911 Porsche World
Buying at auction can get you a huge amount of Porsche at a pleasing purchase price, but many enthusiasts have yet to experience the thrill of a real-world automotive auction room. We speak to experts and find out what attendees need to know before, durin
Flick through the pages of 911 & Porsche World each month and you’ll find us reporting on exciting cars destined to send bidders into a frenzy at auction. You’ll also see we bring you sales results after auctions of interest have taken place. For many of our readers, this is the beginning and the end of their appreciation of what happens in an auction room. Moreover, many Porsche enthusiasts are blissfully unaware of how much fun real-world auctions can be for attendees, regardless of whether they intend to place a bid. That’s right, you don’t need to be a buyer to enjoy a day out at auction.
With this in mind, we spoke with representatives of some of the UK’S best-known auction houses in order to furnish you with everything you need to know before popping your auction room cherry. We also wanted to find out why a physical auction remains such a huge draw in an age of online sales, and how the demographic of auction visitors interested in buying Porsches has changed in recent years.
“Traditionally, though auction rooms offering premium and classic cars have mostly operated professionally, they’ve been seen as somewhat exclusive, the territory of old men in bowler hats,” laughs Michael Hodges, Press Officer for Historics Auctioneers. “When Historics was established eleven years ago, our mission was to be completely inclusive, irrespective of how much money interested parties have to spend or whether they’re in attendance purely out of curiosity.” No bowler hats, then? “There’s no dress code whatsoever!” he laughs. “Our auction audience includes individuals and families of all ages, from older enthusiasts with many auctions under their belts, to teenagers in t-shirts and jeans attending an auction for the first time. It’s a very relaxed environment,” he adds, citing the facilities at established Historics event venues, including Ascot Racecourse, MercedesBenz World and Windsorview Lakes, as reassurance for those visiting an auction for the first time.
“Each venue is Covid-secure through its day-to-day activities, which is why we’ve only had to cancel one auction since the pandemic began,” Hodges continues, referencing the Historics event scheduled soon after the first lockdown commenced in 2020, when all public venues were forced to close.
He also cites the catering facilities and visitor attractions at Historics auction sites as plus points, lending further weight to the idea real-world classic car auctions can provide enthusiasts, their friends and their families with everything needed for a great day out. “It’s wrong to see auctions as purely hubs for transactions,” he reasons, before telling us Historics auctions tend to attract more than a thousand visitors. “It’s a mix of people keen to place a bid on a car they’ve spotted in our online catalogue and those who have simply come along for fun.”
LOTS TO CHOOSE FROM
Now we’ve established you can pop along to a classic car auction without worrying about having to commit to buying an old Porsche before the event is over, let’s assume you’re one of the many visitors who is interested in spending some money. How do you go about preparing for the action? “The first thing to do is head online and look at the list of lots for the auction you’re thinking about attending. When you’ve decided which car takes your fancy, you should make arrangements to attend one of the auction’s preview days,” suggests Sam Grange-bailey, Sales Director at Runcorn-based auction house, Manor Park Classics. These are the days preceding the auction and allow prospective purchasers the opportunity to eyeball the car (or cars) in question up-close. Perhaps unsurprisingly, viewing days can be as busy as the auction itself.
She echoes Hodges in her assessment of misconceptions concerning the auction room. “Contrary to what many people think, buying through classic car auctions is a low-risk way to secure your dream drive, often at a lower purchase price than you might expect to pay a dealer and affording you far more time to evaluate the object of your desire than if buying privately.” She’s referring
PREVIEW DAYS PRECEDING THE AUCTION ALLOW PROSPECTIVE PURCHASERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO EYEBALL CARS IN DETAIL
to the fact respectable auction houses will allow you to bring friends, marque experts, engineers (“as many people as you want”) to carry out an inspection, thereby ensuring the vehicle is to your satisfaction before you place a bid. “We have a dedicated document room, where all of the car’s history and paperwork can be examined. You can also hear the car running and we’ll even take you out for a drive, if that’s what you want.” Additionally, Manor Park Classics offers use of an in-house four-post ramp, enabling examination of chassis equipment and the underbody for true peace of mind. “Take your time. We want you to be fully confident in the car and completely relaxed about bidding,” she smiles.
