You don’t find resto-mods or concours-level restorations at Bonhams annual Preserving the Automobile Auction. Instead, the event features barn finds and original vehicles with the intent that they be conserved and preserved as historic artifacts.
The fifth annual “Preserving” auction was held Monday at its usual location, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, a venue convenient for those headed to the AACA Fall Meet, that festival of vintage vehicles in Hershey.
“The results achieved by the unrestored cars reflect the continued and growing interest and important collectors are placing on the most original automobiles,” auction director Eric Minoff of Bonhams Motoring department said in a news release.
“Instead of a trend, it’s confirmation of what matters most in historic motoring — documented provenance and authenticity, two attributes that can never be contrive or replicated.”
Bonhams did not report an overall sales total for what was basically a small sale, but was proud of a 96 percent sell-through rate and the fact that several vehicles sold for amounts well above their pre-auction estimated values.
For example, the top and only six-figure sale of the auction was $121,000 for a 1901 Locomobile Style S “Locosurrey.” The price, which includes the buyer’s premium, was double the car’s pre-sale estimated value.
Another Locomobile, a 1907 Model E “project car,” sold for $67,100 to a South American buyer, Bonhams reported.
Locomobile was founded in 1900 when John Brisben Walker, editor and publisher of Cosmopolitan magazine, convinced the Stanley brothers into selling their fledgling motorcar company and convinced asphalt magnate Amzi Lorenzo Barber into putting up the money for the transaction. Soon, Locomobile would be America’s largest automaker.
In 1901, Locomobile introduced the Style S or “Locosurrey,” a steam-powered runabout with a second seat and thus room for five people to ride. Only three examples are known to survive and what is believed to be the most original was offered at Bonhams. It had been purchased in the late 1930s and been stored indoors ever since.
Bonhams called it “the Holy Grail for an enthusiast of early American automobiles — one of the rarest and most desirable models in breathtaking original condition. Having been totally untouched and not seen the light of day for close to 80 years, this is certainly an unrepeatable opportunity.”
Other sales highlighted by Bonhams included a 1926 Packard Eight 243 7-passenger touring that had been exported early on to Spain but was purchased for $93,500 at the auction by an American collector.
Both pre-war Lincolns from the Richard Hopeman Collection sold well, Bonhams said.
A 1936 Rolls-Royce Phantom III exceeded its estimate, as did a 1950 Jaguar XK120 competition roadster that had raced successfully in Austria, a 1963 Volvo P1800S that sold after a spirited bidding battle, and a 1932 Willys 6-90 Silver Streak rumble-seat roadster that was sold to benefit the Heritage Museums & Garden.
Bonhams also noted that all lots from the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago sold, including aero engines.
Top 10 sales, Bonhams Preserving the Automobile auction, 2016
- 1901 Locomobile Style S “Locosurrey,” $121,000
- 1926 Packard Eight 243 7-passenger touring, $93,500
- 1987 Ferrari Testarossa, $85,800
- 1950 Jaguar XK120 competition roadster, $82,500
- 1931 Lincoln Model K convertible coupe by LeBaron, $79,200
- 1930 Lincoln Model L 7-passenger touring, $72,500
- 1907 Locomobile Model E, $67,100
- 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE drophead coupe, $62,700
- 1967 Jaguar E-type Series 1 4.2-liter 2+2, $62,700
- 1936 Rolls-Royce Phantom III 40/50 hp sunroof landaulet by Baker, $59,400
(Prices include buyer’s premium.)
The sale at the Simeone followed an exception month of September for the auction house, which held five sales last month with total sales of more than $38.8 million and an 85 percent sell-through. Bonhams also noted that one-third of its motorcar auction revenue last month came from first-time bidders.
Bonhams upcoming collector car auctions in 2016 include the Zoute Sale, October 7 in the Netherlands; the London to Brighton Run sale November 4; the Bond Street Sale, December 4 in London; and the December Sale, December 7-8 at the London Olympia. It also will sell vintage motorcycles October 16 at its Autumn Stafford sale in England.