Fascinating event in London last night – the glittering auction of the Aston DB5 that starred in the Bond movies Goldfinger and Thunderball.
This was my first big classic car auction and reflecting on it now, I’m a bit puzzled what to think.
Most surprising was how flat the event felt. Considering the delectable array of machinery up for auction and the sums of money involved — the Bond car and a gorgeous 1920s Talbot Lago together raised £5m alone — there wasn’t the sense of excitement I’d expected.
Maybe all auctions are like this? But a few old hands I spoke to, agreed it lacked pizzazz. That was largely matched by the prices paid.
Most of the cars sold for the middle or lower ends of their estimates and the bidding seemed to progress at a stately pace, despite the best-efforts of the multi-lingual auctioneer who impressively flipped between English, French and Italian to egg-on international bidders.
An exception was the Jag XKR special effects car from Bond movie Die Another Day, which fetched £50k, £15k above estimate. The man from Jaguar Cars was justifiably beaming as the bidding went up and up.
The eagerly-anticipated Bond car auction — Lot 197 — kicked-off at 9.31pm by a thrusting promo video.
But the atmosphere was instantly deflated when some joker to the auctioneer’s right shouted out a spoof first bid of £10m, which completely non-plussed the room. The first serious bid went straight to £2.5m –— around $4m — raising expectations that the pre-auction hype of £5m might be met.
But the expected scramble for bids never materialised. A second bid of £2.6m put the focus back on bidder one, who strangely didn’t respond.
I say strangely, because if you bid £2.5m for a car, you must be serious about owning it and also experienced enough not to assume that your first bid will win outright?
Anyway, an increasingly desperate auctioneer went to the bank of telephones to be met with a blank. Which left the second bidder — American car-collector Harry Yeaggy from Cincinnati — as triumphant bidder.
Deservedly Yeaggy beamed with excitement and posed with the car afterwards. He even reckoned he was going to drive it around London later that night. I wonder if he’ll take it to Pebble Beach in a year or so after restoration? His 1935 Duisenberg Special won best of show at Pebble Beach in 2007.
That a car collector bought the Aston was actually a surprise. Much of the smart thinking ahead of the auction suggested that the Bond car would appeal more to rich movie buffs or popular culture collectors willing to pay much more than a DB5 was usually worth.
Previous owner Jerry Lee said he was pleased, even though rumours suggested that a pre-auction offer of £3.5m had been rejected. Auctioneers RM issued a strict “no comment” on that.
Lee had nurtured the Aston for 41 years to see it sold in five minutes and to just two bids. Still, the Bond DB5 was a spectacular investment when bought in 1969 for $12,000 — Lee realised a 216 times return on his original outlay.
The proceeds will go into Lee’s charitable foundation and he declared himself satisfied. “I’m pleased with the price, but sad to let it go,” he told Autocar afterwards.