How To Sell Your Car At Auction

Cars

How To Sell Your Car At Auction

Whether it’s a motorcar’s incredible original bodywork, its unique one-off design, or an exceptional racing provenance, there’s more than one way for a car to steal the show once it’s up for auction.

Published on 3 October 2017

It takes quite a vehicle to make Pierre Novikoff, the deputy director of Artcurial Motorcars, do a double-take. So what happened when he came across 60 collectors’ automobiles in 2014, dating from the early days of the motorcar through to the 1970s? “I will never forget the first time Matthieu Lamoure (Artcurial Motorcars’ managing director) and I set eyes on the Baillon Collection in the west of France,” he recalls. “Barnfind discoveries are always exciting, but this really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“An extraordinary collection of cars had been tucked away, untouched for close to half a century, and included both rare and highly valuable models. We photographed the cars in situ – it was a magical sight – and the story of this collection captured the public’s imagination around the world. The number and variety of special models in the collection was breathtaking, and even included a Saoutchik-bodied car that no-one knew existed!” Such are the perks and privileges of being part of Artcurial Motorcars’ team of specialists, who continue to uncover and assess rare and important jewels of the automobile world.

This year alone has seen Artcurial successfully sell a 1965 Dino Berlinetta Speciale par Pininfarina for a mighty €4.9 million (US$5.8 million), while a 1948 Ferrari 166 Spyder Corsa par Scaglietti went under the hammer for nearly €3 million (US$3.5 million). It seems the appetite of the global car-collecting community remains voracious, suggesting that bidders are hungry for more. (For the record, the Baillon Collection went on to bring in a total of over €25 million (US$29.5 million) in early 2015, with a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider going for a record-breaking €16.3 million (US$19.2 million) – the highest bid in Artcurial’s history.)

Even if your automobiles haven’t been hiding in garages and under corrugated iron shelters for the past 50 years, it’s worth approaching a reputable auction house if you feel you’d like to see your motorcar – say, the pride and joy of your classic car collection – up on the auction block. But what distinguishes a star car as an acquisition worth raising the paddle for? And should you tinker with the original gearbox if it sounds like it’s struggling? Novikoff gives his expert take on what makes bidders’ engines rev:

Three key factors: specification, condition, and history

Mercedes Benz 300 S Cabriolet 21

“The specification of the car is important, as in each marque there are certain models that are particularly rare and therefore often more valuable,” explains Novikoff, who has travelled extensively around Europe – mainly France, Germany, Italy, and England – to value and source cars. “The condition of the car naturally affects its value, in different ways. Certain models will be more desirable in totally original condition, whereas for others, a high-quality restoration will add to its value. The history is always important: we look at the authenticity and racing provenance of competition cars. A successful period racing history, especially if it includes major events such as the Le Mans 24 Hours, adds value.”

Have your car’s paperwork in order, if possible

Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster 19

“A complete file of paperwork confirming details of the car’s history, ownership, and work carried out, is the ideal scenario. However, it doesn’t always happen that way and paperwork matters more for some cars than others,” Novikoff says reassuringly. “It is important with a 1930s Bugatti that there is a record of its long and probably exciting life. This might comprise a file of correspondence, photographs, invoices, and race results, for example. Books and historians may also help corroborate a car’s identity.

“With a more modern car – say, from the 1980s – we may not need to know every detail of its history. An inspection of the condition of the car may be as important. If we go to look at a car and there isn’t paperwork for us to check, it is usually possible to make a reasonable assessment, as Matthieu and I have looked at thousands of cars over our careers. We also work with historians and experts and will research any gaps in a car’s history. We will not necessarily turn a car away if there is no paperwork, but will value it accordingly and let the buyer decide.”

Restoration isn’t always an immediate solution

Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing 116

Think twice before you send your car to the workshop before it goes for auction. As Novikoff notes, “We are always happy to discuss options with potential buyers, and put them in touch with specialists. With the Baillon collection sold at Retromobile in Paris in 2015, we helped several buyers to organise the restoration of the cars they bought. That collection was very special and some of the cars had decayed to such an extent that it was impossible to restore them. It would also have taken away the ‘Baillon’ magic, and so some of the lots in this collection were bought to be displayed as found, like works of art.

“The decision to restore an old car is not straightforward, and depends on the car, and on how the owner wants to use it. For someone owning a valuable pre-war car in original condition, for example, keeping the car in that condition is more likely to maintain its value. However, if you want to drive, race or even exhibit your car and enjoy its potential fully, restoration may make sense. For certain cars, this may mean spending more than you will get back from selling it later.”

1970s and 1980s models are currently the most sought-after

1936 Talbot Lago T150C

“There is always a generational effect in the classic car market, and we have seen a rise in popularity for 1970s and 1980s models recently. That said, the prices for pre-war French models have also been strong,” Novikoff points out. “We pride ourselves on bringing a large number of cars to auction that are new to the market, and with a high percentage of these offered at no reserve. The cars that attract the most interest and the highest prices are always going to be the best example of their type, whether this means the best condition, most original, best specification, rarest model, or the most special history.”

What’s Affecting Your Money?
Sign up to receive investment news and ideas

SIGN UP