Imagine you’d taken our advice and coughed up a world record $9.5m for the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Aluminium Gullwing Coupe at RM Sotheby’s Scottsdale auction last week.
This was $5m more than the next highest car to sell, the sensational 1965 Shelby GT350R Prototype (aka The Flying Mustang), one of the most historically significant examples of the car that changed the world but their prices have remained at about the same level for the past few years.
Anyway, if you had just paid out 10 big ones for the 48th most expensive car ever sold at auction, you’d be crying now. That’s because straight after the crafty old metal movers at RM trouser the commission on $9.5m, they announce they have Juan Manuel Fangio’s metallic light blue over a cream leather interior, 1958 Merc 300 SL Roadster, up for private sale for the very first time.
I suppose there are some younger readers who don’t know JMF.
I blame the current education system for topics taught to the kiddies in what passes for our schools now.
Like the sociocultural factors affecting health status and behaviours of youth and cosplay and comics, instead of: the greatest ever Australians? Correct answers Jack Brabham and Peter Brock. The greatest event in Australian history? Correct answer: the Bathurst 1000. Name three great Australian women? Correct answers: Joan Richmond, Molly Taylor and Christine Gibson. Six of the best if you got any wrong.
JMF was the greatest F1 driver of all time and probably the best race driver of all time.
Anyway, the Mercsters (now one of two car companies that now talk to me – more on that breakthrough later) were so grateful to Juan for winning them an F1 world championship they gave him his favourite car as a retirement and 47th birthday pressie (better than the thank you letter with my name spelt incorrectly I got when I left my last job).
As soon as he got it, JMF (aka El Maestro) immediately hit the road with his then plus one Andrea Berruet (who he called his wife but they never married) driving all around Europe spruiking the Merc brand.
The 300 SL Roadster was exported from Europe to Argentina – declared in the transfer as a “trophy” to circumvent taxes on bringing automobiles into the country. (Don’t worry, I have had the old bloke on the Al Capone to our bean counters to see if we can get our 2022 Corvette in tax-free. Keep this to yourself. I will let you know next week if this rort works.)
While JMF drove the Merc all over Argentina for the next 20 years it still has only 72,951km on the clock. In 1978 Silvana Suarez was crowned Miss/Ms/Other World and to celebrate JMF drover her in a parade, top down (no children – the car!), sitting on top of the back seats waving to the adoring crowds much in the manner of Betty Windsor and her family (except three).
As the folks from RM so quaintly say: “In 1986, as El Maestro approached his twilight years, this 300 SL was put on permanent display by the driver at the Juan Manuel Fangio Museum, located in his hometown of Balcarce, Argentina.”
Strangely enough, when I was Zooming with the JMF Museum last week, the director asked if the old bloke and I wanted to go on permanent display.
Anyway, some commentators are saying you’ll pick the Merc up for $4m. I say they’re dreaming. It’s in original condition, one family owner, with the same cream-coloured suitcase in the boot that Fangio put his overnight gear in, and you can ship it anywhere and not pay any duties.
I’m sure you don’t want me to run through the price of every one of the 5000 cars that sold for over $670m at Scottsdale, but looking through the top sellers there was everything from a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Derham Sedan ($31m) to a 2016 Pagani Huayra ($3m). I know you want to know that the 1951 Hirohata Mercury Custom (American, not Japanese) brought $2.2m.
Only one Feezer (but three Mercs – see what happens when you talk to me) in the top 10, but who cares? Ferrari boss CEO Benedetto Vigna has just reported its results for 2021. Sales up 23 per cent to $4.81bn, profit up 56 per cent. But wait. Who gets margins of 21 per cent? A return on equity of 42 per cent? Who doesn’t love Italians? In fact, most top-end metal makers had a great year, with Lambo sales up 13 per cent on the back of the aptly named Urus, Tesla unfortunately up 87 per cent and Roller up 49 per cent.
OK, let’s move to Paris, where records tumbled as RM moved $40m worth of supercars bolstered by the Petitjean collection of 28 Fezzers. Marcel Petitjean did what all of us should have done 60 years ago. Marco’s dad, Armand, started the Lancome face cream biz. He gave it to Marco, who flicked it onto L’Oreal in the 60s and put the proceeds into classic cars rather than boring old shares, bonds, mutual funds and property. Top seller was the 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO at $5.4m.
Last month, the best performing classic marques on the Historic Automobile Group Index were classic Porkers, jumping 14.54 per cent, followed by classic Mercs, up 6.78 per cent. Notice in all the top sales there were no 1971 Ford XY Falcon GT-HO Phase IIIs. Our own Cameron England tells us that Judith Neilson, Australia’s pre-eminent custodian of Chinese and international art, bought one for $1.15m so maybe the day is coming.
And in what is probably a terrible mistake that I will take as a breakthrough, a PR person for a car company has written me a nice email offering press car loans and “family” trips.
Now it’s good to know Mick Banks from Thrive PR has taken over the MG account, but my guess is Mick hasn’t read my 2015 review of an MG I hired in soap dodger land. But seven years is a long time and owners Nanjing Automobile have made the brand a bestseller down under.
Anyway, the Chinese will overtake the Koreans, who overtook the Japanese as making the best built cars on the market. In the meantime, look here for gratuitous mentions over coming years.