The Market


RM’s new Cliveden House sale grosses £7.9m

RM’s new Cliveden House sale grosses £7.9m 13th June 2024

The UK team of Canadian giant RM Sotheby’s made a solid start yesterday to a new auction conducted at the Italianate mansion, now a luxury hotel, Cliveden House. Set on the banks of the River Thames with easy access to London, Heathrow airport and the motorway system, the location ticks all the boxes. Trading was a little subdued, though, with neither the headlining Ferrari 250 GT SWB nor the Bugatti Veyron finding new owners on the day. Sell-through was a still respectable 72%.

Although certified by Ferrari Classiche in 2013, the steel 250 GT SWB (est. £5m to £6m) was only a – being generous – ‘medium-level’ example. Blame early history as an unusual ‘wedge’ special by Drogo in the late 1960s, then conversion to a GTO replica in the ’80s before a return to SWB-type bodywork in alloy in the ’90s, then rebodied again, this time finally in steel by Bacchelli & Villa in Italy in 2009. In between, the car had been raced extensively in historic events. It’s currently in a correct silver-grey but with red (not original black) interior and has go-faster mods such as headrests and full racing harnesses.

In today’s discerning, “must have the best one” trading conditions, without No Reserve that benefitted the similar car fire-saled after a fatal accident by Artcurial in Monaco last month this one was always a going to be a tough sell.

At a glance:

* Gross, motor cars: £7,856,313
* Percentage sold by number: 72%
* Top-selling car: 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS £1,242,500 gross, £1,100,000 net (est. £1.3m to £1.6m)
* Well sold? A nothing special (other than blue paintwork) Ferrari 512 TR with 29,192 miles and “a succession of owners since this car’s first registration in 1993” that achieved £224,250, comfortably beating upper estimate
* Well bought? New realism in the Porsche 356 Carrera market meant someone was able to buy the 1956 356 A 1500 GS Speedster with a matching-numbers engine – but non-original red interior and aftermarket Rudge wheels – for £725,000. Est. £750k to £950k

Preview morning and the auction itself were busy with the London trade out in force. To borrow from PG Wodehouse, it has never been difficult to distinguish between a dealer not selling cars and a ray of sunshine. Transactions are slow, so other than the 20 or so entries in at No Reserve – many of which were punished – there were few cheap pickings for the pros.

The leading 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS, like so many of its ilk, had travelled all over the world during its life and the left-hand-drive car was not presented in its original colours. The body-off restoration 2016-2017 was completed by respected firm GTO Engineering and a Red Book issued shortly afterwards that noted its replacement gearbox. In view of all this, £1,242,500 all-in, or roughly $1.6m, was not a bad price at a quiet event.

In better times the brace of high quality ‘DB’ Aston Martins – DB5 Convertible, DB4 Special Series Convertible – would have sold. However, both needed proper money spending on them with the best UK specialists; the estimates were just too high. The DB5 Saloon was a typical ‘owners’ car maintained by no one of note and sold at today’s money for £432,500. The 1982 V8 Vantage 6.3 had interesting first owner history in the hands of Phil Collins’ manager Tony Smith and was delivered new in funky Madagascar Brown. It was bought for £207,000, the price a reflection of a colour change, odd rear wing profile and the car falling into the middle ground of V8 Vantage production: neither an early ‘flip tail’ nor a final-edition ‘X-Pack’. It needed work.

Other results of note:

* 1963 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso by Fantuzzi, £1,130,000. Considering this car’s unusual one-off nose by Fantuzzi fitted early in its life, the later addition of ‘GTO vents’ in the UK and a coat of red paint surely visible from outer space, not a bad figure, if several £100k off an original car.
* 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Open Tourer by Tony Townshend, Not Sold. With election fever coursing through the UK, it was no surprise to see a pair of ‘Nigel Farage-spec’, Le Mans-rep Cricklewood Bentleys complete with big union flags at Cliveden. This one lost its deposit; the similar car did get someone’s vote and sold for £488,750.
* 1965 AC Cobra Mk III 427 S/C Continuation, £232,813. Lot of money for a copy.
* 2018 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Speedster, Not Sold. A regular on today’s auction circuit and, like most, went home unsold. The new 'Daytona' Shooting Break.
* 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon by H.J. Mulliner, £511,250. A nice example, but that is what these cars sell for now.
* 1988 Lamborghini LM002, £342,500. Rambo Lambo storms through £275k upper estimate.
* 1929 Bentley 6½-Litre Sedanca de Ville by H.J. Mulliner, £404,375. More like it and sold accordingly: the 1929 Olympia Motor Show car.
* 1966 Bristol 409, £11,500. A good example of the flipside of No Reserve at auction. Est. £25k to £35k – hammered at £10k.

Prior to the Motor Cars, ex-Bonhams senior auctioneer Malcolm Barber conducted a sale of automobilia including many items from the collections of former F1 champion Nigel Mansell and connoisseur of note Terry J Cardy. With Barber's (and James Knight’s) protégé Sholto Gilbertson on the rostrum for the cars, it was like the old days at Bonhams in the 2010s.

A good effort by RM at the ideal venue, somewhat held back by a European business climate very different from that on the other side of the Atlantic. There will be calls for an associated concours next year, but to this writer the simplicity of just a straightforward, easily accessible summer auction has many merits.

All prices quoted include buyer’ premium.

RM Sotheby’s at Cliveden House, 12 June 2024 – results

Total gross cars: £7,856,313
Number of cars not sold: 17
Number of cars withdrawn: 0
Total number of cars: 60
Number sold: 43
Percentage cars sold by number: 72%
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 31%
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 72%
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 86%
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 9%
Average value of cars sold: £182,705
Average year of cars offered: 1971
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 37%

Photos by K500