The 2023 Concours of Elegance auction: Gooding at Hampton Court
With English auctioneer Charlie Ross in top form last Friday, the California firm showed what European collectors unable to make the trip to Monterey had missed.
Taking an opening bid of £30k on the sizeable 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Shooting Brake, Ross declared: “Per inch, that would be the cheapest car in the world!” Aside from the funnies and warm-hearted repartee with bidders in the tent and over the telephones, in testing conditions Ross showed his vast experience at the rostrum by magicking bids from nowhere to get cars over the line.
A prime example was the 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, est. £1.3m to £1.5m and struggling below £1m, finally hammered at £1,600,000, or £1,800,000 with the auction’s across-the-board 12.5% buyer’s premium.
That said, despite the talismanic Gooding auctioneer’s expertise and pleasant, late-afternoon sunshine, it was a quiet day for the Santa Monica-based company that grossed nearly $100m at 80% sold-by-number only a fortnight ago during Monterey Week.
At a glance:
* Gross, motor cars: £9,819,438 (2022, £22,811,938)
* Percentage sold by number: 55% (2022, 79%)
* Top-selling car: 1953 Ferrari 166 MM/53 Spider (pictured, below) £2,531,250 gross, £2,250,000 net (est. £2.5m to £2.75m)
An old-fashioned air to the catalogue that lacked a sure-fire headliner of appeal to modern tastes and subdued trading conditions in Europe explain the low-key results. Moving the sale to the Friday was probably a good decision as it is the main day of serious action at the world-class event.
New realism from pragmatic sellers let the 1931 Bentley Eight Litre Folding Head Coupé (£825k to £1.25M) loose for a modest £787,500 and the 1961 Jaguar E-type Series I 3.8-Litre Roadster (£900k to £1.2m) for £911,250. The latter’s still healthy price is a reflection of its provenance as fourth RHD E-type Roadster built and time spent in the hands of Jaguar team manager and MD ‘Lofty’ England. The accompanying 3.8 FHC, RHD chassis ‘number one’, did not sell. The quintessential late-era Cricklewood Bentley looked the part but belongs to a sector in retreat in 2023.
The two 1950s Ferraris also came from a corner of the market more specialised than previously but sold well, on estimate for the 1954 250 GT Europa (£1,508,750, ca. $1.9m) and just below for the 1953 Ferrari 166 MM/53 Spider, a car offered directly from 63 years of continuous ownership. Working on rough, on-the-day exchange rates, its £2,531,250 equates to around $3.2m. This is probably the area these rare historic cars are in now, tellingly just over half the price of a more modern F50, of which 349 were built.
No Reserve worked its magic with the first motor car lot of the sale, the 1927 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model Sports Tourer. Bids came so fast the auctioneer told some to “Wait your turn!”. In the end, it sold over low estimate for £264,375 (ca. $334k), the right place for buyer and seller alike. The red 1936 Squire 1 1/2 Litre Lightweight has been on the market forever and finally found a new owner at a generous £562,500. All prices gross.
Non-sellers included the 1955 Fiat 8V Berlinetta (a lovely thing but probably too expensive), 1959 AC Ace Bristol (ditto) and 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta (red/black, and nothing special other than its ultra-low mileage). Touring-bodied Aston Martin DB2/4 Spiders are auction-tent perennials, and this one by Bertone went home despite its status as arguably the best-looking of the lot. Given today’s appetite for limited-edition 911s, it was curious that the one-of-13 2012 Club Coupé in unique ‘Family Green’ did not find a buyer.
As an exercise in the craft of auctioneering Gooding’s latest Hampton Court event was a masterclass, a triumph sadly not reflected – with exceptions – in the results.
Gooding & Co at Hampton Court Concours of Elegance, 1 September 2023 – results (2022)
Total gross cars: £9,819,438 (£22,811,938)
Number of cars not sold: 21 (8)
Number of cars withdrawn: 1 (1)
Total number of cars: 47 (39)
Number sold: 26 (31)
Percentage cars sold by number: 55% (79%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 37% (60%)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 69% (61%)
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 88% (74%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 4% (10%)
Average value of cars sold: £377,671 (£735,869)
Average year of cars offered: 1958 (1953)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 34% (36%)
Photos by K500 (top) and James Brown