June 17, 2021

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

Snapshot: RM Sotheby’s Paris Auction

Image: Remi Dargegen, RM Sotheby's

The show must go on.

For RM Sotheby’s, that meant that their coveted Paris slot in February continued on in 2021 sans Rétromobile proper, which had been moved to June in hopes of a better summertime COVID-19 outlook. 

For the auction house, this was a further pivot to remote selling — in fact, all of this year’s event was handled online, over the phone or via absentee bidding. And while it might have lacked the panache of an in-person event held amongst the architecture of the City of Light, RM Sotheby’s still did good business by moving cars at a distance.

The basics: 26 of 40 lots sold, alongside a selection of Ferrari automobilia, for 9,407,600 ($11,390,722). Sell-through rate: 65%. High sale was a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV at 2,423,750 ($2,934,676). 

This represents a much smaller sale than years past, but overall sales metrics are no longer apples to apples comparisons in the COVID-19 era. As we’ve seen with most high-end auction houses, RM Sotheby’s schedule of events has actually grown in the midst of market uncertainty, and just about all auction events in late 2020 and early 2021 have shown that buyers are willing to chase the right cars.

RM Sotheby’s points out that bids came in from 32 countries, and of those bidders, 30% of them were first-time RM Sotheby’s buyers. That’s an important metric to measure here, as it’s one thing to maintain old business during a global pandemic and quite another to bring in new clients. Maybe it’s just a reflection of RM’s visibility alongside buyers’ need for something new in the midst of such stringent isolation, but I think it’s more likely that RM Sotheby’s has gained a fresh following due to their well developed online efforts in this changing market. Either way, I see it as good news for all involved.

Here are five car sales from Paris you should know about:

Image: RM Sotheby’s

1979 Ferrari 308 GTS
Lot 115, #3+ condition
S/N: 28431
Sold price: $146,204 (€120,750)

The Basics:

Oro Chiaro Metallic over beige. 38,000 km from new and said to have two owners from new. Original engine and gearbox. Ferrari Classiche certified. Minor paint chips here and there, but paint looks newer than 1979. Interior worn and slightly dirty from careful use. Some glass delamination. Targa top seal is dried and flaky. Comes with tools, but jack is rusty. Located in Karlskron, Germany.

Pickering says:

This 308 had a couple of things working for it. First, it was part of the Gold Collection — a single-owner collection of gold cars that also included a 1972 Porsche 911 2.4 S Targa, a 1973 Jensen Interceptor SP, a 1977 Porsche 911 Turbo and a 1974 Ferrari 365 GT4 BB. Collection cars, especially when presented well, tend to bring bigger money at auction than similar non-collection counterparts. Second, this car was Ferrari Classiche certified as now finished in its original color scheme and confirmed to have its original engine and transmission. There aren’t a lot of gold 308s out there, and I assume that there are even fewer today than there were when new (red is a powerful thing). And finally, it did have lower mileage and an overall decent presentation. 

Porsche Panorama editor and former 308 owner Rob Sass pointed out that 308s could be ready for an upswing back in Linkage #001, and I think this sale is further fuel for that notion. Still, this was huge money for a 308 compared to other recent sales of similar cars, which speaks to the power of the factors at play here. 

Image: Remi Dargegen, RM Sotheby’s

1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV
Lot 126, #1- condition
S/N: 4840
Sold price: $2,934,676 (€2,423,750)

The Basics:

Rosso Corsa with dark blue leather. Recent restoration to original specs. Lamborghini Polo Storico Certified, with black certification box and all documents. Spent some time as a Jota clone prior to restoration. Engine converted to run on unleaded fuel during a previous restoration. Fit and finish excellent, with only some light crazing to bright trim. One knockoff spinner shows light damage. Located in Karlskron, Germany.

Pickering says:

The SV is the ultimate Miura, Jota racing homologation attempt notwithstanding. This car has spent time as both versions, only returning to stock specs in 2016 after decades as an enclosed-headlight Jota replica. The SV had both cleaner eyelash-free headlights and a wider rear stance to accommodate wider rear wheels. It also had a revised rear suspension system and a stiffer chassis, added to improve stability at the limit. Added power from the transverse-mounted V12 was also part of the package, helping you get to that limit more quickly.

Only 150 of these SVs left the factory, so it would make sense that this would be expensive — ask just about any car person for their list of the most beautiful cars of all time and you’ll likely hear about a Miura. The SV is just the best evolution of the bunch — but this was a high price to pay when we’ve seen others sell at closer to the $2m mark. Add to that the fact that this was not a later and more desirable split-sump car and it seems even more expensive still. However, Gooding sold an SV Speciale with both ultra rare dry-sump oiling and a limited-slip rear at its Passion of a Lifetime sale in 2020 for $4.3m. That suggests upside here, even if this car doesn’t have all of the same rarities. 

You can’t argue with the overall presentation here, or the proper paperwork and documentation. That’s what made this deal.

