Car auction all set to defy prevailing credit crunch

London, October 29:

The cream and black Bugatti let out clouds of dark smoke and two pistol-crack coughs as it crept from the back of a lorry in Battersea Park, central London, on Monday. Moments later, the Atlantic, which has yawned through 45 of its 70 years in a New York garage, slid into a space between a hulking Rolls Royce and an elegantly thuggish Bentley roadster.

In any other car park the trio, which together are worth the best part of £2 million, would have drawn crowds and envy. But surrounded by 97 other rare and valuable cars assembled for an auction expected to yield nearly £20 million, they looked a little quotidian — if not quite as humdrum as a nearby Volvo estate. If all goes to plan, the Bugatti and its fellow lots will defy the credit crunch and swell the coffers of RM Auctions, the American firm behind the sale.

Although the company set a new UK record last year when it sold 50 cars belonging to the formula one magnate Bernie Ecclestone for £18 million, it acknowledges that things could be trickier at its second London auction.

“Given market conditions, we don’t expect sales rates to be as high, but we expect somewhere between £16 million and £18 million,” said Shelby Myers, RM’s operations manager. “There’s still quite a bit of money in the marketplace, and there’s still quite a bit of interest in buying cars.” Sale may be weighted in favour of Bentleys, Ferraris and Lancias, but it is sprinkled with stardust.