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Motor Mouth articles 2007

The car’s the star – with a £4m price tag

Sold! The £4 million Merc

SOMEBODY went to a rather smart car auction in London last week and paid almost £4 million for a 70-year-old Mercedes-Benz.

To be precise, the car was a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster, part of a collection built up by Formula One big-shot Bernie Ecclestone, and the auctioneer’s hammer clunked down at £3,967,125.

The star car had been raised 15 feet in the air to a dramatic musical accompaniment, finally coming to rest above the auctioneer. A fierce bidding war ensued and by the time the dust had settled, the crowded room was reportedly stunned into total silence. I should imagine the only sound was Mr Ecclestone’s erratic breathing. The identity of the buyer, incidentally, has not been revealed but he’s probably not from these parts.

The event was the first such London sale to be staged by RM Auctions, a specialist firm of international car auctioneers. It was run in conjunction with Sotheby’s and the venue was BatterseaPark’s swish Evolution Centre.

Altogether 800 bidders from all over the world competed for 85 cars during the seven-hour sale, and the top-of-the-bill Merc became one of the most expensive road-going Mercedes ever sold at auction.

Another Merc, an SSK, was snapped up for a cool £1.2 million, while three more succeeded in parting bidders from serious amounts of their cash.

A 1931 REO racing car, raced extensively in Argentina in the 1930s by local hero Ernesto Blanco, fuelled a frenzy of telephone bidding from Argentina which ended when the original estimate was doubled to £470,000.

Former Beatle George Harrison’s star attraction, a silver 1964 Aston Martin DB5, sold for £223,500; a 1966 Ford GT40 achieved a price of £983,000; while a gorgeous BMW 507 Roadster, one of fewer than 260 built, brought an impressive £430,238.

At the other end of the scale, the first entry of the day, a 1964 Ford Anglia Deluxe saloon, one of the lesser lights in the impressive Ecclestone firmament, was bought for £5,588. It is probably the second most famous Anglia in existence after Harry Potter’s.

All things considered, the event seems to have been quite a do. Many of the world’s most important car collectors turned up, and 1,000 VIP guests had earlier attended a Roaring Twenties-style preview party, although I’m not sure why.

RM Auctions’ next European sale is at Maranello, the Italian home of Ferrari, next May when the star attraction will be an extraordinarily rare and beautiful creature called a Ferrari 250GT California Spyder.

It is one of fewer than 100 produced between 1957 and 1962 in a variety of specifications, and it is expected to set someone back somewhere between three and four million euro. I’ll start saving right away.

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