We’ve all gone into shops and bought something rather unexpected before; maybe it was a T-shirt, or a 1kg box of crackers that you neglected to support by also acquiring cheese.
But have you ever come home with a car?
The Morris Leslie Classic Car Auction is an intriguing pot pourri of sports cars, classics, ex-competition vehicles and even farm gear. Located in Perth, it holds quarterly car sales in the hangers of Errol airfield. Think scorching hot coffee, bitterly cold hands and flimsy seats and you’ll get the idea.
Unlike a regular auction, where you choke on the exhaust fug of a constantly-rolling line of cars being driven up to the block, the Morris Leslie sale had cars thoughtfully scattered across each area for each potential buyer to stroll about and examine.
Prime cuts of British beef (severely depreciated Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Jaguars) sat together, while trackday specials (a Lotus Exige and Caterham) featured opposite. All in all, it gave the impression of a well-executed showroom floor – albeit one with coffee and oil stains in equal measure.
However, with no moving cars to be witnessed, you’re not quite sure what you might end up with. Caveat emptor is the name of the game to make sure that your shiny prospective Escort RS Cosworth purchase isn’t actually crustier than an apple crumble.
Once up and running, the auction action is relentless. With over 250 cars to get through, most cars have their spot in the limelight for around a minute. The atmosphere is tense and it feels like one mistimed eyebrow raise could see me leaving with an immaculate 1993 Ford Fiesta LX against my wishes.
One thing this auction did have, though, was lots of nice German cars. A lovely Guards Red 996 911 Turbo sold for approximately £40,000, while there were several lovely Mercedes-Benz on show. I had a huge soft spot for the burgundy late-80’s 420 SEL auto, replete with even its original main dealer stickers and horrendously corroded rear arches.
But our eyes were turned by the blue S-Class you see below. Despite being badged as a 300 SE, the big Benz is actually a EU-only model, the 260 SE. Powered by a 2.6-litre straight-six, the 260 was the boggo-spec European model with no leather, climate control and a 5-speed manual gearbox.
This model ended up in the UK via a devoted Mercedes-Benz club member, who travelled to Stuttgart in 1989 to collect his brand-new UK-spec oddity and road trip it back home to the UK. It’s had two owners from new and has been undersealed to within an inch of its life. To say this car has been meticulously maintained is an understatement.
I like to think of it as a GT3-spec variant of the S-Class. It’s still punchy enough on the open road, and is miles comfier than even the Project Bismarck E39. Even more surprisingly, the gearshift is taut and precise – and all this with 150,000 miles showing on the clock.
This could easily have been a post about the danger of auctions for those afflicted with the problem of buying other people’s tat. Instead, I’m happy to report that my Dad and I got a useable classic as well as a fun day out.
The next auction date is set for February 18, 2017. I’ll be the one trying to keep my hands in my pocket, lest I come home with a menacing 2004 blobeye WRX STi…