It’s been two weeks since the Bonhams Quail Lodge auction, which I previewed in a previous post, in which I deftly managed to avoid any sudden outbursts about how expensive classic cars are becoming. After attending the auction (and ending up with a Leno sighting), I came away with more than a few thoughts regarding the sale. So I’ve written a round-up where I chose some cars sold at the auction and conducted some analysis on their sales.
Now, this isn’t exhaustive in any way, shape, or form. Rather, it involves me unscientifically picking five cars that I somehow thought were significant and writing about whether they should have sold for more money or less.
(Full Disclosure: I really, really, really wanted to be present for the auction that had a 250 GTO on the block so I asked Bonhams for a press pass. I got it in exchange for a preview and a write-up on the event.)
What It Is: One of the supercars that defined the 1980s, along with the Porsche 959 and Lamborghini Countach. Built to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ferrari as a manufacturer, it was essentially a racing car for the road, being based on the 288 GTO, a homologation special for Group B rallying. It is mid-engined with a very light body on it. Despite having under 500 horsepower and immense turbo lag, it can still cross 200 mph, though you’ll probably need earplugs while that’s happening.
What It Sold For: $1,430,000
Why It Should Have Sold For More: It went for $1.43 million. Though it did have less than 1,300 miles on it with less than three owners. It was in extremely good condition and still had the factory tires. So it was as virgin as a 1980s Ferrari could be.
Why It Should Have Sold For Less: Less than five years ago, you could easily get a good-condition F40 under $500,000. Prices have somehow skyrocketed in the past couple years, with $1 million considered the “right” price for an F40.
Conclusion: Forget investing in the stock market or parking your money in bonds. The Ferrari F40 will guarantee a much better return on your investment.
What It Is: Ferrari’s series-production take of a 4-seater on the long-wheelbase 250 platform. The Series III version was among the last 250 GTEs built, so presumably much of the production niggles had been worked out. (After all, nearly 1,000 of these were built.) As can be noticed from the photo, this Ferrari isn’t in very good condition and had been lying in a garage for at least 20 years.
What It Sold For: $275,000
Why It Should Have Sold For More: All of the parts on the car are, more or less, original. And it does come with a history report from Marcel Massini, one of the foremost Ferrari experts out there, which definitely gave the bidders some piece of mind. I really can’t think of much less due to the amount of money needed to restore the car.
Why It Should Have Sold For Less: As a barn find, it definitely needed some work to become road worthy. As such, Bonhams estimated the sale price would be around $100,000-$150,000 and was sold at no reserve. Also, almost 1,000 of these cars were built, so these aren’t exactly rare. And I don’t think it’s the prettiest Ferrari to buy at nearly $300,000.
Conclusion: It looks the price of less-desirable classic Ferraris are on the up and up, considering this one handily outpaced expectations.
What It Is: The Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport was actually sold as a chassis, with buyers expected to get bodywork from coachbuilders. This car had beautiful Oblin coachwork, which accounts for the body that looks similar to early Ferraris, though the chassis was constructed in 1948. The chassis originally had a body by Van Den Plas, which made the look like a 1950s Jaguar coupe copy. This car had a 4-liter inline-six which was considered powerful for the time and a very-fitting-for-the-1930s Wilson preselector gearbox.
What It Sold For: $1,485,000
Why It Should Have Sold For More: These cars are very rare. There are very few T26 Grand Sports like this Oblin-bodied example (which I think is the prettiest out of all the T26 GSs). And Talbot-Lago T26 prices have been going up for quite some time. Other, uglier, bodied ones have gone for much more at auction.
Why It Should Have Sold For Less: It was involved in an accident in which it rolled onto its roof at Spa in 2002. The interior needs some restoring. And good luck finding a mechanic in the United States who can work on a car as unique as this.
Conclusion: A car that most people in the world won’t know, but will give a second look at. And maybe, just maybe, there could be a Concours win in its future, provided the judges don’t come across this post and read that it was a) rebodied in 1952 (Not original body: 3 out of 10), and b) fifty years later was rolled at Spa resulting in a roof that needed to be fixed (Roof structure: 2 out of 10) and a windshield that needed to be replaced (Unoriginal glass: 1 out of 10). (Don't take me too seriously, Dr. Simeone.)
What It Is: A racing-homologation special built by Porsche in order to allow the 911 in GT racing. Only 500 of this were meant to be built, but they ended up proving so popular that over 1,500 were built. This particular one happens to have the iconic ducktail spoiler deleted, though one was offered for future installation if the new owner wanted it.
What It Sold For: $935,000
Why It Should Have Sold For More: I really can’t think of an answer, considering how easy it is to clone one of these at a fraction of the price. I mean, nearly $1 million for a 911 is pushing it, though this was in nearly excellent condition with no horror stories.
Why It Should Have Sold For Less: It’s a humble rear-engined 911. Only the most earnest Porsche enthusiasts will know what this car is. And there is the potential for rust, a common problem on early 911s. Even two years ago, $500,000 was thought to be too much for this car.
Conclusion: If a 40+ year-old special 911 has gone for nearly $1 million, I shudder to think how much a BMW 1-Series M or Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0 will go for in twenty years’ time.
What It Is: One of 39 cars that Ferrari built for both GT racing and as a street-legal sports car. It’s been considered among the best Ferraris ever made. These cars were also incredibly successful in sports car racing in the 1960s which adds to their desirability. This particular car was in the same family for the last 49 years and also had competed in a few races and hillclimbs.
What It Sold For: $38,115,000
Why It Should Have Sold For More: It's a 250 GTO. These cars have been selling in the $40 million range recently with one car even selling privately for reportedly around $50 million. So it was believed that one at auction would’ve sold for much, much more. After all, the 250 GTO is considered among the best Ferraris ever made.
Why It Should Have Sold For Less: It was involved in an accident in which its driver died. There could be some bad voodoo there. Red wasn’t the original color of the car, having been finished in grey with center stripes in the color of the French flag for the first owner. And the car had to be completely rebuilt (though by the factory) after the aforementioned crash. So this 250 GTO wasn’t quite perfect like some other examples.
Conclusion: It sold for a fair price. But it means the prices of 250 GTOs will stay north of $30 million, no matter the condition. And this one was far from perfect, though it did work.