Gooding & Co “Passion of a Lifetime” auction sets multiple world records
In a year where COVID-19 has prevented many auctions from going ahead and stopped many people from attending in person even when they did go ahead, the success of Gooding & Company’s “Passion of a Lifetime” auction at Hampton Court Palace on the weekend seems like a miracle.
The company’s first auction outside America ran for just 90 minutes, 14 of the 15 cars sold, eight cars topped US$1 million, new world price records were set for three different Bugatti models, the Bugatti marque and a Lamborghini Miura, and $45,231,210.76 was realized … at just over $500,000 a minute … setting a new record for the highest average price per lot at a motor car auction of £2,432,064 ($3,230,800) per car.
The auction was originally scheduled for earlier in the year and had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but the final result was one of triumph over adversity in a year when the industry has been seriously challenged.
Remarkably, despite all the rampant success, the star car of the auction didn’t sell and one wonders if Aston Martin’s decision to sell 19 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato "continuation models" might have had something to do with this surprise poor showing at auction. Previous Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagatos that had been to auction had fetched $13.3 and $14.3 million, yet this pristine example attracted a bid of just £6.3 million (US$8.4 million).
When the collectible car industry was at its most recent peak (Monterey Car Week in 2014), $427 million dollars worth of collectible cars were sold during a few days. The market has softened since then, but it is still healthy enough for a new marketplace of “continuation” models to spring up. Continuation models are remakes of special models from a company’s past, and in just a few short years, the market for these new old classics is booming.
So far we’ve seen a dozen new 1929 “Blower” Bentleys sold at £1.5 million each, 25 new 1955 Jaguar D-Types at £1,000,000 apiece, 25 new 1959 Aston Martin DB4 GTs at £1.5 million, six new Lightweight 1963 Jaguar E-Types at £1,000,000 each, nine new 1957 XKSS Jaguars at £1,000,000 per car, 25 Aston Martin “Goldfinger” DB5s at £2.75 million and most recently, the granddaddy continuation offering of them all, 19 new 1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation models at $7.65 million each (with a free DBS GT Zagato included).
The opportunity for these new old cars came about because the original cars had appreciated in value to the point where a price tag of £1,000,000 appeared cheap, and 6, 9, 12 or even 25 people could be easily found who would jump at the opportunity. All the continuation models mentioned above sold out before they were even public knowledge – such is the detailed understanding car makers have of their fan base these days, the limited numbers (supply) of many landmark models, and the global hunger for them (demand).
Perhaps Aston Martin needs to reconsider its strategy of continuation models because it might well be biting the hands that feed it. The same people who own the original Blower Bentleys, Aston Martin DB4 GTs and Jaguar XKSS fly the flag for the marque on concourse lawns across the world every Sunday. They are the company's most ardent evangelists, and having a $10 million car gives them credibility.
Here's a quick rundown of the results achieved at Hampton Court Palace:
No sale (£6,300,000 high bid) | 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
Estimate: £7,000,000 - £9,000,000 ($9,300,000 to $12,000,000)
Lot 7 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
The numbers on this car are astonishing from every angle. Just 19 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagatos were made, officially becoming the world’s fastest road car with a run of 153.5 mph (247 km/h). It took that mantle from Aston Martin's own DB4 GT, which had been timed at 152 mph (245 km/h) by the magazine Autosport in December 1961, which in turn had taken the crown from the DB4 with its top speed, as tested by Autocar magazine in 1961, of 141 mph (227 km/h).
Just two DB4 GT Zagatos have gone to auction in recent times, with one selling for $14,300,000 (RM-Sotheby’s | New York | December 2015) and another selling for £10,081,500 (US$13,323,861) (Bonhams’ | Goodwood Festival of Speed | July 2018).
This one didn’t sell, even though it received a bid of £6,300,000. Add the buyers premium to that and it would have cost the high bidder US$9,232,945 had it been accepted.
