Extremes in performance for June UK and European auctions

June sale rates ranged from 37% to 65% in Surrey, averaged 55% in Oxfordshire and Herefordshire, hit 80% in Norfolk and 100% in the Netherlands. What is going on?

June saw mixed results from the UK auction houses, with Bonhams' 100% sale of the Den Hartogh collection in the Netherlands by far the most successful, followed by ACA's impressive sale in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

Certain other sales suffered, in some cases due to poor attendance or more often due to unrealistically high reserves being set. It's interesting to see how the different sales played out, as follows.

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Brightwells Bicester

With the exception of a VSCC 1935-dated Riley Amilcar two-seater special (above) with just the right amount of patina, very few other classics flew to any great height in the cool of the WW2 hangar during Flywheel weekend. However, the Amilcar excited serious bidding way over the £80,000 top estimate, to achieve a results topping £132,160 including Brightwells premium.

For only a few lots appeared to sell under the hammer and most of the 48 assorted classics that did change hands, 55% of the 87 offered, were ‘provisionally bid’ and only appeared on the £847,373 results following conversion in the back office.

Another notable performance was the within guide £22,960 sale of an AC 3000ME (below). It had covered only 4400 miles from new in 1986, when this, the third from last of the 106 such Ford V6 mid-engined GTs was built. A £28k overhauled 1954 Bentley R Type, discreetly converted with an ingenious clamshell hatchback in the Harold Radford workshops (preserving the elegant lines of the standard saloon) realised £45,360, mid-estimate money.

An apparently mostly-1949 Land Rover Series 1 80in running and driving project, with lights buried in the grille and original ring-pull transmission, was provisionally bid to £17,000, £3000 below estimate. It was eventually taken on for £21,850 with premium. Sadly a custom-painted 1974 Ford Capri Jeff Uren Stampede packing a G-Code BOSS 384bhp motor ran out of interest at £25,000, £14,000 short of what had been sought. It was one of 39 cars that did not sell due to their reserves being too high for their conditions.

Brightwells Leominster

Three days earlier, the Herefordshire firm had driven another 80 more modern classics through the 4x4 hall at their Leominster head office, among them a 1999 Mini Cooper Sport (below) with 56,760 mileage and a Category D claim in 2006 that did not deter a new owner from bidding £5800 and paying £6380 with premium. By the weekend, 44 cars had sold (the 55% sale rate identical to that recorded three counties away at Bicester) for £203,320 with premium – although, once again, 36 lots failed to sell.

H&H Woodcote Park

Earlier in June, in a sparsely populated H&H auction tent pitched behind the RAC Woodcote Park Country Clubhouse at Epsom, the going was even softer for higher priced thoroughbreds, 34 of which had to be transported back to their stables unsold.

Leading the £638,110 results at the end of an only 37% sold afternoon was a 1960 Bentley S2 Continental Drophead (below). It was one of 60 in right-hand drive with finned rear traffic lights, and knocked down to a telephone bidder for £109,125 – over £9000 more than had been estimated.

There were buyers too for both Series 3 V12 E-type Jaguar roadsters. A 1972 ex-auto now manual in ‘as new’ and super glossy condition fetching £81,563 and £81,000 paid for a still auto 1974 car with 49,000 warranted mileage.

Also much viewed by prospective bidders were examples of the forever-popular Austin-Healey 100 and Mini Cooper 1275S Mk1. The always right-hand drive 1955 BN1 had started life as a BMC press car and been upgraded by Wheeler & Davies with ally wings and doors and converted to M-spec by Denis Welch in the late 1980s. It was not surprising therefore that the buyer had to pay £48,375, £6375 more than the guide price, to own it.

The 1965 Morris-badged Cooper S, 'sympathetically enhanced with period-correct modifications', was bought on the internet for £30,375, only just over the lower estimate.

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Barons, Sandown Park

Simultaneously, only a few miles away at Sandown Park, Barons did better, selling 65% of the 65 cars in their catalogue, the 42 changes of ownership amounting to another £599,685 with premium spent on auction classics during the same afternoon in Surrey.

Both the top-priced sellers in the saleroom beneath the grandstand were restored Series 1 E-types, a still matching numbers 1964 4.2 FHC (below) with upgraded brakes and wider wires selling for £86,820, forecast money, and a 1962 3.8 OTS for £99,000, £4000 more than the guide.

A sharp-looking 1975 Maserati Merak with rebuilt engine and some pop provenance made £71,000, within the estimate band suggested – two thirds of the detailed restoration cost on file.

A brightly painted Lotus Elise S1 (below) in Norfolk Yellow with freshly sorted Rover K-series head and renewed cambelts looked like high-viz fun and good value for the £8580 with premium paid (by a visiting on-line auction principal!). And while fewer cars were unsold, 23 at Sandown, later in what had been another extraordinarily fixture-filled month on the auctions circuit, two sales were particularly encouraging for market watchers.

ACA and Bonhams

ACA shifted over 200 classics in an 80% sold £1.9m afternoon at King’s Lynn 16 June, as described here. And on 23 June Bonhams shifted all 250 Fords from the Den Hartogh Collection at Hillegom in the Netherlands in a 100% sold £5.5m in a ten-hour marathon run by four auctioneers. See the full report here.

With a 1906 Model B Side-Entrance Tonneau selling for a world record £373,578, there really is a market out there, although not for all cars and not every day, it seems. Buyers must be in the mood to do so, vendors' reserves must be fine-tuned for reality and, if the price is right, the hammer will usually hit the sweet spot.

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