(CNN)Increasingly, wealthy bidders are going online to buy collector cars worth six-figures or more at auctions without seeing them in person first.
At one online auction last month, a 2003 Ferrari Enzo sold for $2.6 million. It was the highest price ever paid for a car in an Internet-only auction, according to RM Sotheby’s. At that same auction, another Ferrari, a 1985 288 GTO, sold for $2.3 million. And, at another another recent RM Sotheby’s online event, a limited edition track-only 2020 Porsche with Martini racing team stripes sold for $1.3 miliion. “I have seen a marked growth in the number of people who will actually buy a car, will spend tens of thousands, or maybe even up to a hundred thousand dollars or more, in some cases, for a car they’ve not seen,” said Donald Osborne, a collector car appraiser and CEO of the Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.Online car auctions are nothing new, of course. EBay Motors has been a venue for bidding on cars since 2000. BringaTrailer.com, which started as a blog posting stories about cars for sale on eBay and other sites, began its own auction listing service in 2014. Now, BringaTrailer’s site is frequently cited by those in the industry for its growing influence in the world of collector cars. And BringaTrailer.com recently added a “Premium Listings” service, specifically for high value offerings. Last year, a 1956 Mercedes SL Gullwing sold for $1.2 million on the platform, which typically see sales closer to six-figures. Read More”A year ago, or a year-and-a-half ago, people would have said, ‘Oh, those cars don’t belong online at all,” said BringaTrailer founder Randy Nonnenberg. “Or those certainly don’t belong on BringaTrailer.”The virtual way of ‘being there’But for established auction houses — like RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Co. and Barrett-Jackson — that are just ramping up their online auctions, the virtual experience is very different from their usual live events.Barrett-Jackson is famous for the carnival-like feel of its live auctions, events that attract huge crowds of spectators and are often broadcast live on cable television. RM Sotheby’s and Gooding & Co., on the other hand, hold auctions that feel almost like cocktail parties where the cars serve as the centerpiece of conversation. Before the auction begins, attendees buy high-end finger food and drinks and nibble in between perusing automobiles often worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.Online, all of that fanfare and personal interaction is stripped away. And when bidders can’t see and touch the car themselves, information becomes the crucial element. BringaTrailer has set the standard in the industry with sellers posting dozens of photographs of their cars so potential buyers can see every paint bubble and worn bit of leather up close.”The traditional auction houses cannot put up six pictures of a car and sell it online because if somebody goes to BringaTrailer there are 123 pictures, plus two videos,” said Osborne. Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 millionRM Sotheby’s held the The European Sale auction online this week in place of a live auction it would have normally held in Germany. Among the hundreds of cars that were on the block, 100 were from a single collection owned by retired businessman and race car driver Marcel Petitjean of Strasbourg, France.The collection included eight Lamborghinis from various points in the brand’s storied history. But there were also less familiar Lamborghini models as well. All told, the eight sales brought in nearly $2 million. Hide Caption 1 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 Sold for: €715,000 ($808,000) The Lamborghini Miura is generally regarded as the first modern supercar. There had been some race cars with the engine mounted right behind the seats before it, but the Miura put that concept into a car intended for public roads. Designed by Marcello Gandini of the Turin, Italy, firm Gruppo Bertone, the Miura is often cited as one of the most beautiful cars ever made. And its 4.0-liter V12 engine helped make it the fastest factory production car of its day, according to RM Sotheby’s. Hide Caption 2 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1970 Lamborghini Islero 400 GTS Sold for: €225,000 ($254,000) The V12-powered Islero represented the final step in the evolution of Lamborghini’s first models, the 350 GT and the 400 GT.Only 260 Isleros were ever built and only 100 of them were the more powerful GTS variety. It was the only Lamborghini model of this era not designed by Gandini.Hide Caption 3 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1971 Lamborghini Espada Series II by Bertone Sold for: €96,800 ($109,000) The Espada was essentially a family supercar with lots of cargo space and relatively roomy back seats. It had the same V12 engine that the Miura had, but it was mounted in front under the hood. The Espada also sold in higher numbers than the Miura. In fact, it was the most successful Lamborghini model ever sold until the introduction of the Countach in 1974.Hide Caption 4 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1971 Lamborghini Jarama 400 GT Sold for: €66,000 ($75,000) The Jarama was introduced in the early 1970s to meet new safety and emissions requirements in the United States, a crucial market for any luxury automaker.Only 327 of the V12-powered Jaramas were ever made. The Jarama would become the last front-engined Lamborghini model to be introduced until the Urus SUV in 2018.Hide Caption 5 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1974 Lamborghini Urraco P250 SSold for: €58,300 ($66,000)The Urraco, with its back seats and V8 engine, was intended as a more accessible and practical alternative to the Miura. Hide Caption 6 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1979 Lamborghini Countach LP400 SSold for: €451,000 ($509,000) The Countach is the car that has defined Lamborghini style ever since