Auctions commentary: Richard Hudson-Evans

'The lower the mileage, the higher the price' – the latest auction phenomenon

NEC low-mileage auction highlights

Higher prices than ever before have been paid for genuinely low-mileage classics, led by the record £97,875 paid for a 1980 Ford Escort RS2000 Custom with 927 miles on the clock. The record sale was made during the recent Lancaster Insurance NEC Classic Motor Show auction.

The £91,125 final bid for an Escort Cosworth Lux registering just 837 miles from new was a record buster for Silverstone Auctions at the NEC, where £112,500 was forthcoming for a 1988 Sierra Cosworth RS500 and a bullish £43,875 was invested in the future of a 2011 Focus RS 18-miler. In comparison, a 1981 MGB LE with delivery mileage pulled £21,375, alongside an unregistered and unused 1980 B GT that raised £19,125.

A cool £41,625 was paid by a Del Boy fan in Brum to secure a 1968 Reliant Regal Van. Sporting signage for ‘Trotters Independent Trading Co of New York Paris and Peckham', this most authentic of three-wheeled icons had apparently been briefly employed by the BBC for an Only Fools and Horses promo, too.

H&H low-mileage heroes

During H&H’s final sale car of the year at Duxford, an unregistered Hillman Imp Californian Coupe that had been driven 82 miles from manufacture in 1968 also made a model-record £20,700 during a five-hour session. This saw H&H online bidders buy more than 25 percent of the 88 vehicles sold, including a 1943 International Harvester M5 half-tracked troop carrier with Polish markings and WW2 provenance, for £135,000.

At the 13 transparent auctions personally monitored within the EU during the past month, when a total of 1145 collector cars were offered and 772 of them were hammered away to new homes, the reality reflecting sale rate ranged from:

  • 95 percent sold at the SWVA Drive Through in Dorset
  • 36 percent at Sandown Park in Surrey
  • Making for an average: 67 percent

However, statistically, around two-thirds of auction cars selling highlights the fact that vendors' reserves for 33 percent of classics auctioned were too high for those in the market to buy.

Across the pond

In the US, meanwhile, at the now suburb-encircled Bothwell Ranch just over the hill from LA, the collection from Lindley and Ann Bothwell – which included one of the most significant assemblies of pre-Great War racing automobiles ever – completely sold out under the Bonhams gavel for $13.7 million (£10.3 million). Bidders had been magnetised to attend from as far away as New Zealand and Holland, while bidders from all over the planet contested lots via telephone and Internet.

The unchallenged headliner was the 1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix Two-Seater chassis number 1, fitted with 4491cc four-cylinder engine number 1, the 1914 Lyon GP works team spare. It had subsequently been raced to third place by Ralph Mulford in the Indianapolis 500 in 1916, and driven by Art Klein at Indy again in 1919. Having influenced many legendary builders, from Ettore Bugatti to Harry Miller, this innovative French automobile has been called by many ‘the father of all race cars’. Bidding was brisk from the off, and never faltered until the hammer fell in favour of a private American collector who paid $7.26 million (£5.5 million) for the unrepeatable Pug Racer, establishing a new auction record for the marque – and by several million, too!

The nearest recent Peugeot auction price to this milestone valuation was that clocked up by a 1984 205 Turbo 16, one of the 200 production examples that had to be factory built for the works competition department rally cars to be accepted for Group B. The 76th client car to be built came to market in the underground car park view next to Artcurial HQ in the Champs-Elysees.

Although repainted, the otherwise original T16 was, yes of course, yet another low-mileage timewarp, with a mere 209km on the odometer. Five of those kilometres had been added during the final three years of vendor ownership, which the next investor-collector added to his portfolio for 184,800 euros (£162,624). Sadly, in the eyes of the market makers, actually driving these assets anywhere will almost certainly depreciate them by the click.

Next to go into bat before the auction dates run out before Christmas will be Historics at Brooklands (not under canvas in the museum car park, but within the neighbouring swish multi-storey Mercedes-Benz World facility), where 132 more classics will go under the hammer in the real world from 10.30am on Saturday 25 November.

Classic Cars for Sale