Image: Loic Kernen, RM Sotheby’s

2008 Lamborghini Murciélago LP640-4 Coupe Versace E-Gear
Lot 118, #3 condition
S/N: ZHWBE37507LA02569
Sold price: $181,014 (€149,500)

The Basics:

Nero Aldebaran over white and black Nappa leather interior. The ninth of 20 Versace edition cars built. One owner from new with 24,500 km. Fitted with “E-Gear” transmission. Comes with a five-piece luggage set numbered to the car and a set of unused Versace driving gloves. Said to be fully serviced and fitted with a new clutch. Some visible entry/exit scuffs from use. Located in Monaco. 

Pickering says:

There’s an entire subset of the car world that grew up looking at Murciélagos instead of Countaches — and for that reason, these things are worth watching as the market continues to evolve. Yes, they’re aging supercars with the potential for expensive issues, but they’ve also got a look that I think has aged pretty well over the years.

This one, being a one-of-20 Versace edition, has rarity on its side. But the E-Gear doesn’t really compare to the manual transmission in a lot of ways, even if it’s a good alternative for actual street use. The jury is out on how these will age over time, and that’s important, as there are a number of moving parts to an E-Gear, and any one of them failing could leave you stranded. But in Monaco, I suppose that’s not as big of a deal as it might be on some large, epic southwestern U.S. road trip. Either way, this one has a new clutch and proper servicing, so it should be a non-issue for the new owner — at least for now.

As values settle, special edition cars will do better than their regular counterparts — but I do think these will see an upside with a certain type of buyer, especially as the supercar segment continues to adapt itself to an increasingly electric world.

Image: Dirk de Jager, RM Sotheby’s

1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA
Lot 120, #1- condition
S/N: AR 613015
Sold price: $326,916 (€270,000)

The Basics:

Rosso with black interior. Said to be a hand-built “pre-series” chassis, and the 15th GTA built. Racing history includes a stint with Team Lucien Bianchi from 1966 to 1970, where it ran in touring car championship events with drivers such as Yvette Fontaine, Christine Beckers, Enrico Pinto and Jacques Demoulin. Possibly ran as an Autodelta-built GTA-SA with supercharger at Spa in 1968, as several inspection ports used with that configuration are present, as are mounting holes for lights as would have been used at Spa. Restoration from the 1990s to 1965 spec is holding up well. Located in Karlskron, Germany.

Pickering says:

Old race cars always have a story to tell, and it’s usually an interesting one. What I find most fascinating here is the story that’s hinted at — the potential for SA experimentation in the later 1960s — but isn’t proven. The catalog lines up things nicely for bidders to be able to connect the dots (or holes, as it were in this case), but that proof isn’t definitive enough for most serious buyers. Still, there’s further history here to be uncovered, which is part of the fun.

What is definitive is that the balanced and light GTA, with its extensive use of aluminum panels, was a dominant force in the racing world for years, both in Europe and in the U.S. Being a proven early car — a “Corsa Autodelta prepared” car — this was going to be coveted by racers who understood what they were looking at. A bunch of correct components were used to bring this back to 1965 specification — not a cheap or easy endeavor on a car that had evolved to stay competitive before values for original race cars shot to the moon. That explains the price paid here, which fits with a car that has both good history and good condition.

Image: Pietro Bianchi, RM Sotheby’s

1952 Porsche 356 Coupe 
Lot 137, #1 condition
S/N: 11247
Sold price: $556,968 (€460,000)

The Basics:

Dunkelgrün with tan cloth interior. Factory Kardex confirms configuration and rare color. Fresh off a two-plus-year restoration by 356 specialist Reinhold Plank. A Model 51 car with flat-panel split windshield. Has had at least three engines, including the original roller-bearing 1,488-cc Type 527 60-hp unit, a 1,300-cc Type 506 unit (swapped in 1957) and the current Type 527 engine with plain-bearing crankshaft. Concours ready. Located in Brusaporto, Italy.

Pickering says:

Here we have the purest form of the 356 — which can be both a plus and a minus, depending on how you look at things.

The 356 is special on its own accord — even in stock trim, these cars were giant killers, and their near-universal reverence in the old car world justifies the efforts and expenses incurred in bringing this one to the level you see here. Many of the panels fitted to the outside of this car were said to have been hand-fabricated during restoration, which is a time-consuming labor of love to say the least. Even with that, there are a lot of original parts here, including hardwood door caps and rear quarter ledges. Originality in a Pre-A is coveted.

These cars can be an acquired taste for people used to more than 100 horses on tap, even with the incredible balance that they offer. The early cars such as this one are in demand among collectors, but they’re also the most unrefined and the slowest of the bunch — so there’s more value in this one’s condition and in what it represents than there is in backroad fun. But if you’re wrapped up in that, you’re not this car’s buyer, are you? 

What does it cost you to buy a very nice concours-level Pre-A with a fantastic restoration by a marque expert and a rare color? Here it was $557k, which is right in line with the current market.