As you are reading this, I am hopefully parking up in Droitwich Spa for the Chateau Impney Speed Celebration on Wednesday, a new event backed by C&SC (see the links at the bottom for more info).
For once, however, I will not be sidling into the classic car parking with all the other enthusiasts, my Elan +2 should be shepherded straight into the auction hall where tomorrow it will go under the H&H gavel (4 December).
Now here’s a confession, despite attending hundreds, probably thousands of classic car auctions over the years, and despite handing over my credit card to finance at least onbe other person’s purchase, nervously holding a paddle or on extremely rare occasions even bidding, I have never bought or sold a classic car (for myself) at auction.
I’m not sure why really.
I guess it is just the trepidation. While if you have a massively rare or valuable classic, selling at auction can hugely boost the price – as we witness over and again at the big annual events – if you are merely trying to move on a perfectly nice, but not exactly celebrity owned Lotus Elan +2, the assumption is, as it ever was, that it will accrue less at a public auction than it would via a private sale.
Yet, after months of going through the torture that is trying to sell a car privately, and still needing the cash to clear debts just as desperately as I did at the beginning of the summer, I have plumped for selling at auction.
A big part of this was because we were involved in the event, but also because a couple of dealers advised that I might do better at auction than I would gross if I a) sold to them, or b) did a commission sale via them, so, they said, give it a go and come back to them if it doesn’t work out.
In the run up to the sale, there were all sorts of weird new sensations like seeing your own car in a catalogue and strangers commenting on it, plus the panic of making sure I had all the relevant paperwork.
Overriding everything, naturally, was the fear that the ever-reliable Lotus would choose the journey to the sale to be the one it expired on.
I could have trailered it, of course, and should have done so in order to maximise the visual appeal of the Lotus at the sale, but seeing as the single factor that has always most put me off buying at auction has been the unknown mechanical condition of a classic – and the assumption that people put classics into static auctions precisely because they have mechanical woes – I reckoned that driving 120 miles to the sale was the best possible reassurance for buyers… and potentially a pleasant farewell voyage for me.
So, in a matter of hours, I will either be driving the Elan back to London, or be in a position to buy my family Christmas presents. I always thought the exaggeratedly nervous camera-fodder on those daytime TV auction programmes were putting it on. Now I know better.