Photos: Courtesy of Donington Auctions
The closure of the Binalong Motor Museum presented a rare opportunity to purchase a range of collectable cars, motorcycles, memorabilia, petroliana, garagenalia and even aviation-related items when the museum’s collection went to auction this past July.
Located in rural NSW, the Binalong Motor Museum was the brainchild of John Fitzpatrick and Stuart Saunders, who had the facility purpose built to both display their collections and serve as a workshop for their restoration projects.
When Fitzpatrick relocated, the museum became Saunders’s personal showcase, but when the retired surgeon decided to close the museum earlier this year, he also decided to sell the bulk of his collection, selecting Donington Auctions to handle the clearance.
Star Ferraris, Odd Jobs
Born and raised in the UK, Saunders was already a successful medical professional when he emigrated to Australia in the mid-1970s. A confirmed car and bike enthusiast, he brought a Ferrari 365GTC/4, Ducati 750GT motorcycle and other vehicles with him when he moved.
Working in Canberra and with a rural property in Binalong (approximately one hour north of the ACT), Saunders added to his collection over the years, before deciding to build the museum at Binalong in 1990.
More than a decade later, Saunders would acquire a 2001 Ferrari 550 Maranello to keep the 365GTC/4 company, but didn’t limit his collection to Italian exotica. A far more humble 1967 Fiat 500 was acquired, along with Citroens and other pre-war French cars, Jaguars, an Armstrong Siddeley, Daimler Majestic Major (originally used by the Romanian Embassy in London) and that quintessentially London vehicle: an Austin FX4 ‘black cab’.
Oddities in the collection included a recreation of the 1963 Indy 500-winning Watson ‘Agajanian Willard Battery Special’ roadster, the 1996 ‘Julien and Boyer Matra-Honda’ LSR car purpose built to beat the 500cc-class one-hour average speed record and Saunders’s own creation: the ‘Binalong Special’ roadster that used a Jensen frame and Jaguar mechanical parts, including a supercharged V12 engine.
While the Binalong Special and a few of the pre-War French classics were retained by Saunders, the rest was consigned for the Donington Auctions event. With a separate collection from a Victorian enthusiast (see breakout) and some individual consignments not in Saunders’s collection included, there were more than 300 lots on offer.
When bidding opened on Sunday 26 July, the 550 Maranello was a hot item, soon exceeding its reserve and ultimately selling for $270,000. With buyer’s premium added, the $296,000 total was a new Australian auction record for the model. The 365GTC/4 proved a tougher sell, though, perhaps due to this model being less well known here. Against a $500,000 low estimate, the car that Saunders had owned since 1974 failed to meet it reserve.
His Fiat 500 sold within estimate for $14,000 and a 1947 Citroen ‘Traction Avant’ Light 15 in need of recommissioning defied expectations to also sell for $14,000.
Amongst the British cars, a 1990 Jaguar XJS V12 sold on estimate for $17,000 and the aforementioned FX4 taxi made $12,000. A no-sale on the 1966 Daimler Majestic Major ex-embassy car was a surprise, but not as much as a 1961 Jaguar Mk2 3.8 manual that rocketed past its $39,000 high estimate to eventually hammer for $58,000.
There was a surprisingly high level of enthusiasm for the Matra-Honda LSR car, too. Despite limited applications for this world record holder, it sold for $53,000 against a $48,000 high estimate. The Watson Indy 500 roadster recreation also defied predictions, selling for $64,000 against a $43,000 high estimate.
A project-spec 1938 Packard sedan was good buying at $8,000, while an MG N Type Magnette Special that was not part of the Saunders collection sold for an undisclosed amount after the auction.
(A group of motorcycles were included in the sale, too. For more on those, see JUST BIKES magazine #382 or go to: justbikes.com.au)
Good results overall for the cars in the auction were exceeded by prices achieved for the collectables and memorabilia.
Leading the way here was a bound collection of UK Motor Sport magazines, covering 55 years, that sold for $11,000. An equally collectable set of US Automobile Quarterly publications, from Issue 1 to 50, sold for $2,200. Both lots exceeded estimates by high amounts.
A Goodyear Tyres enamelled sign more than tripled its high estimate to sell for $5,000, while a large ‘Castrol Wakefield Engine Oil’ sign (with shotgun pellets still embedded in the tin!) did the same, selling for $3,200.
Other strong results in the tin sign field included an early C.O.R. ‘Motor Spirit’ sign ($1,100), ‘Olympic Tyres Checkpoint’ sign ($3,400) and an early ‘Morris Service Agent’ sign ($3,400).
There were numerous posters and framed prints, including one for the first Armstrong 500 enduro at Bathurst (1963) that sold for $4,200 against a $500 high estimate and a limited-edition Brabham print, signed by Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac, that made $2,200.
Other goodies for the man cave included a cutaway Ford 250ci inline 6 engine ($1,800), a Honda Integra 4-cylinder display engine ($400) and a Volvo 4-cylinder cutaway display engine ($500).
Finally, in a reflection of the sort of estimate-exceeding prices achieved at the RM Sothebys ‘Pedal Power’ auction in the US, kids’ pedal cars sold well at this auction, too. A tin-bodied ‘downhill racer’ on pram wheels (possibly home built) sold for $850 against a $450 high estimate, a commercially-produced, plastic-bodied pedal car from the 1950s/60s sold for $1,700 against a mere $200 estimate, while an earlier, metal-bodied unit reached $2,600 on a $400 high estimate.
However, a kid-size reproduction of a Bugatti Type 35 proved to be the top seller in this group. Produced in the 1970s and powered by a two-stroke motor, this fibreglass-bodied replica featured leaf spring suspension, an upholstered seat and functional outside brake lever. Against a $12,000 high estimate, it sold for $16,000.
Buy the Numbers
Reflecting the boom in heritage number plates, a trio of plates from the collection of the late Dr. David Watson Snr were included in the Binalong auction, along with his 1913 Straker-Squire 15hp tourer and a 1925 Bentley 3-Litre tourer.
The Bentley, carrying the Victorian registration ‘210’ it’s worn since 1932, was Australian-delivered and came into Watson’s possession in 1963. He finished its conversion to a ‘Blower Bentley’ look Vanden Plas tourer in 1971.
The 210 plate and Bentley were split for the sale, with the former selling for $235,000, while the latter sold by negotiation after the auction.
Other Victorian heritage plates from the Watson collection included ‘2-107’ and ’57-578’, which sold for $40,000 and $27,000, respectively.
The Straker-Squire, disassembled and with a multitude of spare parts included, sold for $24,000.
Total sales from the Binalong Motor Museum Auction reached almost $2 million, with a 98.5 per cent clearance rate, which was outstanding given the COVID-influenced circumstances.
“We are thrilled with the results - particularly under the current circumstances and considering we had to postpone the auction," said Robbie Richards of Donington Auctions.
“(The result) indicates collectors are still active and eager to participate in auctions - live or online. Our clients embraced the online format and the response to the catalogue was overwhelming - attracting over 145,000 views and 900 registered bidders."
Saunders was happy, too: “The auction was very, very successful and I would like to thank everyone who took part. I hope whoever acquired the cars and memorabilia I've collected will enjoy them as much as I have."
For full results from this auction, go to https://www.doningtonauctions.com.au/
NOTE: All prices listed exclude buyer’s premium, unless stated.