$12,666,477 | 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£9,535,000
Estimate: £10,000,000 plus ($13,300,000 plus)
Lot 4 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
At £9.535 million (US$12.66 million), this is now the most expensive Bugatti that has ever been sold at auction, eclipsing the $10.4 million 1932 Bugatti Type 55 that Gooding & Company sold at Pebble Beach in 2016 and a 1931 Bugatti Royale that sold for $9,867,000 at a Christie’s auction on November 19, 1987. That sale 33 years ago made it the most valuable automobile that had ever been sold, and it took that mantle from another Bugatti Royale that had been sold by Kruse International for $6.5 million in Reno, Nevada in 1986.
This car is one of the eight Bugatti Type 59 racing cars built, of which only five are extant. Four are still in racing trim, but although this Bugatti Type 59 has a number of historic victories and pole positions to its name as a factory racer, it spent only one season on the racetrack before being returned to the factory in Molsheim and converted into a road car for King Leopold III of Belgium in 1938. It remains in the original condition of King Leopold's ownership. As we noted in our preview of this auction, one of the other four cars is in the world-famous car collection of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, while another is in the collection of industrial designer Marc Newson. It cannot be a coincidence that people who are among the world's foremost exponents of functional art own a Bugatti T59. Newson has been described as the most influential designer of his generation.
$10,434,732 | 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£7,855,000
Estimate: £7,000,000 ($9,300,000 plus)
Lot 15 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
The Type 57 started as a road car, but when Bugatti turned it into a racing car, it excelled. In 1936, T-57-based cars won the ACF GP, the Marne GP and the Comminges GP and established new speed records for one hour, six hours and 24 hours at the banked Montlhéry racetrack near Paris.
In 1937, Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist drove a T-57 to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, setting new race records at 3,287.9 km (2,043 mi) at an average 137 km/h (85 mph). The Bugatti Type 57 again won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939.
Most 57S owners wanted the additional power afforded by the optional blower that was subsequently introduced, and most of the original Type 57S cars returned to Molsheim for the installation of the supercharger, pushing the power from 175 hp (130 kW) to 200 hp (150 kW) and 190 km/h (120 mph). This particular car was fitted with a Marshall supercharger in the late 1940s, and hence would be producing at least 200 hp.
It is the provenance of this car that really makes it special. The car was built specifically for the President of the Bugatti Owners' Club, Francis Curzon, the 5th Earl Howe. Howe was an icon of the British motoring scene, regularly competing in major races, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1931 (partnering with famous “Bentley Boy” Sir Henry Birkin in an Alfa Romeo) and setting a fastest lap in the event in 1934.
Subsequent to Earl Howe’s ownership, the car passed through several owners before being purchased by a Dr Harold Carr, who subsequently partially disassembled it in anticipation of a total rebuild, which was never finished, and the car sat unused for 50 years. In 2009, the car went to auction at Bonhams’ during Retromobile Week, celebrated as the “barn find of the decade.”
There were those who speculated in the lead up to the auction that the Bugatti Type 57S might become the world’s most valuable car when it sold. Though it eventually sold for just €3,417,500 (US$4,408,575), it was still one of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction at that time.
The most expensive Bugatti Atalantes to have previously sold at auction have both been Type 57SC: a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante sold for $7,920,000 at a Gooding & Co auction at Pebble Beach in 2008, and the model record prior to the sale of this car was held by a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante that sold for $8,745,000 at a Gooding & Co Pebble Beach auction in 2013.
The Gooding auction description summarizes perfectly: "Acquired in 'garage find' condition by the current owner, this magnificent Bugatti has since been treated to a subtle yet thorough restoration by marque expert Ivan Dutton Ltd. This Atalante possesses a history unlike any other Type 57S. It has led a truly fantastic journey, from the prized possession of a motor racing icon in the 1930s to a tinkerer’s pet project in the 1950s, followed by its decades-long descent into oblivion and recent joyful rescue from it."
