Hong Kong specialist auction start-up RL Neo Classics reminds Asian collectors they no longer need to go to the west for investments
The rich had a chance to bid for classic cars in an auction organised at The Repulse Bay. Hong Kong specialist auction start-up RL Neo Classics offered 26 largely 1970s-1980s collectables at the south side of Hong Kong island, on June 11.
Only seven were sold in bidding but the auctioneer remained open to bids for many of the passed cars after the sale. A yellow 1997 F355 Challenge Race Car by Pininfarina fetched HK$1.6 million in competitive bidding, helped along by British auctioneer Gary Loveridge, a world expert in classic cars. A 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230 SL "Pagoda" went for HK$650,000, but only after Loveridge dropped the bidding to HK$550,000, and then took "small bids" of HK$50,000 to its eventual sale, HK$20,000 above reserve.
The "Teutonic jewel" of a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster was snapped up at the catalogue minimum of HK$900,000, and a 1994 Chevrolet Corvette converted by Pininfarina exchanged owners at HK$300,000, its published minimum.
The audience of mainly Hong Kong-based collectors passed on a 2003 Ferrari 575 M F1 that was initially offered for HK$750,000 but needed HK$200,000 more to shift. A stunning 1981 308 GTB was offered for HK$830,000. "Have a think, what a glorious car," Loveridge teased reticent bidders. But Ferraris are two a penny in Hong Kong. There were bright points. A 1996 Aston Martin DB7 was sold after three-way bidding, for HK$390,000 - HK$70,000 above its catalogued minimum. "Astons are on fire; they are on the way up," Loveridge said after the sale. "It still has that James Bond connection." Other in-demand classics are Rolls-Royces, Ghosts, Phantoms and pre-war models, the auctioneer said. Big, old Bentleys and fast GT3's too, he added.
The classics seemed more sourced for start-up collectors, however, and seemed dulled by the rain. Sales might also have been slowed by the number of prominent local cars in the line-up. Many classic car owners don't like to drive a classic that was known as "someone else's car", Loveridge said. Other local collectors refrained from bidding on cars that had yet to be registered in Hong Kong. First registration tax procedures here can increase the cost of a car by "up to 125 per cent", one Classic Car Club of Hong Kong stalwart said.
Even so, RL Neo Classics curated a fine line-up of cars that reminded Asian collectors that they no longer need to journey to the west for investments. If sales were slow, there was hope for Hong Kong's auction-hub ambitions in a 1972 Maserati Indy America 4.7 by Vignale that went for HK$550,000, or HK$50,000 above its reserve. "It will be shipped to Britain," its proud owner said. "This car is rare [with only 246 made in 1972], and it was a good price." RL Neo Classics is already talking of an October sale. The auction's infrastructure is international standard in English, but more cars might have shifted if the saleroom resounded in Putonghua instead of Cantonese.