Bonhams Paris 2014 – Auction Report

Bonhams, Grand Palais, Paris, France, February 6, 2014

Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor

The French equivalent of the Consumer Protection and Safety Commission prescribes this method of preventing oblivious consumers from impaling themselves on the beak of the Hispano-Suiza stork mascot.
The French equivalent of the Consumer Protection and Safety Commission prescribes this method of preventing oblivious consumers from impaling themselves on the beak of the Hispano-Suiza stork mascot.

There are just a few particularly charismatic places to hold collector car auctions.

Worldwide’s auction in the Cord Front Drive L29 Assembly Building in Auburn is one.

Bonhams at the Grand Palais, site of the early Paris Auto Shows, is another.

It is impossible to be unaffected by the surroundings. I took my 12-year old granddaughter and covered her eyes as she entered so she got the full effect of the towering cast iron vaulted roof, acres of glass (even under dull February Paris skies) and well-worn stonework.

Bonhams presented many eras at the Grand Palais. All of them looked good. But none looked better than the elegant Voisins, Delages, Hispano-Suizas, Rolls-Royces and Citroens that traced their heritage to the grand époque that the Grand Palais represents.

Now, I’m a sucker for the charms of Paris, even, as happened this year, when all the taxis in France went on strike at 7AM Monday when we were going to the airport to come home. Our hotel (Hotel de Buci, which can’t get a higher recommendation than it earned for our trip this year) found a taxi willing to arrive at 6:30 and rush us to Charles de Gaulle before the strike deadline.

When asked why the taxis were striking our driver gave a Gallic shrug; he didn’t know. That’s the real France experience with the bonus of a rush through nearly abandoned early morning Paris streets driven by a pro.

A peripheral joy of an auction like Bonhams in Paris is the opportunity to see – and in my case document – cars that rarely if ever turn up in auctions on this side of the Atlantic. There are things here that are beyond rare in North America, but still recognized as important exemplars of marques and models.

Bonhams crammed a full day into their auction at the Grand Palais, offering 149 cars of which 105 were sold (70.5%) in addition to hours of motorcycles. With a sale total of $21,763,311 for cars alone it is a creditable result, but even more respectable for conducting a first class auction in a setting that is essentially without parallel in its elegance and history.

The atmosphere, the food, the setting, the landmarks: Paris is hard to beat. So is Bonhams Grand Palais auction.

