In what is being called a “strategic partnership,” British auction house Bonhams and German automaker Mercedes-Benz will stage a single-marque auction of some 40 cars July 12 at the Mercedes Museum. The museum is located just outside the main factory gate at the Mercedes headquarters and main assembly plant at Stuttgart-Unterturkheim.
“We share an idea with Bonhams,” Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, said in a news release. “Both of us stand for unique and authentic vehicles. We regard classic vehicles as a key heritage for society. And valuing authentic plays an important role in this.
“For this reason, we are delighted that the prestigious auction house Bonhams will offer a range of inimitable classic cars of Benz, Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz in our Museum on 12 July 2014.”
Bock added that while the Mercedes-Benz Museum will provide “the appropriate setting for the auction,” none of the vehicles being offered will be from the museum’s own collection.”
Bonhams expects those vehicles to come from consigners around the world.
Bonhams notes a long and fruitful relation with Mercedes-Benz Classic, and how that affiliation was reinforced last year when the two collaborated prior to the sale of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, the car that helped Juan Manual Fangio win a World Driving Championship. The car sold for a world auction-record price of $30,180,000 at Bonhams Goodwood sale (see photo).
“It seemed a natural progression for us to work tougher once again to conduct a unique, single-marque auction at Mercedes-Benz’s museum,” said James Knight, group director of Bonhams Motors Department.
Contacted by the ClassicCars.com blog while on his family vacation, Knight said via email that in preparation for the sale of the ex-Fangio racer: “My Chairman Robert Brooks and (automotive historian) Doug Nye visited Stuttgart and were allowed into the hallowed archives to review the technical spec folios on the W194 chassis. Mercedes-Benz offered — and we commissioned — a beautiful historic volume on the W194 — and specifics on the actual chassis — to pass onto the new owner. M-B also sent over their ‘Blue Wonder’ car transporter to place on view with the car at Goodwood.
We’re always looking for, and willing to try, new initiatives, and if it is something unique to Bonhams, so much the better.”
— James Knight
“The Bonhams team pioneered single-marque auctions,” he continued. “When Robert and I were at Christie’s in the 1980s, we had a Benz, Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz sale to celebrate the (automaker’s) centenary; Malcolm Barber (our Group CEO) and his team when at Sotheby’s in the 1980s pioneered the Rolls-Royce and Bentley auction at the annual R-REC Annual Rally; Brooks (as we were known in the 1990s) held an annual Ferrari auction in Gstaad each December, and then we started the Aston Martin auction in 2000.
“We’re always looking for, and willing to try, new initiatives, and if it is something unique to Bonhams, so much the better.
“We have developed the annual Bonhams Aston Martin Works Sale with Aston Martin Lagonda Limited in the UK, and we look forward to developing another single-marque sale in Europe in partnership with at the prestigious Mercedes-Benz brand. We hope this will be the first of many future Bonhams Mercedes-Benz sales.”
Might one of those future sales take place in the United States, perhaps at Mercedes’ assembly plant in Alabama or the Mercedes-Benz Classic center in southern California?
“Well, never say never,” Knight wrote, “but we’ll concentrate in Europe at the home of M-B for the time being.”
At Bonhams’ recent Arizona auction, Mercedes cars accounted for three of the top-six sales, with a 1955 300SL gulling coupe selling for nearly $1.1 million, a 1961 300SL roadster going for more than $1.2 million and a 1936 500K sports phaeton bringing more than $1.4 million.
According to Historica Selecta’s Classic Car Auction Yearbook, during the 2012-13 auction season, two of the three most-expensive sales involved Mercedes cars. In addition to the ex-Fangio racer, a 1936 540K Spezial Roadster sold for nearly $11.8 million at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach auction in the summer of 2012.