The Market


€26.8m gross: Bonhams’ best-ever Zoute Grand Prix auction

€26.8m gross: Bonhams’ best-ever Zoute Grand Prix auction 9th October 2023

In just 51 minutes and 29 lots yesterday, Bonhams grossed the equivalent of its entire Goodwood Revival sale, a 104-car marathon conducted over many hours a month ago. The event held in October on the border of Belgium and Holland often defies market trends and has developed into one of the Bond St firm’s most successful.

And an all-in figure for motor cars the equivalent of $27.6m is more than double Bonhams’ gross at Amelia Island earlier this year, after Pebble Beach the top concours in the US. A good comparison would be the company’s all-Aston Martin sales at Newport Pagnell when results were frequently achieved that confounded expectations. Ironically, a significant proportion of the catalogue at Zoute was from Bonhams’ familiar Middle East consignor, the very one who had pushed prices ever higher at the home of Aston Martin in the early 2000s. Just over a quarter of the entries yesterday were Astons – mostly from this source and all at No Reserve.

Few gave the headlining lot much of a chance of selling, but it did, though €800k off lower estimate. The car has Ferrari Classiche certification and is presented in the attractive metallic gold preferred by early owner Swiss driver Gérard Spinedi, later to own a SWB in this colour. Like so many others it has been raced a lot over the years and at one point lost its original engine, now back under the bonnet. As a 1959 TdF it is not strictly eligible for the Mille Miglia retrospective, though it would make a fine entry at the Le Mans Classic and Goodwood Revival, albeit uncompetitive against today’s hot rod replicas. The car had already been offered round the trade at a higher figure but was probably well bought on the day – and sold pragmatically in a market sector on tickover in late 2023.

At a glance:

* Gross, motor cars: €26,757,793 (2022, €23,578,491)
* Percentage sold by number: 88% (2022, 93%)
* Top-selling car: 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta 'Tour de France' €4,830,000 gross, €4,200,000 net (est.  €5m to €7m)

The auction was conducted by multilingual Maarten ten Holder accompanied by Bonhams stalwart Malcolm Barber who introduced the lots and helped the Dutchman spots bids from the busy tent. It was not a drawn-out affair, and similar in atmosphere to the company’s super-successful Sir Roger Moore auction in Bond St earlier last week.

Many of the Middle East cars were delivery mileage only so, in addition to the chunky 15% across-the-board premium, there were customs duties and local VAT to consider. Factor this in and it makes the prices achieved for some lots all the more impressive.

The Porsche 918 Spyder was one such. The Guards Red car with matching interior was to Swiss specification and had been kept in dry storage in the Middle East. Should it remain in Belgium the buyer will be responsible for import duty at 10% (+VAT) and 21% import VAT on the hammer price of €1,050,000.  The pre-tax and duty gross price of €1,207,500, works out at around $1.28m, significantly under the $1.6m to $1.9m spread seen at US auctions this year, so there is room for additional costs including shipping and recommissioning.

The ‘Orange Collection’ (pictured, above) was another feature of the event, all No Reserve imports from Kuwait. The eight Swiss-spec, brand-new Astons grossed nearly €750k and generated many Max Verstappen quips from the rostrum on the way.

Other results of note (all prices gross):

* 1994 Bugatti EB110 GT, €1,150,000 (say $1.2m). 7,102km recorded, purchased for the equivalent of $283,860 in May 2005 and in storage since so needing expensive specialist recommissioning.
* 1967 Mercedes-Benz Pagoda M-SL 500 by Mechatronik, €506,000. Amazing price for a ‘Singer Mercedes’ with modern mechanicals.
* 1970 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 'Daytona' Berlinetta, €724,500. The same car sold by Artcurial at Rétromobile this year for €638k now repainted in its correct pale blue metallic. We do not think there is much profit there.
* 1995 Porsche 911 Type 993 GT2, €1,035,000. Japanese car new, now with ca. 12,800km.
* 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722 S Roadster, €897,000. European-delivered car with only 617km on the odometer, so possibly liable for VAT making it a million-euro SLR McLaren.
* 1959 Fiat 500 Jolly Beach Car, €155,250. A 190mph Aston Martin DB AR01 sold for €158,700 the same afternoon. Italy 1: England 0.
* 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB Vetroresina, €184,000. Lovely Rosso Rubino and a quality 2016 restoration justify the price.
* 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2, €557,750. Another car in a great colour (Bianco) and in concours condition.
* 1931 Aston Martin 1.5-Litre International 'LM5', Not Sold. One of the earlier Team Cars with less sporting bodywork and troublesome in-period rear axle. Too expensive today at nearly €1m.
* 1989 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante 'Prince of Wales' Specification, €356,500. The ‘PoW spec’ description did a lot of heavy lifting here given the car’s auto-to-manual conversion and history of colour changes. It is not one of the original series of cars.

Other non-sellers included the 1958 300 SL Roadster, the ex-Helmut Newton 1956 Bentley S-Type Continental and 1972 Citroën DS21 IE Décapotable.

In summary, a terrific result but one that says more about the market micro-climate over one weekend in northern Belgium than the condition of the classic car collecting hobby as a whole.  

Bonhams at the Zoute Grand Prix, 8 October 2023 – results (2022)

Total gross cars: €26,757,793 (€23,578,491)
Number of cars not sold: 12 (5)
Number of cars withdrawn: 0 (0)
Total number of cars: 96 (74)
Number sold: 84 (69)
Percentage cars sold by number: 88% (93%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 68% (72%)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 36% (32%)
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 60% (54%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 20% (26%)
Average value of cars sold: €318,545 (€341,717)
Average year of cars offered: 1982 (1975)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 54% (59%)

Photos by Bonhams