Aston Martin and Lagonda
Motor Cars and Related Automobilia
at 10.30am & 2.30pm
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A unique Rolls-Royce Phantom I, estimated at £500,000-700,000
A unique Rolls-Royce Phantom I built in 1926 for the American businessman Clarence Gasque as a gift for his wife Maude, is one of the star lots at Bonhams Bond Street Sale in London on 4 December. It is estimated at £500,000-700,000.
Maude Gasque, a Woolworth’s heiress, had a passion for French 18th century history and design and her husband, who was the Finance Director of Woolworth’s UK operation, wanted the car’s interior to have a French theme. (He also stipulated that it should be grander and more lavish than the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost made for his Woolworth colleague Surefire Snow). Setting no limit on the budget, he left the details to the Wolverhampton based coachbuilders, Charles Clark and Sons. Clark’s owner, John Barnett, had the inspired idea of using a Marie Antoinette sedan chair he had come across at the Victoria and Albert Museum as a model. The result was a spectacular confection more resembling the throne room at Versailles than the inside of a car. On delivery, the Rolls-Royce cost £6,500, of which £4,500 had been spent on the interior – (£500 was enough in 1926 to buy a house).
Craftsmen from the famous carpet makers, Aubusson, in France, spent nine months working on a tapestry for the rear seats at a cost of £500. In keeping with a car that would come to be known as The Phantom of Love, naked cherubs featured prominently in the exotic interior, appearing in painted scenes on the ceiling and as lighting supports at the rear corners. Additional lighting was concealed behind the ceiling’s carved and gilded cornice. A bow-fronted drinks cabinet, reminiscent of an antique commode or chiffonier, was mounted on the internal division, concealing fold-down, inward-facing occasional seats – also upholstered in tapestry – in cupboards at either side. Surmounting this elaborate division was a small French ormulu clock and two French porcelain vases containing gilded metal and enamel flowers. In honour of the Gasque family’s French origins, Barnett devised a faux coat of arms at his client’s request, which was applied to the rear doors.
The bow-fronted drinks below a cherubic scene painted on the ceiling
Sadly, Clarence died in 1928 and in 1937 Maude – who lived until 1959 and spent the rest of life promoting vegetarianism – put The Phantom of Love into storage. She sold it in 1952 to the well-known Rolls-Royce car collector Stanley Sears, and it subsequently passed through the hands of enthusiasts in Japan and the USA before returning to the UK and its most recent owner.
Bonhams Senior Motor Car Specialist Rob Hubbard said, “Extensively illustrated and described in numerous books and magazine articles about the Rolls-Royce marque, The Phantom of Love is, arguably, the most famous surviving Rolls-Royce after ‘AX 201’, the factory owned 1907 Silver Ghost. Unique and well documented, it is of the highest quality and without question one of the very finest examples of art and craftsmanship applied to an automobile. The Phantom of Love would grace any important private collection or make a wonderful exhibit for a museum display.”
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The Bonhams Motoring Department enjoyed a sensational run of sales in September, selling more than 85% by lot and 89% by value. The five sales held during the month achieved more than £30,500,000.
The four auction sales – The Beaulieu Sale: Collectors’ Motor Cars, Motorcycles and Automobilia; The Chantilly Sale; Goodwood Revival; and The Robert White Collection (which also included cameras and watches) – offered more than 1,300 lots. These ranged from rare Lalique car mascots, motorcycles from the 1920s, to a 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder which sold for £4,593,500 at Goodwood Revival, setting a new world record price at auction for this model.
Across the four auctions, 600 new customers registered to bid at a Bonhams auction for the first time – a substantial increase from last year. Moreover, there were 165 first-time buyers at Bonhams who paid a total of £10,900,000, accounting for more than a third of the total spend (£28,489,133) for the four sales.
In addition, there was the Willi Balz public tender sale – a first for Bonhams – that concluded on 27 September. This sale received 380 bids from 104 bidders totalling in excess of €2,400,000.
Bonhams Group Head of Motoring, James Knight, commented, “The results for September were very promising. It is particularly encouraging to see such a significant increase in new bidders and first-time buyers. This demonstrates that we are curating sales with the right mix of lots with estimates at a level to stimulate interest and encourage competitive bidding. I would also add that I don’t think there is another motoring department in an auction house that has the capacity and strength in depth to handle successfully the sheer volume and diversity of lots spread over five sales, in four weeks, in three countries. We now look forward to the autumn and winter series of sales.”
Bonhams’ other luxury departments also had a very positive start to the autumn round of sales. Fine Jewellery in Bond Street made £6.5million, with a fancy intense blue diamond selling for £2,322,500. In the Robert White Collection Sale, a very rare and fine 18K gold George Daniels limited series manual wind instantaneous calendar wristwatch far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £70,000-100,000 to sell for a world-record £225,000.
10 October. The Zoute Sale, Belgium
16 October. The Autumn Stafford Sale of Important Collectors Motorcycles
4 November. The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Sale
4 December. The Bond Street Sale
8 December. The December Sale: Collectors’ Motor Cars, Motorcycles and Automobilia. Olympia
more info on Bonhams
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