Pre-wars are back in Bonhams Paris Sale

The Bonhams Paris sale 2018, held at the Gran Palais in Paris on Thursday, February 8th, marked an impressive start to the firm’s European season. It was not an easy auction, full of pre-war cars, usually considered more difficult to sell, but the results show that the market is always ready to open its wallet for interesting cars. The sale generated a total turnover of EUR 14.9 million (including the 15% commission), and with 96 of the 132 lots sold — 36 of the lots were offered without reserve —, it achieved a sale rate of around 73%. No sale broke the million euro barrier. Each of the three top sellers fetched just over EUR 700 K.

One car, the 1926 Bentley 3-Litre “Red Label” Speed Model that featured among the six we previewed, set a new world record price for its model, being sold to a telephone bidder for EUR 701,500. In general, the pre-war cars did quite well, tending to sell for strong prices, often above their pre-sale estimated values, and it is interesting to note that the three top-selling lots were all pre-war cars. The car with the lowest pre-sale estimate (EUR 9–11 K), a 1975 Citroen CX 2200 in good original condition, offered without reserve, did indeed turn out to be the cheapest one of the day, fetching EUR 5,750. The car that had been assigned the highest pre-sale estimate (1.2–1.4 million), a 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 S, offered for the first time after a 25-year private ownership, failed to sell.

All the prices given in this report are inclusive of the buyer’s premium.


Bonhams Paris sale 2018: The six cars we previewed

Four of the six cars we selected for our preview of the Bonhams Paris sale were sold. The 1935 Bugatti Type 57 3.3 Litre Torpedo, a racing Bugatti driven by Earl Howe and Pierre Levegh in the 1935 RAC Tourist Trophy, which had been given a pre-sale estimate of EUR 0.78–1.3 million, sold for EUR 713,000 and took the top spot in the classification of the ten most expensive cars (sharing this position with a 1904 Fiat Type 24/32 Rear Entrance Tonneau).

The 1926 Bentley 3-Litre “Red Label” Speed Model also made it into the Top Ten, becoming the third most expensive transaction and setting a new world record price for this model at auction. This particular specimen, still with all its original mechanical parts in place, is considered one of the most original in existence. It sold for EUR 701,500, a price perfectly in line with its pre-sale estimate of 650–750 K.

The sale of the 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution 2, a well preserved car with only two owners and 94,000 kilometers from new, sold for EUR 149,500. This price, well above its estimated value of 85–125 K, confirms the growing interest in this youngtimer. The unusual but appealing 1986 Renault Sinpar 4L Gendarmerie 4x4, originally assigned to the Gendarmerie of the Col de Tende in southern France, sold for EUR 34,500, almost reaching the higher end of its estimated value range (EUR 25–35 K). Finally, two of our selected six, the 1986 Lancia Delta S4 Group B Rallye and the 1966 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 Touring Coupe, were no sales.


