In locating a collector car auction the auction companies’ inducement is to put an auction in a place where car collectors want to gather. That involves finding venues where there are attractions that appeal to collectors, where like-minded souls want to congregate with friends, where the accommodations and settings are friendly, with good food and weather. In other words, where the atmosphere lends itself to the car collecting set.
That would be Paris, where every visit is a discovery. Where Rétromobile draws collectors of all stripes. Where the food, wine and chocolate come in all shades of excess.
And then there’s Bonhams’ venue at Le Grand Palais des Champs Elysees, a gargantuan, airy Beaux-Arts structure with barrel vaulted glass roof centered on a gorgeous multi-paned glass dome, vast open space and flamboyantly embellished iron structural members, embellishment that, as far as a close look can tell, is entirely superfluous to the structure’s integrity but integral to its style.
Used in its early years for automobile shows, each year Bonhams recreates the Grand Palais as it was in the early 20th century with an array of cars from the earliest days of motoring – which first took root in France – to the most modern supercars.
Worldwide’s Auburn auction in the Cord L29 Assembly Building is evocative, but that setting has a grim utilitarianism that contrasts sharply with the bright elegance of Les Grand Palais.
The on-site food is a leap above the deep-fried turkey legs of American consignment sales. The bathrooms are clean. It can be chilly (the heating bill must be as vast as the cubic meters of air space inside) but it is always welcoming.
And, besides, it’s Parisian, a reason (or so I told my wife) to take a 5-day trip to Paris and eat snails, beef tartare, grilled squid … and bring home a bounty of exotic chocolates just in time for St. Valentine’s Day.
Oh, and there are cars from one end of the vast exhibit floor to the other. As might be expected at Les Grand Palais there are French rarities (and a few oddities) both old and new, but also plenty of more conventional collector cars with more than a smattering of interesting competition cars.
It’s a celebration in one of the most attractive venues in the world, and perhaps the most attractive venue of all collector car auctions.
It’s worth the trip, and if snails and beef tartare don’t appeal there’s a marvelous steak-frites restaurant at St. Germain des Pres that’s good enough to patronize every night. At Relais de l’Entrecote they ask only two questions when you sit down: ‘How would you like your steak?’ and ‘What would you like to drink with it?’ The frites are crispy on the outside, tender within and just right, the entrecote is tender, tasteful and cooked as requested, the sauce is nothing but sublime, the steak sauce of dreams. And when you’re done … they bring seconds, so nurse that bottle of wine.
Here are the numbers (of the auctions, not the restaurants and chocolates):
|Year||Cars Sold/ Offered||Sale %||Sold < Low Est||Sold > High Est||Average Sale||Median Sale||Total $||Exchange Rate|
Lot # 314 1977 Lancia Stratos Stradale Coupe, Body by Bertone; S/N 829AR0001744; Engine # 829A000001097; Red/Beige leather; Estimate $373,030 – $426,320; Recent restoration, 2 condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $346,385 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $398,343 – Campagnolo gold alloy wheels, Michelin XWX tires, Klippan 4-point belts, leather rim steering wheel. – Very good paint, chrome and interior. Engine and underbody are like new. Professionally serviced in 2015 and largely impeccable. – This is a much better Stratos than the blue one sold at Gooding Scottsdale a few weeks earlier, yet it brought significantly less money in both dollars and Euros. It is a good value at this price. Stratoses don’t appear often (although there were three auctioned since the beginning of this year, one in Scottsdale and two in Paris where Bonhams Group 4 rally car didn’t sell) and their prices are hard to relate. A quality Dino 246 GT would bring this much, though, and this is way more rare and dramatic.
Lot # 319 1962 Facel Vega Facellia F2 Convertible; S/N F2B109B; Engine # 161176; Dark Blue/Dark Red leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $31,974 – $42,632; Cosmetic restoration, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $79,935 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $91,925 – Radio, 4-speed, woodrim steering wheel, silver steel wheels, hubcaps, Marchal headlights and foglights, electric radiator fan. – Impressive deep, rich paint, good chrome and interior. Old undercoat with exterior overspray. Mismatched front and rear tires. Neat, orderly engine compartment. A very pretty cosmetic restoration. Amicale Facel-Vega certified. – The Pont-a-Mousson twin cam engine in the early Facellias were a disaster, later fixed in the F2 but not in time to save the company. This F2 is rare and impressively cosmetically restored. It attracted a steady stream of interested onlookers in the preview who endorsed their interest with this exceptional price. Is it expensive? Yes, it is, but finding another one with the twin cam engine that actually works reliably is a fool’s errand and the bidders stood tall to take this Facellia F2 home.
