Gooding at Hampton Court Palace, 5 September 2020: The market finally speaks
The 48 invitation-only live bidders (all they allowed into the sale tent) have barely vacated their seats after the auction of 15 cars from the collection of Belgian enthusiast Hubert Fabri. The much-anticipated dispersal was delayed by Covid from a planned high-profile 1 April London date to Hampton Court Palace during the Concours of Elegance. Simon was one of the 48.
The auction was conducted over the telephones and to a select audience of the great and the good at the venue. Regular Gooding auctioneer Charlie Ross was in the hot seat.
For this sale only, the Californians took a tip from the locals and drastically increased buyer’s premium to 15% on the first £500k and 12% on the remainder, to which is added British VAT at 20%. Some cars (see below) were Swiss registered and liable to further duties; bidders had to have their wits – a tax advisor and pocket calculator – about them. That apparent bargain, after adding all the extras, might prove rather less so.
Top-selling car on the night was deservedly the 1934 Bugatti Type 59 ‘road racer’ at £9,535,000. Pending a post-sale deal on the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, the gross was £34,048,900 at a sell-through by number of 93%.
Held in balmy late-evening sunshine, the event was conducted at a good pace (around 1 ½ hours from start to finish) with a garden party atmosphere throughout. It felt fresh, with the genteel but moneyed spirit of a pioneering Brooks Goodwood sale from almost 30 years ago. The peerless Charlie Ross handled the transition from addressing an auditorium to playing to just a long bank of telephone bidders and a handful of live buyers with panache. The format worked, and for similar, sub-20-car collections with some flexibility on reserves could well be repeated. The cars were clearly there to be dispersed, as witnessed by many declared ‘on sale’ at figures short of their lower estimate.
“This is how auctions should be: a great setting, a dedicated team handling proceedings, no pressure and above all many unrepeatable cars from a long-term home which had come to be sold. You couldn’t say 'I’ve already turned down the sister car, I’ll only bid if it’s cheap.' This wasn’t churning dealer stock: it was the day a well-liked collector decided to move on and this was your chance to write the next chapter in his cars’ lives. And not a delivery-mileage supercar in sight.”
Gooding 5 September 2020 Passion of a Lifetime, on-the-night results:
* 1927 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model Sports Tourer‡ (est. £350,000 - 450,000), sold for £300k net, £345k gross. Late-model Red Label with many original parts including chassis and Vanden Plas sports four-seater body: a good example of the classic 3 Litre with old school appeal.
* 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV (est. £1,600,000 - 2,000,000), sold for £2.85m net, £3.207m gross. Built with dry sump engine using parts from the crashed Jota. Older restoration (plus various ‘driver’ modifications in recent years) which would now benefit from re-restoring. Sold to a significant US collector on the telephone against Simon bidding in the room.
* 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America‡ (est. £700,000 - 900,000), sold for £620k net, £709.4k gross. Non-original colour and later-addition bucket seats; desirable left-hand drive; chrome wire wheels claimed fitted after delivery by first owner; a more recent Italian restoration with various improvements – mixed features in a market which has cooled for this model and priced accordingly.
* 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports (est. "In excess of £10m"), sold for £8.5m net, £9.535m gross. The ex-racer famously converted to road use by Bugatti for VIP customer King Leopold of Belgium. Oozing patina and delightful details, this was the star of the show. Impeccable provenance with some of the best collectors having owned it long-term. Less well-known than an Alfa 8C, so one for connoisseurs only. Unique and impossible to value, but in our view well-bought at almost any price. Our Car of the Sale.
* 1924 Lancia Lambda 3rd Series Torpédo‡ (est. £320,000 - 400,000), sold for £340k net, £391k gross. An accessible model that more humbly defines the description ‘connoisseur’; a fantastically useable pre-War Lancia for those in the know.
* 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT‡ (est. £400,000 - 550,000), sold for £330k net, £379.5k gross. A favourite of its owner reflected in the strong estimate. Recent Italian restoration, although non-original colours inside and out probably hurt it. Quirky, advanced, never easy to sell but more interesting than a rival Ferrari 330 and better value.
