The Market


Viva Las Vegas: RM grosses $52.7m at ‘fun capital of the world’

Viva Las Vegas: RM grosses $52.7m at ‘fun capital of the world’ 18th November 2023

“I mean, what do you think we're doing out here in the middle of the desert? It's all this money.” Robert De Niro as Sam Rothstein in Scorsese’s 1995 motion picture Casino. Canadian firm RM hit the jackpot in Vegas this weekend by selling an ex-Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 car on Friday for $18.8m.

The car was estimated at $10m to $15m and the result comfortably beats the CHF 14,630,000 (ca. $14,880,000) achieved in November 2022 by the ex-Schumacher 2003 Ferrari F2003 GA in a single-lot event also conducted by RM. It must surely be the highest price ever paid for a modern Grand Prix car.

As a comparison, Bonhams sold an ex-Fangio 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 GP car for the equivalent of $29.6m in 2013, about $39m today. So given time the recent car, “the sole example to be sold outside of the Mercedes organisation”, could prove a wise investment. The fact that it was run in the final season of non-hybrid, naturally aspirated, ‘pure’ V8 engines is surely a plus. The bar-room doubters might say, “they all look the same, what’s the big deal about this one?” But they’re unlikely to have $18.8m at their disposal.

At a glance:

* Gross, motor cars: $52,741,500
* Percentage sold by number: 84%
* Top-selling car: 2013 Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 W04 $18,815,000 gross, $17,100,000 net (est. $10m to $15m)

Outside the stellar result for the modern Silver Arrow, it was a typical late-2023 auction. Eighty per cent of lots that sold were bought below low estimate. Significant non-sales on the day included both LaFerraris (a coupé and Aperta) and the Mercedes CLK Coupé. The CLK GTR Roadster went under low estimate for $10,235,000. Other modern supercars from the same British owner, already offered to the trade, did not sell.

There were not many older classics, but the catalogue included a mostly (not gearbox) matching numbers, unspectacular US-spec 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster in as-delivered Strawberry Red metallic that was bought for a market-correct $1,215,000.

Perhaps the modern F1 audience was too young to appreciate an iconic model from the late-1980s, as the 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC AMG 6.0 'Wide-Body' (est. $700k to $900k) was hammered sold at $375,000, or $417,500 with premium. It was No Reserve, as was the 2021 McLaren Elva with just 93 miles recorded that went for $1,517,500 all-in, some $500k below low estimate. New, the cars were some $1.7m and this one came with more than $102,000 in options.

Still, as Elvis sang in his 1964 musical film, there is a “A fortune won and lost on ev'ry deal / All you need's a strong heart and a nerve of steel.” Someone paid $1.39m for a shirt worn and signed by Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that went for some $350k under its lower guide but, as Presley in the role of Lucky Jackson said: “It's only money”.

RM Sotheby’s at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, 17 November 2023 – results

Total gross cars: $52,741,500
Number of cars not sold: 5
Number of cars withdrawn: 0
Total number of cars: 32
Number sold: 27
Percentage cars sold by number: 84%
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 63%
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 81%
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 93%
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 7%
Average value of cars sold: $1,953,389
Average year of cars offered: 2003
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 75%

Photo by RM Sotheby’s