James Baggott: A lock-up and a cock-up! How NOT to sell a classic car at auction

James Baggott: A lock-up and a cock-up! How  NOT to sell a classic car at auction

I’VE thought long and hard about telling you this story – but I reckoned there’s probably a fair few of you out there feeling rather gloomy, so a tale of woe and the chance to laugh at my ineptitude would probably help cheer you up. And inept this is.

For those of you who don’t know, I like my ’80s hot hatches. In fact, I think I’ve probably written about them here a few times, dreaming about setting up my own garage one day, selling similar classics to like-minded people. After this particular episode, I might want to give that a bit of a rethink.

A few months back, while putting yet more rubbish in the work lock-up, I quite literally tripped over my Peugeot 205 GTI.

Such is the state of the lock-up, piled high with the sort of crap that even a hoarder would class as ‘a bit of a mess’, it’s quite possible to forget cars actually live in there.

Somewhere, behind an old sofa and some half-built desks, is my Ducati 998, hidden under a bed sheet. Elsewhere is an old Mini that a former colleague has forgotten about, probably because it’s mostly hidden by iMac boxes.

Somewhere close by, behind old, broken office chairs that have been wheeled over there to retire, is my BMW R1150 GSA, and under two car covers – because for some reason I decided one wasn’t enough – is my Ford Fiesta XR2.

Yes, it’s a big lock-up, and as is usually the case with these things where too many people have access and there’s little policing, it’s completely full of rubbish.

Admin

Anyway, back to the Peugeot. I decided that because I hadn’t actually used it for two years, I really ought to sell it. I thought I could spend the money on a kitchen or something sensible like paying some of my mortgage off.

Boring, I know, but the Peugeot admin was more annoying than the car was useful.

The real problem with classic cars of this type is that pricing them is nigh-on impossible.

Age, mileage, condition and history all have a huge effect. My GTI is pretty pristine on the outside, having spent 100 hours in a paintshop having a bare-metal respray restoration. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on original replacement headlights, and that little red trim that goes around the bumpers cost me just shy of £500 alone.

I looked around on eBay and noticed they were priced from £2,000 to more than £15,000. Because I’d rather punch myself in the face than deal with the text-speaking lunatics that seem to frequent the bowels of eBay’s car-buying ecosystem, I decided to enter it into an auction instead.

The Classic Car Sale, run by Silverstone Auctions, seemed like as good a place as any. I called up and chatted to the owner who suggested I enter my car in their August sale with no reserve. I balked at the thought, but he convinced me it was the best way to attract interest, and that if I wanted to, I could always ‘buy it back myself’. Interesting.

I filled out the online entry form, found some tasty pictures we’d shot of it over the years, and collated all the history I’d scattered around my house, garage and work. The Peugeot had been in this magazine twice, in a book on the history of 205 GTIs and even on the cover of Mike Brewer’s Ultimate Guide to Used Cars, so I included those in the pack too.

I MOT’d it, serviced it and even got our Ted to give it a showroom-fresh valet at the auction house’s sale room to ensure it looked its best.

Arbitrary

As to what I expected it to sell for, I really had no idea. There were four other 205 GTIs in the sale, one of which had been bought by the current owner six months before this sale for £19k. I was hoping mine would make £10k, but secretly had far greater ambitions for it.

I registered as a bidder and drove to Warwickshire thinking about what I’d be prepared to let it go for. I came up with the arbitrary figure of £7,500. Don’t ask why.

I found a place at the back of the hall and didn’t have to wait long – my car was first up. Bidding started slowly – worryingly so. I raised my number to get things moving, eventually edging it up towards £7k. It was just me and a phone bidder at this point.

Then, to my horror, I ended up entering the winning bid at £7,200. The room applauded the first car sold in the sale – little did they know it was me, buying my own car back. The idiot.

I hung about to see what the others went for. The guy who paid £19k for his took an £11k haircut on his ‘investment’. Few cars in the sale made their reserve, and in the first 100, we counted a handful or so actually selling.

I couldn’t let mine go for a paltry figure. Even as a book-end for piles of crap in my garage it was worth £7,200. So, what did the whole little venture cost me? Well, not only was there an entry fee, but I had to pay the seller’s fee AND the buyer’s fee.

A bit of negotiating with the auction house and I ended up paying them £500 to cover the fees and they kept the entry price on top. A painfully expensive lesson in how not to sell your car. Told you I was inept.

It did get me thinking, though. There was a time when the classic car market could do no wrong – cars were selling all over the place for silly money. Not a week seemed to go by without another ‘record’ sale. I can’t help thinking the whole economic situation has caused the market to soften to the point of melting.

Classic car auction houses might disagree, but I fear it’s pointing towards a worrying downwards trend. I think I’ll just go back to not using my Peugeot for a few years instead and hope in that time the world settles down a bit and I can bag a BMW E30 for a sensible price once again.

James Baggott is the founder of Car Dealer Magazine and chief executive officer of parent company the Baize Group, an automotive services provider. He now spends most of his time on Twitter @CarDealerEd and annoying the rest of us.

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