Sky High


The Spitfire I wrote about last month sold at auction yesterday for what is being reported as an all-in price of over £1.7 million. I was at the auction at the RAF Museum in Hendon, and the hammer price was £1,580,000 - so presumably the remainder was made up in various fees and taxes that would be subsequently levied (and which also help to explain why the several telephone bidders stalled what seemed quite early in the range of estimates - Bonhams listed the aircraft as likely to sell for between £1.5 and £2 million).

The best news, really, is that the new owner is a Brit, and the aeroplane will be staying in the UK. Alright, so it didn't fly in anger during the War, and it's painted in Dutch colours for reasons of strict authenticity (the RAF never flew two-seat Spitfires) - but this is still a part of British history, and it's right and fitting that it stays in this country. Little wonder there was widespread applause from those left in the room when that announcement was made a few minutes after the sale was concluded. Certainly it's hard to consider it any less worthy of "saving for the nation" than Diana and Actaeon, painted by an Italian, in Italy, and where the connection to the history of the UK is merely that it's been on show here. I expect this is enough to have me labeled a Philistine by some of my Courtauld Institute contemporaries, though it's a badge I've worn before, and with just as much pride. 

The aeroplane was bought by a property developer and some-time Arctic explorer, Steve Brooks. From reports like this one, it sounds as if he intends to fly it at air shows - something that, perhaps, would have nudged the price up even further had this sale taken place at the end of a summer in which SM520 would be seen around the country, rather than before it had completed its flying-in phase in a pre-show Spring. Still, the price is a record for a Spitfire at auction, and I hope it's gone some way to further raising the profile of the team at Classic Aero, whose remarkable work is the real story here: and if it helps raise the prices of the Hurricanes they are currently restoring then that'll be the happiest of all possible endings as far as I'm concerned. 


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