April 30, 2021

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

Snapshot: Aste Bolaffi Milan Auction

Aste Bolaffi is a small but well-known Italian auction house. At more than 100 years old, it’s the market leader in stamps and wine sales in Italy, but it has a long tradition in classic car auctions too. Up until 2006, it published the annual “Classic Car Auction” catalog — today the “Classic Car Auction Yearbook” — written by car historian Adolfo Orsi. 

After taking a few years off, Bolaffi went back to classic car auctions in 2018, hosting a May and November sale every year since. In 2020, the May sale was postponed due to COVID-19. This sale, held October 16, replaced it. 

As always with Bolaffi, there weren’t many lots — 47 this time — but the cars were of good quality and some very interesting models were offered. 

The catalog cover car, a one-of-three 1951 Lancia Aprilia Spyder with a special low chassis and a Ghia body, was pulled from the sale suddenly after being flagged by the government. The ministry had designated it an important piece of Italian automotive history, and as such, had made it impossible to export the car. The owner and auction house withdrew it from the sale, but the seller has appealed against this decision and will most likely (and hopefully) succeed, as is evident that this is not such a symbolic car. But all the fuss does give an idea of how interesting and beautiful it is. 

Otherwise, the sale’s main features were several micro-cars, and all of them sold well. Commission on the hammer price was of 15% (already inclusive of the Italian 22% VAT on the commission value). In total, 27 lots sold for a 57.4% rate of sale — a good result considering the period.

Here are my 10 snapshot picks from the sale:    

  

1966 Ferves Ranger 4×4   
Lot 25, 3+ condition  
S/N: FUS 03086 
Sold price: $58,059
(€43,000 hammer, €49,450 with commission)

The Basics:  

Restored in Pea Green with white and marine green interior colors. Still equipped with the correct 2-cylinder Fiat 500 Type 110E.000 engine. Years spent in current collection, well restored (even if without respecting the originality of the interior colors or material). Rare 4×4 version of an already rare model.  

Delbo says: 

Ferves (Ferrari Veicoli Speciali) has nothing to share with the Ferrari company in Maranello — but just the link of the name alone helped another Ferves sell for a crazy $190k a couple of years ago. Since then, this already interesting model saw its value skyrocket, and now, prices from $50k to $70k are considered normal. 

People tend to forget that the Ranger is a utilitarian vehicle based on Fiat 500 mechanicals, perfect to move wood and food to the mountain house, but less adapted for tarmac roads. About 600 were built and a lot fewer survive because almost all lived a quite harsh life. 

This Ferves spent its life in Tuscany — a place full of white roads, but quite dry and with no salt. It was restored about 20 years ago and has had almost no use since. A very sound car, restored with a fantasy color palette (at least matching the spirit and the period) ready to be used after a service. 

1960 Fiat 600 Multipla  
Lot 10, 3+ condition 
S/N: 100.108 *063444*
Sold price: $27,004
(€20,000 hammer, €23,000 with commission)

The Basics:  

Restored in light blue/white — a possible combination for the period. Red/light green interior. Correct 4-cylinder 600-cc unit from the Fiat 600. Difficult to find, as being mostly used for work, very few survived. Well restored preserving all the original chrome and brushed alloy parts. It will need a good service, as in recent years, it has almost never been used.   

Delbo says: 

The Fiat 600 Multipla is an iconic model. In Italy, up to the 1970s, this was a common car, mostly used as taxi or delivery van. At the end of the 1980s, when in the south of Italy, it was still possible to see Multiplas used by numerous families as daily transportation. Today, few survive. 

This car sports a decent paint job and wonderful details, including all the original decorative alloy parts. Those details suggest that this one lived a decent life. The interior is breathtaking, as it’s absolutely as-new, with a restoration that matches the original look and materials. Not cheap to buy, but it fully deserved the couple of extra thousand paid for it. 

1956 Jaguar XK 140 FHC  
Lot 44, #2+ condition
S/N: A815691 
Sold price: Not sold

The Basics:  

Old English White with red leather. Matching numbers 6-cylinder 3.2-liter engine. Sold new in the USA, imported in Italy in 1989 and restored by a specialist in the Modena area.   

Delbo says: 

One of my preferred lots of this sale, this was surprisingly unsold. Italians do love open classic cars more, but this FHC XK 140 was so good looking, and so well restored and preserved, that it would have been an excellent alternative to its open sister.

