When RM Auctions shifted its annual London sale forward from October in 2013, September instantly became the biggest month in the British classic car sales cycle. Two years ago, the London auction combined with Bonhams' Goodwood Revival and Beaulieu events to total nearly $60M in sales. Last year Silverstone Auctions kick-started the month with an impressive sale at Salon Prive to join the month's other events in an $84M buying frenzy. For 2015, the scheduled events remained the same even if the results did not.
In all, the total number of lots sold among the four biggest British collector car auctions of September slipped by nearly 90 vehicles and the overall total of $56M fell below 2013's figure. Much as we witnessed in Monterey a month ago, the general speed of the market is slowing, and it is doing so globally. For 2015, Silverstone's Salon Prive sale moved to Blenheim Palace near Oxford from London's Syon House and shifted to the weekend rather than mid-week, which should have helped matters. The sale was hampered by the fact that there was no car of the same caliber as last year's Ferrari Daytona Spider or 250 GT Lusso, however. Average and median sales stats were well off 2014 and the overall sale total was $7.6M, or more than $8.5M short of a year ago. Top honors went to a right-hand-drive 1968 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage Volante at $1,367,573.
Bonhams' Beaulieu sale followed on Sept. 9, and held true to form with several million dollars of restoration projects sold on the day. RM Sotheby's London auction was staged a few days later still, and featured a terrific cast of cars. Unfortunately, the excitement plainly wasn't in the room. The 73 percent sell-through rate was much lower than recent years and results typically came in at the lower end of the market. Bright spots included cars from the 1980s and 1990s: a nearly new 1985 Ferrari Testarossa earned $175,897 including buyer's premium, a 1989 Ferrari 328 GTS sold for $306,693, and a bold 1995 Bugatti EB110 SS hit the seven-figure mark with $1,020,282. Nevertheless, the marquee car was a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT TdF that found a new home for $7.66M, which was less than the $8.2M tallied by 2014's TdF (granted, they had very different provenance) and the lowest price publicly paide for a TdF since 2012. Given that practically every A-list auction of the past three years has featured a Tour de France Ferrari, it seems supply has finally caught up with demand.
The capstone sale for September 2015 was Bonhams' Goodwood Revival auction. Typically one of the year's high points, the preliminary sale rate tracked 60 percent with $16.7M in overall sales (the numbers were 74 percent and $24.8M in 2014). Some strong prices were seen (again, for modern classics like the 2005 Ford GT at $502,820 and the 1993 Lamborghini Diablo for $178,352), but even more noticeable were the big misses. Chris Evans' 1963 Ferrari 275 GTB and 250 GT Lusso failed to sell, as did a 1970 Porsche 908 and a 1958 Scarab-Chevrolet Mark I. That makes five high-profile no-sales that were expected to each exceed $1M. Top sale from the Bonhams Goodwood Revival auction was a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible for $1.676M.
Naturally, auctions are only one window into the market, and a few more bids on a few more cars can drastically change the tone of a sale or even a month. Nonetheless, at a high level this much is clear: unless we are talking about the best of the best, restraint and reason are top of mind for seasoned buyers. Ultimately, although prices look likely to continue rising, the rates of appreciation may return to those that experienced buyers came to know during the middle of the last decade.