'Spy Who Loved Me' Lotus, Jaguar D-Type highlight $26M auction

An auction house worker poses for pictures in An auction house worker poses for pictures in front of a 1976 Lotus Esprit car from the 1977 James Bond film 'The Spy Who Loved Me', starring Roger Moore and Barbara Bach, during a presentation ahead of an auction in Bonhams auction house in central London. (Nov. 13, 2008) Photo Credit: AP

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A James Bond Lotus submarine and a Scottish businessmans $26-million collection of racing cars will be coming up for auction next month.

Monaco- and South Africa-based Irvine Laidlaw, a member of the House of Lords, is selling seven classic racers at RM Auctions in London, including a 1955 Jaguar D-Type valued at more than 5.5 million pounds ($8.5 million). The Lotus Esprit was built for the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me in which Roger Moore drives the car into the sea. It is being auctioned at the same event with a low estimate of 500,000 pounds.

The U.K. sale will follow bellwether auctions in California estimated to exceed $325 million, a record for the series, according to Michigan-based analysts Hagerty. The market for investment-grade classic cars continues to expand.

The increase in classic-car values staggers me, the U.K.-based collector Peter Read, a partner at accountants KPMG LLP, said in an email. Investors rather than collectors have become involved in some of the rarer cars, which worries me as it means they wont be used, simply squirreled away in a garage. Low interest rates are helping, as is the improvement in confidence in the economy.

Canadian-based auto specialist RM Auctions rescheduled its annual sale in Battersea Park to Sept. 8-9, immediately after the inaugural St. Jamess Concours of Elegance and the 8th edition of Salon Prive at Syon Park, west London.

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Mercedes Collection

The auction, usually held in October, has extended to two days to accommodate a single-owner collection of historic Mercedes-Benz models as well as cars owned by Laidlaw, 70, who sold the Institute for International Research, the worlds largest conference organizer, in 2005.

I dont regard myself as a collector, Laidlaw said in an RM press release. I am a car enthusiast and as an enthusiast I want to exercise my cars regularly, rather than gloat over them in a garage.

As well as the D-Type a long-nose model with a Jaguar works and Ecurie Ecosse team history Laidlaw is offering a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Berlinetta Competizione with a low estimate of 2.5 million pounds. The car came 10th in the 1966 Le Mans 24-hour race. Laidlaws cars may make as much as 17 million pounds, according to RM, which raised 13.9 million pounds from last years London sale.

The submersible Lotus film prop, propelled through the water by a working electric motor, was bought by a U.S. couple at an auction in Long Island, N.Y., in 1989.

Gullwing Price

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What RM bills as the ultimate Mercedes-Benz collection contains 74 cars. The most highly valued of these is a 1938 540 K Cabriolet A at 1.9 million pounds to 2.5 million pounds, while a more commercial 1956 300 SL Gullwing is tagged at 800,000 pounds to 900,000 pounds.

The Canadian companys biggest-yet London auction, comprising 134 lots, will follow the St. Jamess Concours of Elegance. Now in its second year, this charity event has moved from Windsor Castle to the grounds of Marlborough House and St. Jamess Palace in the center of London.

Dealers said the combination of a concours beauty contest of classic cars with an auction as in California this week will attract new buyers, many of whom are guests of event sponsors.

You get people who have always bought new models who suddenly realize they dont need to lose money with a car, said Harvey Stanley, a member of the sales team at the Hertfordshire-based Ferrari specialists DK Engineering.

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Ferrari Fashion

"Its become fashionable over the last five or six years, Stanley said. Guys who have traditionally put their money into the financial and property markets see what their friends are doing and get involved.

London-based Bonhams will also be using the concours/ auction formula for a new auction in Belgium in October. The companys inaugural sale of classic cars at Knokke-Le-Zoute on Oct. 11 will coincide with the seaside towns annual Grand Prix Rally and Concours dElegance. A 1954 Ferrari 212/250 coupe with coachwork by Pininfarina will be one of the stars with an estimate of 600,000 euros ($795,000) to 900,000 euros.

Dealers said a rare 1967 Ferrari NART Spyder convertible may sell for $20 million at the RM Monterey event on Aug. 17.

Hagertys Blue Chip Index of collectible autos has risen 51 percent over the last three years.

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