Lot # 325 1902 Panhard-Levassor 7hp Type A Voiturette, Body by Clement-Rothschild; S/N 5139; Engine # 5139; Blue, Black fenders and accent/Black leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $223,818 – $266,450; Older restoration, 3- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $234,476 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $269,647 – RHD. Dietz kerosene sidelights, Lucas taillight and bulb horn, electric starter, Zenith carburetor. – Wheels appear to be freshly painted; fenders and hood were painted before that. The rest of the body, upholstery and chassis were done long ago. Functional, not pretty, but a successful regular at the London-Brighton runner through 2014. VCC dated 1902. – Sold by Christie’s here in Paris in February 2007 for $200,670. It was Euros 152,750 at the time and is Euros 253,000 today, despite what the moderate increase in the US dollar price says in today’s regime of strong dollars. Someone spending US$ would call this a good value; Euros not so much.
Lot # 333 1923 Bugatti Type 27 Brescia Torpedo; S/N 1693; Engine # 555; Blue, Black fenders, wood decking/Black leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $405,004 – $575,532; Unrestored original, 3- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $468,952 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $539,295 – RHD. 16-valve four of 1,496cc rated 50hp, dual rear spares, black wire wheels, Waymaster tires. – Dull very old repaint. Good replaced front seat upholstery and rear seat cushion. Good original interior trim. Dull nickel brightwork. Chassis is road grimy and old. Stored through the war years. Charmingly original and complete with a delightful but apocryphal story about being used as the escape vehicle in snatch-and-grab robberies in the Bois de Boulogne in the 20’s. Largely documented history and probably the original body. The restoration is mellowed but is still more than ready to thrill its owner on tours and at Bugatti events. – This is a sweet little 16-valve Brescia, carefully used, maintained and preserved since it was new and in satisfying condition. A restoration would be wasted on it, as would any more money than this.
Lot # 334 1959 Porsche 356A 1600 T2 Coupe, Body by Reutter; S/N 107238; Engine # 716248; Black/Red; Estimate $79,935 – $101,251; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $79,935 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $91,925 – Chrome wheels, hubcaps, Michelin XWX tires, sliding sunroof, bumper overriders. – Good paint, chrome and interior. Old undercoat and surface rust underneath. Not that it matters, because what is significant about this Porsche is that it’s had only two owners and travelled 500,000 miles from new, documented in a pile of ‘Ward’s Motor Record’ books. Cosmetically restored in 1997. Later 356C engine. Kardex and original service book documented. – It is really quite fantastic, and no surprise the engine was replaced. This is a modest price for the car as presented, with little if any premium for its bragging rights. If there is a higher mileage Porsche out there it is unlikely to be as well maintained as this one. Bought right.
Lot # 337 1966 Lancia Fulvia 1.2 Coupe; S/N 818130011773; Engine # 81810070877; Mendoza Blue/Beige cloth; Estimate $18,119 – $23,448; Cosmetic restoration, 3 condition; No Reserve; Hammered Sold at $14,921 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $17,159 – Cream wheels, hubcaps, Camac tires, woodrim steering wheel, Carello driving lights. – New scrapes on the left window and trim. Thick recent repaint, good new interior with good gauges. Ugly underbody with old undercoat and road grime. Fiberglass reinforced floors. Cute, but superficially redone. – The Grand Palais bidders weren’t fooled by this Fulvia’s appearance and paid a minimal price for it appropriate to its minimal presentation.
Lot # 339 1935 Aston Martin Ulster Two-seater Sports; S/N A5/537/U; Engine # A5/537/U; BRGreen/Maroon leather; Estimate $1,705,280 – $1,918,440; Older restoration, 3+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $1,865,150 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $2,144,923 – RHD. Cycle fenders with flare strips added for modern 5.50×18 Blockley tires, dual windscreens, headlight stoneguards. – 1935 Le Mans entrant finishing 10th overall and 5th in class driven by C. Trehorne Thomas and Michael Kenyon. Later raced in the UK by its first private owner, E.C.W. Stapleton. Sound old paint over older paint, good newer upholstery. Chassis and engine show age, oil residue and road grime. – Looking at this Aston in Paris I noticed a British gent in a wheelchair fixedly gazing on it. His family left him by the Aston, and he kept taking it in. When I approached he mentioned, ‘It’s a fine car’, not expecting a response in American English. It turns out he owned it years ago and waxed enthusiastically about its driving attributes. He also mentioned that, ‘Once your got your girlfriend in the passenger’s seat she couldn’t get out.’ The high left side exhaust pipe made escape a dangerous leap. ‘On the other hand,’ he added, ‘It was so small you couldn’t do anything in it.’ Endorsement enough for me, I think, and a lovely automobile in remarkably well preserved condition that never became a derelict. Its price is nothing more than it deserved.