$5,227,329 | 1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£3,935,000
Estimate: £3,000,000 plus ($4,000,000 plus)
Lot 10 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
The Bugatti Type 35 is generally regarded as the most successful racing car of all time, and this Type 35C example is both original and exceptionally-well preserved. The 35C’s eight-cylinder two-liter engine is fitted with a Roots-type supercharger and was the Bugatti factory entry for the 1928 Targa Florio. At a later date in private hands it took an overall win at the inaugural Coupe de Bourgogne. This is now the most expensive Bugatti Type 35 ever sold at auction.
$4,260,240 | 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Speciale
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£3,207,000
Estimate: £1,600,000 – £2,000,000 ($2,125,000 to $2,750,000)
Lot 2 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
Lamborghini built 150 examples of the P400 SV, the final and fastest iteration of the Miura. This car was built specifically French industrialist Jacques Dembiermont and unlike the other 149 P400 SVs built, its engine has dry sump lubrication and the car has a ZF limited-slip differential. An older restoration to its original Oro Metallizzato Color, this Miura possesses a rich, fascinating history, unmatched mechanical specifications, outstanding documentation, and strong ties to the infamous Jota. It is now also the most valuable Muira to have ever sold at auction.
$3,999,870 | 1955 Aston Martin DB3S
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£3,011,000
Estimate: £3,000,000 – £4,000,00 ($4,000,000 to $5,315,000)
Lot 13 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
This DB3S was campaigned in Europe, England, and New Zealand during 1955 and 1956 with the most notable result being a second place at the 12 Hours of Hyères. In 1957, it set a new Australian Land Speed Record of 143.19 mph. Wrecked at the notoriously dangerous Bathurst Mount Panorama circuit in 1960 and subsequently restored in the 1970s, it has since been active in historic racing and counts several Aston Martin luminaries among its roster of owners. Fitted with a twin-plug DB3 engine, and accompanied by its original engine and an extensive file of documentation, this car is now the second most valuable DB3S sold, behind the 1955 Earls Court Show display car that fetched $5,500,000 at Gooding & Co’s Pebble Beach sale in 2014.
$2,102,888 | 1935 Aston Martin Ulster
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£1,583,000
Estimate: £1,600,000 – £2,200,000 ($2,125,000 to $2,925,000)
Lot 11 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
Just 31 Aston Martin Ulsters were built, and this one is the best known, having been raced by the famous Siamese racing Prince, Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, better known by his nom de course, B. Bira. Though the car was only raced once by the famous Thai for a DNF, it experienced considerable success after leaving his ownership. Just the same, it is presented in Prince Bira’s original White Mouse colors.
$1,656,539 | 1924 Vauxhall 30-98 OE-Type Wensum
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£1,247,000
Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,050,000 to $1,600,000)
Lot 12 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$1,358,973 | 1919 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle Tourer
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£1,023,000
Estimate: £1,000,000 – £1,400,000 ($1,330,000 to $1,850,000)
Lot 14 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$942,381 | 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£709,400
Estimate: £700,000 – £900,000 ($925,000 to $1,200,000)
Lot 3 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$687,457 | 1939 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre Cabriolet
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£517,500
Estimate: £450,000 – £600,000 ($600,000 to $800,000)
Lot 9 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$519,412 | 1924 Lancia Lambda 3rd Series Torpédo
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£391,000
Estimate: £320,000 – £400,000 ($425,000 to $530,000)
Lot 5 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$504,135 | 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£379,500
Estimate: £400,000 – £550,000 ($530,000 to $730,000)
Lot 6 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$458,305 | 1927 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model Sports Tourer
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£345,000
Estimate: £350,000 – £450,000 ($465,000 to $600,000)
Lot 1 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020
$412,474 | 1959 Lancia Flaminia 2500 Sport
Actual sale price (inc Buyers Premium):£310,500
Estimate: £400,000 – £500,000 ($530,000 to $665,000)
Lot 8 | Gooding & Company Passion of a Lifetime, Hampton Court Palace | 5 September, 2020