Bonhams Paris Grand Palais 2014 – Auction Report

1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
Lot # 303 1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible; S/N 59F043341; Engine # 58J116042; Pink/Black, White leather; White vinyl top; Estimate $34,010 – $47,614; Visually maintained, largely original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $73,462 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $84,481. No Reserve – Reputedly used in the Clint Eastwood movie ‘The Pink Cadillac’ and comes with film memorabilia but no studio documentation. Repainted some time ago, and now with a few blisters and edge chips. Upholstery is soiled, interior chrome is weak. Trim screws missing. Underbody is original and dirty. Not exactly nasty, but close. – Perhaps a singular Cadillac but one that is not ‘good’ in any single way, like most movie cars. This result is by any standard magnanimous, a huge premium for the purported movie use without recognizing its condition. Imagine what a movie car used by Jerry Lewis would do in France.
1962 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Lot # 314 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible; S/N 20867S109824; Engine # 15S409153 V1115CHB; Red/Red vinyl; Black vinyl top; Estimate $54,416 – $81,624; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $57,137 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $65,707 – Replacement engine, 4-barrel, 4-speed, Rally wheels, trim rings, hubcaps, narrow whitewalls, cassette stereo. – Repainted over cracks and inadequate prep. Sound interior, dirty engine. Barely a driver. – Largely without collector value with its replacement engine and scruffy cosmetics, this is mid-$30K car on any day except today in Paris.
1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster
Lot # 320 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster; S/N 1210408501091; Engine # 1219218501124; Red/Beige leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $88,426 – $115,634; Older restoration, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $81,624 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $93,868 – AM-FM radio, hubcaps, trim rings, whitewalls, Solex carbs. – Decent older paint, chrome and upholstery. An older driver quality restoration with some miles. – Based on this result for a fully mediocre example, 190SL craziness is somewhat moderated in Europe. Still, nearly $100K for a dull old car is generous.
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet A, Body by Sindelfingen
Lot # 324 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet A, Body by Sindelfingen; S/N 1880104500024; Engine # 1869205500578; Dark Burgundy/Dark Burgundy leather; Beige cloth top; Estimate $408,120 – $476,140; Cosmetic restoration, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $353,704 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $406,760 – 4-speed, column shift, hubcaps, wide trim rings, whitewalls, fog lights. – Sound old repaint applied to the assembled and trimmed body and casually masked. Good but musty smelling interior, good chrome and top. Dank body cavities lined with peeling old paint. Fair interior wood. A superficially cosmetically redone car. – With 115hp trying to pull along a body built by Sindelfingen’s craftsmen, who never stinted on metal gauge or supports, the 300S is not exactly sprightly, but it is stately and elegant. This is a realistic price for this rather deficiently presented example.
1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce Sprint, Body by Bertone
Lot # 325 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce Sprint, Body by Bertone; S/N AR149325845; Engine # AR0010601176; Red/Black leatherette; Estimate $61,218 – $74,822; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $51,695 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $59,449 – No radio, Firestone blackwall radial tires, 5-speed, replacement engine. – Scratched windshield, exceptionally ugly repaired and rechromed bumpers, pitted side window chrome, yellowed gauge faces. Uniformly filled body. Underbody quickly resprayed black over old undercoat. – The Grand Palais bidders were not fooled by this Alfa, but still give it a resoundingly healthy price even a tad under the low estimate. Had it been bought at Euros 30,000 hammer it might have been a sound value.
1959 Imperial Crown 4-Dr. Hardtop
Lot # 326 1959 Imperial Crown 4-Dr. Hardtop; S/N M637103291; Engine # MR413J2324; Rose Metallic/White leather; Estimate $68,020 – $102,030; Cosmetic restoration, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $48,974 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $56,321. No Reserve – Frigiking A/C, P/W, P/S, P/B. power seat, pushbutton radio, chrome wire wheels, whitewall tires, dual outside mirrors. – Good paint and major chrome, lightly soiled upholstery, wrinkled package tray covering, some pitted chrome trim. Pitted, weak interior chrome, cracked steering wheel rim, loose steering wheel cushion. Thick old undercoat with fresh black paint over it. Orderly and clean underhood. – Sold for $34,100 at RM’s Milt Robson sale in 2010, then for $33,000 at Amelia in 2012, bringing this Imperial boat to Paris proved to be a home run for the seller. There’s no accounting for something truly different in a flamboyant color.
1962 Facel Vega Facel II Coupe
Lot # 327 1962 Facel Vega Facel II Coupe; S/N HK2A154; Engine # TY8-712-175; Metallic Blue/Blue leather; Estimate $108,832 – $190,456; Unrestored original, 5- condition; Hammered Sold at $183,654 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $211,202 – 383, automatic, wire wheels, P/S, disc brakes, limited slip. – Sills and door bottoms rotted out both sides. Filthy inside and out, rotted upholstery and trim. About as despicable as a car can be coming from a barn in Minnesota, and that’s pretty despicable. – Worth a half million bucks in pristine restored condition, it’s going to take every dollar of the difference between the price of this rat and what it’ll be worth when it’s done. This is an endorsement of ‘hope’ and the 31,152 miles on the odometer will mean nothing when it’s restored. There is nothing left at this price except the new owner’s pride in salvaging an otherwise derelict Facel Vega.
1967 Simca 1000 Coupe, Body by Bertone
Lot # 330 1967 Simca 1000 Coupe, Body by Bertone; S/N SB163228; Engine # 371461; White/Black vinyl; Estimate $13,604 – $20,406; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $14,964 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $17,209. No Reserve – Woodrim steering wheel, Blaupunkt radio, hubcaps, trim rings, fog lights. – Decent repaint, fair chrome, sound interior, aged, stiff dash top. Engine is orderly if not restored. Just a car, but an unusual one. – Other than just the joy of being in Paris, one of the rewards for coming to auctions here is the opportunity to see things that barely ever, if at all, surface in the States, like this Simca. In the absence of comparables it will have to stand as the benchmark transaction, just over Bonhams low estimate, for a Bertone bodied Simca 1000 coupe.
1951 Simca 8 Type 1200 Sport Coupe, Body by Figoni & Falaschi
Lot # 336 1951 Simca 8 Type 1200 Sport Coupe, Body by Figoni & Falaschi; S/N 877553; Engine # 215631; Dark Blue/Red leather; Estimate $27,208 – $40,812; Unrestored original, 4- condition; Hammered Sold at $51,695 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $59,449 – Wheel covers, whitewalls, Philips radio. – Blistered old paint, stiff, cracked interior. No interior details typical of Figoni. A neglected old car that needs everything but is sound and complete. One of six reportedly similarly bodied by Figoni & Falaschi. – A certain Palm Springs resident steeped in obscure little French and Italian cars was beguiled by this Simca, a real Figoni & Falaschi with credentials that might get it into desirable concours. So, apparently, were others who bid on the body tag with little attention to the bulbous style, the anemic engine or the near-derelict condition. When this happens it’s best to let the bidders set the mark and stand back to watch for further developments.