The news around the auctions at this year’s Monterey Car Week was dominated by a few key sales, including a pristine 1967 Ferrari 412P Berlinetta that sold for $30 million, and a crumpled shell of a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider that sold for $1.875 million. Looking at that last lot in particular, any casual observer would think that classic car collectors are on the same wild spending spree that started at the outset of the pandemic. Not so fast.
Looking at the week as a whole, the sell-through rate across five auctions came in at just 68%, down from a rate of 78% in 2022, according to Hagerty. The classic car company notes that this is in line with a market that’s been cooling off “for the past 15 months,” a trend they explain through “increased discipline at the higher end of the market, weakening demand from new collectors, and higher prices that have given pause to buyers at the upper end of the market.” There are outliers, sure, but now’s maybe not a great time to achieve a record sale at auction. That is, unless you’re selling an original Jaguar E-Type.
On September 1 on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace in London, auction house Gooding & Company set a world record for the sale of a production E-Type. The car, a 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series I 3.8-Litre Roadster, hammered for an astonishing £911,250, or about $1.14 million. (These production versions are not to be confused with race-ready “Lightweight” models, which can sell for far more.)
To be fair, the record-breaking sale is largely due to provenance, not because it’s an absolute beaut (or, as Enzo Ferrari famously called the E-Type, “the most most beautiful car in the world”). This particular 1961 right-hand drive roadster was not only the fourth of its kind ever built, but it was the first E-Type ever sold. And the buyer here is crucial, too: Frank “Lofty” England was Jaguar’s racing manager in the 1950s and famously led the marque to five Le Mans wins and went on to become the automaker’s managing director.
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So it’s a unique specimen with an illustrious past, and one that’s been well taken care of. One might call it an outlier. However, this blockbuster sale appears to be a continuation of the Jaguar E-Type’s resurgence among collectors, which Hagerty first noted in August of last year. Previously, the model was seen as somewhat of a “Boomer car” — the absolute be-all, end-all of automotive bodaciousness for people who grew up in the ‘60s when it first debuted, but not as enticing for generations who came later. Then, the tide seemed to change.
“Five years ago, nearly 90 percent of the Series I E-Types covered by Hagerty worldwide were owned by drivers born before 1965,” they wrote in 2022, referencing the company’s classic car insurance business. “Today, that’s closer to 65 percent.”
At Gooding & Company’s 2022 Pebble Beach sale during Monterey Car Week, about a week after citing that statistic, the resurgence played out in real-time, as the auction house sold two 1961 E-Types, one for $483,500 and another for $632,000, the latter being close to a record, if not the top-selling example ever. And then, about a year later, we had this million-dollar sale across the pond.
The classic car market may fluctuate, and certain automobiles will go in and out of fashion with generational tastes. But the gorgeous, historic Jaguar E-Type? As it stands, it looks like Enzo may have been right: there’s no ceiling or expiration date for automotive perfection.
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