The Market


Bonhams’ 10.3m Swiss francs 2021 Bonmont auction

Bonhams’ 10.3m Swiss francs 2021 Bonmont auction 21st June 2021

The comment from an experienced European dealer walking out of the auction tent summed up Bonhams’ third auction at the picturesque Bonmont Golf & Country Club outside Geneva: “They did very well, considering the quality of the cars”.
Over a third of the catalogue came from a familiar Kuwaiti consignor, and you needed to be vigilant before bidding: most had very little paperwork or history, often non-matching engines and signs of indifferent storage over many years. Rarely has “as seen” meant so much. The catalogue was a Jackson Pollock canvas of symbols, warnings and disclaimers, although the non-matching engines were not highlighted in print. “We listed the engine numbers, so buyers could do their own research,” was the explanation.

The modern car entries (mostly hypercars and G-Wagens) were almost new with just delivery mileage but no Certificates of Conformity: that, too, will create difficulties as new owners try to register them. Adding Bonhams’ hefty 15% premium (plus TVA), the extra cost over hammer price on some could be as much as a third.  
At a glance:
* Gross, motor cars: CHF 10,314,350 (2020, CHF 7,534,225)
* Percentage sold by number: 89% (2020, 63%)
* Top-selling car: 2014 McLaren P1 CHF 1,207,500 gross, CHF 1,050,000 net (est. CHF 1.2m to CHF 1.5m)       
* Well sold? CHF 460,000 with premium paid for the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren ‘722 Edition’ (est. CHF 200k to CHF 300k), a Gulf States car with no EU Certificate of Conformity (and unlikely to get one), taxes and duty liable should it remain in Switzerland and again if exported, and no history other than long-term storage of uncertain quality, shows that an ultra low estimate achieved its aim in attracting bidders’ attention
* Well bought? It was another of the Middle East cars, but the 1982 Maserati Khamsin catalogued as a “restoration project” with “unknown history” had actually been sold by Bonhams twice before. A look through their archive (or google) would have revealed it had covered just 1,300km from new, and was a Swiss car sold new to the Al Thani collecting dynasty. A wily French trader snapped it up for CHF 89,700 gross, and also bought the CHF 178.25k all-in 1964 Facel Vega Facel II (needing restoration) for a client

New signing and head of the company’s motor car division Maarten ten Holder conducted the sale to an audience of around 200 in an open-sided tent. He started proceedings in blazing fashion, rattling along at machine-gun pace in at least four languages. Recently departed Bonhams auctioneer James Knight managed quite well in English in 2019 – and that event grossed CHF 36,702,775.
The two top-selling cars were recent hypercars. In addition to the McLaren P1, the yellow 2020 Ford GT (pictured, top) was one of very few examples imported to Switzerland and came with all taxes paid, local registration and Certificate of Conformity. It sold for CHF 966,000, the equivalent of just over $1million, showing what ‘real money’ is for one of these today.

Non-sellers included the Ferrari 250 GT Lusso (pictured above, matching numbers but wrong colours), the Lamborghini Diablo GTR (race car condition, without even a passenger seat) and the Mercedes 190E Evo II, so the majority of cars that did find new owners were either at No Reserve or nearly new AMG Mercedes specials. The 1939 Bugatti Type 57C was born with a factory Galibier berline body and rebodied in England in recent years as an Aravis Cabriolet. It sold for CHF 805,000: a fraction of what an original Aravis would achieve.

Conducting a classic car auction in Switzerland is challenging because of local collectors’ habits and punitive import taxes, and often throws up some strange results. The eventual on-the-road prices for cars bought are hard to establish and can cause buyer’s remorse post-sale. But one thing it did prove – even if you’re not selling the crème-de-la-crème, price it attractively and bidders will come.


Bonhams at Bonmont, 20 June 2021 – results (2020)

Total gross cars: CHF 10,314,350 (CHF 7,534,225)
Number of cars not sold: 5 (20)
Number of cars withdrawn: 1 (0)
Total number of cars: 47 (54)
Number sold: 42 (34)
Percentage cars sold by number: 89% (63%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 71% (36%)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 36% (82%)
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 64% (91%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 21% (3%)
Average value of cars sold: CHF 245,580 (CHF 221,595)
Average year of cars offered: 1983 (1995)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 53% (37%)

Pre-sale photos by Florent Poncelet for Kidston/K500