Market Latest
August 2007

Market Latest

Since our last update RM’s Maranello and Bonhams’ Monaco sales have come and gone, both with their fair share of new market highs. These included over €1 million paid for Edsel Ford’s yellow Ferrari Daytona at RM after a battle between two determined bidders (“the new benchmark”, a German dealer whispered in my ear as the hammer fell, but then again he does own one) and an equally staggering €753,000 paid by a Swiss collector for the exquisite Ghia ‘Supersonica’ bodied Jaguar XK120 in Monaco. I wonder what Jaguar supremo Sir William Lyons thought of it, but it was certainly striking and if you liked it (I did) you weren’t likely to find another.

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Left: The tension rises at RM’s Maranello sale as bidders duke it out to own the Le Mans winning 330TRI.

Right: Edsel Ford was in the audience at RM to witness his Giallo Fly Daytona Spyder set a new record.

Aston Martins have been attracting a great deal of interest recently. When a respected dealer offered a mint, black DB5 Vantage convertible (the Volante name only came in with the DB6) a few months ago for £385,000, most potential buyers raised their eyebrows at the price, but it now seems good value after a Middle Eastern collector paid £430,500 for a Works Service restored Aston Martin DB6 Mk2 Volante (not even a Vantage) at Bonhams’ Newport Pagnell auction. Alas, the aforementioned DB5 is sold too. Down in Monaco days later a well presented DBS, for years the unloved member of Aston’s exclusive family, broke all previous records when it sold for €103,500- some three times the estimate- confirming that buyers are looking further afield now that the ‘blue chip’ models (in Aston’s case the DB4-5-6 series) are beyond the reach of many. It also shows that buyers are increasingly aware of the cost of properly restoring a car, as we are seeing in the growing difference in value between either mint, restored or superbly preserved cars and the rest. You don’t find many dealers commissioning full restorations of their cars, which should give you a clue if you’re wondering whether a cheaper, average car or an expensive, fully restored one is better value. Think about it.

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Left: Ready for take off: a Swiss and Middle Eastern bidder push up the price of the Supersonica bodied XK120 in Monaco.

Right: The world’s first million dollar Lusso at Christie’s?

Watch out next month for the Monterey sales. These, even more than the Arizona auctions in January, tend to set the mood amongst the trade and many of the most influential, big name collectors for the rest of the year. Christie’s are first up, on 16th August, with a sale at Monterey airport’s private jet centre headlined by the ex-Steve McQueen Ferrari 250GT Lusso. With an estimate hovering around $1 million, it’s already contributed to a flurry of activity as savvy buyers move to snap up other Lussos in anticipation. It’s telling, though, that these days Christie’s are pinning their hopes on a Lusso- less than a decade ago nothing less than a $3m car would have sufficed.

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Left: Dazzle your friends with this Delahaye on offer at Bonhams in Monterey.

Right: “K.I.T.T, set a course for Monterey…some car guys there need our help!”.

The following evening Bonhams will open their tent at the chic Quail Lodge resort with a mixed assortment of cars to suit all tastes…even if your taste runs to 1980s TV series like Knight Rider. Forget fancy Ferraris; you can be confident that no other collector in your area will own a car which pays him compliments, knows the answer to any obscure question and can even drive itself home after a heavy night out (jumping obstacles on the way). Best of all, as it’s disguised to look like a second hand Pontiac Firebird it won’t attract the attention of the tax man or ex-wives. Yes, K.I.T.T. can be yours at Quail Lodge, estimate $60,000-80,000. Compared to its original 1982 build cost ($11,400,000 we were told as eager teenagers) it seems a bargain.

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Left: Dashboard might have impressed '80s blondes but now has less computing power than a Blackberry…

Right: Lamborghini Miura SV at Russo and Steele: before…

Not to be outdone, showmen Russo & Steele are offering ‘one of’ the original Batmobiles from the 1992 film sequel, Batman Returns, which is described with typical understatement as “One of the worlds most famous and unique automobiles and truly one of the rarest and most desired collectibles imaginable!”. Drivers preferring normal attire to tights might opt for the 300SL on offer (expert description: “What can you say about a '55 Gullwing, but WOW!”) or a 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV which sat for most of its life as a wreck after a crash in the 1970s (“spent only three of its 28-year life on the road”).

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Left: …and $250,000 later.

Right: The chocolate heiress’ wheels: Miss Mars’ Duesie at RM.