I thought this would have been an easy sell at a reasonable price, but sometimes you just need somebody willing to buy regardless of the asking price. 

This one’s estimate range of 80k-100k is the most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, being a lot of money for the average person while not being exclusive/interesting enough for the wealthiest. 

I spent time looking at every detail of this car, but apart from ugly rear indicators (installed under the bumper to preserve the original full red lens of the American cars), it looked wonderful under every aspect. A missed opportunity.

1972 Porsche 911 2.4 T Targa  
Lot 38, #3- condition 
S/N: 9113510545
Sold price: $116,118
(€86,000 hammer, €98,900 with commission) 

The Basics:  

Metallic blue with tan leatherette and fabric interior. Model year 1973 with matching numbers. Sold new in Italy. Has had five owners from new. Restored two years ago.  

Delbo says: 

The 1973 911 2.4 T Targa is a very interesting model. It’s powerful enough, with the best and most iconic body style of the period. This one somehow escaped terrible personalization, even though it’s not the more extreme and valuable S version. 

An interesting color combination added some appeal. This car was restored a while back, and it was sound and sported matching numbers, but it was missing any other bonuses. It looked as the traditional traders’ car, made to impress at a first glance but disappointing when it came to the details. Generally, this had wrong model year details, some bubbles under the paint (a quite modest job), surface rust on the brake calipers and tired front suspension components. Regardless, the bidding on the car was quite hot, and it ended up with a quite high valuation considering the condition of the car and the cost needed to have it sorted out. 

1960 Fiat 500 Sport  
Lot 8, 3+ condition 
S/N: 137640 
Sold price: $24,304
(€18,000 hammer, €20,700 with commission)

The Basics:  

Gray with red stripes — the trademark of this model. Perfectly restored, and still sports the original, superbly preserved red interior. Correct original type 110.004 engine. Has 21 hp compared to the normal Fiat 500’s 13, thanks to an enlarged 499.5-cc configuration.    

Delbo says: 

The 500 Sport was the perfect tool for the wannabe Italian racers of the 1950s and 1960s. Many ended up upside-down at Monza or Mugello. 

After years of races, very few units survive, and they’re even rarer without racing palmares. The car offered was registered in 1960 — the very last year of production — and now that the model isn’t as competitive as it once was, it probably won’t be racing again. This was originally sold in the Siena (Tuscany) area, and still sports its original documents and plate, which is great history. Offered in really good condition, fresh from a 10-year-old restoration and scarcely used since, it could easily be considered one of the best specimens around. A great purchase for the new owner. 

1956 Fiat 600 Zagato  
Lot 9, #2+ condition 
S/N: 100 *169942* 
Sold price: $20,253
(€15,000 hammer, €17,250 with commission) 

The Basics:  

Metallic Rubin Red and beige with matching interior. Part of a very rare special series manufactured by Carrozzeria Zagato in 1955 and 1956. Very few missing (or incorrect) dedicated details. Matching numbers. Still equipped with the original logbook, which shows reassuring evidence of originality and few owners. 

Delbo says: 

Is the Zagato original? That was the main question here. At the very end, even if a smoking gun of proof is missing, the evidence shown by the car was enough to have several bidders take the price to more than twice the top estimate. 

The car’s condition was superb — it was well restored some years ago, and complete with almost all the small (and almost unobtainable) details that are the trademark of these models. The key for many was the Certificato di Conformità: the manufacturer’s declaration that the car had been built respecting the original homologation document. This one was released in Milano and not in Turin (as it would have been for a “normal” 600). With some details fixed, this car could really be a show stealer. This is the everyday car of the gentleman driver — a person who usually races a much sportier and uncomfortable Zagato on the weekends. Probably the wisest purchase of the sale.

1959 Fiat 500 N Ghia Jolly  
Lot 26, #3- condition 
S/N: 053003 
Sold price: $76,962
(€57,000 hammer, €65,550 with commission)

The Basics:  

Light blue with wicker interior. Correct 110.000 engine. Sold new in Savona (Italy) by Ghia through the Fiat dealer in Turin. Equipped with Turin number plate released in 1964. Restored about 20 years ago, when it entered the seller’s ownership. Well preserved since. An original Ghia car, not perfectly restored but sound and very decent. 

