Retromobile adds a third auction house and sales double to £15,232,920. Newcomer Chevau-Leger scores top price with 1993 Peugout 905 racecar at £867,777
A few weeks after the Arizona desert auctions (no floods and thunderstorms this year), the European auction season started in earnest with the February Retromobile sales.
The Retromobile auctions in Paris are the most spectacular in France, as the five-day event sets the stage for a duel between heavy-hitting competitors: traditionally the English-based Bonhams and the French Artcurial. This year, a newcomer joined the party, Chevau-Legers, driven by former Artcurial specialists. As is often the case, competition raises the bar; better cars were offered to buyers, prices rose and the market expanded.
The principal actors decided to play musical chairs this year. Bonhams left the Retromobile industrial roof to Artcurial, and ran its event in the Grand Palais, a mere 100 yards from Artcurial headquarters. Meanwhile, Chevau-Leger invested in a temporary structure behind Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb in Les Invalides.
The Art-Deco Grand Palais is a magnificent glass and steel structure at the bottom of the Champs Elysées. It was restored a few years back and now hosts the most exclusive events in the French capital. Bonhams investment in renting the palace for four days was rewarded as it was crowned King of the Retromobile auctions, with a total revenue of £7,429,170 (commission included), followed by Artcurial’s £5,780,700 with Chevau-Legers closing at £2,185,050. All in all, sales totaled £15,232,920, more than double the £7,429,170 realised in 2010.
All three high-sales were French-born: Bonhams sold the 1933 Bugatti 51 (ex-Lord Raglan) at £794,734; Artcurial’s 1937 Bugatti Atalante sold at £488,827; and Chevau-Legers realised £867,777 for a 1993 Peugeot 905 racecar.
Traditional Retromobile automobiles, ranging from 1925-1941, were the core of all offerings. In Bonhams, they represented half the revenue, including four Bugattis: the one mentioned above, a fantastically restored 1930 Type 46 Faux Cabriolet “Petite Royale,” which sold for £530,655; another 1930 Type 46 – a true convertible this time – brought £280,935; and a 1933 Type 49 convertible, £300,288. Meanwhile, a sinister all-black Mercedes-Benz 540K Cab C sold for £426,397.
The immense 1911 Delauney-Belleville 7-seater (enough room for 12), which was entirely rebuilt to amazing standards, sold for a substantial £242,228. Hopefully, the new owner will have a garage door with 11-foot clearance. On the other hand, the mint 1905 Renault type Y-A (fitted with an electric starter) was an easier choice at £33,712, though it’s not eligible for the London-to-Brighton, which would probably have doubled the price.
The highlights of Artcurial were a collection of former head-of-state automobiles. The confirmed General Charles de Gaulle 1960 convertible Simca by Chapron sold for £99,888, but the high sale of these cars was the 1960 convertible ZIL that may have been used by President Brejnev but was in shabby condition. The bet is that it’s headed for Russia, for £159,197, which is where the money is these days. Both were based on American designs: the Simca on a Chrysler, the ZIL on a Packard.
Italian coachwork was rewarded when a classy black/tan 1962 Ferrari 250 GTE – the car that saved Ferrari – sold for a near world record price of £160,445.. Another era, another use, another style was represented by the 1983 Lancia 037, a race car for the street in mint condition that sold for a paltry £187,290.
Meanwhile, at the humble end of the market (and it doesn’t get much more humble than this) two nicely restored Citroen 2CVs made good money at Artcurial. A 1953 2CV sold for £12,486 and a 1958 brought £11,237.
When the light faded from the wonderful glass dome of the Grand Palais and the last sale of Retromobile, 156 cars had been sold through the three auctions, which was almost double the 81 cars sold in 2010. Competition is always good for the market, and this proves once again that the classic car business is healthy, whether in Arizona or Paris.