* 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato (est. £7,000,000 - 9,000,000), the only no sale. Highly original – arguably “requires restoration” – right-hand drive, heavy DB4 seats and no period racing history, but 36 years in Fabri ownership is nice. On the lower rungs of the DB4 GT Zagato ladder. “One more bid” after £6.4m would have bought a car that was fought over by the UK trade.
* 1959 Lancia Flaminia 2500 Sport Zagato‡ (est. £400,000 - 500,000), sold for £270k net, £310.5k gross. Catalogued as one of the 99 early cars, although a last-minute saleroom notice stated it was white with red interior when new, and its faired-in headlamps could not be confirmed as original. After this, sold at the right price to the telephones.
* 1939 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre Cabriolet (est. £450,000 - 600,000), sold for £450 net, £517.5k gross. An elegant Derby Bentley, carrying unusually sporting bodywork by Vanvooren. With replacement crankcase but original supplied. Pleasant to drive but definitely not in vogue with speculators. Who are they going to sell to in five or ten years’ time?
* 1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix (est. "In excess of £3m"), sold for £3.5m net, £3.935m gross. Ex-Targa Florio car and from an originality perspective, probably as good as it gets. For the same reason, perhaps not the car for an historic racer or tour entrant. But the right model in the right condition, described by David Gooding as the “greatest Type 35 we’ve ever offered” and one that generated fast and furious bidding. A new record for a Type 35 at auction.
* 1935 Aston Martin Ulster ex-Prince Bira (est. £1,600,000 - 2,200,000), sold for £1.4m net, £1.583m gross. THE pre-War Aston Martin model, with terrific period history and – at Team Car value++ – an estimate to match, though sensibly sold at market value today to the same telephone buyer as the Derby Bentley and Vauxhall.
* 1924 Vauxhall 30-98 OE-Type Wensum‡ (est. £800,000 - 1,200,000), sold for £1.1m net, £1.247m gross. Hard to explain to the uninitiated you’ve just spent over a million on a car with a badge from a five-door hatchback, nonetheless one of the highlights of the collection, a True Great in the history of the automobile, with lively performance even today. It looked fabulous with this rakish coachwork. Ross was on top form enjoying the contest, chipping in with “shrugging never bought a car” and questioning whether Dawn Gooding’s hesitating telephone bidder had to “count the money in the drawer” before raising the stakes. That clearly worked: the car provided the battle of the evening as several telephone bidders fought to the hammer coming down.
* 1955 Aston Martin DB3S (est. £3,000,000 - 4,000,000), sold for £2.675m net, £3.011m gross. Customer DB3S prepared for historic racing accompanied by original engine on display stand. Attractive estimate part due to having been “wrecked at Bathurst and placed in static storage” from 1960 to 1970, partly a result of overload in the classic Aston market. Still a lovely event car and sold to the UK trade looking for bargains after a lone private UK bidder pitched in at £2.65m but then lost his nerve.
* 1919 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle Tourer‡ (est. £1,000,000 - 1,400,000), sold for £900k net, £1.023m gross. The sporting face of early 20th Century Rolls ownership, the nearest the company came to matching arch-rival Bentley for performance. Pre-WW1 models are worth more; body catalogued “in the style of” so replica. Highly eligible for the best events. Its restoration at a UK specialist totalled some £900k alone.
* 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante ex-Earl Howe (est. "In excess of £7m"), sold for £7m net, £7.855m gross. Sold by Bonhams as a barn-find to the current owner for €3,417,500 at Rétromobile in 2009, it has since been discreetly restored and driven enthusiastically some 10,000 miles across Europe. Supercharged soon after production. Bidding on the car – described by David Gooding as “his favourite” – started at £5m and quickly jumped to £7m. Few better sum-up Hubert Fabri’s ethos of using his cars come what may – we live in hope that the new owner maintains this tradition.
‡ Swiss-registered cars liable to additional customs duties.
Gooding & Company at Hampton Court, 5 September 2020 – provisional results
Total gross cars: £34,048,900
Number of cars not sold: 1
Number of cars withdrawn: 0
Total number of cars: 15
Number sold: 14
Percentage cars sold by number: 93%
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 75%
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 57%
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 71%
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 21%
Average value of cars sold: £2,432,064
Average year of cars offered: 1942
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 0%
Photos by James Brown for K500