Mercedes S-Type Sells for $4.5 Million After 84 Years in Garage

A 1939 Lagonda V12 Team Car
A 1939 Lagonda V12 Team car that came fourth in the 1939 Le Mans 24-Hour race. The car, damaged by a wartime bomb and later fully restored, beat estimates when it sold at a U.K. auction at Goodwood. Source: Bonhams via Bloomberg

An unrestored 1928 Mercedes Benz kept in a garage for 84 years sold for an above-estimate $4.5 million at a U.K. auction last night.

Wealthy collectors also competed for classic cars made by marques such as Lagonda, Maserati and Alfa Romeo at the Bonhams sale in Sussex. The winning bid for the Mercedes -- formally 2.8 million pounds including fees -- came from an unidentified buyer in the room who prevailed over at least five others.

The Mercedes S-type, a four-seat tourer that dealers dub the Bugatti Veyron of its day, had been owned by the same English family since it was purchased in 1928. London-based Bonhams valued it as much as 2 million pounds, the top lot in its annual “Goodwood Revival” event.

Like a “barn find,” it was kept since delivery in its purpose-built motor house and has only 8,375 miles on its odometer. The price would have been even higher had the 1920s coachwork been made by Mercedes, rather than Cadogan Motors of London, dealers said.

The sale raised a total of 13.5 million pounds, against a minimum forecast of 10 million pounds. About 75 percent of the 84 cars were successful, Bonhams said.

Bonhams’s presale publicity had also given star billing to a restored V12 team Lagonda that came fourth in the 1939 Le Mans 24-Hour race.

Bomb Damage

Damaged by a V1 “Doodlebug” flying bomb in 1944, it sold for 1.3 million pounds with fees, against a high estimate of more than 1 million pounds, based on hammer prices.

The event followed a record $263.3 million series of summer auctions in California. Proceeds at August’s sales by Russo and Steele, Bonhams, Mecum, RM Auctions and Gooding & Co. were 33 percent higher than in 2011, according to figures supplied by the Geneva-based car dealer Kidston SA.

While prewar cars attracted some of the most selective bidding in California, early-20th-century models captured all four of the highest prices in Sussex.

A 1930 Maserati Tipo 26 four-seater that had raced on the banked track of Brooklands sold for 1.7 million pounds. One of two 2.5-litre Tipo 26 cars imported into the U.K. during the winter of 1930-31, it had been owned by the same collector for the last 57 years.

A 1929 Alfa Romeo 1750 SS Competition Tourer that was driven by the amateur racer Leonard Headlam in the inaugural Irish Grand Prix of that year fetched a further 1.1 million pounds.

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on arts, Richard Vines on food and Lewis Lapham on history.

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