Paris collectible car auctions: Barnfind Ferrari 250 GT California Spider sells for US$18.45 millionView gallery - 71 images
The world’s greatest ever barnfind, the Baillon Collection, went under the auctioneer's gavel this afternoon in Paris with most of the cars fetching in excess of their estimates, and the collection fetching US$28.5 million (€25.15 million) in total, topped by a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider which fetched $18.45 million (€16.23 million) to become one of the top five most expensive cars ever to sell at auction.
Other highlights of the Baillon collection sale included a 1956 A6G Maserati Grand Sport fetching $2,263,840 (€2.0 million), and a Saoutchik-bodied 1949 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport ($1,946,902 - €1.72 million).
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The auction of the Baillon Collection became massive global news over the last six weeks as the world has become infatuated with the semi-archeological find of 61 rare cars after half a century of neglect.
Elite French auction house Artcurial experienced some technological headaches with its webcast of the auction inundated by a massive global audience curious to watch the historic live webcast of the official Retromobile auction from the Porte de Versailles Exhibition center in Paris.
With live webcasts from the two other major collectible car auctions of Retromobile week on the two preceding days (RM Auctions on Wednesday February 4 and Bonhams on Thursday February 5), the global focus on the proceedings in Paris reached fever pitch on Friday afternoon with the presentation of the Baillon collection and the audience was not disappointed.
The top selling car was as expected, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider formerly owned by actor Alain Delon. Though there are rarer cars, (106 Ferrari 250 GT California Spiders were made, compared with just 39 Ferrari GTOs), the rare car market knows every such model, and this is one of several individual cars which were unaccounted for in the Ferrari Register and thought lost.
There are now no less than 14 California Spiders in the 100 most expensive cars of all time and three in the top ten. Ferrari retains its dominant position in the rare care market with nine of the top ten cars and more than half of the top 100 most expensive cars ever sold. Indeed, in the last six months (from Peble Beach 2014 until after this Paris sale), Ferrari has considerably increased its domination of the top 100.
Another car with a spectacular French cinema provenance to cross the auction block at Artcurial's Friday auction was a 1966 long nose Ferrari 275 GTB/2 originally owned by Roger Vadim and subsequently by Jane Fonda.
The Spider was purchased new by the actor Gérard Blain, then sold to fellow actor Alain Delon, who was photographed several times at the wheel of this machine, including in 1964 with Jane Fonda during the filming of Les Félins and on the Côte d’Azur with Shirley MacLaine.
The car was estimated to fetch €2,750,000 to €3,250,000 but didn't quite reach estimate at €1,900,000 ($2,720,000), but it was the highlight of the post-Baillon Artcurial auction on Friday night.
The third Talbot-Lago T26 Saoutchick sold for €417,200, with other top sellers from the collection including the Bugatti T57 Ventoux (€298,000), the Hispano-Suiza H6B (€572,000) and the Delahaye 135 M Faget-Varnet (€429,100).
Million Dollar Cars
There were 15 million dollar cars sold across the three auctions, with Artcurial's top three Baillon collection cars plus the aforementioned 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Berlinetta Long Nose giving it four of the top five sales of the week. Here are the top fifteen sales from Paris - the only ones to cross the magic million mark.
Ayrton Senna's Go-kart nearly doubles estimate
The online classic car auction industry
If there’s one take-out from the auction and other global media activity of recent times, it's that the online auction marketplace is beginning to go mainstream. Whereas participating in this market was once only for those who had the time and wherewithal to travel to Monterey, Amelia Island, Scottsdale, Paris or London, people can now watch and bid during the entire proceedings from anywhere and a range of ancillary inspection, transportation and other services make it easy and exciting to do.
Over the last month we've seen webcasts from all the major auction houses and it's worth noting the variety of different styles and information systems provided by them.
