An early Christmas. Auction houses deliver Aston Martins aplenty at their December sales. Photography David Bush/RM Sothebys, Bonhams. Words Chris Bietzk.
In a memorable comedy sketch by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, hapless, catastrophically sweaty inventors Ken and Brian appear on Dragons’ Den hoping to secure funding for their new month, Augcember – made up of 31 days ‘pinched from other months’. The Dragons don’t go for it, but car dealers, we imagine, would be delighted to see some December days donated to Augcember.
The weeks before and after Christmas have traditionally been tricky ones for floggers of cars, with potential customers either broke or holding out for a margin- killing deal. Some dealers must feel like shutting up shop before Advent, which is exactly what many auction houses do.
Or did, until quite recently.
With the auction calendar fuller than ever before and competition increasingly fierce, the comparatively empty twelfth month suddenly looks a good time to hold a sale. We count 13 this year and, for whatever reason, they are long on Aston Martins; by the time you have this issue in your hands, Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s alone will have offered 18 Astons, including Zagatos of the V8, DB7 and Vanquish varieties.
The most attention-grabbing of those Z-cars, consigned to Bonhams’ Bond Street auction on December 1, is an ‘as new’ 1986 V8 Vantage Zagato coupe with all of 393 miles under its wheels. It rang a bell when we came across it in the catalogue, and indeed we have encountered chassis 20049 before: it was sold by Bonhams for £247,900 four years ago, when the clock showed just 221 miles. The distance added since 2014 is seemingly all maintenance-related.
It is very hard to understand how someone could spend a quarter of a million pounds on a car and not be tempted to drive it, especially when said car is easier to appreciate from the inside. Still, if Bonhams has its numbers right, the owner stands to profit handsomely from his self-restraint: thanks in large part to its lack of use, chassis 20049 is now valued at £450,000-£550,000.
Also among the lots at Bonhams’ Bond Street sale is a 101-mile 2017 Vanquish Zagato coupe, while RM’s Los Angeles auction on December 8 features a 51-mile, 2018 example of the same machine. The top estimate on the 2017 car is £650,000, while the 2018 car is thought by RM to be worth as much as $800,000 (£626,000 at the time of writing). For reference, the base price at launch was £525,000.
Our eyes are trained on these in particular because their performance under the hammer might be instructive.
In general, very-limited-production modern exotics have started to come back to Earth after appreciating immediately, rapidly and, often, unjustifiably. (A special-edition paint job does not a classic car make…)
We are curious to see, then, if Aston Martin’s latest rarity can command bids much above the sticker price. Given £650,000 to spend on a modern, one might choose the relatively old-fashioned manual V12 Zagato over the Vanquish Zagato – but our hunch is that the latter, too, will remain desirable to collectors long after it has been deposed from the top of Aston’s range.
The naturally aspirated 5.9-litre engine, already a treasure in this turbocharged age, will age gracefully. The styling, which pays just enough respect to established Aston design language, seems unlikely to age at all. And the Zagato is marginally but meaningfully better to drive than its cousin, the Vanquish S. A couple of lucky so-and-sos are going to be very pleased that Bonhams and RM elected to keep the doors open into December.