Historics at Ascot – classic car auction preview – December 2020

It is time for the last few auctions of the year, and it seems that every auction house has decided that 12th December is the ideal time to hold their auctions, with Historics, CCA and Mathewsons all vying for the same customers on the same day (and with Bonhams MPH held just the day before). I spent yesterday running around three of these auctions to try and view all the cars I found interesting, and in case there might be one or two that may tempt me a little too much. I didn’t bother viewing at Mathewsons as it is all the way up in Yorkshire and I already know the car that I may be interested in there – and there are another couple that I could buy if the price is right irrespective of condition.

So, the first stop on my three auction tour was Historics. Probably one of my favourite auctions for the quality and variety of consignments, there is always something I’ll really like. It is also worth noting that in general they’re great people to deal with, with both the consignors and office staff being friendly and helpful. This auction is being held at Ascot Race Course, which is a monstrous and unheated building that provides a mildly dramatic (but cold) back drop for the auction.

Here is a walk around video of the Historics auction preview.

First up on my list of favourites is the gorgeous behemoth that is this 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville ‘Special Sports Coupé’. A UK registered car that is guided at £18,000 – £24,000 means that you could potentially purchase this car for less than £1,000 per foot, which seems like a reasonable way to try and explain it to your loved ones. The car reportedly runs very well and is a joy to drive, and I can imagine it is particularly pleasant on a warm day with no particular destination in mind. If you, like I, can appreciate interesting pieces of classic Americana like this, then you’ll understand why I believe it is such a lovely thing.

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I promise this list won’t only feature classic American cars, but as I’m running through the lot list in the sale order, this was the next car to catch my eye (although the seemingly affordable E63 AMG does get an honourable mention). This 1950 Cadillac Series 62 convertible is even more gorgeous than the Eldorado Seville featured above, and even more stylish too. This isn’t a car that you’d buy for its performance or dynamism, but simply because it is a beautiful and enjoyable thing to own, and perfect for relaxed driving with others. The car presents beautifully and in good order, with bright chrome work (which is important as the cost to have it re-chromed can run into the tens of thousands), and UK registration is currently in progress, and expected to be completed in time for the sale. There is some mild wear to the seats, but nothing that I found off putting. The guide of £40,000-£48,000 perhaps isn’t cheap, but I doubt you’ll see many others on the road.

Next up is a Jaguar that appears to be more menacing than any of today’s offerings could even hope to be, with black paintwork and black wire wheels, and only the chrome of the headlamps, grille and bumper offering any break the dark colour scheme. This MKIV is a 1947 RHD, and is reasonably rare as steel bodied cars were immediately post war. It was the first car to receive the Jaguar name after the company changed from their original name of ‘SS’ (which is understandable given the unfortunate connotations that name had at the time). Fitted with its original 3.5 litre 6 cylinder engine, the Jaguar is reported to offer brisk performance, and I for one would love to drive it. The guide of £27,000-£33,000 doesn’t seem unfair to me, either.

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I include the next car on my list not just for myself, but also for Frank the dog, as he would very much like an S1/2/3 Bentley, and this example easily caught my eye, as much for the price as the condition. The silver and grey paintwork is possibly a little subdued for my tastes, but the red interior certainly helps to make up for that and makes it a little more interesting. The bodywork isn’t perfect, with some marks, imperfections and a small crease on the wing just at the bonnet line on the near side, but it is all relatively minor. It is reported to have been well maintained regardless of cost by both the previous owner and the current owner, with whom it has formed part of a significant collection and been stored in its own bubble. The guide of £25,000-£32,000 makes this seem like a lot of car for the money.

Next up is another Bentley (sorry), and it is only because I’ve got a real hankering for a Continental R, and day-dream often about daily driving one – even though I’m sure that the running costs must be truly horrendous. This example stands out for me as it has a black interior, which I usually find preferable, as it looks smarter and hides wear better. It also comes with the private registration number of ‘7 WXT’ which no doubt has some value. Amazingly the previous owners of this car have only managed to rack up less than 40,000 miles in it, which seems a crying shame to me for such a fantastic car, though to a lot of people that will be a positive and make the guide of £31,000-£36,000 even more reasonable. It is certainly important to consider that the purchase price may be low on a car like this, but the maintenance cost never will be.

My next pick was a car that caught my eye long before the viewing for the auction, as I always keep my eyes peeled for an old Renault, and this one is reasonably low mileage and in quite good condition, although personally I would do away with the James Bond touches as they’re just as naff here as they are on an Aston Martin. It is offered at no reserve, so I’m curious to see whether someone walks away with a bargain.

I’m a huge Maserati fan, despite recent events. This Merak also featured in the previous Historics auction, and evidently failed to sell, even at a lower price than many seem to be offered for currently, especially considering the astoundingly low mileage of just 2,136 miles since new, and is said to be one of the most original cars of its type. The interior was in particularly lovely condition for an original car, and worth looking at if you’re attending. It does need some recommissioning, but what exactly isn’t mentioned. The guide is £53,000-£60,000.

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I love a barn find, and this 6.3 litre 1968 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL is no ordinary barn find. This car is one of the original super saloons, and has spent most of its life in Australia before being imported to the UK some years ago. It has been owned by the vendor since 2016 and was set to be restored before other commitments took over. Taxes have been paid and the car is NOVA registered to allow for easy UK registration for the new owner. Considering the engine does start and run, the guide of £3,500-£5,500 sounds reasonable, and it is no reserve also. It would be wise to consider it as needing a complete restoration, even though the engine runs.

My next pick is probably a little contentious, and for what its worth I actually believe its over guided. This Maserati Khamsin ‘resto-mod’ – and I use that term lightly as it isn’t good or modernised (really) – has previously been listed for sale with DD Classics, and was previously owned by the Brunei Royal Family. It is described as being ‘handsome and unique’, and I can only imagine that they mean that it was once handsome and is unfortunate to have become unique in this way. The styling is a challenge, as there is an abundance of grille and vents where there shouldn’t be, and personally I would have to remove them. The widened arched and paint scheme could work if the rest of the styling was resolved, though I’m not completely convinced. The wheels are only worthy of the bin. The most challenging aspect for me though, other than the price, is that the original engine and gearbox have been removed and replaced with a Ford V8 and automatic gearbox, which is hugely destructive to the value, history and it would also be expensive to refit what the car is supposed to have. This Maserati is guided at £76,000-£85,000 and I can only hope the reserve is below £50k.

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Ok, its another Bentley, but wait! This one isn’t just a lovely thing to look at, it also has a rather amusing story. The title of ‘1937 Bentley 4 1/4 All Weather ‘Wide Body’ Tourer by Vanden Plas’ does give a hint, as do the front seats if you compare their widths. This car was originally delivered to a Miss Doris Skinner, who was an astute business lady (and obviously had excellent taste in cars). She ordered her car in wide body specification, and it is rumoured that she did so as her partner was rather round and needed the extra cockpit space. The car was converted to an estate during the Second World War by Miss Skinner’s brother, and remained that way up until it was restored in the 1990s by former Benetton F1 engineer Robin Grant. Guided at £118,000 to £143,000, I’m certainly curious to see what it fetches.

Finally I’ve chosen something small and Italian to try and counteract some of the cars on this list. There are three Lancias that I like in this auction, but for some reason this is the one that is calling to me the most. This 1968 Flavia is from a deceased estate, and as such needs some mechanical work before it is roadworthy. However it is described as a car that runs, and is being offered with no reserve. I think it’s rather sweet.

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