BoCK5Pcw 1969 Lotus Europa S2 Coupe
1969 Lotus Europa S2 Coupe

Donington steps into the Shannons void

AUSTRALIA’S classic car auction scene has undergone quite a change in recent times.

Insurance giant Shannons, which held its first car auction in 1981, shut that part of its business late last year in the face of increased competition.

Paul Blank, the well known Perth-based motoring enthusiast, classic car broker and tour organiser, has just had a look at the latest classic car auction, one run by Melbourne-based Donington, which has been around for a few years and has been growing, including opening a Sydney operation.

There were quite a few bargains to be had. Here’s his report:

Their (Donington’s) strength has been in automobilia, selling considerable quantity and quality over the past few years, plus the occasional car, bike and racing car.

Unlike some of the general auctioneers who’ve decided there’s a profit to be made by churning through collectable cars, the folks at Donington Auctions operate the old fashioned way, with knowledgeable staff – and integrity – as well as properly researched descriptions, good photos and realistic estimates.

I’m sure you’ve heard some of the unpleasant stories of big general auctioneers who really don’t care and offer such appalling service.

‘Donington’s recent first major automotive auction included cars in Victoria, NSW and South Australia and quite a variety among them, spanning vintage through to racing cars.

Several were unreserved and all seemed to have realistic, if sometimes very appealing estimates.

Decent auction houses make their estimates figures at which a buyer can actually purchase a car.

I recall the late founder of a well-known car auction company telling me he used the “Guide Price” as he called the estimate as “a hook”, with no relevance to the reserve at which a buyer might be able to buy a car.

The clearance rate was quite good, with only a few cars not selling.

‘Among those was my favourite – a fabulously rare, unrestored 1950 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Berlina by PininFarina. Very obscure and valuable, but it didn’t find a buyer. Maybe I need to win the Lotto.

Biggest price achieved was for a 1926 Bugatti Type 37 which was campaigned in six successive Australian Grands Prix, selling for $750,000.

Bargain of the sale was a charming green 1922 Packard Tourer, in need of recommissioning having sat unused for many years, but a decent looking car – it sold for just $15,000.

$24,000 for a one-owner Jensen Healey was well above the estimate, but it was a tidy example of this much-maligned (unfairly) sports car.

‘The 1948 Austin A40 Weir & Male ‘Wylie’ Special racing car did very well, selling way above the estimate, for $76,000.

A 1940 Lincoln Zephyr V12 Coupe which I saw in a South Australian collection a few years ago – a very impressive piece of Americana — sold for $84,000.

An Australian-built 1961 MGA 1600 Roadster, in need of some love but sound, out of a deceased estate and 40 years of ownership sold for $17,500. Pretty good buying, I think.

A pretty 1971 Volvo 1800E, originally left hand drive, but converted which had been in WA for many years sold for an appealing $26,000, showing there are bargains out there.

But the outcome of this sale illustrates that there are buyers for realistically priced collectable cars even with the ‘correction’ in the market as values go back to pre-COVID levels, and in some cases, beyond.

Number plates, signs and a selection of automobilia also sold well.

Overall the clearance rate was much better than the last few Shannons auctions had achieved.

It looks like Doningtons will ably fill the void left by Shannons vacating the business.


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