Rare race cars, a Beatle's French coupe bring in millions at auction

Rare race cars, a Beatle's French coupe bring in millions at auction
The Commer transport truck and the entire Ecurie Ecosse collection seen here was auctioned off by Bonhams in London. (Bonhams)

An unnamed U.S. car collector got a quick start on holiday shopping at a London auction over the weekend, spending nearly $12 million on a trio of rare vehicles.

At Bonhams' annual London auction on Sunday, the buyer took home a 1952 Jaguar C-Type for $4.74 million, a 1956 Jaguar 'Shortnose' D-Type for $4.25 million and a 1960 Commer TS3 transport truck for $2.94 million.

All three vehicles were from the Ecurie Ecosse racing collection. An additional five cars from the Ecurie collection were sold to different individual buyers.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the Bonhams London auction

Other highlights of the auction were the sale of a rare French coupe formerly owned by Beatle Ringo Starr, and a Formula 1 car raced by Michael Schumacher. A total of 35 vehicles were offered, with 28 selling for a total of $27.59 million, including commission.

"We always knew that today's sale had the potential to be a roaring success," said James Knight, Bonhams' group motoring director. "But nobody quite anticipated the incredible atmosphere in the salesroom that saw so many truly historic cars go for such astounding prices."

The Ecurie Ecosse team is noted in racing lore for winning two consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans races, long considered one of the most sought-after titles in motorsports. The tiny Scottish team did this in 1956 and 1957, racing a Jaguar D-Type both years.

The team, whose name is French for Team Scotland, was founded in 1951 by a Scottish businessman and some racing enthusiasts. In 10 seasons of racing, the team picked up 68 wins using cars painted in the distinctive blue and white that honored the Scottish flag.

Prior to London's auction, all eight Ecurie vehicles had been owned by collector Dick Skipworth, who also refurbished the Commer transport truck to its original condition. Bidding on this truck was intense Sunday afternoon and lasted nearly 20 minutes. Its $2.94 million final price makes the Commer truck the most expensive historic commercial vehicles ever sold at auction, Bonhams said.

In addition to the Ecurie vehicles, two other notable cars drew plenty of attention Sunday afternoon.

A 1964 Facel Vega Facel II originally owned by Beatle Ringo Starr sold for $552,000. The famed drummer bought the French coupe in the same year that the Beatles' popularity was exploding internationally.

Facel was a short-lived brand that built around 2,900 vehicles from 1954 to 1964. The cars were on par with Rolls Royce in their day, and Starr bought his Facel II -- with a massive Chrysler V-8 stuffed under the hood -- for the equivalent of $68,000.

Also exchanging hands was the Benetton-Cosworth Ford B194 Formula 1 Racing car that sold for $1.01 million. This fully-operational machine was raced by F1 legend Michael Schumacher in 1994 to his first of seven world championships, Bonhams said.

This was also the very car Schumacher was driving when he was moments behind the late Ayrton Senna's fatal crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in May 1994.

The Cosworth F1 racer was bought by a German museum.