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January 20 saw the auctioneers offering the collection of the late Miguel de Rancougne, almost 350 lots of model racing cars, model engines and engine parts assembled by the multilingual businessman during the course of a long love affair with the subject.

French-born de Rancougne had a passion for models. His career for the French glass company Saint Gobain, in which he rose to be director general of the firm’s Brussels head office, took him all over the world. It brought him into contact with many other engineeering model enthusiasts and, of course, gave him many opportunities to add to his mammoth collection by making purchases and swapping with other collectors.

M de Rancougne started out by collecting small toy tinplate cars which he eventually gave to his son. He then moved onto an interest in quarter- scale radio-controlled cars, although that was curtailed because their size and the need for racing in special sites made them difficult to accommodate. His interests turned to the more compact cars used in tethered racing, a form of model racing popular before the advent of the radio controlled car that involved the use of a circular track with models attached to a centrally placed pivot. He then became fascinated with the model engines that powered these machines and started collecting them in their own right.

A prolific purchaser, even commissioning rare models from skilled makers, it was M de Rancougne’s untimely death last year aged just 62, that has brought his extraordinary assemblage onto the market. When Christie’s consultant Jeremy Collins went to the Paris apartment where the collection was housed in the basement, he was staggered at the volume. “When I opened the door of his little storehouse and workshop they were stacked floor to ceiling”, he said.

Indeed for Christie’s the event was something of a first. The auctioneers could not find any other sale of this type and volume, which must have made estimating the potential interest and the market value quite difficult. They adopted a cautious approach on estimates and this, coupled with the fact that it was an executor sale, meant the material was priced to sell. Perhaps keen pricing was a draw but so too, it appears, was the late M. de Rancougne’s wide circle of acquaintances in the field, many of whom turned out to buy souvenirs.

The result was a packed room and an international range of buyers present in person or in absentee form from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the US, as well as from Europe.

Not only did everything find a buyer but most things easily outstripped estimate to produce a total that at £347,890 was double expectations. So the triple estimate £2200 paid for the first lot of the day, a rare commercially produced all-aluminium model racer of c.1940 by the American firm Champion Products, was no isolated instance but a result repeated many times over. Jeremy Collins reckoned the provenance was paramount here.

“Fifty per cent of the price paid for any one lot was the magic of Miguel” he said. Top lot of the day was one of M de Rancougne’s many model engines, a 1/4 scale working model of an aero engine, a De Havilland Gypsy Major Series 1 made by an unknown but evidently skilled enthusiast. This came in at £13,000.

Another of many highpoints was when a gold-finished Bruce Underwood model of a yellow jacket Drooling 61 aero engine estimated at a modest £300-400 was contested by any number of would be purchasers to no less than £3800.

Jeremy Collins said he knew it was rare but it that was evidently scarcer than he thought.

Top priced car was the aluminium and steel model of Bugatti’s most celebrated racer, a type 35 recently constructed by the highly regarded model maker Joseph Krasznai. It fetched £8000 against predictions of £1200-1800.