Artcurial’s Le Mans auction exceeds expectations

Cobra with Le Mans history sells for $1 million-plus | Artcurial photos
Cobra with Le Mans history sells for $1 million-plus | Artcurial photos

Artcurial’s third Le Mans Classic auction resulted in an 82-percent sell-through and total sales of $18,031,885, some $2 million more than pre-auction expectations.

Held in conjunction with the Le Mans vintage racing weekend, the sale featured two vehicles that sold for more than $1 million each — a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster went for $1,516,574 and a 1964 AC Cobra 289 Mk II brought $1,034,522.

While not revealing who bought what cars, Paris-based Artcurial did announce that European collectors purchased the 300 SL and the Cobra while the No. 3 vehicle, a 1991 Ferrari F40 for $939,906 — nearly double its pre-auction estimate — went to a South African collector.

South African collectors were responsible for three of the top-10 sales. A collector from South America bought one top-10 car — a 1958 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk III cabriolet for $818,373 — with the other top-10 sales all by Europeans.

Artcurial said more than half the total vehicles sold went to non-French Europeans while 15 percent were purchased by U.S. buyers.

“Sales in France continue to set new records and are attracting an international clientèle, with clients coming from as far afield as South Africa, the West Coast of the U.S. and South America,” said Matthieu Lemoure, director of motor car sales for Artcurial.

“We have been able to find gems like the Porsche 911 2,7 L Carrera RS 5 that was discovered in Marseille and sold today for $789,146. These cars that are fresh to the market create a buzz and attract collectors’ attention.”

300 SL tops auction
300 SL tops auction

The ’61 Mercedes was only the second such car equipped with disc brakes. The car originally was sold in California but was brought back to Europe and equipped with a new engine — one of the last available from the Mercedes factory — in 1984 as part of a complete restoration.

The ’64 Cobra raced at Le Mans in 1964 and was the only “privateer” entry to finish the 24 hours that year. It placed 18th in the hands of Count Jean de Montemart and Regis Fraissinet.

Montemart later sold the car after its front end was damaged in a racing mishap. Eventually, the car was stored in a private car park, but when rent for the parking place was not paid, the lot’s owner had the car towed away. Bernard Maitre, co-founder of the AC Automobile Club of France, saw the car in a junkyard near Paris and bought it for 250 Francs, thus saving the Cobra from destruction.

To tow the car home, Maitre took the wheels off his own AC Bristol and put them on the Cobra.

Maitre sold the car in 1969 to Bernard Alter, who was restoring another Cobra and was looking for parts he needed. Restoration specialist Bernard Afchain undertook restoration of the car in 1974.

The Artcurial sale actually involved two auctions, the second called Solo Lancia and including 20 cars from a private Italian collection, including a Lancia Stratos that sold for $567,152.

Top 10 sales, Artcurial Le Mans Classic 2014

1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, $1,516,574
1964 AC Cobra 289 Mk II, $1,034,522
1991 Ferrari F40, $939,906
1967 Lamborghini 400 GT, $826,394
1958 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk III cabriolet, $818,373
1973 Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS, $789,146
1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada, $729,195
1953 Aston martin DB2 dabriolet, $591,486
1978 Lancia Stratos, $567,152
1960 Aston Martin DB4 Series 2, $512,503

Prices include buyer’s premium.

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