Events : Gaydon sale of cars

The first, and hopefully, the only sell-off of BMC>Rover cars from the Heritage Motor Centre took place on Sunday, 29 June 2003.

A packed conference room played host to a most surreal auction

The Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire is generally regarded to be the best of its type in the country – housing not only some of the most exciting period competition and production cars, but also a breathtaking array of non-production cars, prototypes and ex-show cars. The current, superb location, which was opened in 1993, provides a fitting home for this significant collection – where the exhibits can all be viewed under one roof, freely accessible to all.

And what a range of exhibits there is: without doubt, it has always represented the crème-de-la-crème of BMC>Rover’s past glories, as well as their darkest horror stories.

Since 2000, and BMW’s disposal of the Rover Group, the Heritage Centre has belonged to the Blue Oval. Ford’s brief for the Heritage Centre is now to preserve aspects of the existing collection, whilst bringing in a more eclectic range of British cars. In other words, it is a Ford facility, so why not use it to exhibit Ford cars as well as those of BMC>Rover?

Inevitably, with an influx of new cars, some of the existing collection needed to be moved on to pastures new in order to make room. So, in an exercise to ‘clear the decks”, the Heritage Centre played host to an auction of some of their ‘less significant” exhibits.

Delivery mileage Rover 216 Vitesse made an impressive £3600

An interesting list of cars was drawn up and pre-event publicity for the event spread like wildfire. How could it not, when that list included exhibits which ranged from a 1906 Albion and 1910 Austin all the way to ‘as new”, last-of-line cars, such as a 1998 Rover Sterling, and 2001 Range Rover? Essentially, enthusiasts were asking the same question: what kind of people will buy the cars, and what fate awaits them away from the protective custody of the museum.

So on a bright and sunny Sunday in June, the crowds converged on Gaydon to see for themselves what would happen. Firstly, if anyone says that the British motoring public are apathetic about their home team, then the fact that nearly 1,000 people registered themselves as bidders shows this is definitely not the case. Secondly, the cars themselves were not exactly what you would consider a petrolhead’s Friday night fantasy, and yet the interest was huge.

In the auction compound, mundane machinery such as the last-off-the-line Maestro and Austin Ambassador, and a one-off Vanden Plas Allegro, rubbed shoulders with fully-liveried ex-racers and engineering prototypes. The most bizarre sight, though, was the line of sectioned cars. Devised as motor show exhibits, these cars had various panels chopped away, in order to reveal their inner secrets to show-goers. Under the blazing sun, and lined up together, paintwork gleaming, they looked like new car carcasses, which had been picked over by vultures.

Cutaways made an interesting spectacle

Two o’clock and the auction commenced. Gaydon’s biggest conference room was packed to the rafters with keen bidders, curious onlookers and marque fans. In fact, it was so full of people that a second room was opened, and the auction was entertainly conferenced between the two.

The surreal theme established in the auction’s run-up would soon continue once bidding began in earnest. The first sign that this was going to be anything but a run of-the-mill car auction came when a sectioned 1961 MG Midget reached a heady £4800. If this seems like a lot of money for what is essentially a large garage ornament, think about the competitive bidding that led to the 1995 Maestro TD (with a mere 7 miles on the clock) reaching £6500. Once commission to Bonhams was paid, someone had got themselves a ‘new” Maestro for a cool £7475.

As the auction went on, the bidding became increasingly stiff – to such a point that a sectioned Rover SD1 (with no side doors and B-post) went for £2700. The car that many people came to see, and one that is ridiculed by anyone with fuel in the veins – the Vanden Plas Allegro – fetched an impressive £4600.

So, as expected by many seasoned BL anoraks, the cars achieved some heady prices, and only four of the cars failed to reach Bonham’s estimate. More interestingly, most doubled the upper estimate – some reached even more stratospheric heights than this.

But what did all this mean? In reality, the reason that bidding was so competitive was that there was a huge audience, most of whom seemed to be in it for the history. Of course, the number of people there, the nice weather and the heat of auction bidding were all significant factors, but not decisive ones. Speaking to a couple of successful bidders, it seemed that the prime motive for their seemingly illogical purchases was because ‘it’s part of our history”. One misty-eyed Triumph enthusiast who bagged a one-off, Stag-engined 2000 saloon talked of the ‘sympathetic restoration” he would undertake on his new purchase. In real terms, the car constituted only a very minor part of Triumph’s history, but it was a piece of it all the same… and that is what mattered to him.

