Cheap Thrills: Inside The Automotive Meat Market Of An Exotic Car Auction


The Hall Of Industries is an unassuming building. Just a hangar with a few amenities installed, meant for concerts, presentations and even the odd tech product launch. From the outside, you never would have known that last night, this drab building in the Sydney suburbs played host to millions of dollars worth of luxury and exotic sports cars, as well as the men and women that would vie to become their new owners. It's auction night here, and it's a veritable meat market of automotive perfection.

The first hammer will go down sometime in the next 30 minutes or so, I'm told as I file into the hall with the other buyers. I'm not here to purchase anything, just to witness the spectacle that happens only a few times per year.

People stroll in and pick up their brochure and the all-important paddle they'll use to bid on their next toy, their next commuter car or their next pride and joy. They have been on display for days as bidders file in to inspect them one last time. Many of these cars won't even be driven, most will just be bought and jealously squirreled away into storage by their new owners. Relegated to a stable, dreaming of the racetrack they were born for.


The merchandise is strewn out all over the hall, ready to be poked, prodded, examined and felt up by every prospective dot com millionaire, investment banker or spoilt rich kid that dreams of calling a luxury car their own.

One man has brought his kids to get them both a new car. Another woman strolls the aisles saying that she wants something she can drive drive this time, rather than store. The couple behind me say that they want something they can put in their garage next to the other luxury cars they own, arguing back and forth whether the Ferrari or the Lamborghini will hold its value better.

As their argument reaches fever pitch, two yellow-tied men climb a podium in front of the assembled crowd wearing headsets. They wield rolled up sheets of paper as makeshift gavels, presiding over the automotive court like a judge does his courtroom. They are the law here, and words exit their mouths faster than any of the cars on display here today could ever travel. Six other headsetted men circle the room looking for bidders like sharks look for their prey.

In the ears of the auctioneers are the bankers, number men and leasing agents that have repossessed these vehicles from owners that couldn't pay their bills.


Star performers available include a $600,000 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, a $310,000 Audi R8, a rare Shelby Mustang, a 1977 Morgan 4/4 Convertible, a V8 Cadillac and a beautiful red 1977 MG Mark 1.

Other cars that roll by include the Ford FPV GT Boss 335, Mercedes CLC203 Evolution, Alfa Romeo GT, Audi A1 Ambition, Citroen DS3, Chrysler 300C, Audi A4, Volkswagen Golf GTi, BMW M3, Volvo C30, BMW 7-Series, even a Harley Davidson trots out the door for less than half of what it would go for at a car dealer new or used or even privately online.

Each of the cars is trotted out before the crowd like show dogs, revving its engine, flashing its lights and showing off its flair to make it more attractive to the buyers.

Online bidders vie against bidders sitting in the hall to get the vehicle they want as the auctioneer barks at the crowd. Suddenly the sharks turn into bears, shouting and screaming at the head auctioneer whenever they spy a bid.

Car after car is sold off to a new owner in mere minutes, and as each of these luxury, high-performance machines roll out the door into the garage's of their new owners, I can't help but feel sad.

Vultures are swooping on beautiful machines once owned by people that loved and cared for them. The original owners were too irresponsible with them, however, not caring for them properly leading to repossession or not loving them enough to continue their lease.

Each of these cars have stories that will never be told; memories that nobody will recall. They are ghost cars. Even the cars with as few as 100 kilometres on the odometer have a story, but the only reminder of its backstory sits behind that number, locked away forever.

The Lamborghini and the Audi come up on the auction block. These two were repossessed from a Sydney Lamborghini dealership that went bust last year. The bank is now selling them off to pay the bills.

The night's star performer, the Lamborghini Superleggera, sells out new for $600,000, left the show floor for the relatively discount price of $363,000. The Audi R8 which normally goes for $300,000 sells out for $220,000. Cheap thrills.

A Shelby Mustang arrives on the auction block. It is one of only three of its kind in Australia, sold into auction by a Western Australian mining magnate who fell upon hard times.


At the end of the night, tickets litter the floor, catalogues are left on plastic chairs and cars have been shuffled around the room after being sold. The hall will be cleared by the next afternoon, reverting the room back to a just a plain hall again, and owners will be roaring around in their new ghost cars, filling them up with new memories.

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