Market Insight: The Gloves are Off in Paris
March 2011

Market Insight: The Gloves are Off in Paris

For a different perspective, we invited respected US auction analyst Dave Kinney to give us his take on the first major European auctions of the year which saw newly invigorated Artcurial going head-to-head with established player Bonhams, resulting in a few surprises:

The auction sales surrounding the Retromobile event last month in Paris were best both described as an outstanding success. 

French house Artcurial, whose sale was held in the same complex of exhibition halls as the Retromobile event, went first with a Friday evening sale.  Of the 102 cars on offer, 79 sold, a 78% sales rate.  The total sales are reported as €7,900,000, which includes approximately €150,000 of motorcycles.  Last year’s results were roughly €2,270,000 with 24 of 47 cars on offer sold, a 51% sales rate.  With just twice as many cars, well over three times the Euro amount was achieved, a remarkable achievement as well as a continued sign of a healthy marketplace. 

Highlights of the sale included a 1962 Ferrari 250GTE 2+2 that brought €117,900 - possibly a new record - and was sold to well-known enthusiast Jay Kay of the rock group Jamiroquai.  A 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster changed hands for €417,000 while a 1931 Invicta Type LS 4.5-litre “low chassis” with unique coupe bodywork brought €535,000 and was sold to a U.S. buyer.  High sale of the day, however, went to a 1937 Bugatti Type 57C bodied post-factory as an Atalante, which sold for a healthy €580,000.

Elegant Ferrari 2+2 went to pop royalty Elegant Ferrari 2+2 went to pop royalty
Unique coupe bodied Invicta S-type heads to USA Unique coupe bodied Invicta S-type heads to USA

The following day, Bonhams held a sale at what just might be the world’s most impressive auction venue ever, the Grand Palais in the heart of ParisBonhams’ results, which also include a small amount dedicated to motorcycles are expected to be at the €9,600,000 mark. 

A Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix owned by the fifth Baron Raglan, Fitzroy John Somerset, brought €943,000 and was acquired by a private French collector.  Lord Raglans’s 1930 Bugatti Type 46 Cabriolet with Figoni coachwork sold for €333,500.  Other interesting highlights include the sale of King Baudouin of Belgium’s Aston Martin DB2/4, a sports saloon that made a world record price for the model: €333,500

Last year’s results were slightly more than half of this year’s sales total, again reflecting not only continued interest in classic automobiles but also a renewed awareness of investor quality automobiles in the marketplace. 

Dave Kinney is a Senior member of the American Society of Appraisers and is based in Great Falls, Virginia in the United States.  His writings on automotive valuations appear regularly in Automobile, AutoWeek, Hagerty and Octane Magazines.  Mr. Kinney is also the publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, formally Hagerty’s Cars That Matter.

Stunning restoration of this T46; sold for €632,500 Stunning restoration of this T46; sold for €632,500
Detail is everything: this T46 not as rakish nor as shiny, so half price Detail is everything: this T46 not as rakish nor as shiny, so half price

Editors comment:

The gauntlet was thrown down when ex-Bonhams man Matthieu Lamoure defected to French auction house Artcurial and took the prized Retromobile sale with him, leaving Bonhams scrambling to find a new auction site. The Grand Palais didn’t disappoint; not surprising as it’s probably also the world’s most expensive auction venue.

When the rival catalogues arrived they were of door stop thickness, although some commented that there wasn’t much to excite the more jaded palate. Pick up a top auction catalogue from ten years ago and you’ll realize how much harder it’s become to find the best cars and bring them to auction, arguably as so many of them are now tucked away in world class collections. But we digress…

Artcurial’s headline Bugatti 57C, described as an Atalante but infact sold new as a chassis to a circus owner who, probably to save money, fitted it privately with a second hand Atalante body, had seen better days and, two engine swaps and one missing supercharger later, found a new home. For the man who doesn’t mind explaining its history every time it’s shown, it was a bargain Bug.

Gallic double act Matthieu Lamoure and Herve Poulain rev up a Dino Gallic double act Matthieu Lamoure and Herve Poulain rev up a Dino
Scruffy Bugatti '57C Atalante': missing the 'C' and didn't leave Bugatti as an Atalante, but otherwise... Scruffy Bugatti '57C Atalante': missing the 'C' and didn't leave Bugatti as an Atalante, but otherwise...

Another interesting curio was a low chassis Invicta; its rather upright coupé coachwork probably explains why they only made one, although it’s a fascinating alternative to the ubiquitous Carbodies tourer. The €417,000 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, a drum braked model in not-ideal-for-resale red, confirmed that SLs seem to be enjoying their moment in the limelight.

Across town at Bonhams, the well-publicised Bugatti Type 51 had a colourful history which made Artcurial’s 57C look positively virginal: helped by three decades in the stable of aristocratic Bugattiste par excellence Lord Raglan, it brought about a third of the price of an untouched Type 51- if such a thing exists anymore. His Lordship’s Bugatti Type 46, probably now ripe for some TLC, went to a buyer in the Low Countries whilst the Veth & Zoon bodied Type 46- fresh from some £300,000 of TLC and ready for the concours lawn- achieved mid-estimate and suggests that the Petite Royale has finally emerged from the shadows of its more overtly sporting sisters.

Surely the landmark result of the weekend, though, has to be the price paid for the Aston Martin DB2/4 originally owned by King Baudoin of Belgium. Proof that Belgian Aston fanciers are particularly patriotic? We don’t know- it was bought by a German.

Ex-Raglan T51: cheap thrills Ex-Raglan T51: cheap thrills
€333,500 is new world record for ex-Belgian King's Aston €333,500 is new world record for ex-Belgian King's Aston

Despite modest expectations this turned out to be a relatively successful weekend, but are there enough top drawer motor cars out there to support two rival Paris auctions during the same event? As they say here with a Gallic shrug: “On verra…”

Et finalement, France's answer to Benny Hill... Et finalement, France's answer to Benny Hill...