Obviously, the person who paid £520 for a cutaway Marina is not going to use it for spares – £25 will buy you so much more at the local scrappie.

Personally, I found the event an exciting way to spend a Sunday, but only for the rush of the auction. More than this, however, I came away with a deep sense of sadness for a collection that had been diminished for the sake of progress.

Looking at the people who were successful in their bidding, one cannot help but conclude that at least those parts of the Heritage collection that were sold off will be in safe hands. It is safe to say that the man who paid so much for his 1995 Maestro will not be using it as his day-to-day runner – a Ford Focus will do that job so much better.

What has happened is that a significant part of British Leyland’s heritage now lies in the garages of enthusiasts around the country. Perhaps it is fitting that this is so… at least these cars will be loved now. But one can’t help but feel that the Heritage Motor Centre has taken one small step nearer to being just another car museum. Ford may not have room for such things these days, but 60 buyers on a sunny June afternoon proved that they did.

Inevitably, the Vanden Plas 1500 aroused much interest; it went for £4600…

End prices

The sale consisted of 65 lots, which raised a total of £416,740 at hammer prices, as shown in the “Sold for” column below. The “Total cost” column includes the buyer’s premium, although it should be noted that two of the lots were also subject to VAT at 17.5%. All lots were sold with no reserve.

NB: Four of the 67 lots listed in the sale catalogue were withdrawn, while a further two lots which appeared on the initial list of lots were withdrawn before the catalogue was issued. Two new lots were introduced as late entries.