its introduction in the early 1970s. Also designed by Bertone’s Gandini, it was intended as a replacement for the Miura. The V12 engine behind the seats was mounted lengthwise rather than side-to-side. That meant the seats had to move further forward, giving the car its radical proportions. “Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but nothing better has been done since,” Gandini said in a 2019 interview with CNN.Hide Caption 7 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1986 Lamborghini JalpaSold for: €66,000 ($75,000)The V8-powered Jalpa was conceived as a more affordable and manageable alternative to the ferocious Countach. Today, it’s one of the more affordable classic Lamborghinis.Hide Caption 8 of 9 Photos: These 8 rare Lamborghinis just sold for a total of nearly $2 million1991 Lamborghini DiabloSold for: €126,000 ($142,000)Introduced in 1990, the Diablo was Lamborghini’s long overdue replacement for the Countach, a model that had been in production in 1974.The Diablo’s initial design was again by Gandini, but it was reworked by Chrysler Corp. designer Tom Gale. (Chrysler had purchased Lamborghini in 1987 and sold it in 1994.) Powered by a 492-horsepower V12, the Diablo was the first Lamborghini capable of going more than 200 miles an hour.Hide Caption 9 of 9With online auctions, traditional auction companies are providing much more photography and documentation than usual, he said. Still, there’s a lot about a car that no amount of photography will reveal. Appraising a car involves touching, listening, driving and even smelling, not just looking.”I myself have sold and bought many cars online over the decades,” said Osborne. “And in every one of those cases, either I have looked at the car, I sent someone to look at the car, or I’ve had an extensive conversation with the seller of the car. And people have just become more accustomed to not doing that. I think, ultimately, it’s slightly insane.”That’s one reason that Gooding said his company will actually take possession of the cars that it is auctioning and store them in a warehouse in Los Angeles so people who want to can come inspect them. RM Auctions and Barrett-Jackson also said they take physical possession of many of the cars they auction, allowing their experts to conduct in-person appraisals. If not, their experts travel to see the cars.$3.7 million: Ford Mustang driven in the movie 'Bullitt' sells for record priceSo far, the results for these high-end online auctions have been generally good, according to Hagerty, a company that tracks collector car auctions. At both RM Sotheby’s and Barrett-Jackson’s first auctions, a higher than usual number of cars did not sell because bidding did not reach the “reserve price,” an undisclosed sum below which the owner will not sell. But after RM Sotheby’s most recent online auction, the company boasted that 91% of the cars offered were sold.Barrett-Jackson is typically known for offering its cars with no reserve, but it had one on most cars this time to give sellers “a bit of a comfort level,” said CEO Craig Jackson.The prices have been good for the cars that have sold in the recent online auctions, according to Hagerty. At RM Sotheby’s Driving into Summer sale at which two Ferraris topped $2 million, the cars seemed to sell, overall, for a little more than would be expected based on their condition, according to Hagerty. RM Sotheby’s also said it’s seeing about as many bidders register for its online auctions as it does for it’s similar live events.Gooding will be conducting its first online auction in early August. Here to stayEach of the auction houses said they had been planning to start online auctions, but acknowledged that the lockdowns accelerated the move.”We were writing a whole new website, but it wasn’t ready,” said Jackson. of Barrett-Jackson. “The timing wasn’t quite right for what happened but you never plan out at pandemic ahead of time.”These companies have long offered remote bidding options, including Internet bidding, at their live auctions. People could bid by phone or over the Internet and the auctioneer would accept those bids from on-site representatives, along with bids from people there in room. As usual, the auction would end when bidding stopped and the the auctioneer banged the gavel. RM Sotheby’s sold this 2003 Ferrari Ezno in an online auction for $2.6 million.An online-only auction works very differently. While the bidding at a live auction usually lasts for a few minutes, bidding in an online auction can go on for days. There is a set date and time at which bidding closes but online auctions usually have what is called an “anti-sniping feature.” “Sniping” is the practice of placing a bid in the last seconds before an auction ends, leaving others no time to place a higher bid. In these auctions, if someone does that then the the auction clock automatically resets, allowing others a couple more minutes to bid. The clock resets again each time there’s a new bid.”It’s a slower paced drama, but it gives every bidder the opportunity to continue to bid on something until they simply have just decided ‘no more,'” said Ian Kelleher, chief marketing officer for RM Sotheby’s.Ford GTs sold for $450,000 three years ago. Now, they're worth more than $1 millionOnline sales will now become a permanent part of what these companies do, they all said. Still, there are certain types of cars, particularly older cars with stratospheric values, that buyers will only want to buy at a live event, said David Gooding, president of Gooding & Co.”I think the online platform is excellent for cars up to a certain level of value,” he said. “I would say up to $3 million.”Digital auctions like these will never offer the excitement of the live event, said Osborne. He compared it to watching a digital broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera.”It still doesn’t replace the experience of being in the room with the performers,” he said.
400 Bad Request
400 Bad Request