Last year, Hagerty tracked more than 12,500 UK and European auction results. The numbers were huge: A total of £310.8M (about $417.4M) in classic and collector vehicles sold, including 14 cars for over £1M, a significant increase on the 10 we saw last year. The classic vehicle market seems to be moving onwards at a rate almost entirely unconnected to the pandemic.
Throughout this year of increased sales, certain vehicles stood out. These are sometimes the most valuable, the rarest or those that indicate an emerging trend in the market, but others are notable just because they are really interesting cars. Here is Hagerty’s selection of 2021’s most influential European classic vehicle sales.
The Very Fast One: 2010 McLaren MP4-25; £4.73M ($6.48M), RM Sotheby’s
Now, if you’re an F1 fan, this is a very, very special car. The first of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 race and grand prix-winning cars ever offered to the public, it won the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix. Hamilton’s style may divide opinion but this car is undoubtedly a piece of motoring heritage, as it was raced by Hamilton against the other dominant F1 legend of the modern era, Michael Schumacher. Sold by RM Sotheby’s at a special, single-lot auction at the British Grand Prix, it sold for £4.73M, just short of its top estimate.
The Broken One: 1960 Jaguar XK150 S Drophead; £90,000 ($127,422) Bonhams MPH
There are some auction results that are surprising, even to the seasoned observer who thinks they have seen everything. This car, offered by Bonhams MPH in May, was crashed by its previous owner back in 1996. And it wasn’t just a small shunt: spinning off the road into a tree, the car took a huge impact to the front and sustained damage all along the right-hand side. The driver’s chest broke the steering wheel and his hair was still embedded in the windscreen! And yet, someone saw the potential for restoring this car back to its glory days and paid a very robust £90,000, just shy of our current £102,000 Price Guide value for an ‘Excellent’ example.
The Rally One: 1988 Audi Sport Quattro; 2.017M ($2,368,488), Artcurial
For me, this car was the highlight of the Paris sales of February 2021. It was the European/ UKL sale that exceeded its expectations by the largest amount, selling for €700,000 over its €1M to €1.3M pre-sale estimate. Hagerty has tracked the values of all Ur Quattros increasing significantly over the past 18 months, and this Sport Quattro that drove in the 1988 Race of Champions and was sold directly to Olivier Quesnel is as good as it gets. However, the value achieved – three times the top Hagerty Price Guide figure of £408,000 for the standard Sport Quattro – set a new level. The Ur Quattro is exactly where we see values increasing the most: 1980s and 1990s homologation cars with racing/rallying success.
The Ugly Duckling One: 1993 Jaguar XJ220; £460,000 ($632,730) Bonhams
Has the Jaguar XJ220 finally shaken itself free of the trauma of its birth and turned into the automotive swan that we all knew was hiding beneath? Quite possibly, as this record sale at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival sale showed. An exceptional XJ220 with just 385 miles on the clock in factory Monza Red and a clean bill of health from marque specialists Don Law Racing, may mark a watershed for the model. For me, it was the highlight of the Goodwood Revival sale. It was the first time an XJ220 had exceeded our (then) top UK Hagerty Price Guide value of £445,000 and is a record for a public auction sale. Lest anyone think the sale an outlier, note that it was quickly followed up by RM Sotheby’s sale of a similarly impressive example in their London sale in November, which exceeded its presale top estimate and sold for £432,500. Moreover, ten of the highest 11 prices the model has achieved at auction have been since 2019.
The Royal One: 1981 Ford Escort 1.6 Ghia; £52,640 ($74,465), Reeman Dansie
We’ve seen third-generation Ford Escorts sell for more than £50,000 ($67,000), but these have been low-mileage examples of sporting models such as the RS Turbo and RS1600i. This 83,000-mile 1.6 Ghia example doesn’t qualify, and it’s a little rough around the edges; however, it had a very special story. In May 1981 it was an engagement present from Prince Charles to the then-Lady Diana Spencer. This sale, in a specialist royal auction, fetched around ten times what we’d expect a very good example to reach without its amazing history.
The Online One: Ferrari F40; £1,000,500 ($1,369,685) The Market
TheMarket’s July sale of ‘F40BLU’, a 1989 Ferrari F40, for £1,000,500 was another watershed sale—the first time a car sold for over £1M in a dedicated UK online auction. The Ferrari achieved this price despite lacking the originality usually demanded of such top cars, having been painted in Porsche Aqua Blue. And this was not simply the case of one over-eager person deciding they had to have it—four bidders were still competing even after the car reached £980,000.
Chalk it up to online presence, generated by its owner Sam Moores, the Car Chat podcaster and photographer, as well as the steady appreciation of the F40. From 2016 until 2021, top values in the UK Hagerty Price Guide rose by 11 percent. Two more exceptional examples sold in the United States at Monterey in August, one for $2.89M (Gooding and Co) and another for $2.42M (RM Sotheby’s). With more than 50 percent of F40 owners who insure with Hagerty born since 1965 (up from 28 percent in 2018), younger money is coming into the market, reinforcing the F40’s position as a key collectable car in the present climate.
The Restorer’s Dream One: 1982 Lamborghini Countach LP500S; £257,600 ($352,423), Historics
We’ve noted that cars with needs have somewhat lagged the appreciation of pristine models. Yet the dismantled state of this 1982 Lamborghini Countach LP 500S didn’t put off the bidders. It was sold by Historics in September for £257,600—well over its top £180,000 estimate.
The LP500s (often called the 5000s) was the original Athena poster model. This one, stripped down and ready for a full restoration, was an ultra-rare right-hand drive example, one of just 37 made. So, it’s a rare beast. Yet Hagerty’s ‘Excellent’ value at the time of the sale was £334,000, not giving the new owner too much leeway for a full-cost restoration. The appeal of this project would be the very fact that it is a project—a blank canvas to restore to your own specification, costs be damed.
In other words, this was likely an emotional buy. That is, beyond everything, what seems to be driving values higher in the collector car market right now. Motoring enthusiasts with all budgets are itching to buy the car they want because they want it, rather than because they think it’s an object to invest in. Two years of a pandemic, with little durable relief in sight, seems to have convinced car enthusiasts to live for the moment.