Bonhams' London Auction

Dave Kinney
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Feature Car

1964 Facel Vega Facel II

Sold At $552,538

SN HK2B160. Dark metallic red over beige leather interior. 390-hp, 413-cubic-inch V-8; four-speed manual transmission. Power steering, chrome disc wheels. Webasto sunroof added in the 1970s. Fewer than 1000 miles since its most recent restoration less than a year ago. Excellent paint and chrome. Well-done interior, although the worn original seats do stand out a bit.

The Story Behind The Sale

Facel Vega was a specialty manufacturer based in Paris, and it was popular with the same crowd that might be attracted to a Bentley today. Most of the “big” Facel Vegas, such as this car, were powered by Chrysler V-8s. Although many different models were available, perhaps fewer than 3000 cars in total were built from 1954 through 1964.

The Facel II has become one of the most desirable of the company’s cars. At $11,550 in 1963, it was about twice as expensive as a Jaguar XK-E and was priced similarly to a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. This particular car’s first owner was Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, drummer for the Beatles. When he took delivery of the ex–show car in late 1965, the Beatles already had a series of number-one hits, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States. He kept the car until May 1968.

This is huge money for a Facel II, and it’s difficult to determine how much of it to assign to former Fab Four ownership. Stylish, quirky, and unusual but with plenty of admirers; these are attributes that can be assigned to both the car and to its original owner.

1960 Commer TS3 Ecurie Ecosse Three-Car Transporter

Sold At $2,936,229

SN T99A2181. Metallic blue with white trim over brown vinyl driver’s compartment. 105-hp, 3.2-liter supercharged diesel six-piston three-cylinder; six-speed manual. A purpose-built race-car transporter with coachwork by Walter Alexander of Falkirk, Scotland. Built on a bus chassis and modified to provide sleeping quarters while retaining much of the original aluminum bodywork. Recent full restoration with excellent paint, trim, and graphics.

Made famous back in the day as a Corgi toy, this transporter has been to near death and back in the years since 1960. It’s very doubtful anyone thought this rig would ever sell for anywhere near $3 million. In this era in which the big boys aren’t afraid to spend money on their toys, even the box the toy came in brought huge money.

1959 Aston Martin DB4GT

Sold At $2,569,507

SN DB4GT0102R. Medium green over parchment leather. Modified 4.2-liter in-line six; four-speed manual. Overall a very nice look. Neither new and sparkly nor 100 percent stock but rather pleasantly worn in and upgraded for touring. Very good paint and brightwork. Seats and carpets show appropriate use wear. Nicely detailed under the hood, this Aston looks to have been well cared for, at least in the past few years.

The DB4GT was shorter and thus lighter than a standard DB4. By removing five inches from the wheelbase, Aston Martin created a very serious two-passenger car that could compete with many of the Italian marques of the day. Only 100 DB4GTs were built, including race cars. Even without an ejector seat, the sky seems to be the limit on Aston Martin cars from the James Bond era and thereabouts.

1934 Aston Martin Ulster Two-Seater

Sold At $2,129,441

SN L4525U. Black over red leather. 85-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder; four-speed manual. Subject to some recent restoration work; mechanicals and cosmetics were done at different times by different specialists. Very good paint, chrome, and gauges. A race-bred car that has been used its entire life in competition, with an extremely well-documented history.

Of thirty-one Ulsters built, it’s said that twenty-eight survive, an incredible number. The history file on this car is now the size of a book, with entries back to the first registered owner. An unbroken historical record on an important car of this era can add huge value. If a Blower Bentley is not your style or is just a bit out of reach, this is a logical option.

1938 BMW 328

Sold At $1,285,981

SN 85302. Silver with black top over black leather. 80-hp, 1971-cc in-line six; four-speed manual. Left-hand drive. A few years after its restoration, this car is very nice but no longer fully show quality. Good exterior trim, although there’s not much of it. Very nice leather. Detailed under the hood. Thought to be one of fewer than 200 survivors.

From 1936 to 1940, some 460 BMW 328s were built. Despite the low production number, the prewar model had an outsized effect on the world of postwar sports cars; it even endured mechanically in Frazer Nash, Bristol, and AC products of the 1950s. This is yet another car from this sale that brought well over its high estimate. It looks like the rest of us will have to stick to the windup Schuco version until, and if, prices come down.

1952 Frazer Nash Targa Florio

Sold At $442,522

SN 421200175. Green over green leather. 120-hp, 1971-cc in-line six; four-speed manual with overdrive. Color-change repaint; unfortunately, the paint didn’t completely take and is now bubbling in places. Engine rebuilt and interior retrimmed within the past few years.

America’s Cup captain, race-car driver, and classic-car collector Briggs Cunningham bought this car off the stand at the Earls Court motor show in October 1952 and shipped it home to the United States on the Queen Mary that December. One of only fourteen Frazer Nash Targa Florios, this one became part of Cunningham’s team and raced at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March 1953 but retired after only twenty-eight laps.

1952 Jaguar C-Type

Sold At $4,769,837

SN XKC042. Dark blue over brown leather. 200-hp, 3442-cc in-line six; four-speed manual. Restored but still has some patina, a very nice mix. One of just fifty-four C-types (both race and road versions) built by Jaguar. Part of the Dick Skipworth Ecurie Ecosse collection that was the focal point of this auction.

Ecurie Ecosse, which in French (go figure) means “Team Scotland,” was a successful race team from, yes, Scotland. Edinburgh race driver and businessman David Murray and mechanic Wilkie Wilkinson started the team in 1952. The team competed in Formula 1 and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1956 and 1957. The price paid here was not a surprise. Like almost all limited-production European racing cars of the ’50s, values are edging upward on an almost daily basis.

1956 Bentley S1 Continental Fixed-Head Coupe

Sold At $479,194

SN BC11BG. Carriage green over green leather. 175-hp (est.), 4887-cc in-line six; automatic. Remarkably original, with the exception of an added electronic ignition. Paint has stone chips, some cracks, and areas polished through to the primer. Very worn upholstery.

Whereas the British would call this Bentley nicely worn in, most Americans would call it ready for a repaint. It actually would be a serious mistake to restore this car at this point, though, as it has aged evenly throughout. With right-hand drive and an automatic transmission, it’s not the one that most collectors are seeking, but this survivor was a decent buy in this condition.

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