Lot # 342 1970 Porsche 914/6 Coupe; S/N 9140431533; Engine # 902025; Silver, Black roof/Black cloth; Estimate $191,844 – $255,792; Modified restoration, 3+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $170,528 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $196,107 – Wide Fuchs wheels, fender flares, Continental tires, roll bar, Recaro seats, dual rally odometers, fire system, parts included. – Paint has been redone, chassis hasn’t. Roof panel joint sealed with helicopter tape. Built by Kremer, hillclimbed. Crashed in 1972 and subsequently resurrected. A fascinating and fast ride in sound vintage event and racing condition. No racing history cited. – This is a sexy hot rod, but no more than that and the price is notably generous for its lack of history.
Lot # 347 1955 Porsche 356 `Pre-A’ 1500 Super Speedster; S/N 80363; Engine # 41109; Light Yellow/Dark Brown; Dark Brown cloth top; Estimate $373,030 – $586,190; Recent restoration, 2+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $341,056 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $392,214 – Body color wheels, hubcaps, Michelin XZX tires, bumper overriders. – Represented as matching numbers. Very good paint, chrome and interior. Underbody and engine compartment are like new. An unusually good and thorough European restoration. – This Speedster is modestly priced in Euros and downright a bargain in dollars. Accurately and thoroughly restored, even if color changed, it is a choice Speedster.
Lot # 348 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe, Body by Pinin Farina; S/N 1247GT; Engine # 1247GT; Ruby metallic/Black leather; Estimate $479,610 – $586,190; Cosmetic restoration, 3 condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $405,004 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $465,755 – Painted spoke, brushed rim Borrani wire wheels, Michelin XWX tires, disc brakes, aluminum doors, hood and deck lid – Indifferent quality old repaint, sound replaced upholstery and carpets. Good major chrome but weak door window frames. Overspray inside the rear wheel wells on old undercoat. Done to a price at a time when Pf coupes weren’t worth much and needs much more now. – A driver-quality cosmetic restoration that brought a healthy but, in the present market, not unrealistic price. Any more than this, though, would be irrational.
Lot # 350 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing; S/N 198405500823; Engine # 198980550086; Red/Beige leather; Estimate $1,172,380 – $1,385,540; Older restoration, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $942,229 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $1,083,564 – Chrome wheels, Michelin XWX tires, woodrim steering wheel, U.S. headlights. – Restored in 2004 in the U.S., engine rebuilt in 2015, represented as matching numbers and as-built other than a color change. Excellent paint, chrome and interior. Polished intake plenum and runners. Some underhood details look to have been repainted since the restoration, and not very well. Underbody is the exterior color and has some road dirt lodged in corners and cracks. A handsome driver. – Appropriately priced for its history and condition, this Gullwing is a sound value. It might be better in its original Light Green Metallic over Red leather, but today it’s too good to change the livery.
Lot # 352 1972 BMW 2002 Cabriolet, Body by Baur; S/N 2795326; Yellow/Black vinyl; Black vinyl top; Estimate $31,974 – $53,290; Unrestored original, 3+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $26,645 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $30,642 – Blaupunkt multiband radio, alloy wheels, headrest seats. – Erratic chrome and bright trim. Old undercoat in the wheel wells. Good original upholstery and paint. Erratically presented but more than good enough to be enjoyed. – The Grand Palais bidders weren’t distracted by the appeal of this Baur cabriolet and restrained their bidding to a level appropriate to its condition. This result is, in dollars at least, little more than a 2002 sedan in comparable is worth.
Lot # 354 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 4-Dr. Sedan; S/N WDB2010351F747407; Rose Metallic/Black vinyl, Grey cloth; – top; Estimate $31,974 – $42,632; Visually maintained, largely original, 3 condition; No Reserve; Hammered Sold at $12,790 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $14,708 – Alloy wheels, Dunlop tires, cassette stereo, sliding sunroof. – 184,360 km on the odometer. Good repaint, chrome and original interior. Represented to have had a fresh service with brakes, tires, suspension, dampers done before the auction. – 184 klicks is, by Mercedes-Benz standards, barely more than break-in mileage, and this is a 2.5-16. It is nothing but a good value at this price that ignores the recent servicing and focuses entirely on its mileage. It’s a bit of a bet on its care, but appears to have been maintained since new.
