There are acts that are hard to follow and those you wouldn’t want to follow. Gooding & Company’s London Passion of a Lifetime sale in 2020 fits both categories. It was, for collectors and admirers of high-end classics, a rare bright spot in the bleak months of the pandemic, and several of the cars on offer broke records. This time, things were different. For one thing, Gooding had just come off a successful sale in Monterey, whereas that event had been canceled in 2020. It brought a larger and more diverse mix of cars—including affordable ones—to the courtyards of King Henry VII’s stunning 16th century Hampton Court Palace on the River Thames.
But, being Gooding & Company, there were also some very special cars on offer. The cover star was the 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Competizione ‘2021GT’ that sold well over estimate at £7,762,500 (about $8.99M) and a ‘garage find’ 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder with a later 718 RS60 body and engine changed hands for just over £2M ($2.3M), offering someone a pretty special blank canvas.
But for me, the highlight of the auction was 1932 Bugatti Type 55. With a black two-seat body by Gangloff, red leather interior and black Rexine roof, the convertible retains matching-numbers mechanical components and has been the subject of a “show quality restoration” by UK specialists Classic Motor Cars Ltd and Ivan Dutton Ltd. The car was presented with a report by top Bugatti historians Mark Morris and David Sewell.
Just 38 Type 55 Bugattis were built and every one is a very special car. This one hasn’t been shown at a concours event since its restoration and the new owner will undoubtedly now receive a flurry of invites for shows next year. The car sold for less than Gooding & Company expected, achieving £2,925,000 ($3.39M) including costs against a presale estimate of £3,750,000 to £4,750,000. Despite its rarity, some may not consider the Gangloff convertible body to be quite as elegant as the Jean Bugatti roadster coachwork and this sale price reflects that; the last Type 55 Super Sport with factory body that sold at public auction achieved $7.1M at The Amelia in 2020.
Overall, the sale is in line with what we saw in Monterey, where prewar cars sold strongly yet for the most part didn’t exceed presale expectations, as did modern exotics. It seems collectors in this mature segment have very clear ideas of what things are worth.
John Mayhead is publisher of the UK Hagerty Price Guide.