 Year Details Estimate Sold for Total cost
1906Albion A2 12hp Wagonette£30,000 – 35,000£32,000£36,700
1910Austin 18/24 Endcliffe Tourer, registration no. FF 1£30,000 – 50,000£82,000£91,700
1922Standard 13.9hp SLO Two-Seat Tourer£5,000 – 7,000£6,500£7,475
1923Morris Oxford ‘Bullnose’ Four-Seat Tourer£8,000 – 12,000£13,000£14,950
1925Austin 10hp Lichfield SaloonLate entry£3,200£3,680
1927Austin Seven Top Hat Saloon£6,000 – 8,000£11,200£12,880
1928Austin Seven chassis with engine£800 – 1,200£1,900£2,185
192????? restoration jobLate entry£3,200£3,680
1932Rover 10/25 ‘Nizam’ Two-Seater£4,000 – 6,000£7,200£8,280
1937Ariel Motorcycle and Sidecar£2,300 – 2,500£2,200£2,530
1937Austin (12/6) Ascot£6,000 – 8,000£9,500£10,925
1937Rover Ten Saloon£200 – 400£1,600£1,840
1938Morris Eight chassis£1,000 – 1,500 Lot withdrawn
1948Wolseley 18/85£300 – 600£1,200£1,380
1948Austin 16hp saloon£1,200 – 1,500£2,100£2,415
1951Riley RMA 1.5-litre sports saloon£200 – 500£450£517.50
1952MG YB£2,500 – 4,000£4,200£4,830
1952Triumph Mayflower£200 – 400£650£747.50
1953Austin A55 Cambridge saloon£700 – 1,000£850£977.50
1954Land Rover, Royal Review vehicle Queen Mother’s£6,000 – 10,000£11,000£12,650
1957Standard Pennant£2,000 – 3,000£3,200£3,680
1957Morris Oxford Series III£300 – 600 Lot withdrawn
1957Daimler DK400 Limousine£2,000 – 3,000 Lot withdrawn
1958Austin A55 Cambridge£700 – 1,000£850£977.50
1960Rover P4 100£3,000 – 5,000£6,200£7,130
1960Morris Minor 1000 saloon£1,000 – 1,500 Lot withdrawn
1961Austin Mini ‘Bathgate’, with BMC Scotland Badge, used to advertise opening of Bathgate Factory£1,000 – 2,000£4,000£4,600
1961Wolseley 15/60£300 – 400 Lot withdrawn
1961Wolseley 1500£1,000 – 1,500£2,200£2,530
1964MG Midget, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£1,000 – 2,000£4,800£5,520
1968Austin 1800, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£100 – 300£520£598
1970Range Rover rolling chassis£500 – 1,000£2,600£2,990
1971Austin 1800 Hearse£1,000 – 2,000£1,300£1,495
1971Rover P6B ‘S’, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£200 – 300£1,700£1,955
1973Austin 1300 MkIII, one of the last 1100/1300s produced£300 – 600£950£1,092.50
1973Triumph 2000 Engineering Prototype, with V8 fitted£300 – 500£3,000£3,450
1974Wolseley Six£1,000 – 2,000£1,500£1,725
1975Morris Marina 1.3 SDL, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£100 – 300£550£632.50
1976MG BGT V8, last V8 off production line£5,000 – 8,000£9,000£10,350
1977Rover P6B 3500, one of the last P6s produced£2,000 – 3,000£4,000£4,600
1978Land Rover Series III Firetender by Carmichael£600 – 1,000£1,100£1,265
1980Rover SD1 ‘Bastos’, mock-up of Touring Car racer£200 – 300£3,200£3,680
1980Rover SD1 2.6-litre, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£100 – 300£2,700£3,105
1980Triumph TR8£4,000 – 6,000£9,600£11,040
1980Austin Allegro Vanden Plas 1500, 2,650 miles£1,500 – 2,000£4,600£5,290
1982Range Rover Wood & Pickett, commissioned by Harrods with intention to provide a bespoke vehicle and liveried in their corporate colours.£3,000 – 5,000£5,500£6,325
1983Austin Ambassador VDP, last Ambassador off production line, 11,708 miles£2,000 – 3,000£1,900£2,185
1983MG Metro 6R4 1300 Mock-up of Racer£400 – 600£2,100£2,415
1984MG Metro ‘Computervision’ Racer£2,000 – 4,000£7,200£8,280
1984Mini ’25’, 25th Mini Anniversary model, 1,445 miles£3,000 – 5,000£5,800£6,670
1986Land Rover 100, Swiss Army prototype, petrol, auto£3,000 – 5,000£8,000£9,200
1987Land Rover 90 rolling chassis£3,000 – 5,000£2,600£2,990
1989Mini ’30’, 30th Mini Anniversary model, 28 miles£3,000 – 5,000£8,000£9,200
1989Rover 216 EFi Vitesse, last vehicle off the production line 45 miles£2,000 – 4,000£3,600£4,140
1989Rover 827Si Sterling ‘Transworld’, RAOC/Rover round the world expedition, taking a record 45 days£1,000 – 3,000£2,000£2,300
1990MG Metro, last vehicle off the production line, 384 miles£3,000 – 5,000£4,000£4,600
1990Rover Metro ‘Project Pride’, record car breaking 21 time-distance trials£200 – 500£2,100£2,415
1993Land Rover Discovery, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£1,000 – 2,000£5,200£5,980
1993Rover 214GSi, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£100 – 300£520£598
1993Rover 220 ‘Tomcat’, record car£2,000 – 3,000£4,200£4,830
1994Mini ’35’, 35th Mini Anniversary model, 6,400 miles£3,000 – 5,000£6,600£7,590
1995Mini 1.3i ‘Car of the Century’, vehicle from Autocar Magazine dinner announcing ‘Car of the Century’£1,500 – 2,000 Lot withdrawn
1995Maestro, last vehicle off the line, 7 miles£2,000 – 3,000£6,500£7,475
1995Rover 414i, first HHR 400 production vehicle off line, delivery miles£4,000 – 6,000£4,600£5,290
1998Land Rover Discovery V8i ES, last of phase one Land Rover Discoveries, 44 miles£15,000 – 20,000£16,000£18,400
1998Rover 416 Si Tourer, last R8 model off line, 5 miles£7,000 – 10,000£6,900£7,935
1998Rover 825 Sterling, last R17 model off line, 70 miles£10,000 – 15,000£8,000£9,200
1999Land Rover Freelander, sectioned ‘cutaway’ vehicle£600 – 1,000£2,900£3,335
1999Mini ’40’, 40th Mini Anniversary model, 53 miles£6,000 – 9,000£11,500£13,225
2001Range Rover P38A 4.6 NAS, last 38A model off line, 120 miles£30,000 – 40,000£29,500£33,925

Vehicles:James Knight:
Tel 020 7393 3822, fax 020 7393 3915, email:
Stewart Skilbeck:
Tel/fax 01757 638894
Keith Adams

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