Christie's Dermot Chichester drops hammer for last time on Elton's car sale, June 5, 2001. Elton John is £2 million better off after his collection of luxury cars was sold at auction at twice what he and London auctioneers Christie's expected.
Elton said he off-loaded the cars because he never gets a chance to drive them.
At the news conference after the sale, Elton spoke from Atlanta, U.S.. Christie's deputy chairman Dermot Chichester read out:
"When the bidding kept on going up and up way above the estimates, I was both thrilled and surprised. There's obviously a lot of money to be made from second-hand cars."
Elton went on: "It's great to know that the people who have bought my cars place such high value on them, and that the care that has been put into looking after them over the years has been well worth it. I hope that all the new owners enjoy these cars as much as I did."
Mr Chichester said the cars went to private collectors, members of the music industry and entrepreneurs "many of them known to you in the UK". Mostly to UK customers, as the cars were mostly right-hand drive.
During the auction, Mr Chichester stressed that the cars were not suddenly on the market owing to Elton's failed court battle with accountants. He said the auction had been planned for some time. And indeed, as I noted, the auction programme, a lavish book containing the car specifications and histories, indeed showed several cards photographed at Elton's Windsor home, and there was not a single leaf in sight on surrounding hedgerows and trees - implying the preparations took place around December 2000, when the court case had only just begun. A verdict followed in April 2001.
A Christie's spokeswoman said a mystery buyer from the music industry paid £244,000 for Sir Elton's Bentley Convertible and 1965 E Type Jaguar.
One reporter asked how were the estimates put together? Christie's chief valuer Rupert Banner said: "They were based on fair market values on the sum of the parts." Mr Chichester added that Elton John tag probably helped double the prices.
"I can't at this stage release details (about the buyers) without their permission. We hope to be able to give you more information a bit later on. I think we had football interest, but I don't think they were successful."
Asked by me: "Did John Reid make a possible bid?" Mr Chichester: "I'll pass on that question, ha!"
Mr Banner said the car which most surprised him in bidding was Lot 4, the 1956 Bentley Fastback which Elton described as the most beautifully-designed car ever. Banner said the car hugely outstripped the estimate.
Mr Banner said he had been valuing classic cars for about 7 years, in many locations in the world. But the interest, bidding, everything, has been completely phenomenal. I've never seen anything like it. Elton has a handful of cars (eight) remaining."
I asked: "So he may be coming back to you in the future?"
Mr Banner: "We'll see."
Afterwards, Elton's car fleet manager, John Newman, briefly told me that the result was superb, albeit sad to see the fleet reduced.
Present at the auction, Queen bassist John Deacon declined to comment to me on whether he had bid successfully for one of the cars.
Here's a full list of the cars and their prices (including commission), in bold:
In their order of appearance...
- 1986 Ferrari 412 Sports Coupe est. £15K-25K £42,300
- 1975 Bentley Corniche Convertible est. £25K-35K £49,350. Elton bought this new, and it used to be driven by friend Princess Margaret to the cinema in Kensington, said auctioneer Dermot Chichester!
- 1987 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante est. £50K-70K £101,650. Elton drove this in the South of France.
- 1956 Bentley S1 Continental Fastback est. £50K-70K £196,250. Sold to the strains of "Grey Seal", this car Elton once remarked was: "The most beautiful car ever designed."
- 1965 Jaguar E Type Series 1 4.2 Roadster est. £25K-35K £80,750. Perhaps the most coveted because of the registration plate "OKEl", and known in the Woodside household as "okay Elton".
- 1987 Ferrari Testarossa est. £35K-45K £49,350 MCA Records presented this car to Elton on his 40th birthday in 1987. And what a name! Testarossa!
- 1960 Bentley S2 Continental Flying Spur est. £35K-50K £67,550. Elton had this car since 1970s.
- 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Standard Steel Saloon est. £20K-30K £86,250. This was the only left-hand drive car in the auction. It was named "Daisey" by Elton.
- 1985 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe est. £30K-40K £102,750. It has only 11,000 miles on the clock!
- 1987 Bentley Turbo R Four Door Saloon est. £18K-25K £49,350. Gianni was one of its passengers. The limo also took Elton to the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and on to the recording studio for Candle in the Wind 1997.
- 1973 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI Limousine est. £110K-150K £223,750 The powerful black limo with reinforced blacked-out windows (since one of the panes smashed from the 36-speaker stereo system! This car had a lot of heritage!
- 1965 Bentley S3 Continental Fixed Head Coupe est. 25K-35K £41,125. Known as the "Chinese Lantern"
- 1992 Ferrari 512 TR est. £40K-50K £89,550. Just 1,800 miles on the clock.
- 1964 Bentley S3 Continental Drophead Coupe est. 45K-60K £69,750. "There's a chip on the bonnet, which will be repaired at our expense, as usual," remarked Mr Chichester.
- 1984 Aston Martin V8 Volante est. £40K-55K £86,250. Just 11,000 miles the auctionner said.
- 1964 Bentley S3 Standard Steel Saloon est. £20K-30K £54,050
- 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe est. £20K-30K £80,750. Despised by Prince Philip, the car once painted in Watford FC colours - no more! It is now in dark blue with Magnolia interior, and Gary Hampshire's favourite car.
- 1997 Bentley Turbo R 400 Four Door Saloon est. £35K-45K £82,950. Used to ferry Elton to Buckingham Palace for his knighthood, and the favourite car of Elton's longtime chauffeur, Derek Baulcombe. Only six were ever built, the auctioneer remarked.
- 1993 Jaguar XJ220 est. £130K-160K £234,750. It may have come with a 200mph capability and had 900 miles on the clock, but this vehicle was so avante garde, it suffered like Delorean! Only 80 were ever built. The list price was reputedly £400,000 from the factory, but its value more than halved immedietely. Among victim clients, reportedly, was singer Chris Rea. Elton did well not only to get the sum paid, but to have made this the top price in the auction!
- 1994 Bentley Continental Convertible est. £70K-100K £163,250