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UK records smashed at landmark sale of vintage vehicles

Monday 24 April 2017

On 22 April, NAVA Propertymark auction house Cheffins showcased a number of the world’s most unusual classic cars, motorcycles, tractors and steam engines at, what was, their largest auction to date.

The sale, which took place at the firm's Sutton site included a large number of vintage motorcycles, with a total value of over £150,000. Over 70 vintage motorcycles went under the hammer, and the highest value motorbike was an incredibly rare 1951 Triumph 6T Thunderbird Bonneville (pictured below).

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The Bonneville was a national record holder in the 650 M-VG Class held at the 2008 International Speed Trials at Bonneville, and had an estimate of £15,000 - £18,000. Another fine motorcycle was the rare 1927 600cc Scott Super Squirrel, a pre-war water cooled two-stroke twin that can still show a clean pair of heels to much more modern machinery. The estimate was be £9,000 - £10,000 and it sold for £9396.

Red lorry, yellow lorry...or was it khaki? 

Two very early Albion lorries from the same private owner were also on offer to eager bidders. The first one, the 1916 WD Albion A10 Troop Carrier is the only model in the UK in War Department colours and it has previously been used in films and TV programmes, including Godzilla, Testament of Youth, Peaky Blinders and Harriet’s Army. It had also been used during the war in France. The estimate was £38,000 - £40,000, and it sold for xxx.

The other Albion was a Model A16 Charabanc from 1920 with an estimate of £65-£70,000. It was sold new to the New Zealand Government for the High Commissioner to use. It has also had a TV career, having starred in the TV series Houdini and Doyle last year. It ending up selling for £73,500.

Gaining traction and breaking records

Ten steam engines were on offer, one of the most important being the iconic 1919 Wallis and Steevens Traction Engine. No. 7683, named ‘Eileen the Erring.’ This famous machine took part in the first traction engine races recorded at Nettlebed, Oxon in 1951. It competed against Arthur Napper, the man responsible for the traction engine rally as we know it today. The engine had an estimate of £75,000 - £85,000, and sold within reserve.

There were also two matching steam engines, ‘Hengist’ and ‘Horsa’ (pictured below) with consecutive vehicle numbers. Dating back to 1918, the engines have spent their entire 99 years as a pair. They were originally ordered by a G.W. Stephens of Dumbleton, Gloucestershire through the Ministry of Munitions and they were used by the Gloucester War Agricultural Executive Committee. In 1967 they were sold to Mr Bob Say of Cheddar for preservation. In his ownership they attended rallies and featured at working demonstrations at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in the 1970s until 1980 when they required boiler work. The engines were sold to their current owner, David Hilditch, by Cheffins in 1998. With one restored and the other awaiting work the pre-sale estimate for the pair was £150,000 - £160,000. The hammer went down a £147,000 in the end to a very happy bidder. 

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Also to be sold will be the remaining items owned by steam enthusiast Colin Knight from the New Forest. These include three steam engines, the rarest being 90 per cent of the parts of a Fowler Class DNA ‘Hercules’ steam tractor from the 1920s which had an estimate of £30,000 - £35,000 and sold for £31,500, but could be worth £140,000 once fully restored. There were three living wagons available, including a 1914 Burrell living van with an estimate of £8,000-£10,000 (sold for £9,900) which is known to be one of only three in existence.

1 of only 20

The most noteworthy of the 230-plus tractors on offer on the day was the 1963 Matbro Mastiff (pictured below). One of only 20 ever built, this particular machine was the very first to be produced and sold, making it of huge historic significance. It smashed it's estimate of £40,000 - £50,000, selling for £86,100, making it a UK record price at auction for a vintage tractor.

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Also on offer was a virtually untouched, rare County 954 Super-Six (est. £12,000 -£14,000 - sold for £19,500) which was discovered on a county council farm in Hertfordshire. Dating back to the 1960s, the Super-Six was one of the most powerful tractors on the market at the time and was only in production for two years.

Additionally, some of the most coveted lots were the 23 International tractors which constitute the Dave Boyles Collection including the International 614 with Roadless front axle conversion - estimate £12,000-£14,000. Believed to be one of only five examples of the model ever built, it was the rarest in the collection.

Peoples car vs regal elegance

Of the ten classic cars on offer, two cars gained most interest - a 1966 Mini Cooper Mk1, with an estimate of £16,000 (sold for £14,700) and a 1936 Rolls-Royce 25/30 Light Tourer with an estimate of £30,000-£40,000, which sold for £35,700.

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Now at 51 years old, the mini is a true classic from the latter part of the 1961 – 1967 production years. This is an increasingly rare and iconic car, which sold at £14,700 - less than the estimate.  

The Rolls-Royce, with a four and a quarter litre engine had been meticulously maintained.

Other items in the sale included a number of classic commercials, models, countless tractor spares, cast iron seats, enamel signs and literature.

Speaking before the sale Bill King, Chairman, Cheffins commented:

“This year’s sale is truly exceptional, never before have we had quite so many noteworthy lots at such high values. A number of the items which will be going under the hammer are the rarest examples of their type worldwide and we expect to see hundreds of collectors and enthusiasts on the day. Key lots to watch are the definitely the steam engines and the Albion lorries. Bearing in mind there are only around 3,000 steam engines actually in existence it is amazing to be selling ten on the same day. This really will be a landmark sale for us.”