Henrik Frederiksen is holding a garage sale on Saturday September 26, and when it’s over he is likely to be $25m wealthier. It is not, of course, your average garage sale, but the dispersal by auction house Bonhams of the 71-year-old Danish tycoon’s remarkable collection of 48 cars that are, without exception, in immaculate running order and ready to take to the road, despite the fact that a large majority are prewar models, with several dating back more than 100 years.
Frederiksen, you see, is a perfectionist. There is not a car in any of the three vast barns at Lyngsbaekgaard, his exquisitely restored 16th-century manor house in Denmark’s Mols Bjerge National Park, that he would not happily climb into and drive anywhere in Europe. “One thing I can be sure of,” he tells me, “is that none of the buyers of my cars will call me up afterwards to complain.”
He began acquiring cars at the age of 18, starting with a humble NSU. But, as he built his fortune through business interests in hotels, restaurants, water treatment and, most significantly, the Matas chain of chemists, Frederiksen was able to buy the best from luxury marques such as Rolls-Royce (he owns more than 15), Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, Duesenberg, Hispano-Suiza and Maybach.
Frederiksen describes his almost obsessive car buying as an “illness for which there is no medicine”, but he has opted to sell following the death earlier this year of his wife Vivi, the daughter of shipping magnate Per Henriksen. “Vivi and I travelled the world to track down cars and to attend classic-car events such as Pebble Beach and Villa d’Este. Her death made me realise that things are changing for me and, because of that, the decision to part with the collection has proved remarkably easy.”
Although he will retain a handful of particular favourites – including a factory convertible Citroën DS from the 1960s, which has covered just 200km from new, and a 1953 Cadillac that he has owned for 30 years – Frederiksen is happily parting with other cars that are considered to be outstanding examples of their type. Among them is a 1933 Maybach DS8 Zeppelin with superb Spohn cabriolet coachwork, which was a gift from the German government to the famously extravagant Maharajah of Patiala (the first person in India to own an aircraft and the builder of the world’s highest cricket pitch). It could realise $3.6m, while a 1931 Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top”, made to order for the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, is tipped to fetch up to $3.2m.
Another Maybach, which Frederiksen discovered eight years ago in a Moscow lock-up, where it had been left at the end of the second world war, is expected to make up to $1.5m, and a 101-year-old wooden-bodied Mercedes-Benz Phaeton could realise $2m. According to Frederiksen, it is being sold complete with its well-preserved Louis Vuitton luggage, canvas seat covers and 90-horsepower aircraft engine that were all still in place when he found the car in a remote part of Uruguay. And, of course, it’s ready to drive away.
Other early cars include five Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts (estimate $640,000-$1,400,000) – one a so-called “balloon car”, designed at the behest of Charles Rolls for carrying the basket of a hot-air balloon) – a 1909 Renault (est $180,000-$230,000), a 1905 American-built Woods electric car (est $80,000-$100,000) and a sleek blue 1939 Lagonda LG6 Rapide Drophead, which is expected to fetch up to $640,000. The collection is described as one of the best in Europe and certainly the best in Denmark (which has traditionally harboured a rich seam of historic cars), and the on-site sale at the Lyngsbaekgaard estate is expected to attract enthusiasts from throughout Scandinavia, as well as further afield.
And, according to award-winning automotive historian and highly respected concours judge Peter Larsen, the sale could cause a sea change in the classic-car market by spotlighting the desirability of prewar models at a time when sportier classics from the 1950s and 1960s are commanding the greatest prices. “Given today’s general trend among major buyers towards postwar Italian sports cars, notably Ferraris, it is amazing to see someone compile such a remarkable collection of big prewar machinery,” says Larsen. “In some cases, the market for such cars is struggling at present and that means many of those in the Larsen collection are being offered at estimates that, compared, for example, with the £1.89m a rare Ferrari Lusso fetched at auction in 2014, make them seem extremely good value. Many are unique and far rarer than apparently more collectable cars that command huge sums. People should really wake up to these cars. They are not only useable, but also interesting from a mechanical point of view because of the solutions that many of them offered to the engineering problems of the time.”
It is an opinion with which James Knight, group director of Bonhams motoring department, entirely agrees. “I think the quality of the lots, both in terms of condition and body style, is going to attract established collectors from around the world as well as new buyers who have previously focused on postwar cars,” says Knight. “Mr Frederiksen is not doing this with the expectation that any of them will be left behind and, as an on-site sale that is logistically difficult and expensive to organise, we want it to be a success. As a result, realistic prices have been agreed and we believe the outcome could have a significant effect on the market for prewar cars. I think we’re set for one of those memorable sales, and the fact that every car is on the button and ready to go makes staging it a rare treat.”