A re­cent ma­jor clas­sic auc­tion in Lon­don saw a num­ber of Porsches fail­ing to find new homes. David Suther­land asks if this was be­cause the mar­ket is soft­en­ing, or be­cause sell­ers have be­come too greedy when set­ting re­serve prices

911 Porsche World - - Market Forces -

As 2017 un­folded an in­creas­ing num­ber of siren voices were head telling us that the top end of the clas­sic car mar­ket was at best lev­el­ling off, and at worst fall­ing. It’s easy to look back and iden­tify when a mar­ket turned, but harder – im­pos­si­ble per­haps – to pin­point it at the time. This is partly be­cause al­though the pre­mium clas­sic mar­ket is global, there can still be a marked dif­fer­ence in con­fi­dence in Cal­i­for­nia and in Lon­don, or in Paris or Stuttgart, which im­pacts prices.

Nonethe­less, Septem­ber’s auc­tions, both in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal, brought solid ev­i­dence that the mar­ket was not de­liv­er­ing the prices buy­ers were ex­pect­ing, not least at the UK’S high­est pro­file an­nual sale, hosted by RM Sotheby’s at the Bat­tersea Evo­lu­tion venue in Cen­tral Lon­don. Out of 14 Porsches, mainly clas­sic models, car­ry­ing six-fig­ure pre-sale es­ti­mates, just four were sold on the night.

The most spec­tac­u­lar Did Not Sell had to be the right­hand drive 1973 911 Car­rera 2.7RS Sport, or “Light­weight”, ex­pected to fetch be­tween £825,000 and £1m. Not only was this model, one of 17 Sports sold in the UK out of a 200 pro­duc­tion batch, and the one col­lec­tors die for, but this par­tic­u­lar car’s prove­nance was boosted by it be­ing the fi­nal car sold in the UK and hence de­liv­ered with some RSR fea­tures, af­ter which it raced ex­ten­sively.

‘That RS is a strange one,’ com­mented Peter Haynes of RM Sotheby’s. ‘On the one hand it’s one of the most im­por­tant 2.7RSS be­cause of its racing his­tory, and it has been beau­ti­fully re­stored. But the ques­tion is, as it is with many cars that have been raced, how much of the orig­i­nal car is left?’

A 911 RSR from the batch of 30 built by Porsche’s Mo­tor­sport de­part­ment in 1997, and which raced in US en­durance events be­fore find­ing its way into a col­lec­tion in 2006, did not make its re­serve, which we reckon was around £850,000, given its £800,000–£900,000 ex­pec­ta­tion.

As we men­tion in this month’s Buy­ers’ Guide in the pre­ced­ing pages, the 930model 911 Turbo has been the dar­ling of in­vestors, with prices soar­ing to­wards £200,000, but the 1975 car ex­pected to make at least £175,000 was an­other DNS. And, mov­ing on two gen­er­a­tions to the 993, the seller of the 2133-mile, 1996 911 Turbo was looking for too much, at £165,000 to £195,000.

Are we see­ing a turn­ing point in the clas­sic car mar­ket as a whole, or some­thing per­tain­ing to Porsches in par­tic­u­lar? ‘The mar­ket for limited run Porsches of the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s has never been hot­ter than in the last two years, but inevitably there comes a point when the mar­ket can’t take any more in­fla­tion and I think we’ve reached that point,’ Haynes told us.

He adds that it’s a fa­mil­iar sce­nario: ‘There’s been a correction in the Fer­rari mar­ket over the last two years, and prob­a­bly the same thing is hap­pen­ing with Porsches.’ But the prob­lem is not the cars, but the own­ers, he con­tin­ued. ‘It’s be­come quite hard to con­sign cars at re­al­is­tic re­serve prices now – peo­ple seem to think that if a car sold for £500,000 at a high pro­file auc­tion a year ago, then it must be worth £550,000 this year. They need to ac­cept that in many cases it’s still a £500,000 car.’

But if the auc­tion­eer’s ham­mer mostly fell at Bat­tersea with­out the sat­is­fy­ing crack of a sale, there were some strong prices achieved. A black, 18,000km (11,250 miles) GT2 – the ul­ti­mate road-go­ing, air­cooled 911 – sold for £775,625, which was £26,125 above its up­per es­ti­mate, while a 1971 911E thrust past its £70,000–£90,000 es­ti­mate to make £126,500. The 2003 911 GT3 RS’S £126,500 was £3500 short of ex­pec­ta­tion, but nonethe­less was a re­minder of how the orig­i­nal light­weight 996 GT3 has left its list price be­hind in lit­tle more than a decade.

Even cars that sell can hint that the model is per­haps be­ing touted at am­bi­tious prices, such as the 9365-mile 2011 911 GT3 RS 4.0 that was sold for £287,100, more or less in the mid­dle of its up­per and lower es­ti­mates, at Bon­hams’ Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed sale, oc­cur­ring three days af­ter Bat­tersea. At that time, Lake­side Clas­sics in Shrews­bury in Shrop­shire was ask­ing £346,500 for the same model with 7342 miles.

At what is one of the UK’S most like­able lo­cal clas­sic auc­tions – His­torics at Brook­lands, held at the Brook­lands Mu­seum – an in­ter­est­ing looking race replica of the 1970s Group 4 ‘Jager­meis­ter’ Trib­ute, based on a 1980 911SC, was of­fered in the Septem­ber sale. Pre­view­ing this car in our Oc­to­ber is­sue we said that with its £70,000–£90,000 es­ti­mate it ‘seems pretty good value’, but our crys­tal ball must have been hav­ing an off day be­cause it didn’t find a home. Sell­ers of two ear­lier Porsches, a 1967 912 (£27,000–£34,000) and a 1972 911T Targa (£29,000–£36,000), pulled their cars at a late stage.

We tend to look at prices achieved at the top end of the mar­ket for a steer on val­ues, but life at the other end can also be re­veal­ing; two cars in par­tic­u­lar, which for many years we’ve re­garded as Auto Trader/ebay cheap­ies, the 944 and 928, pro­vided more proof that this mind­set is out of date. His­torics col­lected £33,040 for a tidy but not im­mac­u­late 1990 928GT with 71,030 miles, while at Good­wood, Bon­hams sold a 1992 944 S2 SE with 85,000 miles for £40,250, its price re­flect­ing that it was one of 14 very late 944s built with spe­cial equip­ment.

We think it un­likely that the clas­sic Porsche mar­ket – at what­ever price point you’re looking – is go­ing to drop off. But sell­ers should also bear in mind Haynes’ ob­ser­va­tion: ‘There is a buyer for ev­ery­thing – if the price is right.’ PW

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