Until recently, buying a car from the storied auction house RM Sotheby’s also meant purchasing a plane ticket to exotic locales such as London, Paris and, recently, Abu Dhabi. But for RM’s upcoming sale of seven special cars, all you’ll need is an Internet connection. That’s because “Online Only: Drive Into The Holidays” is the house’s first venture in a purely web-based sale.
While the cars on offer predictably are head-turners—these would include an 89-mile 2006 Ford GT and perhaps the world’s most pampered 1967 Austin Mini Moke—the really big news here is that a global leader in dazzling live auctions has acknowledged there may be a coming paradigm shift in the way automobiles transfer hands as a new generation of collectors comes to the fore.
“We’ve had great success thus far with online-only memorabilia auctions and we are optimistic about the future of our online platform as we continue to expand our motor car offerings outside of traditional catalogue auction events,” says Alan Squindo, chief operating officer of RM Sotheby’s.
This step from RM is a notable tip of the hat to websites such as BringATrailer.com, a community-based auction site that initially focused on barn-find–type vehicles but now features seven-figure collectible exotics such as mid-1950s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwings.
While live auctions offer that unique frisson of a group event, BringATrailer’s success has revealed that, for many enthusiasts and younger collectors, being able to pour over detailed text and hundreds of photos—not to mention benefiting from the wisdom, or laughing at the snarky comments, of the masses in the comments section—can often be preferable to a time-consuming trip to a multi-day event.
RM’s debut online affair, which kicked off Dec. 11 and runs through Dec. 19, does appear to offer buyers something that most other similar sales platforms lack: first-hand assessment of the vehicles. RM notes that each lot “has been inspected in RM Sotheby’s care,” which is different from BringATrailer, where buyers rely on both detailed photographs as well as the company’s willingness to largely stand by buyers in case of any serious seller auto-misrepresentation shenanigans. But, similar to other online auction sites, RM Sotheby’s stipulates that winning bidders arrange for their own pick-up of the vehicles in question.
Sellers also are winners with RM’s decision to embrace an online sale option, since they save on the cost of shipping a car to the auction house’s live event location.
Beyond the aforementioned Ford GT (estimated to fetch between $275,000 to $325,000) and Mini Moke ($20,000 to $30,000), the other cars on the virtual block are a 1989 Ferrari Testarossa with 15,000 miles and a matching set of Schedoni Luggage ($125,000 to $150,000) and two restored Austin Healeys, including a 1960 3000 Mk I BN7 ($50,000 to $70,000) and a 1966 3000 Mk II BJ8 ($60,000 to $80,000). Finally, two SUVs round out the lot, a heavily modified 2017 Jeep Wrangler Custom with Ferrari-style seats ($40,000 to $50,000) and a 2018 Audi Sq5 with 8,234 miles ($30,000 to $40,000).
The first two cars in the group scream special, while the last two represent comparatively pedestrian examples that you can buy knowing that the experts at RM Sotheby’s have kicked the tires for you. And for some enthusiasts, that will be worth the online buyer’s premium alone.