane M, created in 1970 at the behest of a Spanish businessman who wanted to build around 100 of these special bodies for the Dyane 6 chassis. Based on a 1969 car, this Pedro Serra design was said to be inspired by the Maserati Mistral; sadly the plans came to nothing when the businessman died. On sale from only the second owner, who purchased it from a Citroën dealership in Granollers, Spain, in 2002, it had covered 40,338km and had no MoT. Against a €15k-€25k estimate, it sold for €28,250.

Historics, Weybridge, UK

As mentioned above, this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster provided an interesting counterpoint to RM’s Outlaw car. It was also a rare highlight of a challenging and sobering day at Mercedes-Benz Brooklands, at least for the sellers. This 1957 US-spec car had been in the same ownership since 1974, and restored in Rudi Koniczek & Co in Vancouver 20 years ago. Sensibly guided at £875k-£950k, it ended up just shy at £860,000. Although a focus on Mercedes-Benz was to be expected given the auction’s location, the sheer choice of W113 Pagodas (five) might have been a consideration.

The chill wind hadn’t just flown over Stuttgart; British cars also struggled. The malaise even afflicted the fascinating Aston Martin DBS prototype car shown bove. Under the bonnet lies a Lola Aston Martin V8 engine that was used for Eric Broadley’s Lola Le Mans entry. It was fitted to the car (alongside a new gearbox) between 1968 and 1970 while in the ownership Nigel Dawes, and has featured in several books. Its recent restoration didn’t help a sale against a £250k-£270k estimate.

A restored Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk3 failed to sell at a £140k-165k estimate, while the last DB2/4 MkII – an unfinished restoration for 53 years – went for £59,176. E-types also struggled; a freshly nut-and-bolt-restored Series 1 2+2 sold for £64,960, while a restored flat-floor, outside-bonnet-latch Series 1 E-type failed to shift at £98k-£118k.

Better news came from the more modern end of the classic spectrum. The 1991 Lotus Carlton shown above, which had covered 17,823 miles, ended up being sold for a world-record price of £111,524, while a 2003 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG with just 646 miles more than tripled its pre-sale estimate of £15k-£20k with a final sale of £66,080.

However, a 2003 BMW M3 CSL in rare Black Sapphire failed to sell against a £60k-70k estimate; its non-original KW suspension possibly counting against it on the day.