We like to say that major auctions, especially those held in close geographic and chronological proximity, provide an opportunity to take the pulse of the classic car hobby. Based on recent high-end sales in Arizona and Amelia Island, you’d have to say the body is healthy, indeed, very healthy. Consider:
In January in Arizona, Bonhams, Gooding & Company, and RM combined to sell a few more than 300 vehicles for $82.8 million.
Last week on Amelia Island, those same three auction houses (though RM now is partnered with Sotheby’s) reported 252 vehicles sold for a combined $101.15 million.
Put another way, the average price paid at the trio’s auctions in Arizona was slightly more than $274,000. Last week in Florida, the average sale — high bid plus buyer’s commission — was a little more than $401,000.
Rupert Banner, vice president of business development in the motoring division of Bonhams, was talking about his company’s sale, but his words would seem to apply across the board at Amelia when he said, “The results point to continued strength in the market, with particular emphasis on rare, original-condition pre-war American marques, as well as top-tier mid-to-late century European sports cars.”
Amelia Island auctions have been known for the sports and racing cars made available and purchased there. For the most part, that trend continued, led by a short-wheelbase 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica cabriolet that brought $6.38 million at the RM Sotheby’s sale.
RM Sotheby’s sold 13 cars for $1 million or more and nine were post-war sports cars — Ferraris, Jaguars, a Lamborghini, a Shelby Cobra, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL and an Austin Healey 100S.
Gooding & Company recorded seven $1 million or more sales and all were post-war European sports cars — four Ferraris, a pair of 300 SL roadsters and a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR — led by a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for $3.3 million.
Bonhams was making its debut on the island and drove against the grain with six of its top-eight sales hammered not for post-war cars but for pre-war classics, led by the auction’s trio of $1 million-plus transactions: $1.76 million for a 1930 Cord Model L-29 Town Car, $1.738 million for a 1908 American Underslung 50HP roadster and $1.012 million for a 1932 Stutz DV-32 Super Bearcat convertible.
Bonhams’ debut sale totaled $13.95 million. Gooding reported $26.9 million in sales. Meanwhile, RM Sotheby’s did an astounding $60.3 million in sales, some 67 percent more than the RM sale on the island a year ago.
Last year, RM sold 88 cars at an average of slightly more than $407,000 each. This year it posted 98 sales at an average of more than $615,000.
RM also reported receiving bids representing people from 22 countries and that nearly a quarter of all its Amelia bidders were new customers.
Florida-based Hollywood Wheels also held an auction at Amelia Island but has yet to release results.
RM’s next sale is May 2 when it distributes the Andrews Collection in Fort Worth, Texas. Later in May it stages its annual auction at Lake Como in Italy in conjunction with the Villa d’Este Concorso.
Bonhams will do four sales in Europe — March 21 at Goodwood, March 28 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, May 9 at the Aston Martin Works and May 24 at the Spa racing circuit — before returning to the U.S. for its annual sale May 31 at the Greenwich concours.
Gooding’s next sale is in August at Monterey, where it, Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s again share geographic and chronological proximity.