The Top Ten at the Bonhams 2018 Paris sale

  1. EUR 713,000. 1904 Fiat Type 24/32 Rear Entrance Tonneau (chassis # 745), the top lot of the sale (together with the younger Bugatti Type 57). This is well known car that was offered with a wonderful life story, including only five owners from new. Delivered new in the USA, restored (and given a re-made body) in the 1990s, it had been with the consignor since 2007. A perfect car to use for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, it was the oldest lot in the sale and had been expected to fetch EUR 750–950 K.
  2. EUR 713,000. 1935 Bugatti Type 57 3.3 Litre Torpedo Tourist Trophy, covered in our preview. It recorded the top price of the sale, sharing this honor with the older Fiat Type 24/32. It was offered with a pre-sale estimate of EUR 0.78–1.3 million.
  3. EUR 701,500. 1926 Bentley 3-Litre “Red Label” Speed Model Tourer by Vanden Plas, covered in our preview. Offered with an estimated value of EUR 650–850 K, it set a new world price for the model.
  4. EUR 638,250. 1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400 “Periscopio” (chassis # LP400 112 0016, see photo above). Delivered new in Germany, this car, originally with a color scheme of black on Senape interior (now red on beige), has been well maintained and recently serviced. It is equipped with the later rims from the LP 400 S. It is a solid car that, expected to fetch EUR 600–800 K, sold for a price closer to its lower estimated value.
  5. EUR 632,500. 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (chassis # 1980427500220). Based on an original 300 SL Roadster chassis, this car was rebuilt (in alloy) following the original specification of the 300 SLS that was built, back in period, for American racer Paul O’Shea. It won its class at the 1997 Carrera Panamericana. It was offered without reserve and with an estimated value of EUR 0.9–1.2 million.
  6. EUR 603,750. 1907 Minerva Type K 40 HP Limousine/Torpedo Transformable by Carrosserie Belvallette et Cie (chassis # 2072 for photo see below), one of the most luxurious cars of its day, offered in incredible preserved condition, with a known history from new. Still with its original engine (number 2075) and body (number 5530), it greatly exceeded its predicted value range of EUR 350–450 K.
  7. EUR 529,000. 1928 Bugatti Type 40 Grand Sport (chassis # 40717). Delivered new in France, this car has a completely known ownership history. Unmolested and very original, albeit with a new cylinder block, it for a price sold well above its estimated value (EUR 300–400 K).
  8. EUR 517,500. 1970 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spider Conversion (chassis # 13865). Delivered new in Italy, this still matching numbers car was converted into a Spider in 1989/1990 by Straman, in the USA. This beautiful but heavily modified car managed to reach its estimated value range of EUR 500–600 K.
  9. EUR 391,000. 1934 Minerva Type 40 CV Coupé Sport by Carrosserie Jacques Dens of Anvers (chassis # 80187, see photo in header), a very rare car indeed. Only eight of the fifty built are known to be surviving today, and this is the only one with a body by Jacques Dens. Offered publicly for the very first time at the Bonhams sale, the car had been with the consignor for the last 20 years. Its final price was perfectly in line with its pre-sale estimate of EUR 350–450 K.
  10. EUR 391,000. 1954 Aston Martin DB 2/4 3 Litre Cabriolet (chassis # LML/710). One of the only 102 dropheads built, this very rare LHD version was sold new in France and has a well-documented history. Valued at EUR 300–400 K, it came close to the top end of this range.


Some of the other cars at Bonhams Paris sale 2018

As mentioned, this auction stood out even before getting under way, on account of the large number of pre-war cars included in the catalog. Even though these cars are usually considered to be among the most difficult to sell, this auction was a hugely successful event. The three most expensive lots were all pre-war cars, and this, together with the fact that the oldest car on offer was one of the two that fetched the event’s top price, further illustrates how remarkable this Bonhams auction was.

The 1904 Fiat, a London to Brighton Veteran Car Run regular and one of the only five of its model known to be remaining, was a supercar of its period that had a list price in the region of USD 9 K, the equivalent of the cost of ten Cadillac Model Bs! It was ordered new by prominent academic George Agassiz of Cape Cod (MA), together with his wife Mabel, one of the earliest lady drivers in the USA. The car was used for around 28 years, mostly by Mabel in the Cape Cod area. After George’s death in 1931, Mabel decided to have the car buried on the family estate. It was more than a decade later, in 1942, when Ted Robinson, one of the founders of the Vintage Sports Car Club of America, learned of the buried car and obtained permission to disinter and buy it for 50 dollars.

A further decade and several owners later, all documented, the still unrestored car, lacking its original body, was acquired by David Uihlein of Milwaukee (WI) in exchange for 500 dollars and the promise to restore it. As good as his word, he duly fitted a re-created rear entrance body by Quimpy of Newark (NJ), a firm that dressed many FIATs of the early period. Uihlein kept the car for a total of 55 years. In 2007, he finally sold it, fully restored, to the vendor, who went on to enter it in many different events around the world. In short, an amazing car with a wonderful history!

Another highlight was a 1958 Jaguar XK 150 S 3.4 Litre Roadster (chassis # S831116DN), delivered new in New York (NY), USA, complete with the overdrive options, and sporting a color scheme of Cotswold Blue on light blue interior. Nothing is known of the first sixty years of its life, but in 2008 it reached Switzerland, where it was professionally restored to the highest standard (albeit with a different, although historically correct, color combination). It sold for EUR 218,500, well above its estimate of EUR 150–200.

All photos courtesy of Bonhams.

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