£442k Rolls Royce races ahead at auction

Bonhams celebrated a remarkable £3.7m result at their annual sale of Important Collectors' Motor Cars & Fine Automobilia, yesterday at London's Olympia.

With 95% of lots sold by value, Bonhams rounded off a tremendous year with an array of rare and valuable lots going under the hammer.

First in the line-up was a 1906 Rolls-Royce Light 20hp Tourer, one of only two survivors of the 17 built when the company was in its infancy. The sixth oldest Rolls-Royce remaining sold for a splendid £441,500.

Following World War II, this unusual and historically significant motorcar was bought by Rolls-Royce aficionado Stanley Sears, joining his prestigious collection of veteran motor cars.

When the collection was dispersed in 1983, this fully-restored model passed to Thomas Love who already owned the world's oldest Rolls Royce (later sold by Bonhams for a record £3.5m in 2007).

The 1906 Rolls-Royce Light 20hp Tourer
The 1906 Rolls-Royce Light 20hp Tourer (£441.5k)

Alongside this, two mopeds featured on the famous 2008 Vietnam special of the BBC programme Top Gear generated a high level of interest.

A 1967 Piaggio Vespa 150cc VBC Super (estimated at £2,000-3,000) and a 1973 Honda City 50cc Chaly (estimated at £1,600-2,200) sold for £2,530 and £1,955 respectively.

Tasked with buying vehicles for less than 15m Vietnamese Dong (VND), the Top Gear team purchased a series of motorcycles for their Vietnam adventure.

The Vespa was the preferred ride of host Jeremy Clarkson, while the rather incongruous Stars 'n' Stripes Honda Chaly, that continuously played Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, was intended as a punishment for those whose motorbike was afflicted by repeated breakdowns.

These two motorcycles were bought by the National Motor Museum in Beaulien as a brilliant contribution to their Top Gear exhibition, which is currently on display.

Also in the sale, a rare and quite exceptional 1963 AC Cobra 289 MkI Roadster sold for £232,500. Meanwhile, four cars from the collection of the late Ivor Silverstone sold for a very significant total of £393,200.

A 1963 AC Cobra 289 MkI Roadster, sold for £232.5k
A 1963 AC Cobra 289 MkI Roadster, sold for £232.5k

Earlier this year, another Cobra - a 1965 Shelby Cobra Roadster - sold for $440,000 at Barrett-Jackson's October auction in Las Vegas.

Another highlight of the collection at Bonhams was the 1953 Bentley R-Type 4.6-litre Coupé Coachwork by Abbott which sold for a staggering £109,200 (estimated at £40,000-50,000).

Overall, the Automobilia section was the strongest to date, boasting a record total of £387,000.

Alongside this, a collection of ephemera relating to the Ferrari activities of George Horne in New Zealand also caused a great stir in the auction room. 

A collection of press cuttings, technical literature, press releases, customs documents and letters, including those signed by Enzo Ferrari, ignited fierce competition between bidders.

One lot in particular provoked a battle between two Ferrari enthusiasts and sold for £25,300, over 25 times its pre-sale estimate of £800-1,200.

Meanwhile, Captain Sir Malcolm Campbell's BARC Brooklands 120mph badge sold for an equally impressive £5,750 (estimated at 2,500-3,000).

"Yesterday's Collectors' Motor Cars and Automobilia Sale caps a tremendous year for the Bonhams Motoring Department, demonstrating that the collectors' motor car, motorcycle and automobilia sectors have maintained great strength and resilience," said James Knight, Group Head of Bonhams Motoring Department.

"We are delighted with the sale result and look forward to an equally successful 2010."

    Featured products

    Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
    Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
    Sale price£399
    In stock
    Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
    Fidel Castro signed certificate
    Sale price£2,995
    In stock
    King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
    King Henry VIII Autographed Document
    Sale price£65,000
    In stock