Canadian outfit RM will, as usual, be taking over the Monterey Plaza hotel downtown on Friday and Saturday through the night, “offering over 200 of the world's finest motorcars, many at no reserve.” A highlight of this marathon event will be the supercharged Duesenberg Model J town car by Bohman and Schwartz, a glorious, swooping black sedanca de ville which was originally built for Mars Bars heiress Ethel Mars and would look perfectly at home in a 1940s Hollywood film noir. Estimated at $2.3-3m, I expect that RM’s usual Duesenberg buyer will have plenty of competition on this one. It’s good to see Duesies coming back into fashion with a new, younger generation of enthusiasts and driving one is a great workout too.

Last but not least, the youthful David Gooding has chosen this year to extend his Pebble Beach auction over two evenings, giving him time to sell property from various collections including those of the late Greg Garrison (see our last market report) and Richard J Solove. In an act of generosity which is sure to loosen the purse strings of buyers, Mr Solove has donated his entire collection to various cancer charities who will receive the sales proceeds. Have a look at the amazing selection of Silver Ghosts- even if you’re not a vintage or Rolls-Royce enthusiast, it’s hard to believe these beautiful cars are almost 100 years old. Undoubtedly the most important car in this sale (if not the most valuable), and arguably of the weekend, will be the 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux La Marquise, the oldest running automobile in the world. No estimate has been published but recent auction results (including Christie’s steam powered car at Retromobile) suggest that it will sell rather faster than it drives.

For each future market report we plan to ask a top expert to give his or her opinion on current trends. This month I’ve asked Keith Martin, editor of the authoritative US magazine Sports Car Market, to share his views with us:

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Keith Martin, Publisher, Sports Car Market magazine, www.sportscarmarket.com

The market continues to surprise, with prices of blue-chip sports and exotics reaching and surpassing the extraordinary levels of 1991 on a near-daily basis.

And as the top-flight cars, such as Maserati A6GCS and Ferrari 250 SWBs continue to accelerate, we are now seeing the first signs that the far lesser cars, such as Maserati 3500GTs and even unloved Ferrari Boxers, are beginning to be caught up in the froth.

Why are prices are going up so rapidy? The answer is threefold. First and most obviously, the euro and the pound are tremendously strong at the moment, so nearly every European sale result comes back to us reported in cheap American dollars. If the dollar were trading at $1.10 to the Euro, the picture would not have the same look.

Second, collector cars have been undervalued since the crash of 1991. "Avocational" collectors have simply avoided cars altogether until approximatley five years ago, when prices began their uptick. As with any collectible, once a few collectors started buying and prices started rising, other collectors jumped onto the bandwagon. As prices continued to rise and collectors gained confidence in the "new" prices, their wariness changed to enthusiasm, and now the fear is, "If I don't buy today, it will cost much more tomorrow."

And finally, to echo what others have said, there is a new, widespread global wealth that is unprecedented in modern times. As countries like Russia, China, India and even Venezuela mint new million- and billionaires, these guys want to be players in a variety of arenas. And a part of the way you establish yourself is to buy the best-of-the-best (this echoes the spending sprees of the Microsoft and Cellular One gang 15 years ago). So for private treaty and auction sales, it's no longer the same old buyers and sellers - there are new guys in the room, they have unlimited checkbooks, and they are not afraid to spend. For a seller, this is a very happy development.

For buyers, it means that the money that would have bought you a top-tier collectible five years ago will get you a second or third best today.

Buys:

Any Ferrari 250. Period. As values rise, strangely, condition becomes LESS important because the value of the car will support an expenditure to make it top-flight. However, provenance and authenticity are MORE important than ever.

Jaguar V12 convertibles. Ponderous but interesting, prices finally climbing. Fully and properly restored only.

Maserati Ghiblis. The best-driving of the early Masers, with competent performance. 4.9 SS models not worth the added value the market wants to get for them.

Alfa Romeo Giulia and Giulietta Spiders. Probably the best kept secret of all the pocket-rocket sports cars. For proper, restored cars, prices have doubled in the past two years.

Holds:

65 - 66 Shelby Mustang GT 350s. They've had a massive runup, and they're resting now.

67-69 Camaro Z/28s. Same as above. Prices above $85,000 simply not sustainable over time, given huge production numbers.

Sells:

Any American muscle car that had a production run of over 250; any muscle car that has a cloudy or admittedly bitsa provenance.

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Left: Playboy racer : ex-Le Mans Ferrari California Spyder at RM.

Right: Courtesy of Sports Car Market Magazine - 2007 Monterey Special.

And finally, we invite you to read these 2 articles which will appear in the next edition of Sports Car Market Magazine and should interest anyone who owns - or would like to own - a valuable collectors car (or a garage full of them).

Sports Car Market Magazine - Ketih Martin's Shifting Gears

Sports Car Market Magazine - Automotive Investor