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From Maranello to Monte Carlo — Behind the auction headlines

By Simon Kidston

While the popular press has been busy reporting the new record price paid for a car at auction, it's barely raised an eyebrow among car collectors. The fact that more than two decades have passed since Christie's sold a Bugatti Royale for more than ten million dollars shows just how seldom really 'big ticket' cars make it to auction, and how rarely bidders raise their paddles for them in public.

Ferrari 500 Superfast we tipped in last newsletter attracted strongest bidding
Ferrari 350 CanAm/ P4 sounded glorious but owner declined the top bid

But this time there's little doubt that one very serious collector has braved the tide to pay $12,402,000 for a genuine, 'no stories' (good or bad) Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa at RM's auction in Maranello: a new world record in the midst of a global financial crisis, but at some 20% below the lower auction estimate (and less than it changed hands for in a recent private sale) the US bidder decided it was a good deal, and time will probably prove him right. 

Only two of the other ten 'feature' lots at RM's Ferrari auction found new homes on the block: the 250GT LWB California Spyder had covered headlights and some early race history and sold at $2,911,563 which fits in neatly with recent comparables, whilst the early 250GT Tour de France berlinetta (unsold in Monterey last year and almost not present here following an off-road excursion during a pre-auction demonstration) was good value for a historied and MM eligible 'TdF' at $3,176,250. Dealers who had consigned cars were noticeably more pragmatic here than private sellers at letting them go when they got close to reserve.

Fair price: $2.9m for lovely LWB California Spyder
Hastily repaired early Tour de France was good value at $3.2m

Monte Carlo boasts rather more glitz than Maranello, but Bonhams' auction there was a much lower key affair focusing on a broader range of marques and price levels- although the feature cars were Ferraris here too. Top seller was one of two ex-works Ferrari F40LMs built (the new weapon of choice for the Ferrari Challenge) headed Stateside at $1,302,075 followed by a Porsche 906 with British history ($782,325) and a works-built Ferrari 575GTC racer, good value at $500,175: just half what the seller paid Ferrari for it back in 2003... The Ferrari 333SP didn't sell.

Formidable, 850bhp F40 LM: $1.3 million at Bonhams Monaco
Young enthusiast snapped up Porsche 906 for $782,000

Below you'll find US auction reporter Rick Carey's tables summarising the results from Maranello and Monaco at a glance. We calculate that RM sold 66% (rising to 75% post-auction) of the Lots of offer, or 38% of the total value offered; Bonhams sold 50% (rising to 65% post auction) of their Lots, or 45% of the total value offered.

What was fresh to the market and represented the best available found willing buyers; what wasn't, either sold on price or went home. It looks like a standoff as wavering "don't need to sell" owners and cautious buyers peer at each other across the auction rooms: the Pebble Beach results this August may bring some entente cordiale...

Photos courtesy: Eddie Coll, Massini AG, RM Auctions.