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RM Automobiles of London — The Insider's View

What a difference one Aston makes. This time last year the entire world media's attention focused on RM's Automobiles of London auction, eagerly awaiting a new record price for a motor car when the gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 used by Sean Connery in two big screen appearances as 007 came under the hammer. The final result may have been an anticlimax but it tempted almost every other would-be classic Aston Martin seller to try their luck in the same auction and RM won't have been disappointed with the business it earned them. Auctioneers know the feature car doesn't always have to sell for it to serve a purpose.

This year was very different. RM have been bringing their blend of showmanship and fast talking to London since 2007 and it's not easy to maintain momentum once the novelty wears off, but they've done a pretty good job of it. Keen staff, aggressive business-getting and great presentation have combined to achieve results which their European rivals have struggled to match. Time will tell whether they can catch up, but in the meantime this year's Automobiles of London catalogue confirmed that even RM's streamroller business operation can't magic great cars for sale if so few are out there.

Nine car Swiss collection (foreground) was a highlight: 100% sold

Top seller was a covered headlight 1958 Ferrari 250GT Tour de France which went home to the USA at £ 2,240,000. Delivered new to Bill Harrah in Nevada and used as a road car, it had spent several years in a Swiss collection before we handled its sale in 2005 to a UK buyer; it proved a good investment.

In second place came another Ferrari, consigned from the same stable. This elegant 500 Superfast had a colourful although somewhat tragic history. Its long term first owner, a UK property tycoon (anyone who could afford a car which cost as much as two Chelsea houses in the mid-'60s was either a tycoon or a dictator), shot himself during a dinner party when implicated in a financial scandal. Little used, his Superfast had covered just 13,200 miles. It made £ 644,000 and joins a significant English collection.

Ferrari 250GT Tour de France was evening's top seller
Understated luxury: Ferrari 500 Superfast had tragic past

Third highest seller was an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/TT/3 racer of the later, slab-sided 'telaio tubolare' variety. A familiar sight in the marketplace, it's finally headed to a new home in the USA at £ 588,000 and will be receiving some well deserved TLC before it reappears in historic racing.

Revolving on a turntable on RM's auction stage sat a stunning black Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing restored by UK coachbuilder MotoTechnique. The dazzling cream interior may not have been to everyone's taste but there was no denying it looked dramatic. A recent Octane magazine cover car, it was trade-entered and sold for a spot-on £ 560,000.

Patinated Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/TT/3 heads to USA
Gullwing restored by MotoTechnique attracted much comment

No-sales included the much-advertised Ferrari 750 Monza which failed to stir up much excitement; a very original Aston Martin DB4GT which also probably needs a spell out of the limelight; a hideously presented Maserati Ghibli Spyder (black and yellow striped seats, anyone?) which calls for an automotive equivalent of the RSPCA, and- yes, it's back again- the four door Ferrari 'Pinin' show car which auctioneer Max Girardo pointedly announced as "not road legal, we are selling it as an automobilia lot" after a last-minute warning from Ferrari, before the fastest running up of bids mercifully terminated by "not enough, thank you" I can remember.

The outcome? £ 13,415,855 is, I'm guessing, the highest UK auction total so far this year, with 79% of the cars going to new homes including a few sales concluded post-auction. 007 may have been missing from the action this time around, but, lack of fireworks aside, mission accomplished.

Headline Ferrari 750 Monza, the only one built without a head fairing, had been seen before. It went home again
Aston Martin DB4GT: picture perfect but overexposed
Miura SV owner alleged to have declined £750k pre-sale; he turned down the auction bid too