At the beginning of this month, we wrote about a BMW 328 that was scheduled to cross the Gooding & Company auction block as part of the annual Scottsdale sale. While the BMW 328 is interesting in general, with a compelling prewar racing record that came courtesy of an ahead-of-its-time technological design, the example we covered during the first week of January has to have one of the best stories surrounding it.
You can indulge in all of the details in our in-depth rundown, but it’s safe to say that this 328, a numbers-matching example with chassis and engine #85059, possessed the precise qualities that allowed it to exceed all expectations when bidding opened. Those in the know when it comes to the enthusiast- and collector-car markets understand that condition, more specifically originality, and provenance—the ownership record—are the two elements which most often decide the outcome of an auction. It’s safe to say that Maj. Gen. Edward Giller’s 328 had both of these going for it, the latter of which entailed an unbroken ownership period of over 70 years, and a fascinating story that will never be replicated or relived.
Although the record according to BMW Group Classic indicates that #85059 was delivered with a white-and-red color scheme, the fact that it once wore a U.S. Army-applied coat of Olive Drab—complete with identifying numbers and white stars on the doors—only seemed to add to its allure. But while the paint is no longer original, the engine is the factory unit, and the car itself was never comprehensively restored or given the sort of rotisserie affair to which so many of its production stablemates—approximately 200 of the original 464 remain—have been treated. While some parts of the car may very well remain original, potentially the bright red dash, for example, the rest of it wears the character and patina that only a lifetime of regular use could accrue, which makes this 328 all the more special.
When it was time to move on after 75 years in the Giller family, the vast majority of which was under the stewardship of the Major General himself, this 328 ran past its $350,000–$450,000 auction estimate. With the dust settled and the buyer’s premium calculated and applied, 1937 BMW 328 #85059 sold for $830,000. (This isn’t the most expensive 328 ever sold; that distinction belongs to the Buegelfalte Mille Miglia roadster, which sold for the equivalent of $5,600,000 a decade ago, but #85059 could very well have set a record for the highest price for a conventional 328 that had not been restored.)
If you’re in need of a case study for further convincing, compare the outcome of the Giller 328 to a restored example that has seen regular vintage-racing use over the past twenty years, which failed to sell with a high bid of $400,000 during Bonham’s Arizona sale the same week.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy Gooding & Company.]