Bonhams’ 2019 Revival sale had the unusual honour of being the talk of the Goodwood paddock even before it had happened. Rumour had it – later confirmed – that the catalogue cover star, an ex- Donald Campbell, Works demonstrator 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT had been sold before the auction for an undisclosed sum.
The sale of such a high-profile car before auction day is very unusual in the classic car world, but we’re living in unusual times. The auction houses need to take sales where they can find them and finalising a deal on a DB4GT was a shrewd move, even if it may have annoyed a few punters.
The auction itself was a textbook demonstration in how to maximise sales and minimise losses in a very uncertain market. The first lot was a 1961 Cooper T55 Works F1 and Tasman racing car, driven by Sir Jack Brabham, one of only two built. Sold for charity in aid of Sir Jackie Stewart’s charity Race Against Dementia, Stewart passionately introduced the car and explained what the charity does. A crowd-puller if ever there was once, the packed room translated into steady bidding and the car smashed its pre-sale top estimate of £150,000 returning £244,375.
The next big lot was the 1988 Volvo FL6 ‘Turbo Zone’ truck painted by Banksy. This did its job: although it didn’t sell (falling just short of its £1m low estimate, reaching a fair £920,000) it gained a huge amount of pre-sale publicity in the mainstream media.
A few lots later, a 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Faux Cabriolet demonstrated what we’ve been saying for a while now: that the very best cars will still gain the very best money. Selling a shade under its £1.5m top estimate, the car had wonderful provenance and a fascinating history.
A stunning 1969 Aston Martin DB6 Volante converted to Vantage specification by the factory, with great history and ownership reiterated the point, £743,000 including premium nearing top estimate and fetching the second highest return of the day.
Another cracking car, an Irish-registered 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 short chassis spider, also sold well, within estimate, at £408,000. Although re-bodied from a saloon in the 1980s, the car has been campaigned extensively since, and whilst we’re still in the EU, offered possibly a ‘last chance’ for a UK buyer to purchase without complication.
Other eye-catching lots also sold, even if a little shy of estimate. A stunning blue metallic 1970 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona reached £437,500 and a 1988 Lamborghini Countach 5000 QV sold for a low-estimate £207,000. Notable no-sales were a 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale, showing once again that this model’s value has slipped quite significantly, and a 1976 Porsche Carrera 3.0 Rally. This car was notable in that it had covered more competition miles than any other Porsche but suffered in that it didn’t really have a big named driver. The brutal nature of the current market was exposed and the car fell a full £100,000 short of its low estimate.
All in all, over £11m of cars sold including almost all of the big-ticket lots, with a total sell through rate (as we go to press including a few post-sales) of 68%. In this turbulent market, Bonhams pulled out the stops and should be very content with the results; after all it could have been a whole lot worse.