In all my years of selling cars at auction, I have never had a “miracle moment” where the bidding went far beyond my expectations — until our 1971 Citroën DS21 Pallas sold this past fall.
When I saw the car offered on Bring a Trailer in August 2021, I was immediately curious. I had been on the hunt for one for a couple of years, but most of the cars that had crossed my path were cheap and needy examples. This one, however, was freshly restored by the seller, SCM Contributor and Citroën guru Greg Long. It had a semi-automatic (BVH) gearbox, famously referred to as the “Vague-O-Matic” by Bill Warner when he later drove it on the 2022 SCM 1000.
I had confidence when Greg represented the Pallas as a good example, done properly. Part of the secret sauce of a successful online auction is the reputation of the seller, and Greg’s is first-rate. When all was said and done, I ended up owning the car for about $70,000.
My philosophy of collecting is not driven by profit or loss. I buy cars that excite me and are within my budget. I let them teach me about their cultural and mechanical essences, then move on to the next learning experience.
Seeking out and finding the right example of a model I am intrigued by is the most fun part of the process. I don’t want to buy a fright pig that draws me into a lengthy restoration bloodbath. Off-the-beaten-path cars interest me. I will pay full price and more for the right car in the right condition.
After 14 months and 2,000 delightful miles, it was time for the SCM DS21 to move on. Greg offered to list the car on BaT and represent it for me. His fee was modest, and who better to answer questions about it than the man who had restored it?
We decided to set the reserve at $60k. That would have meant a $10k loss, but I considered that cheap tuition for my class in Citroën 101.
The auction went live on Tuesday, September 27, 2022. On Saturday, October 1, a bid was placed for $50k. I was encouraged, as there were still three days to go.
But then, silence. As the last day approached, I began to get nervous. I had already emotionally parted with the car and didn’t want to see it no-sale. Further, my chances of getting more money for it privately than it could bring on BaT seemed small.
Greg and I decided to confidentially lower the reserve to $50k. The immediate relief at knowing the car was going to sell outweighed the potential of taking a $20k loss.
Off to the races
In the final 20 minutes of the auction, however, the bidding accelerated like an F-16 lighting its afterburners. As the number of bidders grew, we decided to announce that the reserve had been surpassed. In my years of experience attending auctions, I was familiar with the wave of excitement that comes with the announcement, “The reserve has been met; this will be the next car sold!”
I believe this encourages bidders, as they know someone will be taking the car home. And all it takes to become that someone is one more bid.
Indeed, within about 15 minutes, 13 bids took the Citroën from $69k up to $96k, where it sold. With buyer’s premium, the final price was $100,800.
There were 996 auction watchers, 17,321 page views and 124 comments. Four serious bidders chased the DS to the end.
The new owner posted, “This is my lifelong dream car and in the exact color of my dreams.”
I consider the car fairly bought given the quality of the restoration. The DS was road-ready, fully fettled, and a veteran of a recent 1,000-mile tour. I still have not seen another example offered with such “ready-to-go” credentials.
As important as what happened during the sale was the excellent follow-through by all parties concerned. Funds were wired the next day by the seller, and I immediately sent off the paperwork by FedEx.
To say that I was pleased by this result would be an understatement. I had achieved the collector-car trifecta — bought the right car, drove it and moved it on to an excited new owner.
That there was profit involved was an unusual bonus for me — but a welcome one.
I’d like to claim there was some incredible skill involved on my part, but in truth we simply had a first-rate car, presented it brilliantly, and got it in front of a large number of interested eyeballs.
Having funds in my account and an empty slot in my garage is a dangerous combination. I fear things won’t stay that way for long.
With this issue, we embark on the 35th year of producing SCM for you. The magazine continues to be the adventure of a lifetime, with the best people as readers and contributors, the best events to attend, and the most fun cars to enjoy.
Thank you for coming along on the ride. ♦