Ferraris have taken centre stage in the classic car market. A celebrated auctioneer explains why
You always look forward to Ferrari auctions. They’re the ones you want to be involved with, to be a part of, there in the room when all the action starts. There are always going to be people you know, there’s always going to be a lot of interest and a great atmosphere – because it’s Ferrari.
There’s a difference, a subtle one, but it’s there. People go to Ferrari auctions because they love the brand, because they feel incredibly passionate about it. The money, really, is secondary. People want to show how much they love the Prancing Horse.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to preside over an RM Sotheby’s Pebble Beach auction that featured a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider, which sold for $25 million (€22.4m). Again, it wasn’t about the money, incredible though that was. It was about the whole backstory of the car, which had had just one owner from 1967 to 2013, the year the auction took place.
A guy called Eddie Smith bought it when it came out, one of only 10 produced of course. Apparently Steve McQueen wanted Eddie’s car after writing his off in a crash, but Eddie refused to sell. Much later, Ralph Lauren tried as well, but still Eddie wouldn’t budge.
After Eddie passed away in 2007, the family decided to put the car up for sale finally, but wanted all the money to go to charity. So, there I was, at this incredibly exciting auction, this huge event and, as I drop the gavel, the family all burst into tears. What a moment that was. You really wouldn’t get that with an Austin-Healey.
You can find yourself getting caught up in all the emotion at a time like that, and there’s really not a lot you can do about it. It’s exciting. But there’s also a fair bit of pressure too, of course. You need to perform, you need to keep things moving. It does help when you look out from your auctioneer’s block and see some familiar faces. Immediately you know you’re on good ground, that it’s going to be a fun event.
This passion has been crucial in shaping the Ferrari market over the past decade. Earlier this year, I was entrusted to represent a client in the purchase of what became the most valuable car sold at auction, a Ferrari 335 S. After a nail-biting few minutes, we landed one of the ultimate Ferrari sports racers.
Within days, my client was approached with a very attractive offer, one that would have meant a substantial profit on the sale. My client gracefully declined. It was, as he later explained to me, all about the car, not the money: ‘If I sell it now, I will never have the chance to own it again.’
Working at this year’s Ferrari Cavalcade auction in Venice brought all this home to me as well. I worked at a previous Cavalcade event, but really wanted to take things up a notch this time, preparing a nice catalogue, photographing the lots and really elevating the sense of it being a “proper” auction.
It was a phenomenal success and you could really see and feel the passion for the brand. The people who took part in the Cavalcade are a big part of the Ferrari family and were all very generous with their bidding.
It’s back to that whole thing of people showing their love of the brand, of wanting to be a part of things, of belonging. Because it’s Ferrari.