Victory for Veteran Motor Cars

Shunning the winter blues, Bonhams’ show success in the sale of veteran cars prior to the famous London to Brighton run. Here, Bryan McMorran tries to make sense of it all.

Rumours and thoughts that the Veteran motor car market was a dying breed were truly unjustified by Bonhams’ recent London to Brighton sale with an astonishing 91% sale rate achieved. The annual London to Brighton run has always had a significant turn out, but unlike the classic car market, veteran motor cars aren’t to everyone’s tastes and the values of them haven’t seen the significant rises that have applied to their younger contemporaries. And whilst that may be still true, the sale did show that there really is still an appetite for some of these magnificent machines.

Veteran Motor Cars - 1903 Panhard
Source: Bonhams

The highlight of the sale was the 1903 Panhard et Levassor Model B 10hp Four-Cylinder Rear-Entrance Tonneau, which achieved £326,667, but elsewhere in the catalogue estimates were being smashed by enthusiastic bidders, both present in the salesroom and on the telephones. A sublime example of a 1903 Darracq Model H 12hp Twin-Cylinder Rear-Entrance Tonneau achieving £203,100 against a pre-sale estimate of £120,000-160,000.

Veteran Motor Cars - 1898 Germain
Source: Bonhams

An important single-owner European collection performed very well, with the 1898 Germain 6hp Twin-Cylinder Open Drive Limousine (£150,000-220,000) achieving £225,500, the 1901 Hurtu Type H 4½hp Rear-Entrance Tonneau selling for £63,100, and the 1899 Vivinus 3½hp Two-Seater Voiturette reaching £58,620, more than double its pre-sale estimate of £20,000-25,000.

The results must have buoyed both Bonhams’ and the overall market’s confidence that the ever-impending crash to the market that the doomsayers keep telling us is here, is some way off yet. And, refreshingly, the buyers were out in their droves, as the successful sale proved.

James Knight, Group Motoring Chairman, commented: ‘The results achieved at Bonhams today show that the appetite for these extraordinary veteran machines remains very strong indeed. This was one of our largest ever London to Brighton Sales, and the range of vehicles on offer was remarkable. We look forward to seeing many of them at the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on Sunday.’

With two more sales before the year end featuring younger classics, the company must be hoping that some of the magic from the London to Brighton sale rubs off on them and makes them a success too. However, one of the benefits of the veteran motor cars have is a smaller number of auctions dedicated to them, and the lower number of cars available to the overall market. So perhaps in that way, the prices will remain fairly static, rising a little as buyers have less to choose from.

The higher number of classic cars make it more of a buyers’ market and therefore dictate prices. Rarity and uniqueness is always going to be a desirable commodity and with so few veteran motor cars coming to the market, this can only keep prices moving in the right way. It is still a concern, however, that as the buyers of them get older, and with less specialists around to care for them, they could have a finite shelf life, but then that’s up to the clubs and owners to get a younger audience more enthused about these machines. One thing is very much for sure, if the sale is any indication, their end is some way off yet.

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About the Author:

Bryan McMorran is a car industry specialist and is Abbeyfield Sports & Classic’s Founder & Director.