Dealing with desire

Super-salesman to the super-wealthy

WHEELSTORIES MICHAEL STAHL

“WITH a million-dollar car, you remember every sale,” grins Bevin Clayton. During his nine years with Rolls-Royce in Australia, Clayton has sold 122 of them. Having reached what many, including Clayton, consider the pinnacle of automotive peddling, three years ago the Sydneysider established pre-owned luxury emporium Clayton Bespoke.

The business recently turned over its 450th car. Given Clayton’s to-die-for database of blue-chip customers – accumulated in a career that also spans Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari – there’s always a drool-worthy gallery of Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, American muscle cars and sometimes even luxury boats on his books.

“We’re running around $9m of stock, constantly,” he says. It’s all on-consignment.

“We started the business with the knowledge that people were getting trade-in prices [from dealers] that weren’t what they were looking for. That’s a wholesale price, so dealers can on-sell and make a margin, as they should.

Consignment has been terrific for us – we lacked the funds to buy millions of dollars’ worth of cars – and it helps the client.

“We ask maximum retail for it in the market and we charge a flat fee, which is five percent to $100K and three after that.”

Being surrounded by flash cars is a childhood dream come true for Clayton, 51.

He always aspired to quality. “I loved Mustangs, loved old American cars, I was an avid Wheels reader. I knew I couldn’t afford these cars and at about 23 I decided I wanted to be a car dealer, just to be around them.”

After 20 failed interviews and relocating to Sydney (“I was chasing a girl”), he started at a Toyota dealer. After 18 months, he was enticed to Mercedes-Benz, where he spent nine years mainly as used car manager. “And I got my great company car! Anything I wanted, always a Mercedes.”

Sydney car baron Laurie Sutton invited Clayton to run his Ferrari operation in 1995.

“It was a great time; the 355 had just come out and we were killing it with that car. On my first day, Laurie Sutton picked me up in an F40. They threw me on a plane to Italy for Ferrari’s 50th anniversary. I definitely felt it was what I’d aspired to.”

With just one Australian dealership initially, Clayton was the face of Rolls-Royce.

“I’d get a phone call from WA and the next morning I was on a plane: ‘Actually, I’m coming to Perth tomorrow; it’s amazing that you should call…’ “If you were going to be a car dealer, you’d be me. I just have to pinch myself. Every step has been better than the previous one.”

PHANTOM ENTHUSIAST

BEVIN Clayton, car salesman to the super-wealthy, owns a mint 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1. But his heart belongs to the Flying Lady. “I can’t go past a Phantom; that’s my favourite car in the world. My best time in the motor industry, apart from being self-employed, was when I was with Rolls-Royce. They’re over-engineered, an amazing product.

I’ve had some great times in them.”