There was shock and dismay at this week’s prestigious Pebble Mill Concorde d’Extraordinary auction as a rare two-seat Italian failed to live up to its pre-auction hype.
In the days leading up to the auction, which is part of Birmingham’s Monterey Car Jackers Week, many analysts were suggesting the Fiat Punto Van – finished in exclusive Darlington Drizzle grey – could sell for between £3,500 and £4,500. But there were groans of disappointment from the expectant Pebble Mill crowd as the Punto fetched just £2,300.
It’s still a world record price for a Fiat Punto Van*, but auctioneers Hector & Gavel were left wondering what might have been as the vehicle struggled to meet its reserve.
Much was expected of the rare two-seater, with the auctioneers pointing to its exceptional provenance as justification for the high price. The Punto Van is well known on the streets of Edgbaston, as it was formerly owned by ‘Fishy Phil’ of the Tastee Plaice fish and chip shop.
The Punto Van made a number of historic outings, including the time Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate fame ordered a cod and chips to be delivered to the local Travel Inn motel. The Italian van also made an appearance on the local Look Here West Midlands news programme, when it was used in a daring ram-raid of the Costcutter store on Dreary Avenue.
In 2010, Phil sold the car to Nick Harvey, who fitted a Pioneer DEH-P6200BT head unit, complete with optional remote control and iTunes tagging.
Offered with just two owners from new, the Fiat Punto Van has since been restored to its original condition with the help of the Polski Handy Car Wash (turn left at the lights, find us next to the KFC), who used only mildly toxic chemicals to restore the van’s shine. The lingering smell of fish combined with overpowering Magic Bush air freshener simply adds to the van’s appeal.
Bidders from as far away as Warwick were in attendance, along with literally none on the telephones. The auction room was filled to capacity, with some attendees forced to watch through the window as the auction unfolded. Quite why the Fiat Punto Van failed to meet its pre-auction estimate is anyone’s guess, but several classic car journalists said eyes were turned by the 1998 Peugeot Partner 600 Van, which was showing only minor signs of soiling on the inside.
Hector & Gavel’s Stevie Gee said:
“It was a real privilege to see this outstanding Italian thoroughbred pass through the auction house and we’re refusing to be downhearted by the final price. In hindsight, upgrading from the bronze to silver wash at the Polski Handy Car Wash may have attracted more bids, not least because that would have included some tyre shine.
“But with the Peugeot Partner fetching £451 and the 2001 Toyota Avensis Vermont achieving a fantastic £886 plus a packet of cheese and onion crisps, we’re leaving the auction hall in good spirits.”
The identity of the winning bidder is as yet unknown, but rumours soon circulated that the Fiat Punto Van was bought by an overseas buyer. In fact, one unnamed source said they saw the drizzle-coloured van queueing for the Isle of Wight ferry in Southampton.
Does the lower than expected price mean the bottom is falling out of the rare Italian car market? We spoke to Charles N’Eddie of the Italian Cars Are Best website, who said: “the bottoms having been falling out of Italian cars for years”.
As another crazy and frenzied Monterey Car Jackers Week draws to a close, it’s clear the local residents of Birmingham won’t see such levels of excitement for at least another four hours.
*Having subsequently checked this, we’ve since realised this was a record price for Edgbaston, not the world. Sorry for any distress caused by this inaccuracy.