- Barrett-Jackson concluded day five of their seven-day auction, bringing their total to $94.6 million.
- Bonhams had their best Scottsdale auction in six years, totaling $29.5 milion on 126 lots.
- Flips bought during the pandemic buying frenzy continue to sell at losses.
- Massive outliers continue to skew the market no matter the overall trajectory.
- Ghia-bodied Chryslers sold well at Bonhams after similar Ghia cars sold well at RM Sotheby’s
- 1912 Simplex 50HP at Bonhams blew past the high estimate and sold for $4,845,000, becoming the most expensive car of the week. It is also one of the oldest cars for sale this week.
- 2006 Maserati MC12 Corsa sold for $3,811,000
- 1958 BMW 507 sold for $2,067,500
- 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS sold for $1,586,250
Feverish excitement continued through day five of the Arizona auction week. American classics had a strong showing with some shocking sales, many sellers acquiesced to the market by lowering their reserves, and still more proof emerged that pandemic impulse buys are a thing of the past. Those previously overexuberant buyers are now losing money as sellers in today’s cooling market, potentially opening the market to buyers waiting for prices to stabilize.
Through the first five days, Barrett-Jackson sold 1,422 no-reserve vehicles with sales totaling $94.6 million. This is an increase of 44 percent and 100 percent over last year, respectively. Their prime cars come up for sale tomorrow as they attempt to surpass Mecum’s $225+million total from the Wisconsin company’s 12-day Kissimmee auction earlier this month.
Bonhams sold 104 cars out of 126 lots for an 83 percent sell-through rate, with total sales reaching $29.5 million at an average sale price of $283,824. Both are expected to improve as after-sales are announced. These results are a big increase over 2022, which saw $11.3 million in total sales from 81 lots, and an average price of $139,846.
MAG Auctions started their two-day sale this morning by offering 174 vehicles. They sold 99 of them, resulting in a 57 percent sell-through rate, total sales of $2.3 million, and an average price of $23,664. They had fewer lots than last year, where 172 of 213 lots sold (81 percent sell-through rate), but 2022’s lower average sale price of $15,788 translated to $2.7 million in total sales.
Just because the pandemic feeding frenzy has subsided doesn’t mean there aren’t a few folks still hungry for American classics – the staple car of Arizona auction week. A 1957 Ford Thunderbird sold for $495,000 against a #1 Hagerty Price Guide value of $88,000. That same car sold at Mecum’s Glendale auction less than a year ago for $65,000, a massive 592% return on investment. Then, a 1961 Corvette with the 283cid/270hp engine sold for nearly quadruple its condition-appropriate value and $133,000 over the current Hagerty Price Guide #1 value (which is already up 54% in the last two years). Iconic, well-presented Americana still appears to attract big bids.
The day’s sales saw results on each end of the spectrum, but it became clear many sellers are finally accepting the reality that the pandemic boom is over and are letting cars go at a loss. The hardest hit segment is sub-$100k cars; the average return for cars in this price bracket that were bought during the pandemic is only one percent, with 59 percent of those repeat sales coming at a loss. Compare that to a 54 percent return for cars priced above that threshold over the same period, and only 19 percent selling below their pandemic price.
One of the standout examples of this $100,000 watermark is Bonhams’ 1933 Ford Five-Window Coupe Hot Rod, which sold at its Quail Lodge auction in 2021 for $119,840. It went unsold with a high bid of $105,000 at the same sale the following year. Today, the Ford sold for $84,000 as the seller decided to cut their losses and dropped the reserve.
Like the 1939 Talbot-Lago yesterday, another Elkhart sale took a big hit on Friday. A 1959 Austin-Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite purchased at the frenzied Elkhart sale in October 2020 for $33,600 was offered a year later at Mecum Monterey 2021, but left the block unsold with a $30,000 high bid. Today, the owner let it go for $21,280 – a 37% loss in just over two years.
It wasn’t just recent buyers that were adjusting expectations. Many long-term owners who brought their cars to auction during the pandemic feeding frenzy and kept their reserve high ended up lowering their expectations and selling today. A 1958 BMW 507, which went unsold at Gooding’s Monterey 2021 auction with a $2 million high bid, sold today with a high bid of $1,875,000, pushing the final price to $2,067,500 after buying fees. That said, some owners are still looking for a higher price. One example is the 1969 Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, which went unsold at Bonhams’ Monterey 2022 auction with a $145,000 high bid but remained unsold today with a bid at $110,000.
Conversely, several cars which failed to sell in the last three years had better luck today. A 1962 Jaguar E-Type sold for $173,600 today at Bonhams after receiving a high-bid of only $105,000 in an unsuccessful Bring a Trailer auction only 2 months prior. A Double Red 1971 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda claimed $417,500 today, nearly double the high bid it received at Bonhams Online Monterey 2020 auction.
Despite prices generally heading down, there were some big sales at Bonhams that likely wouldn’t have done any better in the middle of the pandemic boom. A 1968 Piaggio Vespa 150 was Bonhams’ first lot, claiming $41,440 and setting a record for a Vespa scooter. A 1953 Siata 208S Spider, which we first saw sell at a 1993 Christie’s auction in Monterey for $47,300, sold today for $1,572,500 – showing just how much the classic car market has grown in the last 30 years.
The 2006 Maserati MC12 Corsa—an unrestricted, track-only version of the ultra-rare Modenese hypercar— was the third-highest sale of the week thus far with a final sale price of $3,811,000, just a tailpipe behind the $4.075-million 2014 LaFerrari and a $4,845,000 1912 Simplex 50HP 5 Passenger Torpedo Tourer from the brass era.
In addition to having a spectacularly cool name, that Simplex quieted any belief that prewar cars have lost all their steam. Both bidding and the crowd were electric as the 9.78-liter super-centenarian vaulted past the auction house’s $3,000,000 high estimate. In a rare occurrence, this week’s top sale is also its oldest.
However, this sale was an outlier for prewar cars, which have not been performing well thus far in Scottsdale. Case in point—a 1933 Packard Twelve 1005 Coupe Roadster sold for $387,250 today, a considerable drop from its $440,000 sale at Gooding’s 2015 Scottsdale auction. This drumbeat has built up in recent years, causing auction houses to take notice and shift their offerings to appeal to a new generation of collectors. There are 140 prewar vehicles at this year’s auctions, down 14 percent from last year, and 59 percent lower than 2020.
Chrysler Ghias have a strong history at Scottsdale, and Bonhams offered a trio of ultra-rare Ghia-bodied Chryslers as part of the John White Ramshead Collection. In 2013 at Barrett-Jackson, a Ghia-bodied 1956 Chrysler Diablo Concept sold for $1,375,000, becoming the most expensive Chrysler of all time. The star of this year’s Ghia cluster was the $819,000 1957 Chrysler Ghia Super Dart 400, with a $802,500 1954 Chrysler Ghia GS-1 Coupe and $577,000 1962 Chrysler Ghia L6.4 following in tow, making them the seventh, eighth, and ninth highest sales of the day.
Tomorrow is Barrett-Jackson’s big day, with a solid helping of the bread-and-butter American cars they’re known for. Last year, their Saturday auction sold $92.4-million dollars from 316 vehicles. Saturday will need to be even stronger if they hope to beat Mecum’s Kissimmee auction and take back January’s crown. Among some of the many standout American gems, look for a big sale from the 2024 Ford Mustang GT Fastback VIN 001—a charity lot benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.