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One of the most important automotive pioneers, a 1901 Panhard-Levassor 7hp Twin-Cyclinder Four Seater Rear Entrance Tonneau known as ‘Le Papillon Bleu’, which introduced many motoring ‘firsts’, claimed a runway first place in yesterday’s Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Sale, selling as the top lot for an impressive £442,750.00 – double its pre-sale estimate.

‘Le Papillon Bleu’ was the subject of a tense three-way bid between two telephone bidders and a collector in the packed saleroom with the hammer finally falling in favour of the latter, in a sale which achieved an impressive 95 per cent sale rate.

Built by one of the earliest motor manufacturers, the Panhard-Levassor is considered as the first ‘modern motor car’, featuring a front engine, ‘gearbox’ transmission, ‘piano-style’ pedals for the clutch and brake and a steering wheel rather than tiller. 

One of only five known surviving 1901 7hp examples, this Panhard-Levassor was also one of the few ‘named’ cars. The young daughter of its second owner called it ‘Papillon Blue’ due to its striking Cambridge Blue paintwork, commissioned by its first owner René de Knyff, pioneer racing driver and Panhard director who was also the President of the Commission Sportive International, the present-day FIA.

Another pioneer that sold well was a 1900 M.M.C. Tourer, which achieved £224,250. This example of the short-lived British marque, powered by a 1,527cc Daimler engine, has participated in numerous Runs from the 1930s to the present day.

 Other stars of the Bonhams sale room included, fittingly, two examples of the rare ‘Star’ marque, one of Britain’s top six pre-First World War motor manufacturers. The first – one of the oldest motor cars to cross the block today, was an 1899 Star Benz 3 ½ HP Vis-à-Vis, powered by an engine designed by Carl Benz, which far surpassed its £70,000 pre-sale estimateto sell for £138,000

A sister Star 3 ½hp Single-cylinder Vis-à-Visalso bettered its top estimate, exchanging hands for £94,300

Another notable lot which gave a strong performance was a stunning 1899 Peugeot2 ¼ hp Tricycle, selling for £69,000, again beating its top estimate.

The sale’s earlier automobilia auction, which also enjoyed a ‘full house’ of Veteran car owners and enthusiasts, also achieved impressive results, with a rare 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup Race Presentation Pocket Watch presented to a Dr Frank Husband, a steward at that year’s race, selling for £8,187, double its pre-sale estimate.  

Tim Schofield, Head of Bonhams Motoring UK said: “The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Sale is one of the Bonhams Motoring Team’s highlights of the year. 

“The Run embodies the true spirit of motoring and it is rewarding to see from this sale’s results that the passion and enthusiasm for pioneer motor cars is as strong as ever. We are particularly pleased that the Papillon Bleu and the M.M.C. performed so well.

“We now look forward to Sunday’s Run, which many of the team are taking part in, and to seeing other Veteran motor cars sold at Bonhams over the years cross the finish line at Madeira Drive in Brighton.”

The next sale for Bonhams Motoring UK is The RAF Museum Sale in Hendon on 21 November 2019. 


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