Bonhams ‘Preserving the Automobile’ Auction, Simeone Museum, Philadelphia, PA, October 8, 2012
Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor
Bonhams tried something new and different in Philadelphia, a sale dedicated to cars needing work. Some were old restorations, but most were in varying stages of barn-find-ness. There was a lot of rust, must, dirt and grime, but also a lot to like.
It was like walking into the Puppy Pound and being surrounded by a pack of appealing little dogs, all begging to be taken home, loved and lavished with attention and all the care they’d been denied while they were homeless.
Then they held it in Dr. Fred Simeone’s racing car museum near the Philadelphia airport. The Simeone Foundation’s collection is amazing, a selection of the very best historic road racing cars. Mostly winners of important races or podium finishers, any collector in the world (and particularly those of an Alfa Romeoic persuasion) would be overjoyed to own any car in the Foundation’s collection.
Fitting the ‘Preservation’ theme of Bonhams auction, the Simeone Foundation has beautifully restored cars but also tired, rough survivors – like the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe CSX 2287 – that demonstrated the range of possibilities open for the forlorn puppies on the auction floor.
Finally, scheduling the sale on the Monday of Hershey week put it conveniently on the calendars of collectors from all over the world who were making the trip to Pennsylvania anyway. A vast assortment of automobilia helped bring Hershey’s field crawlers for an early exposure to the quest for iron.
The appeal of barn finds is similar to that of abandoned puppies. They just have so much potential. Collectors’ minds eyes see completed shiny projects gleaming on show fields before swarms of envious spectators and approving judges. The cars wag their rusty fenders, seeking to show how much love and affection they’ll return.
Or something … Anyway, Bonhams made a success of the sale, getting solid prices for most of the cars and phenomenal prices for a few (the Citroen Sahara for example.) There were three London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run eligible lots.
80.7% of the lots offered changed hands. 20% were sold for hammer bids over the high estimate and the total sale was $2,576,695 (excluding parts and memorabilia.) That should be more than sufficiently successful for Bonhams to reprise the venue and theme in 2013.
Preservation class cars and attractive restoration projects are very much in the minds of collectors these days and the attraction of a Preservation themed auction is that it focuses the attention of collectors looking for a project to adopt, particularly in the days before the preservation- and restoration-focused AACA Fall Hershey meet.
Projects like many of those presented by Bonhams in Philadelphia attract premium prices that are sometimes disconnected from the costs inherent in making them run and drive much less restoring them. That was evident in some of the transaction values reached here, but economics are not what’s behind their acquisition.
They are so lovable.