Whatever your opinion might be of someone spending $30 million on an automobile, I think we'd all agree that the collectible car industry is not one of moderation. The beginning of the collector car year reflects that this industry does not do things by halves.
The industry's year effectively started with a six and a half hour television broadcast of Mecum's 10-day Kissimmee auction marathon in Florida on January 14, and proceeds through six international auctions within the space of seven days in Scottsdale, two motorcycle auctions (which combine for the biggest two-wheeled international auction event on the global calendar) in Las Vegas, then three further international auctions in Paris over three days in early February.
In January 2016, sales of collectible cars totaled $340 million: Barrett-Jackson sold $102 million; Mecum $93 million; RM-Sothebys $63 million; Gooding & Co $43 million; Russo & Steele $21 million and Bonhams $18 million.
That's more than one third of a billion dollars, and it needs to be pointed out that public auction only represents a small percentage of the total collector car marketplace because dealers, brokers and private sales make up somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of all collectible car sales.
Viewed in its entirety, this marketplace is now massive and Scottsdale is one of the top three international events, all of which occur in America (alongside Amelia Island in March and Monterey in August).
Rather than trying to dissect all the offerings this year, the most instructive overview comes from looking at the star cars – the poster cars chosen by the main auction vendors as their banner carriers. The prices fetched by these cars will be some of the primary determinants in calibrating expectations for 2017.
We've already covered one of the star cars at the Scottsdale round of car auctions, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster. This article covers the other poster cars from each of the auction houses fielding in Scottsdale and we'll have several other looks at the enormous collector car festival over the next week, each from a different angle.
Auction Viewing Times
Firstly, let's cover the auctions scheduled for the next week. Worldwide Auctioneers joins the fray this year, making a busy week even busier. All times quoted are local Phoenix time (MST) and most auctions are webcast, meaning you can watch the auctions live on-line from the respective websites. You can readily convert the auction times to your time zone on timeanddate.com, by time zone or city-to-city.
Monday January 16, 2017
Tuesday January 17, 2017
Wednesday January 18, 2017
5:00 pm | Worldwide Auctioneers | View Lots
Thursday January 19, 2017
11.00 am | Bonhams | View Lots
Friday January 20, 2017
Saturday January 21, 2017
Sunday January 22, 2017
11:00 am | Russo & Steele | View Lots
That said, here are the cars that have been either the catalog cover cars, or the subject of press-released promotional activity.
1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition
Billed as a "GTO Killer," this car won the 1963 Australian GT Championship in the hands of Bob Jane, who went on to become Australia's retail tire king with his Bob Jane T-Marts. It is just one of 12 made, and thanks to having just three owners since new, and never having been fully disassembled, it is very original.
On many tracks around the world, the Lightweight Competition E-Type was faster than its natural in-period foe, the Ferrari 250 GTO. As you can't buy a 250 GTO for less than $50 million these days, and there are only 12 of these compared to 39 GTOs, the official estimate of $7,500,000 to $9,000,000 looks like a comparative bargain. The E-type may not have the same sound as a V12, but even Enzo Ferrari called it "the most beautiful car ever made."
1952 Ferrari 340 America Spider Competizione
Genuine Scuderia Ferrari racing cars are extremely rare and highly sought-after. This 1952 Ferrari 340 America Spider Competizione was campaigned by the factory team in the 1952 Mille Miglia, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Targa Florio and many other important races, driven by Piero Taruffi, Maurice Trintignant, and Giovanni Bracco. Just as a Ferrari 335S ($35.7 million) and Fangio's Mille Miglia Ferrari 290 ($28 million) achieved well beyond expectations in the last 13 months, this car may do likewise. Its provenance is exceptional, and the Bonhams estimate of $7,500,000 to $9,000,000 could easily translate into more than $10 million by the time the hammer falls. Another marketplace KPI (Key Performance Indicator) car.
1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
This is the 1960 Brussels Motor Show Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, the most important model series in Ferrari history. Cars which had a high public profile in period invariably sell well, so this car can be expected to sell in the upper range of precedents. California Spiders put the Ferrari name on the map in America, and this car will almost certainly be the most expensive car sold during the Scottsdale auctions. What we don't know is what the seller's expectations (and hence reserve price) are, and although no estimate has been posted, it can be expected to sell above $15 million and perhaps more than $20 million. A 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider was the first ever car to sell for more than $10 million in 2008, five others have sold for more than $15 million since then, and with only 56 ever made. Hence it is little wonder that this car is the catalog cover car for Bonhams in Scottsdale. Just as with the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster we wrote up last week, the prices achieved (or not) in Scottsdale will recalibrate the upper end of the classic car market and set the tone for the remainder of the year. One to watch!
1928 Mercedes-Benz Typ S 26 by Erdmann & Rossi
The Mercedes-Benz Typ S was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, and was the basis, via the subsequent SS and SSK models, for the 500 K and 540 K Special Roadsters. It was the fastest car in the world at the time, with a 6.8 liter supercharged motor of immense flexibility. The Mercedes-Benz S/SS/SSK line was one of the nominees in the penultimate round of voting for the Car of the Century award in 1999, as chosen by a panel of 132 motoring journalists and a public internet vote. This particular car was bodied by Erdmann & Rossi and delivered new to the United States. The auction description is worth a read because it has lots of historical details including reference to it being advertised in 1968, where it was described as "100% Complete and Original" and had a price of $8,800. Given it is now estimated at between $5,000,000 and $6,000,000, it is another worth watching.
