Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Page 64

Classic cars
An auction scandal over a 1939 Porsche, and a
growing market for rather more recent vehicles,
leaves lifelong classic car fan Simon de Burton
wondering exactly what ‘classic’ now should mean
ebacle’ is a word with
which any follower of
UK politics will now be
thoroughly be familiar;
it also best describes the
attempt by RM Sotheby’s to sell a car
from 1939, described as the first to bear
the Porsche badge, in its annual flagship
auction staged during Monterey car
week in August.
Listed as ‘the most historically
significant of all Porsche cars,’ the Type
64 was one of three built at the behest
of the Nazi Party’s Motor Corps to a
design by Ferdinand Porsche, making it
both highly controversial and, according
to RM Sotheby’s, ‘the antecedent of
Porsche’s historical evolution’.
Understandably there was high
excitement when it appeared at auction
with a pre-sale estimate of $20m. So
when the bidding opened straight out
at $30m and swiftly soared to a high
offer of $70m, there were gasps all
round – until it was revealed that the
Dutch auctioneer’s English had been
misinterpreted, including by those
operating the on-screen graphics in the
room. He’d actually started bidding at
$13m; the high bid was $17m.
Inevitably, the car (which had
previously been offered privately for
considerably less than $20m) failed to
sell, amid boos and hisses.
But the Type 64 was only one of
many big-number entries that were left
on the shelf during Monterey car week,
which saw this year’s auctions generate
a total of $245m between them, against
the $370m realised in 2018 for around
25 per cent fewer lots – and many of
the multi-million dollar cars that did
sell changed hands for below estimate
prices. It’s a scenario that seems to be
playing out at all levels and at auctions
in both America and Europe.
The fact is, the market for classic
cars (as we know them) appears to
be softening after a full decade of
glorious growth, during which the
perceived values of everything from
humble MGBs to the rarest Ferraris,
and from early Land Rovers to the
exotic McLaren F1, reached sums that
were previously beyond the wildest
imaginings of even the most optimistic
of dealers and enthusiasts.
But what, actually, is a ‘classic’ these
days? The definition was once pretty
clear in the minds of most people,
regardless of whether or not they were
automobile enthusiasts. Essentially, if
a car was a few decades old and was
clearly from a different era of motoring,
it was referred to as a ‘classic’ – even
if it hadn’t been especially popular,
successful or highly regarded in period.
Made for the Nazis in 1939, a disaster
for RM Sotheby’s in 2019: the Type 64
designed by Ferdinand Porsche

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