Fangio Merc steals headlines but Festival sale is a stormer

| 12 Jul 2013

The new world record £19,601,500 paid for the ex-Fangio, Herrmann and Kling double GP-winning W196 Silver Arrow will naturally dominate the headlines, but it was far from the only extraordinary result at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed auction yesterday.

Although classic cars have been sold for far more privately, the sale nearly doubled the record for a car sold at public auction, which stood at a fraction over £10million.

The appeal of the Mercedes was its impeccable credentials as the only W196 not in "captivity" (read James Elliott's blog about its rare appearance at Monaco here). Donated by Mercedes to the National Motor Museum it was later bought by Sir Anthony Bamford, Jackie Setton and Friedhelm Loh, and most recently by the vendor, a Dubai investment consortium.

As an historic F1 car its use is limited, but hopefully it will return to the tracks having last competed at the Monaco historics in 2000.

In period, the peerless Juan Manuel Fangio piloted this technological marvel to victory in both the 1954 German and Swiss Grands Prix.

Powered by a fuel-injected 2.5-litre straight eight, the groundbreaking W196 also has all-independent suspension, a spaceframe chassis and inboard brakes.

The buyer of the W196 is currently a mystery – it went to an telephone bidder – but speculation so far has ranged from Mercedes itself to Bernie Ecclestone.

Bonhams chairman Robert Brooks, who conducted the auction and set a previous world record a generation ago when he sold a Bugatti Royale for £5million at the Royal Albert Hall, said: “I have handled some of the world’s most desirable and important motor cars during a motoring auction career spanning five decades, but I have reached a peak today with this legendary Grand Prix car. 

"It was a personal privilege to preside over the sale of this vehicle, which is not only one of the most significant motor cars of the 20th century, but also the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale.”

The overwhelming interest in the Silver Arrow didn't mean that the rest of the lots were knocked down at bargain prices.

The second star lot, the ex-Bill Spear/Sherwood Johnson 1955 Maserati 300S may have paled into insignificance as a result, but there was nothing insignificant about the result when it topped £4million. In any other sale, this would have been big news.

Another big seller was the Viscount Ridley Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Le Mans, which was knocked down for £1,905,000 including premium.

Vintage Mercs and Royces also proved their enduring appeal with an Erdmann & Rossi-bodied 1928 630K selling for over £800k and a 1937 540K Sports Saloon selling for £528k. On the Rolls front a 1913 Silver Ghost with wonderful history sold for £718,000.

The power of celebrity was proven when the ex-John Lennon 1965 Ferrari 330GT 2+2 that was withdrawn at the last minute when it was last listed for sale, did find a new owner having rocketed to £359k. To show the value of Lennon's name a similar car without Beatles connections was sold for 'just' £141,500.

A real cognoscenti Ferrari, a 1965 Superfast, prompted a bit of a bidding war before selling for a mammoth £852,700.

Meanwhile the ex-Sir John Whitmore, European Touring Car Championship-winning Lotus Cortina lived up to its hype, making a staggering £183,500.

And the fever created by the sale of NOJ 393 continued when its ex-Le Mans stablemate NOJ 392 bid quickly to just shy of £800k.

Similarly, Aston Martin fever shows no sign of abating, with a 1964 DB5 Convertible bidding to a mighty £533,500.

Bentley Continental R-type fastbacks have become highly desirable in the recent years and now command half a million pounds (£539k to be precise), an amount that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

Lagondas seem to be coming good, too, with a rash of cars all selling well. The ex-Alan Good 1936 LG45 Rapide was high-flying at £617k, while the 1936 Rapier Granville Grenfell Supercharged Sports made a tempting £63k.

There were some decent buys, though, with a 1993 Diablo struggling to just over £50k and a 1963 Porsche 356B fully kitted out for rallies going for 'just' £31,000.

Bargain of the sale was a toss up between a Works-prepped but needing works Austin-Healey 3000 at £24,150 and a 1970 Ferrari 365GT 2+2 at £63k. 

You could have had both for half the price of the numberplate NO 1, which sold for £133k.

From a market point of view, given the success of Bonhams' recent Goodwood – and other – sales and the enormity of some of its consignments, it is evident that any notion from a couple of years ago that it could no longer compete with RM and Gooding has been dispelled.