Lot # 359 1956 Austin-Healey 100/M Le Mans Roadster; S/N BN2L/229932; Engine # 1B/229932; OE White, Burgundy hardtop/Burgundy; Black cloth top; Estimate $191,844 – $255,792; Recent restoration, 2 condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $175,857 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $202,236 – Body color wire wheels, Vredestein tires, two tops, woodrim steering wheel. – Good paint with a chip at the front of the hood opening and two at the trailing edge of the unevenly fit deck lid. Underbody is like new and the upholstery is better but for the scratched steering wheel spokes. Very good chrome. Freshly restored and attractive. – This was the fourth 100/M sold since the beginning of the year with all of them bringing, give or take a few thousand, $200,000. This transaction was smack dab in the middle and everyone associated with the transaction should be highly satisfied with the result.
Lot # 360 1957 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe, Body by Park Ward; S/N BC30LCH; Ice Blue/Cream leather; Cream leatherette top; Estimate $1,065,800 – $1,598,700; Visually maintained, largely original, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $991,194 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $1,139,873 – Handsome blind rear quarter coachwork, automatic, pushbutton radio, power steering, wheel covers, narrow whitewalls, fog lights, badge bar, bumper overriders, full tool kit, owner’s manual. – Delivered new to George A. Embiricos. Restored in the early 00’s with good clearcoat repaint and front seat upholstery. Very good interior wood and original rear seat upholstery. Scratched chrome. Underbody is tidy and original. Engine compartment is dusty but otherwise nearly like new. A car with class and presentation to match. – This is an extraordinary automobile, presented in very good condition and taken care of well and consistently enough that it has never needed restoration. While this is a lot of money for a Bentley S1, this is a lot of Bentley S1 and fully deserves the price it brought.
Lot # 372 1983 Renault 5 Turbo Tour de Corse 2-Dr. Sedan Group B Works Rally Car; S/N VF1822004D0000016; White, Yellow/Black cloth; Estimate $213,160 – $319,740; Competition car, original as-raced, 3 condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $181,186 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $208,364 – White alloy wheels, Michelin tires, Jaeger rally computer, fire system, sequential gearbox (original included), braced rollbar, Cibie lights. – One of 20 factory team cars, driven by Jean Ragnotti in 1983, authenticated by the former Renault Sport manager Patrick Landon. Later driven by Paul Rouby. Cosmetically restored in its 1983 Renault Sport livery with aged but sound paint, worn upholstery, dirty original underbody. Engine compartment is orderly but not show-restored. Mostly original and as rallied. – Reasonably well done and for the most part original with mediocre cosmetics and workmanlike preparation of the engine and chassis, this Group B Renault 5 Turbo promises exceptional performance and unlike the majority of homologation specials it is a real, documented, Renault Sport Group ‘Killer Bee’ team car that brought a solid price.
Lot # 373 1955 Porsche 356 `Pre-A’ Continental Coupe, Body by Reutter; S/N 53846; Engine # 35286; Jade Green/Beige cloth; Estimate $293,095 – $506,255; Recent restoration, 2+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $266,450 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $306,418 – Chrome wheels, Continental tires, Blaupunkt multiband radio. – Represented as the original engine and documented with copy build sheet. Excellent paint, chrome and upholstery. Freshly restored and far better than showroom condition. – This is a rare Porsche, built for the U.S. market only, and this is an excellent example. It is also an excellent, curve-setting, price, although it would look better (and more Fifties American) with whitewall tires.
Lot # 376 1957 Porsche 356A Speedster; S/N 83375; Engine # 65615; Red/Black leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $351,714 – $426,320; Visually maintained, largely original, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $314,411 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $361,573 – Silver painted steel wheels, Michelin XAS tires, bumper overriders, hubcaps. – Very good paint, chrome and interior, represented as matching numbers. Underbody shows age and miles. Steering wheel rim has two tiny visible cracks and the rim is sheathed in an old worn brown leather wrap. Clear, crisp gauges. A remarkably well preserved largely original car delivered new with coupe seats which have been replaced by Speedster seats but come with the car with their original leather upholstery.. – The preservation of this Speedster is remarkable but that was barely recognized by the Grand Palais bidders. Based on recent sales of barn find Speedsters it probably would have brought more if it were derelict and filthy and the new owner got a good value in a Porsche Speedster that should be proud to own and show.
Lot # 378 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster; S/N ZA9RE37AOVLA12762; Silver/Black leather; Estimate $213,160 – $266,450; Unrestored original, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $189,990 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $218,489 – Telephone dial modular wheels, power windows, air conditioning, Alpine stereo. – Clean, orderly, original, barely used with 30,941 km from new. – This result reflects a modest premium for the low miles and excellent preservation of this Diablo VT Roadster but no more than its condition and benign history warrant.