They're all great to watch, but my favorite by a fair margin is the Bonhams webcast format. Bonhams' mastery of the webcast medium is one of just many reasons the company excels in rare car and motorcycle sales. An auction interface does not need hi-res video of the auctioneers - they are the conductor of the orchestra, but not the symphony itself. A good webcast requires high quality audio and a clear indication of the car being auctioned, its estimates, the current bid and the running order of the auction. Bonhams online auction interface is the outstanding one of the big three.
Some desirable additions to Bonhams' best-of-breed interface would be some visual cues as to when reserve has been surpassed, key points about the car and most importantly for a global audience, alternative language channels. I regularly attend press conferences with several language channels (headsets are handed out - tune into channel 1 for English, channel 2 for Chinese, Channel 3 for Japanese etc) and it's not hard to do, and should be equally easy to broaden the reach of an English webcast by 100% with Spanish, and by 300% with Mandarin. As well served as a I was by five years of French classes, I found it difficult to follow what the current bid was during Artcurial's French-only webcast. It's a big world out there, and not everybody speaks English and broadcasting to a target audience in a language only a small percentage understands will limit the appeal.
Growing global interest in classic cars
Another clear pointer to the growing interest in the multi-billion dollar global classic car industry was the ratings success of the first screening of the Classic Car Show which premiered last night (Thursday) on the U.K.'s Channel 5 at 7pm. The first episode of the new 13 x one-hour series, which is hosted by Quentin Willson and Jodie Kidd racked up staggering viewing figures and a huge amount of social media buzz.
The new show averaged 662,000 viewers and a 3.2% share, peaking at 886k viewers. This performance put it ahead of both the weekday 7pm slot average for 2014 and Thursday night slot average (475k/2.4% and 487k 2.5% share respectively).
The European marketplace isn't nearly as keen as the American marketplace for motorcycle sales prices and some very tasty machinery changed hands remarkably cheaply. The Benelli Sei prototype failed to meet reserve, nor did the 1973 NCR Ducati 750SS Corsa, or the 1978 Magni-built MV Agusta Formula 750. The estimates were very reasonable.
The 2009 Ducati Desmosedici RR "G8" we previewed last week fetched a very modest €43.875 - remarkably good buying considering its esteemed provenance and a similar model fetched $49,500 (inc premiums) at Mecum's Vegas auction last month. These motorcycles are still state-of-the-art and will become far more valuable with time. They're still near half the price they were new. Crazy value!!!!
Similarly, one of the original ten 1974 Bimota 750 HB1s sold for €63,825 ($72,955), again representing exceptional value considering it was the first model of a globally recognized brand which still produces kick-ass motorcycles.
The second papal Harley in as many years achieved a heavenly price for an otherwise stock bike at €46,000 ($ 52,656), but significantly less than last year's astonishing €241,500 ($330,938) price. Interestingly, the buyer of last year's bike backed up his generous donation to charity by buying this year's bike too.
Both of the Vincents on offer at Bonhams sold, but the prices were very modest. The 1952 998cc Vincent Series C Black Shadow sold for €82,800 ($94,645)...
Another good buy was this Husqvarna 400MX which finished second in the American InterAm series under the throttle hand of Bengt Aberg - the same year he won the world 500cc MX title. Possibly the best ever motocross rider and ... it sold for €16,100 ($18,429).
This beautifully-restored 1928 Indian Scout sold for €19,550 ($ 22,378).
My final, wow-this-is-silly-cheap example is this 1959 period-correct special Norton-Velocette Venom engine in a MODEL 99 frame, complete with a dustbin fairing. The receipts from getting this bike into this condition would total more than it sold for ... just €9,200 (US$ 10,531).
Bonhams also sold five showroom condition superbikes from the sixties and seventies: 1977 BMW R90S, a 1969 BSA Rocket III, a 1971 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, a Norton Commando Production Racer, and a 1970 T120 Triumph Bonneville. We've listed them in alphabetical order of the marques. They're all close to brochure material, and we challenge you to put them in order of the price they sold for. Can't be done I sez, can't be done. Prices accessible by clicking the images.
We’ll continue to add to this report over the next 24 hours with all the prices and intrigue from all three auctions.