Blogs: Record Breaking Spitfire at Nelson Sale

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A 1945 Supermarine Spitfire aircraft sold for a record price  of over NZ$3 million, the highlight of Bonhams & Goodman’s inaugural New Zealand sale of collector’s cars  and aircraft.

The sale was conducted over the weekend in Nelson and was attended by a huge crowd of over 500 enthusiasts. Spitfires rarely surface on the open market, and there had been a huge amount of interest leading up to the auction from both local and international collectors.  Enormous  tension mounted in the auction room as three bidders, two on the telephone and one on the room, fought it out.  As auctioneer Tim Goodman knocked down the Spitfire to the successful bidder for NZ$3.164 million  (including 13% buyers premium), the crowd erupted into applause.  The price is a record for a motor vehicle or aircraft sold by auction in Australia or New Zealand, and was also the highest price achieved for a single lot by value in the company’s history. The eventual buyer was an Asian who is collecting for a major museum to be established in mainland China.

The Spitfire is the ultimate WWII fighter aircraft and its battles with the Messerschmitt 109s during the war combined with its easily recognizable wing shape and distinctive engine note (courtesy of, in most cases, a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine) earned it a legendary status during the Battle of Britain, a reputation that still stands today.  It is believed that there are around 44 airworthy Spitfires surviving to this day although a number of air museums have examples on static display.

This historical aircraft (RAF Serial No. TE 330) was constructed at the Castle Bromwich works in late April 1945 and was accepted by RAF Cosford. After seeing active service with the RAF it was flown in the 1957 Battle of Britain Memorial flight before being donated to the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1959. It was displayed at the USAF academy in Colorado Springs until around 1997 when the aircraft found its way to New Zealand via the Hong Kong-based businessman, James Slade. In 1997 an ongoing restoration of the aircraft was begun and in 1999 it was purchased by the vendor, who continued to restore the aircraft to its current near complete condition.

The next major auction date for motoring enthusiasts will be 16 November 2008, when Bonhams & Goodman conducts the sale of one of the most important collections of racing single-seater motor cars in the world. The historic and highly valuable collection of the English ex pat, the Late Hon John Dawson-Damer, will be offered for sale, attracting huge interest from major collectors and motoring museums worldwide.

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