Brain damage in Paris

Artcurial’s marathon auction on the Friday of Retromobile saw the prototype Facel sell for €420k. This was halfway up the estimate – which was pretty broad at €350-550,000 – but Artcurial’s prices were strong, particularly in comparison to  Bonham’s the day before.

However, what you had to endure first of all was a long afternoon stretching into evening, and secondly sometimes four – yes four – male auctioneers all shouting at once. Most of it was in French, but one or two of the auctioneers spoke English. Amusingly, the chief auctioneer, Herve Poulain, called for a little silence at one moment – and he was referring to the audience!

For most of us listening on line, the brain damage was coming from the auctioneers who got massively confused on a couple of occasions as they took bids twice and then didn’t know who had won the auction! You definitely needed a flask to get through the evening.

It was an afternoon when 28 million euros was spent on a 1957 Ferrari 335 with strong racing heritage – and that was bottom estimate. They started at 25 million. They got double estimate at €400k for an immaculate original Alfa Romeo GTA.

Things didn’t look good for the four Facels on offer when a 1952 Ford Comete – made by Facel of course – failed to attract any interest. It was estimated at €60-80,000 but got no further than €35,000 and there was no reserve.

The next lot was an HK500 and while the bidding was much more lively, it still only got to within €10k of the low estimate of €100k. However, the first of two FV4s – restored in the United States and formerly resident of Gstaad – in very good condition was estimated at €130-€190,000. It started at €90,000 and went past the low estimate to top estimate, which was encouraging.

Next up was the 1954 Facel prototype which had only had three owners and the first was Jean Daninos himself. The auctioneers – well one of them possibly – started at €200k and the car fetched just over twice that, which was very good.

Much later in what was now the evening, came a second FV4, estimated at €175-€200,000 and therefore presumably in even better condition than the first, having an older restoration by Ian Webb in Cornwall, described by the auctioneer as ‘fantastique’. But with the room emptying, it actually made less than the car which had been estimated at less, at €180,000 having risen from €120,000. .

The previous day, Bonhams sold an HK500 which got to within £3k of its £110k estimate and therefore was judged to have sold, but the combination of a male speaking in English and a French lady in her native language failed to sell quite a number of tasty cars during the evening which reflected the drop in values which we suspected from the previous evening at RM. Only the chaos of Artcurial seemed to restore some hope that prices weren’t all that bad. Incidentally, the watchword of the auctions was ‘matching numbers’ although in one or two cases one wasn’t entirely sure that those uttering the words knew exactly what they meant.




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