Welcome to the State of the Market, our monthly roundup of auction results both local and abroad, with a little analysis and comments from the sidelines thrown in for good measure! Full disclosure – I recently returned the cut and thrust of classic car auctions with Shannons in the Emerald City but promise to bring an unbiased view, born of many years tracking the ups and downs of the classic car market, along with the experience of working in the industry both here and overseas for the past decade.
Local auctions have shown a renewed interest in Australian muscle cars, with prices of certain models now eclipsing the dizzy heights achieved before the dreaded GFC spoiled the party almost a decade ago. Shannons’ most recent Sydney auction of August 28 highlighted this trend, with solid results for a Torana XU-1 with an Irish twist (finished in a shade of green dubbed March 17 after St Patricks Day) hitting $140,000, matching the price of an XR GT cashing in on the 50th Anniversary of the first of Ford’s iconic GTs. Other standouts included an E55 Charger coming from long-term ownership ($80,000), a Diamond White XW GT-HO Phase II ($215,000) and a three-owner XY GT in Vermillion Fire for a heady $215,000. Mercedes-Benz 190SLs have firmed up as auction stars, with an older restoration (and former US car) fetching a solid $195,000, while a charming Rolls-Royce Twenty from the estate of former club president Jim Kelso achieved $123,500, a good result for an original Barker-bodied Torpedo Cabriolet in super condition after a painstaking restoration. Topping the cars was a small piece of tinware with the number ‘4’ embossed on it, stunning the heritage number plate market by hitting a new record price for a single digit plate when it hammered for $2,450,000!!! The plate is now proudly attached to a lovely 280SL Pagoda, spotted doing the rounds of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
Coming up at Shannons’ Spring auction in Melbourne on September 25, we have a tasty selection of European and Australian classics, rarities including a little 1939 Renault Juvaquatre saloon (predecessor of the 4CV) estimated at $6,000-9,000, a 1978 Rolls-Royce Camargue in a very Gold Coast inspired white on white (estimate $60,000-68,000), a 1971 Ford Escort Twin Cam ($65,000-$75,000), a stunning 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 from a well-known historic racing identity ($250,000-280,000) and a 1987 AC Mark IV ($150,000-170,000), a Cobra in all but name, along with the usual selection of memorabilia and number plates. One car that really caught my eye is the 1947 Packard Clipper, one of several similar cars sold over the last few years for numbers that look great value – this streamlined two-seater looks like a ‘sloper’ Chev or Pontiac but boasts a proper straight eight under the bonnet, Art-Deco touches everywhere and, with an estimate of $18,000-24,000, likely to sell well below Holden FX money.
The big guns will be out in October for the annual Motorclassica auction held in the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building on Saturday 14, this time in the hands of Melbourne auction house Mossgreen; early consignments include a tasty selection of competition cars, including one of eight MG Q-type racers (estimate $400,000-450,000), an ex-Lance Reventlow 1956 Cooper-Climax Type 39 ($390,000-430,000) and, for something completely different, an ultra-rare Alfa Romeo GTV6 built by Autodelta ($100,000-130,000), the only one in Australia. Pre-war fans are well served by a varied selection that includes a fine example of the ever-dwindling number of 30-98 Vauxhalls in this country, OE86/100 a former Round Australia record holder ($290,000-330,000), while a pair of bright red Maserati Ghiblis (one at $180,000-220,000, the second at $230,000-270,000) brings back happy memories of driving my dad’s old car up to Palm Beach on a sunny weekend… ah, how I miss that car. E-types are hot property right now and provenance is all-important – Mossgreen has a 3.8 ‘flat floor’ roadster coming from long-term local ownership (with an estimate of $280,000-320,000), top money but a great car.
On the dealer side of things, Mark Jansen’s Oldtimer Australia recently listed the fabulous collection assembled by George Hetrel, highlights including his 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K with factory Cabrio ‘B’ bodywork, a Bugatti Type 35C, a locally-delivered Vauxhall 30-98 and a number of tasty veterans. Local enthusiasts will be pleased to hear the majority of cars were reportedly sold to a Melbourne family connected to historic racing for many years, ensuring they will remain in this country for years to come.
Across the Pacific, August means one thing to car nuts – Car Week at Monterey, the annual barometer of how the classic car economy is faring. Bringing together the biggest industry players and the best cars, Monterey is now a phenomenon and the numbers are truly staggering… this year the combined total of cars on offer was XXX with a combined total of $XXX, remarkably, this number was actually down on last year, continuing a downward trend from the peak of 2014. Bonhams kicked off proceedings on the Friday with a stellar catalogue but failed to fire when it came to their big guns apart from the one-owner McLaren F1, which hit just under USD$16,000,000 cementing its place as the modern 250 GTO. The gorgeous ex-Cunningham Lightweight E-type did sell post-auction for USD$8,000,000, looking well bought in comparison with the similar result Bonhams achieved for the ex-Bob Jane car earlier in the year (both coming from the same collection). Gooding and RM Sotheby’s went head to head on both Friday and Saturday nights and both had plenty to shout about; an oversupply of Ferraris failed to stop a stunning 250 GT SWB Berlinetta selling at RM Sotheby’s for USD$8,305,000, while the headline act – an Aston Martin DBR1 belonged to a discerning Gstaad-based collector- lived up to the hype, setting a new record for a British car of USD$22,550,000. My personal favourite was a unique Michelotti-bodied 5000 GT Maserati, the ultimate sixties supercar and the personal transport of the aforementioned aficionado Briggs Cunningham. From the same collection as the Lightweight E-types, it hammered for just over the US$1 million mark, well below the equivalent Superamerica built across town in Maranello. Also of interest was the 1949 Aston Martin DB1 (or 2-litre Sports) consigned from a local enthusiast which failed to hit the lower estimate, the top of US$900,000 not quite enough to buy the car. Gooding’s star car was an ex-Gulf JWA 917K Porsche reappearing after a false start a couple of years back, cracking US$14,000,000 and setting a new record for a car from Stuttgart at auction, while a 275 GTB/C Ferrari made an impressive $14,520,000 – a massive premium over a non-competition alloy two-cam.
Overall, we are seeing a wide disparity between the relatively buoyant classic car market here in Australia and the gently declining market overseas. Further analysis reveals some discrepancies however, with American cars struggling here (particularly recent left-hook imports) and an oversupply of pre-war cars on the market as that generation sells up. Certain models are going through unexpected booms (MGAs of Australia, take a bow), others have come back after prices went stratospheric (I’m talking about you Porsche Turbos). We tend to follow offshore trends (try finding a two-door Rangie these days) but more than ever, seem to be chasing our home-grown classics, from early Holdens FX/FJs through to the mighty muscle cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s, with Chargers, Monaros and Toranas all on the march and Falcon GTs, as ever, out in front.
My personal take? Provenance, now more than ever, is ruling the roost and cars with great paperwork, particularly delivery books, are eagerly sought after. One owner cars, no matter how prosaic (witness a tired 1977 Torana LX hatchback at Shannons Sydney Winter auction making $37,500, despite hail damage, shabby interior and dodgy rust repairs), will continue to shine and interest in our own motoring heritage has never been stronger…