Nick Whale, Managing Director of Silverstone Auctions, offers the same warm welcome to those interested in cars his company has up for grabs. During our conversation, he confirms the importance of preview days, but also addresses confusion first-timers often have regarding the estimates applied to cars pre-auction, which may differ considerably with the final sale price. “The lower and upper estimates are an indication of where the auction house reckons the value of the car lies. Though a buyer might have a different idea and bid way beyond the upper estimate, which is a common occurrence influenced by a variety of factors, including how desirable an individual considers a particular car to be, the availability of viewings prior to auction gives you the opportunity to inspect the vehicle and any associated history, enabling you to establish the price point you’re comfortable with in advance of bidding.”
Silverstone Auctions was founded a decade ago and is solely focused on offering what Whale refers to as ‘best of breed’. In other words, premium vehicles with provenance, sold through auctions held at Silverstone Circuit (Whale holds the motorsport venue’s exclusive automotive auction rights) and some of the UK’S biggest car shows, including the annual Classic Motor Show, held at the National Exhibition Centre. “The venue might change, but the type of vehicle doesn’t — we sell the very best road and competition cars, many of which have established record-breaking final sale prices,” he says, before stressing he recognises not every Porsche buyer is in a position to spend big. For this reason, Silverstone Auctions sister brand, Classic Car Auctions, specialises in what could be classed as ‘everyman classics’ — excellent non-exclusive cars affording enthusiasts the opportunity to buy at a more modest purchase price.
Despite his company operating in the digital sales sphere, Car & Classic CEO, Tom Wood, joins the other experts we spoke to in recognising the benefit of viewing days. “They offer full transparency,” he stresses.
“Having already taken advantage of a clear, truthful and professionally written online description of the car, which is likely to be rich in detail and supported by ample photographic material, an inspection allows you to establish what you think to be a fair price, though it’s worth bearing in mind estimates set by the auctioneer reflect market demand against supply and are based on years of experience selling the kind of car you’re looking at. This valuation is useful in making sure you’re not paying over the odds when pitching against likeminded
A REAL-WORLD AUCTION IN YOUR HOME COUNTY CAN BE JUST AS MUCH OF AN INTERNATIONAL EVENT AS AN AUCTION HOSTED ONLINE
individuals in the heat of a bidding war.”
At this stage, you’ve seen the Porsche you’d like to buy and the subsequent inspection of the car has been carried out to your satisfaction. What next? Auction time! You could, of course, opt to bid from the comfort of your sofa, and this may well be your only option if events conspire against you in advance of the big day, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’re one of the many enthusiasts who have registered to bid at the event — usually by providing photographic identification, such as passport or driving license, or online by submitting your credit or debit card information to the auction house’s preferred payment processor — and are intending to attend the sale in person. “It’s a wonderful occasion,” Hodges beams. “Face to face interaction, seeing premium cars in the metal, enthusiasts exchanging stories and knowledge about their shared passion. This is what makes a real-world auction such a great day out, but it’s important to remember there are many interested parties ready to bid online or by telephone. Put it this way, while Historics enjoys a strong turnout at each of its events, we enjoy close to nine hundred bidders from twentyfive different countries registered to purchase remotely at every auction.” In other words, a real-world auction in your home county can be just as much of an international event as an auction hosted online and generating interest from across the globe.
AUCTION HOUSES HOLDING REAL-WORLD EVENTS REMAIN PASSIONATE AND COMMITTED TO HOSTING PUBLIC AUCTIONS
FAR AND WIDE
Confirming the fact, Grange-bailey reports heavy interest in a 1967 softwindow 911 Targa in the Manor Park Classics auction room in Cheshire back in April, only for the winning bid to come in from someone watching the event online in Greece. “It’s important to keep perspective when bidding,” Hodges warns. “Remind yourself what you decided you were happy to spend and try to stick to that figure. People think buying at auction is all about logistics and practicality, as well as the potential for a bargain, but the reality of the situation is that bidding on a car at auction can be hugely emotional and an adrenalinefuelled activity. It’s easy to let the heart rule the head and get carried away, especially when high bids generated online rev up the room. The atmosphere can be quite extraordinary!” Don’t worry about accidentally scratching your nose and finding yourself in the thick of it, either — auctioneers are clued-up enough to know when you intend to place a bid, subtly or otherwise… we hope!
