Italian auction house Pandolfini enters classic car market

Pandolfini is the oldest active auction house in Italy, and therefore one of the most established and renowned. It is also the one currently recording the highest turnover. The company, today managed by the third generation of the Pandolfini family, was founded in Florence in 1924 and soon established the sale of classic paintings and furniture as its area of expertise. Its sale of the pieces from Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, which set a new standard in the business, helped to bring the company to international prominence. Over the years it has added several new divisions, such as the one devoted to the sale of archeological pieces, the one specializing in oriental arts, and another dedicated to wines. Its latest new division, formally opened just a few weeks ago, is devoted to classic cars, classic motorcycles and automobilia.

The birth of a business idea

Pietro De Bernardi, CEO of Pandolfini Casa d’Aste

“It is quite clear that classic cars are, more and more, regarded as an art form, and for this reason we have, over the past few years, become increasingly drawn to and interested in this world” says Pietro De Bernardi, CEO of Pandolfini Casa d’Aste, and grandchild of the founder. “After seeing how the market tends to react to sales where classic cars are presented and regarded as works of art, we became increasingly interested in the idea of making them the focus of part of our business, too. Obviously, before entering this field we had to create the right team of specialists, and also adapt, to cars, some of the concepts we apply within our company’s other divisions. Accordingly, we will only offer a car — be it a humble Fiat Topolino or a refined Isotta Fraschini — if it has an interesting history, because we firmly believe that an appealing and fascinating history is the factor that will always set a car apart from others on the market. What really amazed us when we started our Classic Car Division, is just how many of our existing customers have wonderful old cars sitting idle in their barns and garages. If you consider that over the past 10 years we have had 15,000 customers as vendors and 30,000 as buyers, we can only imagine what we might well discover in the near future”.

The Pandolfini classic car specialist

Marco Makaus of Pandolfini Classic Car Division

For a new project of this kind, it was necessary to get somebody with special knowledge on board. Mr Marco Makaus, the man who has been put in charge of developing the Pandolfini Classic Car Division, is not only a classic car collector and enthusiast himself, but also a former employee of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, who has also been closely involved in the Mille Miglia rally and the Villa d’Este show. “The history of motor cars is so closely intertwined with that of contemporary society that it is practically impossible to separate the two,” he says. “It is accepted that the sound of a Ferrari engine is a kind of art form, as are the lines of a Pininfarina. When I met Mr De Bernardi and we started talking about classic cars, we soon realized that our views were very similar. Having this shared vision gave us an excellent rapport and created the perfect atmosphere for developing the dream of creating this new division, devoted to offering cars that are deemed special not so much for their model as for their history. Pandolfini is headquartered in the ancient city of Florence, and this city will be the venue for the new division’s very first sale, which will be held on 27th September, during the Florence Antiques Show (Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze). We can’t imagine a better way, or setting, to present our vision of classic cars.”

The company’s expertise

Pandolfini Casa d’Aste operates in an environment where knowledge, historical research, strict laws and bureaucratic constraints are part and parcel of the job. “We are used to offering pieces that come under the protection of Italy’s Ministry of Fine Arts, which is one of the country’s most respected and admired institutions,” says Mr De Bernardi. “Working with them, always strictly following the rules, we have succeeded in making certain protected pieces exportable, thereby giving our consignors a better market value and helping make dreams come true for some of our buyers. We are well aware that all Italian-registered cars over 50 years of age are classed as  antiques, and therefore subject to the rules and regulations that apply to antique artifacts. For this reason, before accepting the oldest cars for auction we will do our utmost to make them exportable; in the event that this status cannot be obtained, we will be able notify the seller of this well before the car is offered publicly. In this way, we will be in a position to decide together, privately, the best strategy to adopt. This is a very important aspect, as we imagine that the cars that included in our sales will largely be cars coming from Italy, and they will be aimed at our international customers all over the world. Another important aspect, again going by our experience in other areas of collecting, is the availability of the lot ahead of the sale: we will make sure that the listed cars are present in one of our Florence warehouses well before the auction, about 30 days beforehand at least, so as to give prospective buyers plenty of opportunity to inspect them and, if necessary, have a little test drive.”

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