Results and anal­y­sis as the spot­light falls on the Bon­hams Works sale

AS AMER­ICA’S Twit­ter-troll-in-chief re­minded us when he col­lected the keys to 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue on 20 Jan­uary, a heck of a lot can change in a year…

For an ex­tended pe­riod be­gin­ning back in 2013, bid­ders at ma­jor car auc­tions were fall­ing over them­selves to spend money. Prices rose pre­cip­i­tously and con­sis­tently enough that many peo­ple felt it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to over­pay for a good car.

At Bon­hams’ 18th an­nual As­ton Martin ex­trav­a­ganza on May 13, that sen­ti­ment was en­tirely ab­sent. As usual, the Works Sale fea­tured an array of de­sir­able As­tons; ev­ery year it de­servedly at­tracts a ‘car show’ crowd as well as po­ten­tial buy­ers. But, for all the nice stuff in the cat­a­logue, among those with pad­dles to wave there was none of the giddy ex­cite­ment to which we have be­come ac­cus­tomed.

Bid­ding was uni­formly re­strained as 42 lots were of­fered, with auc­tion­eer Jamie Knight of­ten hav­ing to work hard to help the cars meet es­ti­mates and re­serves. The bald facts of the day were as fol­lows: 14 lots sold for the ex­pected money, with pre­mi­ums fac­tored in; seven sold for more than the top es­ti­mate; four sold for less than the bot­tom es­ti­mate; and 17 lots were un­sold – although a deal for one of those, a 1970 DB6 Mk2 Volante, has been com­pleted since auc­tion day.

That car, first owned by Sir John Saun­ders, for­mer chair­man of HSBC, was one of three DB6 drop-tops con­signed, and the only one to change hands. Bid­ding on the two Mk1 cars stalled at £670,000 and £580,000.

The DB6 Volante was not the only auc­tion sta­ple to strug­gle: four DB4S were passed, while the sale’s sole DB5 was even­tu­ally ham­mered for £561,500 in­clud­ing buyer’s pre­mium af­ter some slow bid­ding. The royal blue 1964 Bond­mo­bile looked a good, prop­erly ex­er­cised ex­am­ple, and came to New­port Pag­nell af­ter 45 years in the care of a chap who bought it when he was just 21 to use as his daily driver. That there was not a greater clam­our to be­come its next keeper was note­wor­thy.

We had been cu­ri­ous to see how the peren­ni­ally un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated DBS would fare here, in the year of its 50th birth­day. Bon­hams had gath­ered a quar­tet of cars – two early, straight-six-pow­ered ma­chines plus two 1971 DBS V8s – and three of the four were sold, with the best of the bunch, a freshly re­stored 1968 car with man­ual gear­box, bring­ing £101,180 all-in. A fair £82,140 was paid for the Dubon­net Rosso 1971 car with do-ity­our­self trans­mis­sion, while its au­to­matic coun­ter­part, in need of recom­mis­sion­ing af­ter years in dry stor­age, made £51,750.

The an­swer to our ques­tion, then, was ‘okay’. The DBS seems to ex­ist in a sort of col­lec­tor-car nether­world, unloved by those with eyes only for the more tra­di­tional, glam­our­puss looks of the DB4/5/6, and ig­nored by those fix­ated on per­for­mance, who grav­i­tate to­wards later mod­els. We’re happy for it to stay right there while we slowly fill our war chest.

Those later mod­els were well rep­re­sented at the Works Sale, with V8s, Vi­rages, Van­tages and DB7S up for grabs. Among the as­sort­ment were a V8 Van­tage Za­gato Coupé (un­sold), a V8 Za­gato Volante (£281,500), and a stranger fish still: a fac­tory-built 1996 V8 Sports­man Es­tate Car, with fit­ted hu­mi­dor, no less. If noth­ing else, it is an ex­clu­sive set of wheels, As­ton hav­ing com­pleted only two more cars of its awk­wardly pro­por­tioned kind, and rar­ity alone saw it reach the mid­dle of its es­ti­mate range as it sold for £337,500.

Less rare but equally po­lar­is­ing was the 1979 Lagonda of­fered at no re­serve, and which no­body seemed to want ini­tially. Against an es­ti­mate of £50,000-80,000 it was ‘prac­ti­cally given away’ for £28,750. Even ac­count­ing for its dis­tinctly Mar­mite flavour and the fact that it will inevitably need some fet­tling af­ter 14 years with­out use, it was a de­cent buy.

Quite what we should read into a sub­dued Works Sale is hard to know. Nearly all HAGI clas­sic car mar­ket mea­sures, as re­ported by our sis­ter mag­a­zine, Oc­tane, have de­clined in re­cent months; at the time of writ­ing, the HAGI Top In­dex, which tracks the prices of 50 key cars, is down 3.33% in the year to date. For any­one with an in­ter­est in the long-term health of the old car world, that is wel­come news, but the prices achieved (or not achieved) at New­port Pag­nell, dur­ing a UK general elec­tion cam­paign and with the coun­try still mired in Brexit-re­lated un­cer­tainty, may not pro­vide an ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tion of any­thing other than the mo­men­tary cau­tious­ness of po­ten­tial buy­ers here and in main­land Europe.

Cer­tainly, re­cent auc­tions else­where in the world have seen slightly more en­thu­si­as­tic bid­ding. RM Sotheby’s brought seven As­tons to a rain-hit Amelia Is­land in early March and dis­posed of all of them. The big-money lot was a 1966 Short Chas­sis Volante that com­manded $1,705,000. At Good­ing’s Amelia Is­land event, a 1965 DB5 Van­tage cleared the mil­lion-dol­lar mark to make $1,100,000, while the sto­ried ex-david Brown 1949 DB MKII men­tioned in the last is­sue went to a new home for $1,540,000.

A num­ber of auc­tions tak­ing place in the com­ing weeks may give us a bet­ter sense of where the mar­ket will set­tle, with cars in­clud­ing the DB MKIII pro­to­type (Bon­hams, June 30); a barn-find DB6 (His­torics at Brook­lands, May 20); and a 1964 DB5 (H&H, June 6) set to cross the block. There’s RM’S sale at Villa Erba (May 27), too, fea­tur­ing an­other V8 Van­tage Za­gato Coupé and a V8 Van­tage Volante Za­gato. The for­mer is val­ued at ¤ 400,000-500,000 and the lat­ter thought to be worth ¤ 50,000 more. Those fig­ures look op­ti­mistic right now, but we’ve had enough sur­prises re­cently to know bet­ter than to rule out the im­prob­a­ble.

From top The only DB5 of­fered at Bon­hams’ As­ton Works Sale was just about bid to its pre­sale es­ti­mate, with a bit of art­ful ca­jol­ing from auc­tion­eer Jamie Knight; this 1979 Lagonda was the bar­gain of the day, sell­ing for around half its es­ti­mate; one of three V8 Sports­man Es­tate cars built, and among the main attractions on auc­tion day, de­spite its rather gawky ap­pear­ance. A bid of £337,500 bought it

Clock­wise from top Among the As­tons lined up for Bon­hams’ Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed sale is this DB2/4 MKII – the DB MKIII pro­to­type and a Monte Carlo Rally en­try; a pair of V8 Van­tage Za­gatos will go un­der the ham­mer at RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba event on 27 May

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