As many of you will be aware, sellers can place a reserve price on their car to protect against the worst happening and there being a lack of interest in what’s on offer, but auctioneers take a sensible approach here, making sure the reserve is set at a realistic price point. They also realise sellers want to sell and buyers want to buy, which is why they’ll often encourage the seller to lower the reserve price if it looks like a non-sale is likely on the day. That said, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact the winning bid isn’t necessarily all you’ll end up shelling out: take into consideration the commission you’ll have to pay the auction house, which may range anywhere from 2.5 percent to ten percent, subject to VAT (the sale price of
car itself won’t be subject to additional tax). Even so, working on the assumption you’ve place the highest bid and have therefore bagged the Porsche you always promised yourself, what happens now?
Fortunately, most automotive auction houses are operated by people who know the realities of classic car ownership. “We appreciate you might need time to arrange collection or sort insurance,” Grange-bailey assures us. “For this reason, we will store the car for you at our Runcorn site for seven days following auction, though you are, of course, welcome to settle your bill and drive away immediately.” It might sound obvious, but for the benefit of those new to auctions, it’s a point worth making: you don’t pay the seller directly. The sale price and the aforementioned commission is collected from you by the auction house. The seller is then paid by the auction house by way of separate transaction.
Most established auction houses have partnerships with third-party organisations able to assist with everything associated with purchase, from transportation to long-term storage and finance arrangements. “Due to the cost of credit being so low right now, even well-heeled auction winners who can afford to buy premium cars outright are taking advantage of finance deals, which we can help to secure,” Hodges reveals. And what of the character of Porsche buyers auction rooms are welcoming right now? “Passion for Porsche has remained consistent at auction,” he confirms. “Enthusiasm for other marques comes and goes, but love of all-things Porsche doesn’t falter. It’s interesting to note, today’s Porsche buyers tend to be younger than those interested in the output of other manufacturers,” he says, alluding to the fact many first-time buyers are heading to auction for their prized Porsche. “There’s definitely been a shift on that front,” says Grange-bailey. “In recent years, the auction industry in general has seen many more young people bidding on Porsche sports cars. These buyers aren’t necessarily focusing on the lower-value vehicles going under the hammer, either. Of course, cars like the 944 and 968 are always popular with buyers working with modest budgets, but I’ve noticed many first-time 911 owners paying out vast sums at auction for their initial taste of a Porsche.”
And, as this issue of 911 & Porsche World suggests, interest in Porsches
from the 1980s has now reached new heights. “A new generation of younger buyer has come to the fore, focusing their attention on the Porsches popular during their formative years,” Hodges highlights, drawing on what he’s seeing at Historics events.
It is, perhaps, to be expected, the 911 spanning many decades and each age group consequently having ‘their’ Neunelfer, but he thinks the trend goes deeper than model identity. “
The new crop of buyers we are welcoming to the auction room tend to be interested in Porsches boasting a degree of sophistication, such as fuel injection, power steering, ABS, multivalve engines, decent heating and airconditioning, but retaining the charm of an older sports car. For this reason and more, models from the 1980s are now proving most popular.”
All of the experts we spoke to were keen to stress what a safe space the auction room is to make a Porsche purchase. “Auctions are not the highrisk environments they may have had a reputation for being many decades ago,”
Grange-bailey reflects. “There’s less risk than buying privately, primarily because you are afforded time and breathing space to evaluate the car at your leisure — I can’t imagine many private sellers will be happy for you to lift their Porsche on a ramp for a daylong inspection. In contrast, organisations like ours actively encourage this behaviour, ultimately pairing you with the right car and no surprises come auction end.”
There’s potential for a bargain, too, though Hodges offers a word of warning. “People believe buying at auction gets them a better price than if visiting a dealer, and though this is often the case, it doesn’t always ring true. What you can rely on is that a respected auction house recognised as a trusted seller will present authentic cars they know to be good. For this reason, many lots go far beyond their reserve price and reach above their upper estimate. As is always the case, the best cars fetch the best money. Remember this and you can’t go far wrong.”
Against a backdrop of constantly emerging online-only automotive auction platforms, it’s clear Historics, Manor Park Classics, Silverstone Auctions and the many other auction houses holding real-world events remain passionate and committed to hosting safe and secure open-to-public auctions, passing thousands of cars through their event venues to new owners every year. With all entries comprehensively listed online at the point they’re consigned, plus the availability of catalogues of lots, relaxed inspections during auction preview days and the ability to register for bidding in advance or on the occasion of the auction itself, it couldn’t be easier to buy your next Porsche in this timehonoured way. All you need to do is decide which car to bid on. ●