Aston Martins steal the show
It was some four weeks ago that I popped over to Battersea Park for my annual pilgrimage to RM Auctions’ London sale. I say “annual” – 2010 was the company’s fourth year in the capital, but it’s already made quite an impression.
For its inaugural London sale in 2007, Rob Myers and his team managed to persuade none other than Bernie Ecclestone to part with around 50 of his cars (none of which he’d actually ever driven!), including a breathtaking Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster that sold for a whisker under £4m.
Subsequent events in 2008 and 2009 saw equally interesting cars come and go – a McLaren F1 setting a new world record for the model at £2.2m; cars from the stable of George Harrison and John Travolta; a Ferrari 250 LM being driven indoors; the ex- Sultan of Brunei brace of RHD CLK-GTRs; a Horch cover car that didn’t live up to expections, and a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Landaulet barn find that did – and then some.
With European MD, Max Girado, now firmly at the helm (for the last two years he has even taken the formidable Peter Bainbridge’s place as auctioneer), 2010 had a lot of expectations to live up to.
It was back in late Spring that the first teaser mailshot arrived in the post. I recognised the size of the envelope and post mark immediately, but could never have guessed the one car that was to grace the pamphlet’s front cover.
The Aston Martin DB5, James Bond film car, chassis DB5/1486/R. Following DP216/1’s theft from a Florida airport in 1997, this is the only surviving DB5 that actually appeared in the original Bond movies. The only car to have been driven by Connery himself on screen.
It is, without a doubt, the world’s most famous car.
From the second that collectors and dealers became aware of the Jerry Hall car being commissioned to the sale, this was always going to be a huge night for classic Aston Martins.
Turning up at the sale on a chilly October afternoon, there were already at least five different models of the marque in the car park alone. The sense of anticipation in the room was palpable, and the queue just to get up close to the DB5 was a testament to its mythical status.
It was, however, a little disappointing to see quite so many people flock to see just the one car. As spellbinding as the Bond car is, there were also drophead and Volante versions of the DB2, DB4, DB5 and DB6 present; a Ferrari 365 California and rare RHD 500 Superfast; two Lamborghini Miuras; a stunning Figoni and Falaschi Talbot-Lago Teardrop coupe, and an original Jaguar C-Type with a patina reflecting its colourful past.
[ If you’re into collector cars, then head on over to Flickr – I took hundreds of pictures on the night, many of which are in the Automobiles of London 2010 photo set. All amounts referred to in this post are the hammer price, excluding the additional 12.5% buyer’s premium added to the majority of the lots. ]
The auction itself kicked off with a pretty tidy DeTomaso Pantera – I’ve always liked the car myself, and the tyres on it just had to be seen to be believed. The fourth lot, a Ferrari 365 GT4 BB was the first stall of the night, a no-sale at £70,000 despite a lower estimate of £75,000. This was, however, followed by a solid £160,000 for a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Landaulet ‘conversion’ (read: “AMG-badged…”) and the first of the flying Astons; a stunning V8 Volante ‘Prince of Wales’ for which the gavel fell at a whopping £180,000.
The next Aston, a DB5 convertible, was the second no-sale of the evening when the bidding stopped just shy of £300,000. A Willys M38 flew over its top estimate to pull a strong £15,000, followed a few lots later by a gorgeous Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster, well under estimate at £125,000 on account of the non-original chassis.
Whilst it may have been a great night for Aston Martins, it certainly wasn’t for Rolls-Royces: a Phantom II LWB Open Tourer estimated at £75-100,000 attracted just £47,500; two 40/50 HP Silver Ghosts seemed unbelievably cheap at just £100,000 and £150,000 (lower estimates of £300,000 and £350,000 respectively); whilst a Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe went to the south of France for £85,000, a little over half of its lower estimate.
It wasn’t long before the Astons had their chance to shine again: a 1.5-litre LWB MkII topped its estimate to pull £100,000; a DB4 Series V Vantage and DB4 Convertible sold for £230,000 and £255,000 respectively; and fantastic DB2 Coupe flew well past its upper estimate to hit £175,000.
As lovely as the Jaguar C-Type was, the bidding stalled at £1.75m, and as an agreement couldn’t be reached in private it remained a no-sale. Market lust for the Ferrari 275 GTB seemed to be cooling slightly: the rarer GTB/6C couldn’t find a penny over £450,000 – which wasn’t enough for the seller – whilst a 275 GTB converted back to its original short-nose specification needed some post-lot haggling to find the extra £5,000 to get the car a new owner at a final £480,000.
Proving the value of a sensitive and respectful restoration were the two Lamborghini Miuras on offer: a few prospective bidders felt the SVJ had lost some of its charm during its extensive restoration, falling a whole Ferrari Daytona short of its lower estimate; whilst the more original ex- Rod Stewart Miura SV smashed expectations to find £620,000.
Then it was back to the amazing Astons: a beautiful DB6 Mk II Vantage was hotly contested, eventually reaching £155,000; and a DB Mk III Coupe which managed to find a very strong £185,000. Sandwiched between the two, Lot 178 was the factory-fresh Pagani Zonda R: with a list price of £1.2 million it was one of the most hyped cars of the night. But the friend of London Ferrari specialist Joe Macari seemed to walk away with a veritable bargain, as the hammer fell at just £720,000. Horacio probably wasn’t too pleased…
Two of the most recent Ferrari flagship models were also on offer – both lovely examples, but neither whipped up a storm amongst the bidders on the night. The Ferrari F40 fell just shy of its lower estimate finding £282,500 in the room, whilst the Ferrari Enzo went for a sensible £575,000. Luxury dealer Clive Sutton had previously told me that prices for the latter had been cooling recently, and this seemed vindication of his analysis. The Enzo with Derbyshire specialist Nick Cartwright with an asking price of £1 million certainly seems optimistic…
Further star cars of the auction were the Talbot-Lago T23 Teadrop Coupe by legendary coachbuilders Figoni et Falaschi, fetching £1.6 million on the night, and the very rare Ferrari 365 California. In magnificent condition with a great patina, it was expertly teased by Max Girado up to a final hammer price of £660,000.
It wasn’t long before the star of the show took centre stage. Lot 197. The Aston Martin DB5, “FMP 7B”, the James Bond film car. After the suitably 007-themed intro video, Girado took his time to build up the tension in the room:
Where shall we start the bidding on the most famous car in the world?
Seconds later, an enthusiastic bystander suggested the outrageous figure of £10 million. Girado dismissed this swiftly, but another voice chirped up immediately with an apparently genuine bid of £2.5 million. This was a bold move on a car that might not end up hitting £3 million, and everyone in the room knew it. Fortunately for Girado, another bid followed within a minute: Harry Yeaggy, a Cincinatti banker, bid £2.6 million.
At this point, all eyes flew back to the original bidder – a man we would know as Stephen Shabbir by the end of the evening – in expectation of a dramatic duel between the two contrasting characers. Sadly, it never came. Shabbir played to the crowd, inviting Girado to try to persuade him to big again, but apparently couldn’t justify offering another £200,000 on top of his original bid. And so at £2.6 million it remained, the naturally modest Ohio businessman taking home the spoils of his London visit to his private museum in the USA.
The media fracas that followed had to be seen to be believed, but Yeaggy still had the energy left at the end of it all to give “FMP 7B” a quick blast around the capital at midnight once (nearly) everyone had gone home…
All in all, while the star lot was unfortunately a huge anticlimax, there were once again some truly stunning cars on offer, showing off the depth and breadth of RM’s ever-increasing influence in Europe.