Founded in 1946, this year BCA celebrates seventy years of service to the UK motor industry. From modest beginnings that saw founder David Wickins stage a sale in a marquee at Frimley Bridges in 1946 selling 14 cars, today BCA touches over 3.5m vehicles a year and works with manufacturers, fleet operators and dealers to provide the backbone of the UK and Europe’s automotive supply chain.
During its long history, BCA has become one of the best known names in the motor industry and established the blueprint for success in the vehicle auction sector through expansion, acquisition and innovation. The company was the first UK auction group to operate in Europe, the first to stage electronic auctions, the first to launch a website and the first to auction vehicles on the internet.
Today, that pioneering spirit continues as BCA Marketplace plc. The company recently announced a strategic expansion across the UK to add capacity to its network, which has seen the integration of the recently-acquired Scottish Motor Auction Group (SMA) business, the acquisition of car transporter Stobart Automotive and automotive services provider Ambrosetti . The BCA family also includes the well-known WeBuyAnyCar.com brand.
Simon Henstock , BCA’s Chief Operating Officer, UK Remarketing, has nearly forty years of experience with the company. During his long career, Simon has sold hundreds of thousands of vehicles and still enjoys the buzz of auctioneering used cars.
He says “Auctions are the stock market of the used car sector and handle everything from nearly-new models to older high mileage examples. This flexibility, and the capability to handle huge volumes of vehicles quickly and efficiently, is why vehicle auctions continue to thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace.”
He added “As the market leaders, BCA has evolved to meet these changing needs, improving the service to customers and offering different ways to buy. For example, the business uses a bespoke iPad app to deliver accurate and consistent pre-sale appraisals on all vehicles entered for sale, which links directly to BCA’s online catalogues to generate a condition report alongside high quality images.”
He added “Buyers in the auction hall compete with online bidders on almost every vehicle we sell and 25% of all vehicles sold at BCA are purchased online. We also offer over 400,000 vehicles a year with the benefit of a BCA Assured mechanical inspection which is an independent multi-point vehicle check carried out by the AA at BCA. After 70 years, BCA is still driving innovation in the market.”
To help mark BCA’s 70th anniversary, Simon picks ten of the more unusual and interesting vehicles sold by BCA over the years.
10- In the early 1990s, we conducted the sale of a modest ‘W’ registered Austin Metro. An unremarkable car in every aspect, perhaps worth around £1,200 at the time. The fact the car had been driven by the then Lady Diana Spencer at the time she was first linked with Prince Charles resulted in the car selling for more than five times that value.
9 - BCA has handled the sale of a number of cars from Rod Stewart’s collection over the years and these vehicles caused a great deal of interest. Rod is well known for his love of powerful sports cars and is, of course, one of the best known names in British pop and rock. One car – a Lamborghini Countach Anniversary in white – sold for £100,000 and made an appearance on the Big Breakfast TV programme.
8 – Star vehicles from TV shows always create a lot of interest. BCA had the privilege of handling the sale of Jonesy’s Van from the Dad’s Army TV series, complete with portholes for the platoon to stick their rifles through. This pre-war commercial van sold for £10,400 in 1991 - perhaps double what it might have achieved without its interesting history.
7 – In 1969, BCA handled the sale of Bruce Reynold’s Lotus Cortina - registration BMK 723 A – as part of the ‘Great Train Robbery Special Auction’ held at Measham on 4th February 1969. Police seized the convicted Great Train Robber’s prized ‘getaway’ car and it was sold as a ‘proceeds of crime’ vehicle. Other items in the sale included a range of possessions found at the gang’s hideaway. The sale caught the public imagination and even prompted cartoons by Giles in the Daily Express and Jak in Evening Standard.
6 – Another car from the mists of time was Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, sold by BCA twice in the 1970s. Six Chitty’s were made for the film and BCA sold the fully functional road-going version with the UK registration GEN 11 that is seen driving throughout the film.
5 – Rather macabre, but in the 1990s, BCA sold the 1964 Austin Princess Hearse used for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in January 1965. The then-brand new hearse was used to carry Churchill’s coffin past crowds of mourners from Festival Pier to Waterloo Station. It latterly went into service with royal funeral directors JH Kenyon Ltd. The hearse was subsequently resold several times and currently resides in the US with a collector who paid £3 million for it.
4 – In 1996, BCA auctioned the first MG F models in a special sale on behalf of Rover. Interest was so high in the newly launched model that the thirty or so examples sold averaged more as used cars than they had cost new. On average each car made 7% above the new list price.
3 – Bentley in bits. In 1989 BCA sold the loose parts of a disassembled Bentley 3 Litre Open Tourer, that was literally presented for sale in bits. Sold at the height of the classic car boom on 11 September 1989 this collection of parts realized £80,400.
2 – The 1970 Royal Mail Morris 1000 Post Van sold for £8,000 in 2010. The Royal Mail had donated the van for sale with all the proceeds going direct to Barnardo’s, the Royal Mail’s chosen children’s charity. News of the sale attracted a huge crowd of buyers – including Morris collectors and Royal mail enthusiasts. The van had seen service in Poole and Bournemouth in the 1970s and had been fully restored by four dedicated Royal Mail employees at the Isle of Wight workshop.
1 - The 2006 Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 sold for £625,000 in 2010. It represented a UK record value for a modern production car at auction and the highest value ever achieved by BCA on one vehicle. The sale attracted hundreds of people to the Blackbushe auction centre and included internet bidders from both the UK and Mainland Europe.