The Market


Bonhams MPH: Zero to £1.2m for first Bicester sale

Bonhams MPH: Zero to £1.2m for first Bicester sale 26th September 2019

MPH, the new division of the Bond St house dedicated to “modern and affordable classics”, held its inaugural auction at Bicester Heritage earlier today.

And after nine lots were withdrawn, 66 out of the remaining 111 sold on the day. That’s a sell-through by number of 59%†, which might be okay for an inaugural event but surely falls short if the intention is to take on the existing specialists in this market  the Historics, CCAs, Anglias and their like – at their own game.

At a glance:

* Gross: £1,211,914
* Percentage sold by number: 59%†
* Top-selling cars: 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 V8 SOV Truck Utility SAS, £49,500 gross, £44,000 net (est. £80k to £100k) and 1993 Ford Escort RS Cosworth £49,500 gross, £44,000 net (est. £40k to £50k)

The Bicester Heritage venue is great: easy to get to, with plenty of parking and all for a tenner that also buys you a quality catalogue. The car park was busy, with the inevitable chancer posting a For Sale notice on a Mercedes G Wagen parked slap outside the entrance. The aircraft hangar used for the sale is, er, airy... though seemed busy by lunchtime.

The audience today was predominantly from the sheepskin-coat end of the trade, though did include many friends of K500, curious to see how the new set-up shapes up.

After a selection of automobilia (which won’t always feature at MPH sales) conducted by regular Bonhams auctioneer Malcolm Barber, it was a short break for lunch before MPH supremo Rob Hubbard – pictured below, a safe pair of hands – took the rostrum. As one, the oily-handed sons of the used-car lot downed burgers and cups of tea to head for the action.

All cars were driven through and Hubbard maintained an easy pace, keeping the interest up throughout the afternoon. In truth, the catalogue was nothing special, although it did include several ex-Special Forces Land Rovers (top) that could have been offered at a Revival sale and a brace of high-performance BMW saloons.

The reaction from insiders at the sale was mixed, though most felt it was a breath of fresh air, a back-to-basics, no-nonsense approach far removed from the usual flummery of Blue Riband events. Contrarians noted the quality of the cars, the sellers’ own descriptions and the still-chunky buyer’s premium of 12.5% plus VAT.

Here’s the K500 take on a first sale from a new team that did raise the bar (a touch) but wasn’t quite the transformative event some imagined or hoped for:


* Great location, easy access and parking
* Authentic and genuine atmosphere
* Smart catalogue
* Some diamonds – the BMWs, the Land Rovers – in the rough


* Only 12% at No Reserve. The UK auction houses will refute this vigorously, but to work properly this format should have been everything at No Reserve, take it or leave it. A £6k to £8k 1990 Jaguar XJS going home unsold is madness
* Buyer’s premium. It’s an old favourite, but 12.5% compared with 6% (Anglia Car Auctions), 11% (CCA), 10% (Historics) is strong
* Sellers’ own assessment of their cars that is not “provided, assessed or verified by Bonhams MPH” (per Bonhams MPH T&Cs) makes it hard to buy online or unseen

Finally, we asked Edward Lovett of the online auction platform Collecting Cars for his view:

"It's clear why a business would want to target popular modern classics in the current market, but to my mind this was a traditional auction house becoming even more conventional.

"Bidding online during a sale is nothing new, and that was the only nod to modern technology that I spotted.

"Allowing vendors to rate their own cars seems like a risky move. I wouldn't expect a Bentley rated at 92/100 to have rust bubbling under the paint††."

Anyway, it’s a start and the next MPH sale is on 26 November 2019.

Bonhams MPH at Bicester Heritage, 26 September 2019

Total gross cars: £1,211,914
Number of cars not sold: 45
Number of cars withdrawn: 9
Total number of cars: 111
Number sold: 66
Percentage cars sold by number: 59%†
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 42%
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 62%
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 85%
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 9%
Average value of cars sold: £18,362
Average year of cars offered: 1978
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 12%

† In a post-sale press release Bonhams declared this to be 82%, most likely including automobilia and some after-auction deals

†† As we always aim to be fair, the 1989 Bentley Turbo R in question was estimated at £6,000 to £8,000 and sold for £4,725 all-in, but Edward Lovett makes a valid point

Photos by K500