1961 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Aerodinamico
The SWB Pininfarina 400SA Coupe Aerodinamico is quite some car. Only 17 were produced and they cost around twice as much as a Mercedes-Benz Gullwing when new, ensuring they were purchased only by the rich and powerful. Owners included the Shah of Iran, Emperor Bao-Dai of Vietnam, Renato Bialetti of the Bialetti Italian kitchenware conglomerate, Fred Lip of the LIP clock and watch company and Pietro Barilla of the Italian bread and pasta company of the same name. Hence when you start with a car such as this, then spend $400,000 on a restoration (as happened with this car), it becomes nigh on perfect – it scoring 99 points at Pebble Beach and a host of Platinum awards at Tier 1 concours events. That's why it is on the cover of the RM-Sotheby's catalog, and why the official estimate is between $3,250,000 and $3,850,000.
2004 Ford GT Prototype CP-1
There is little doubt that as the first functioning prototype of a very special model, this car is deserving of a place on the catalog cover at Russo & Steele's Scottsdale auction. Last August (2016), Russo & Steele sold the final pre-production prototype Ford GT for $836,000 in Monterey and logically, this car should be worth a lot more. The car is even autographed by 13 members of the original GT design team, including Carroll Shelby, Bill Ford, GT Chief Designer Camillo Pardo and GT Chief Design Engineer Fred Goodnow. There's a catch though, because before selling the car from the company collection, Ford installed a chip in the engine that gives it a top speed of 5 mph. That is considered to be the reason it failed to sell when Barrett-Jackson took the car to auction last year. If you are content with your piece of history being a 5 mph sculpture instead of the 205 mph production version, this is the car for you.
1955 Lancia Aurelia GT B24S Spider America
The Worldwide Auctioneers catalog cover car is a very original Pininfarina-designed 1955 Lancia Aurelia GT B24S Spider America. Of the only 240 first-generation Aurelia B24 Spiders manufactured, 181 were built and delivered new in left-hand drive "S" configuration (not the usual S for "sport" but S for "sinistra" meaning "left" in Italian) and this car is a "sinistra." It comes with the removable hardtop, and is in very original condition. Much research and correspondence with the Lancia Aurelia Club in Italy produced a Production Record Letter from the Registro Aurelia Italiano in Milano, which confirms that this car, Chassis Number 1177, retains its original body, engine, rear differential, and front suspension. As the auction description notes, the underside of the car displays parts of what appears to be the original factory-applied undercoating. The official estimate puts expectations between $1,200,000 and $1,500,000.
1925 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix
The Type 35 won the 1926 Grand Prix World Championship, the Targa Florio for five consecutive years (1925-1929) and at its peak, it averaged 14 race wins per week. The Bugatti Type 35 recorded more than 1000 race wins, and the only reason it isn't worth a lot more on the auction block is that a lot of them were made.
This near perfect specimen is 91 years of age, yet almost inconceivably, has had only three owners since new. The coachwork is original, the numbers of every component that has a serial number all match the records, and the car comes with full documentation. What's more, it is one of the original Type 35 Lyon models, named after the site of the car's debut on August 2, 1924. That's Ettore Bugatti himself pictured at the Grand Prix of Lyon in the first and purest expression of his Grand Prix concept.
This is a thoroughly deserving cover car for the Gooding & Company Scottsdale catalog, with an estimate of $2,600,000 to $3,200,000.
1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88
It is little wonder that Barrett-Jackson chose to put this car on the cover of the Scottsdale catalog because it has had quite a bit of luck with the Corvette L88 in Scottsdale. In 2008 at this Scottsdale round of auctions, it set a world record for the model by selling a 1963 Corvette "Rondine" Concept Car for $1,760,000. That record was doubled in 2013, when Mecum sold a 1967 Corvette L88 Convertible for $3.42 million, and at Scottsdale 2014, Barrett-Jackson grabbed the model record back with a 1967 Corvette L88 Coupe which sold for $3.85 million.
This 430hp, Le Mans Blue, 427 ci L88 Corvette has undergone a rotisserie restoration and is particularly well-credentialed to challenge the record. It is fitted with factory side pipes, has just 16,482 original miles, and achieved a Triple Diamond status in 2013 with a NCRS Top Flight Award, Bloomington Gold Award and was also featured in the February 2015 issue of 'Vette magazine.
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
Cover car #3 by Barrett-Jackson is an original but fully-restored Boss 429 with Kar Kraft motor and extensive documentation as to its authenticity. Black Jade exterior and black interior. Despite this car's legendary performance, it was built in quantities too large (1358 in total) for the price to have yet climbed above the million dollar mark. The record price for the model is $605,000 achieved by Barrett-Jackson at this same auction 10 years ago. Mecum sold a Boss 429 for $550,000 in Monterey in 2013, and Barrett-Jackson sold one for the same amount at Scottsdale in 2015. There have been numerous sales over $250,000 in recent years so we can't wait to see what this one fetches.
1970 Plymouth Barracuda
The Hemi 'Cuda is another of the legendary muscle cars to emerge from Detroit's "Golden Age," with the record for the model being $3.5 million achieved by Mecum in June, 2014 for a 1971 model. This particular car is going to be extra hot on the auction block because it set national records for ET and mph in NHRA and IHRA, including the SS Eliminator title at the U.S. Nationals in Indy in 1973. It won 27 eliminators in 1973 alone, and is hence one of the primary reasons the model is so sought-after. The other is rarity, as only 14 Hemi Cuda convertibles were made. If American muscle cars warm your heart, it will be worth watching the telecast as sparks will fly.
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