Delbo says: 

It’s difficult to imagine something cooler for use in Saint-Tropez or Porto Cervo. One of the most iconic status symbols of Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, the Jolly Ghia Fiat 500 is a completely open car with wicker seats. Few were made and even fewer survive after years spent on the seaside. Many — and likely more than were originally manufactured by Ghia — have been rebuilt thanks to a high market request. 

This one, with an originality that’s 100% proven, made the room crazy. Regardless of its older restoration and a few signs of an old red respray under the light blue color currently applied, it lured two bidders above the high estimate. Another 20k will be needed to rectify the small mistakes of the older restoration, and to discover and return it to its original color. Otherwise, for a good enough driver to take you to the beach or the exclusive fish restaurant, a simple service here will do the job.

Image: Bolaffi

1966 Fiat 500 Giardiniera Ghia Jolly  
Lot 39, #3 condition 
S/N: 139893 
Sold price: $81,013
(€60,000 hammer, €69,000 with commission)

The Basics:  

White with plastic cord-wrapped seats. Flat 500-cc twin-cylinder engine. Sold new in the Turin area, directly by Ghia through the Turin Fiat dealer. Restored years ago and well preserved since. Without any doubt, an original Ghia car, well restored and still fresh.

Delbo says: 

A very rare car indeed — definitely more than the Jolly that’s based on the normal 500. The Giardiniera body (station wagon) offers more space for a price of a less beautiful look.

Do you dream of going to a deserted beach for a sunset swim? Doing it in a 500 Jolly adds coolness. Problem is, where put the family’s Golden Retrievers or the cooler?

While this car is larger than the standard Jolly, it still looks amazing, and the wow effect is warranted. The extra space adds practicality, and the wet Goldens can easily drip salty water and sand in a dedicated space. This car, restored several years ago and scarcely used, is still in very good condition — it just needs a good service. 

The plastic-wrapped seats are correct: the last year of production, 1966, saw this system replacing the more expensive and fragile wicker seats. This was the right price for what it was.

1955 Mival Mivalino Extra  
Lot 28, #1- condition 
S/N: 30151 
Sold price: $45,907
(€34,000 hammer, €39,100 with commission)

The Basics:  

Ruby Red with Salmon interior. Correct original engine — an air cooled single-cylinder 171-cc unit. Very little is known of the history of the car, but the condition is as-new, with few, if any, sign of use. The Italian version of the Messerschmitt KR175.         

Delbo says: 

In impoverished and destroyed post-war Germany, cars were not much more than a dream. Micro-cars came as a solution for cheap transportation and protection from cold, wet winters.

Messerschmitt, famous for wartime aircraft, was faced with an international treaty that forbade Germany from manufacturing airplanes until 1955. To stay in business, the company pivoted to car production, using motorcycle engines and alloy airplane-like cabins. The result was an amazing piece of technical beauty that was built in Italy too, on license, by MIVAL — Meccanica Industriale Val Trompia. 

It would be worth the time and effort to track down this one’s history, as it’s a real time capsule. It could easily be an exposition unit that was never registered. 

Anyway, the few thousand Euro more than the conservative estimate was justified here, as this was the best unit on the market.   

Image: Bolaffi

1980 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus   
Lot 35, #2+ condition 
S/N: AL303615 
Sold price: Not sold 

The Basics:  

Team Essex F1 original color combination of Metallic Blue on Silver. 2.2-L 4-cylinder 16-valve engine. A PR car for the 1980-81 season of the Lotus Essex F1 Team, used and photographed with the who’s who of the 1980s F1 racing world. Perfectly restored.

Delbo says: 

One of the most beautiful rule-breaking Formula 1 car ever built was the Lotus 81. Its beauty was linked to the main sponsor colors: the metallic blue and silver of the Essex fuel company. 

The Sunbeam Lotus offered here had that same color combo, and it was used as a PR and VIP car by the Lotus Essex F1 Team in 1980 and 1981. It was driven by Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Elio De Angelis, Carlos Reutemann and Colin Chapman, and the lot was offered with a pile of period pictures and documentation. 

This car was restored few years ago with an engine by Phil Davison, engine designer for Talbot’s racing department and the person responsible for the Sunbeam Lotus works cars that won the Rally World Championship in 1981. Estimated at 45k to 50k, it failed to sell here.