A 1945 Supermarine Spitfire aircraft sold for a record price of over $3m NZ ($2.1m U.S.), the highlight of Bonhams and Goodman’s highly anticipated inaugural New Zealand sale of Collector’s Cars and Aircraft held Sunday, September 14.
The sale was conducted in Nelson, New Zealand, 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 $2.1m ($3.2m NZ, including 13% buyers premium), the crowd erupted into applause. The price was a record for a motor vehicle or aircraft sold by auction in Australia or New Zealand.
Robert Glover, Bonhams & Goodman’s Head of Collectors’ Cars, said he was absolutely delighted with the sale. “To be entrusted with the sale of the Spitfire was a privilege and we are thrilled to have achieved such a wonderful result,” he said. “It caps off what has been an absolutely terrific sale. Robert added that the plane had been bought by an Asian buyer 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.