The Market


RM in London 2023: £13.3m gross at 70% sold by number

RM in London 2023: £13.3m gross at 70% sold by number 5th November 2023

Taking a snapshot of the results published a day after the Canadian giant’s latest end-of-year London auction, the figures show a gross so far of £13,295,650. Seven out of ten motor cars in the catalogue found new homes.

New-for-2023 signing Sholto Gilbertson was at the rostrum for the entire event, starting with offering a once-in-a-lifetime collection of memorabilia from the family of the late World Champion Graham Hill. Son Damon, another World Champion, was in the tent to see in excess of £470,000 paid for the 59 lots, all entered at No Reserve.

A highlight was Hill’s late-period Bell full-face helmet with peak (a Hill Snr. trademark, est. £20k to £30k) selling for £138,000 with premium.

The motor cars started at just after 4pm and the sale finished some four hours later, Gilbertson handling bids from the internet, telephones and the room with dexterity. It was entertaining and did not drag.

Lacking the firepower of last year’s catalogue – 19 modern supercars totalling £21.3m alone – in overall terms this year’s auction was always going to be a step backwards. Given today’s less friendly economic backdrop and a palpable sense of apprehension in the tent pre-sale, the results were pretty good.

The downsides were poor prices achieved for mostly average quality cars – 81% of cars sold below low estimate – and only an adequate sell-through-by-number of 70%. The fact that so many were bought by the UK trade proves not only that were there bargains to be had, but also that hard-headed dealers have confidence in the market in at least the medium term.

At a glance:

* Gross, motor cars: £13,295,650 (2022, £27,194,125)
* Percentage sold by number: 70% (2022, 82%)
* Top-selling car: 1994 Ferrari 512 TR Spider £2,226,875 gross, £1,975,000 net (est. £2.1m to £2.7m)
* Well sold? ‘Barn-find’ 1933 Mercedes-Benz 370 S Mannheim Sport Cabriolet achieving £280,625 all-in against a £150k to £180k estimate.
* Well bought? 1970 brown (naturally…) Aston Martin DB6 Mk 2 Vantage purchased post-sale for £210,000 gross. A Kuwaiti car, so factor in customs duties, registration hassles and recommissioning costs, but still – this was one of the better examples of its ilk. And, as a Mk 2, rare, with desirable power steering as standard.

The headlining Testarossa Spider was sold to a telephone bidder. One of three cars originally built by Ferrari and Pininfarina for the Sultan of Brunei (though two were bought by the Singapore dealer who retained this one for himself), like similar commissions completed by Aston Martin and Bentley, it was slightly disappointing when seen in the metal: not quite the beautifully finished artisanal piece one expected. There were others: Artcurial sold the most celebrated, Gianni Agnelli’s own silver TR Spider, for €1,210,080 in 2016.

The runner-up 1990 F40, an early European ‘cat, non-adjust’ car had nothing special going for it and, with 20,967km recorded, was possibly bought as a ‘driver’ to accompany a zero-miles garage queen. It sold for £1,962,500, say $2.45m on the day. Est. £1.9m to £2.1m. The poor history, wrong colour 300 SL Gullwing did not sell.

Other results of note (all prices gross):

* 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Coupé Series II, £325,625. Non-original colours, a life spent travelling around the world that included a long period as a home garage restoration in the US, and only recently enjoying high quality work by an internationally recognised marque expert in the UK– does not sound too good, does it? Hence selling £90k below low estimate.
* 1952 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback, Not Sold. Once the best, fastest and most expensive four-seaters in the world, this one looked out of place in late 2023 and attracted no meaningful bids.
* 1969 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 'Daytona', £477,500 (ca. $595k). A RHD ‘Plexi’ car delivered new in Rosso Bordeaux Dino by Alain de Cadenet who drove it from Maranello for the Hon. Michael Pearson (Viscount Cowdray). Subsequent owners included Neil Corner and Hon. Patrick Lindsay. Later crashed by a young blade making a name for himself in the classic car auction business (don't worry, he’s done OK since) whilst delivering it to a client. British motor racing aristocracy, all. But will these names resonate with today’s buyers? Unwise decision not to properly repaint it pre-sale from unloved Rosso Corsa did not help its cause. Sold to the UK trade.
* 1963 Aston Martin DB4 Convertible, Not Sold. Kuwait again, sole DB4C originally fitted with DB4 GT engine but now non-matching. Shiny, no personality and too expensive.
* 1968 Ferrari Dino 206 GT (above), £421,250 (ca.$525k). Under lights in the tent the normally beguiling Rosso Dino looked unremarkable, and car was missing its correct leatherette and towelling interior. Very expensive to restore so sold well.
* 1969 Jaguar E-type Series 2 4.2-Litre Roadster, £57,500. Bargain basement ‘E’ suffering from No Reserve and no bidders.
* 1963 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso, £1,186,250. Bought cheaply by UK trade. Restoration by discredited firm in Essex, rather than a family business in Emilia Romagna, surely one of the reasons for the price.
* 1963 Aston Martin DB5 'Project', £342,500. Kuwait yet again. Non-matching engine held UK trade back on it and will limit its resale value in 3/4 years’ time after – we hope – a proper specialist restoration.
* 1965 Aston Martin DB5, Not sold. Yes, you guessed it. A car restored by a British specialist to a high standard with original Connolly interior, sold to the consignor who commissions a cheap retrim in poor quality leather. Vibrant original Fiesta Red and comedy Sumitomo radials complete the picture.

RM will breathe a sigh of relief that this auction was negotiated without too many dramas. Next stop in Europe is Munich on 25 November. They did well there last year – let’s see what a tougher market environment does to their chances this time round.

We have mentioned Middle Eastern Astons here and throughout the year. Watch out for a K500 special in the coming days on the subject.

STOP PRESS: At 8 November 2023 RM declared three further lots as simply 'Sold'. This brings the sell-through up to 75%.

RM Sotheby’s in London, 4 November 2023 - results

Total gross cars: £13,295,650 (£27,194,125)
Number of cars not sold: 18 (9)
Number of cars withdrawn: 0 (1)
Total number of cars: 61 (49)
Number sold: 43 (40)
Percentage cars sold by number: 70% (82%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 50% (57%)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 81% (63%)
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 91% (78%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 7% (13%)
Average value of cars sold: £309,201 (£679,853)
Average year of cars offered: 1972 (1982)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve:  38% (20%)

Photos by K500