In an auction that ended August 7, 2020 Gooding & Co. sold a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB the colour of a white sand beach for US$3,08 million. Even more unbelievable: It was done online. The uniquely engineered, 1-of-40 coupe commanded the most expensive sum ever paid for a car sold on the Internet.
Such a high sale for a car not actually seen in person is a canny indicator of the relative health of the collector-car market in the midst of Covid-19.
But not a surprise.
“I think this car is virus-proof in the sense that it is a really, really exceptional 275. It’s basically an all-original car with an original interior, a lot of original paint, and long-term ownership,” David Gooding, auction house president and chief executive officer, said in an interview before the sale. (In true auction house discretion, Gooding & Co. declined to identify the person who purchased the vehicle.)
Indeed, the best Ferraris are faring very well in the pandemic world: They constituted four of the top five lots at the Gooding auction, and six of the top 10 results of RM Sotheby’s “Driving into Summer” sale in May, which saw a 2003 Ferrari Enzo alone sell for US$2,64 million — until last week the highest price paid for a car in an online auction.
Three of the top 10 sellers in a Barrett-Jackson online auction in July were Ferraris, a critical anomaly for an outfit known almost exclusively for selling American muscle cars and rough and ready trucks.
The results sent a strong “Yes, you can!” message to any industry collectors and enthusiasts wondering if their cancelled summer sales would hold up in an online format—especially for the most elite and perfect collectable cars, such as racing Aston Martins, Jaguars, and racing Ferraris.
“There is serious, armour-plated Kevlar protecting the 1 percent who give a toss about this car passion,” says Steve Serio, a car broker to the rich and famous.
“Vehicles above that US$100 000 price point — think, cars that sell at Pebble Beach — or the parts of the economy not as closely tied to the oil industry, [will] see little change,” echoed Hagerty’s John Wiley in a recent report on the effects of the novel coronavirus on the collecting world.
All told, more than US$70 million worth of classic and collectable cars have been sold online by the world’s top auction houses since the start of the pandemic.
Some cooling off
Sales results of individual, extremely special cars have generally pleased during the pandemic. (It should be noted that a record online sale has little precedent, since significant Ferraris have never been sold online.) But there have been pockets of pain. Just 36 of 54 lots at the Gooding auction sold, a 67 percent sell-through rate. Sotheby’s July online auction sold 38 of 53 car lots, a 71 percent sell-through rate. At Bonhams, which held its second in a series of live online motoring auctions on July 25, the sell-through rate barely crested 70 percent. Pre-Covid-19 sell-through rates were as high as 75 percent to 80 percent in live auction sales.
The message: Collectors are willing to buy cars, but only the best. They’ll happily leave the rest alone.
In any downturn, compromised cars and low-level collectibles get punished, Serio echoed in a market analysis column on April 2.
The world’s wealthiest — those least affected by pandemics and who remain unaffected by downturns — weren’t buying them, anyway.
“The weak get weaker,” Serio says. And the strong get stronger. — Bloomberg.