Lot # 384 1980 Ferrari 308 GTB Group 4 Berlinetta; S/N F106AB32419; White, Blue ‘Pioneer’/Black cloth; Estimate $213,160 – $319,740; Modified restoration, 3 condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $173,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $198,950 – Dry sump, Sparco seats and suede rim steering wheel, Gold painted 5-spoke alloy wheels, Michelin competition tires, PIAA driving lights. Full vintage performance rally equipment including AP brakes. – Restored for historic events with a bevy of competition equipment. Orderly and presentable but used. Comes with two engines, the performance modified one installed (297 dyno horsepower) and the original numbers-matching one. – While this is a generous price for a 308 in this condition, it is a performance value of some magnitude to those who seek to experience it.
Lot # 399 1965 Jaguar XKE SI 4.2 Roadster; S/N 1E11996; Engine # 7E67459; Gunmetal Grey/Rose leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $154,541 – $186,515; Recent restoration, 2+ condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $143,883 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $165,465 – Chrome wire wheels, Continental tires. – Represented as matching numbers. Restoration completed two months ago. Excellent paint, chrome and interior. Engine compartment is like new, as is the chassis. – This is a superior XKE, and it brought a relatively modest price for the caliber and freshness of its restoration.
Lot # 407 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale, Body by Bertone; S/N AR380106; Engine # AR0012100068; Red/Tan leather; Estimate $95,922 – $138,554; Recent restoration, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $93,790 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $107,859 – Chrome spoke Borrani wire wheels, Vredestein tires, 5-speed. – Badly scratched driver’s side window. Hood is sprung on the right front; other panels fit well. Gauge faces are yellowed. Pitted B-pillar chrome. Restored to high standards but with some oversights or shortcuts that call into question to standards of workmanship, materials and attention to detail that were employed. – Even with the questions (and the very odd-looking Borrani wire wheels) this is a far better Sprint Speciale than the Giulietta Sprint Speciale offered at RM Sotheby’s yesterday. The RM car was bid to Euros 80,000, only 8,000 Euros less than the successful bid in this case. Considering this is a far better car, with an extra 22hp, it is fairly priced to both the buyer and the seller.
Lot # 408 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe; S/N 308375107895; Daytona Blue/Dark Blue leather; Estimate $63,948 – $74,606; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $58,619 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $67,412 – 4-speed, WonderBar radio, alloy wheels, narrow whitewalls, 350 V8. – Leading edge of the passenger’s door is a quarter inch proud, right headlight doesn’t close flush and a visible seam above it suggests right front damage. Underbody has old undercoat and road dirt. Good surface creased upholstery. Engine compartment is dirty and old. Windshield is wiper scuffed. All in all, a pretty rough Corvette with the wrong engine. – The bidders here in Paris didn’t seem to care, perhaps blinded by the bad visibility through the split rear window, about the many shortcomings of this Corvette. Its price is generously inflated and the car has no good surprises for its new owner.
Lot # 422 1985 Porsche 928 S3 Coupe; S/N WP0JB0927FS860235; Black/Black leather; Estimate $26,645 – $47,961; Visually maintained, largely original, 3 condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $24,513 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $28,190 – 5-speed, power sunroof, power windows, 5-spoke alloy wheels, CD stereo. – Stated to be 82,076 miles from new. Scuffed older repaint, some dirt and dust in it. Good original interior. Underbody is original. Cam belt serviced last year with new shocks installed before the auction. – Porsche 928s have been overlooked for years but offer better than 911 performance with more luxury and comfort. That oversight is beginning to be corrected but the performance/value equation is still firmly on the side of value even at this representative price.
Lot # 424 1975 Citroen DS23ie Pallas 4-Dr. Sedan; S/N DSFG02FG2232; Copper Metallic, Cream roof/Tan leather; Estimate $37,303 – $47,961; Recent restoration, 2- condition; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $27,711 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price – $31,867 – Multiband radio, column shift 5-speed, cream wheels, wheel covers, Vredestein tires, skirts, sliding sunroof. – Very good paint, good chrome and surface cracked original interior. Underbody has been done like new. An impressively and thoroughly restored Citroen. The catalog describes the color as ‘Copper Metallic’ but in person it might be described as closer to metallic tangerine. – Sold by Bonhams at Reims in 2010 for $29,636, Euros 23,000 at the time while this sale is Euros 29,900 all-in and the car could hardly have been any better then, fresh from restoration, than it is now. Understated elegance is its forte and a sound value is what the new owner got.
Contents and photography © 2017 Richard S. Carey.