Leigh and Leslie Keno held their first collector car auction in New York on Thursday, November 19, 2015. This Ex-Steve McQueen Mercedes 6.3 was one of just two Mercedes-Benz cars in the sale. The 6.3 failed to sell after reaching a high bid of $375,000 on the auction block, the pre sale estimate was $480,000 – $650,000.
Really nice 6.3s without ‘King of Cool’ provenance regularly sell between $60,000 and $110,000. Is a car McQueen owned more than 35 years ago worth 3 – 5 times as much? It seemed the car’s owner thought so, but bidders in the crowd and on the telephones didn’t. McQueen history was the most this car had going for it, as it wasn’t an overly original car or in perfect condition. (Incidentally, as of this writing, here at the SL Market Letter we have access to a 1969 6.3 with about 65,000 miles, mostly original paint, all original interior, gorgeous condition and ready to drive anywhere. Asking price is $80,000. It may – or may not have – driven through Steve McQueen’s zip code at some point. Contact Dave Tobin if you are interested or want more information).
According to the auction company’s catalog description, the “exterior of this 300 SEL 6.3 has been meticulously restored by marque expert Kienle Automobiltechnick” in Germany in 2013, and it’s been well cared for since. The leather interior is original to the car showing light patina, what you might expect from a car with 80,488 miles as the odometer reads.
The wood and other interior trim is original and appears well preserved. Unfortunately, the padded dash has some cracks and a good sized rip. Nothing that a few thousand dollars can’t fix on a car owned by Steve McQueen, but a detractor never the less. Kudos to the Keno team for taking clear, detailed pictures of flaws like these and including them in their catalog. Not all auction companies are so open about exhibiting the good, the bad and the ugly of cars their selling.
No mention of the hydropneumatic suspension was made in the car’s description, always the first thing anyone ever asks me about when we’re discussing the potential sale, purchase or the condition of a 6.3. The front of the car appears to be sitting lower than it should be in all of the photos presented in the auction catalog, the photos taken in the indoor studio as well as those taken ‘out in the field’. These cars are spectacular when well sorted and properly maintained, but they can cost a lot to get to that point. The unknown condition or recent service history of the suspension system may have been a concern to those interested in this car.
The auction catalog played up the McQueen provenance, as it was the only way this car had a prayer of bringing some multiple of the price of any other 6.3. Here is an excerpt from the auction description, “When, ‘Owned by Steve McQueen’, is attached to any item, whether a car, motorcycle, gun, or a pair of sunglasses, the price guides and other comparative tools are left far below. For example, a few years ago Bonham’s sold a pair of Persol sunglasses that McQueen may or may not have worn in the film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair.’ These glasses sold for $70,000, the McQueen connection raising their price to multiples of their normal value. The same halo effect surrounds this 300SEL 6.3.”
Ultimately, this was more of an exercise in figuring out how much Steve McQueen ownership will add to the price of a 6.3 than the sale of a car based on condition. Quite simply, the owner of the car thought it was worth $100,000 – $200,000 more than anyone in the room or on the phone. The $375,000 high bid seemed like plenty to me – don’t forget the Keno Brother’s 12% buyer’s fee, which would have put the amount actually paid by the winning bidder at $420,000.
Results of their first foray into the collector car auction scene surely fell short of the brother’s expectations with just under a 50% sell through rate on the day of the sale. Of course, deals will probably be put together on some cars post-block in the coming days and weeks, raising the sale rate. While the house was packed with auction watchers, it didn’t seem like there were enough real bidders interested in spending their money to make this one a huge success. Read our complete report on the Keno Brother’s NY auction by visiting this article: “Keno Brothers New York Collector Car Auction A Good First Effort, Mixed Results, Room to Grow”
The Kenos will hold their second collector car auction in June as they have been named the official auction house of “The Elegance at Hershey” Concours d’Elegance. The sale will take place Saturday, June 11, 2016 in Hershey, PA.