10 celebrity cars heading to auction: Lennon, Bieber, Tyler ... and Magnum P.I.'s Ferrari
Authenticity, rarity and provenance are all key variables in the value (and potential ROI) equation at collectible car auctions and celebrity cars represent one of the few sub-sets that can provide all three. Knowing the car driven on screen by Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Elvis Presley or Nicolas Cage is the same car you own is perhaps the ultimate thrill for a car collector, and as we have previously documented with our feature on the top 50 movie and TV cars sold at auction, such cars command a premium when they are sold. Over the next few weeks, another fine crop of the cars of famous names and television shows will go to auction. Here's our guide to what's available.
Pierre Louis-Dreyfus' 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750
Series V Grand Sport Roadster
Mention the surname "Louis-Dreyfus" in America and most people will immediately think of Emmy-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her roles in Seinfeld, Veep or maybe Saturday Night Live. In Europe however, the name has very different brand values. French-born Pierre Louis-Dreyfus (1908 – 2011) was a war hero, and achieved fame as a highly-decorated WW2 Resistance fighter who went on to forge the family company, Louis Dreyfus Cie into a massive multi-national trading company with offices in 100 countries. Pierre was also a car connoisseur who competed in several 24 Hours of Le Mans races, co-driving one with superstar Louis Chiron, the man whose name is now immortalized on the latest Bugatti supercar. Pierre's racing adventures also saw him forge a deep personal friendship with Luigi Chinetti who subsequently migrated and became the American Ferrari importer.
Not surprisingly, Pierre's cars have also done exceedingly well on the auction block with a Ferrari 340 America he once owned selling for $8.23 million in Monaco last year. This 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Series V Grand Sport Roadster will also do well, partially because it is an exquisite example of an important car, and partially because of the Louis-Dreyfus heritage. It is estimated to sell for between $2,250,000 and $2,750,000, but might surprise.
Al Jolson's 1932 Packard Twin Six 906 Individual Custom Convertible by Dietrich
The superlatives surrounding this car bely the price it is expected to fetch. It is the ultimate Packard chassis powered by a second-generation Packard Twin Six (V12) engine adorned with the ultimate Dietrich custom body, built new for "The World's Greatest Entertainer." Al Jolson was America's highest paid entertainer at the time he purchased this car. In 1927 he was the star of the first "talking picture" The Jazz Singer (1927), and his achievements are best summarized by the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture: "Jolson was to jazz, blues, and ragtime what Elvis Presley was to rock 'n' roll." Jolson's high-energy performances saw him give everything he had at every performance and elevated him to rock star status 80 years ago.
The car is equally spectacular, with a complete documented history including awards at the Pebble Beach Concours in 1963 and 2012, an unprecedented 49 years apart. The car previously sold at auction in 2011 for $1,100,000 and now that it has been fully restored to the original grey exterior and brown leather interior, it should fetch a great deal more.
John Lennon's 1956 Austin Princess Hearse from Imagine
This car appeared extensively during the filming of the 1972 documentary Imagine, a film created to promote Lennon's LP of the same name, and the song which has become an anthem of the peace movement. In the film, it is driven by both Lennon and Yoko Ono and appears static in several other scenes. The hearse has previously gone to auction several times, first at Juliens in October, 2005 when it fetched circa $155,000, and again at RM-Sothebys in London last September when it failed to sell against an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. Lennon's place in popular culture and as an ambassador of peace will diminish at the same rate as his music i.e. never! Few cars that don't wear a prestige badge (Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche et. al) can hope to appreciate in value, but this one will.
The Magnum P.I. Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole
Tom Selleck was the star of the Magnum P.I. television series (1980 - 1988) and his signature car was the Ferrari 308 GTS, which was upgraded as the series evolved from a 1978 308 GTS to a 1980 308 GTSi and half way through the fourth season, a 308 GTS QV. To mainstream America it was the same red Ferrari, but aficionados watched the evolution and updated their wishlist to Santa. The by-products of this ingenious Ferrari product placement were regularly rotated, restored to new by Ferrari North America and sold to their "first" owner. This 1984 Ferrari 308 GTS QV is one of the cars driven by Selleck during the 1984-1985 shooting season. The official estimate of $150,000 to $250,000 is Bonhams being frightfully polite. If you can buy it for anything like those figures, it is a pure gold investment because it represents an era when those same aficionados were striving for the success they now enjoy. The wannabees when this car was appearing on TV screens now control the world's wealth. They knew the black Ferrari in Miami Vice was a Fauxrari and represented disingenuous Kitsch, while this car represented authentic excellence.
Just as Bonhams' offerings at Scottsdale dominate the star cars article of yesterday, this car is the pick of the litter in this grouping. Recommendation: buy if you can get it for under seven figures!
Jack Warner's 1955 Bentley S-1
One of just seven Bentley S-1 models bodied to this design by Freestone & Webb, this car was the personal car of movie mogul Jack Warner from 1955 until his death in 1978, featuring in the 1964 Bette Davis movie Dead Ringer during his ownership. The subject of a "rotisserie" restoration, it subsequently became part of The Blackhawk Collection where it is still listed as part of the inventory. No estimate has been posted, but the car has an undisclosed reserve and won't come cheap for budding magnates. Nor should it.
James Gandolfini's 1972 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible
Best known for his role as crime boss Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, James Gandolfini has sold several cars at auction that demonstrate his popularity with much-higher-than-book-value prices and as one of his personal cars, this one might surprise.
Known as the "Bada Bing," this customized 1972 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible was shipped to California as his personal wheels during the filming of The Sopranos. The car will sell without reserve, so ... another worth watching.
Justin Bieber's 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia
Best-selling recording artist Justin Bieber has been perpetually in the headlines throughout his brief career, and his likely appearance at Barrett-Jackson's auction of his customized 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia F1 Edition is certain to draw much media attention. As a teen heart-throb, how much his star status will add to the value of the car aimed at a different target audience is a matter of conjecture. Clearly Justin agrees, because unlike the majority of Barrett-Jackson offerings, there is a reserve on this car and if that is in line with his carefully cultivated swagger, it will be interesting to see if anyone agrees with his perceptions of its worth.
1986 Ferrari Testarossa from Miami Vice
The Miami Vice TV series ran from 1984 to 1989 and has been described as the "first show to look really new and different since color TV was invented." The show gave Don Johnson superstar status through his role as undercover police officer "Sonny" Crockett and both he and his partner Ricardo Tubbs became household names. The first two series saw the pair driving a black "faux Ferrari" which so upset Enzo Ferrari that he sent representatives to the show's producers with an offer they couldn't refuse, resulting in a white Ferrari Testarossa becoming the star car of the show for the remainder of the run. Two Testarossas were provided by Ferrari for filming and this car is one of them, as certified by Ferrari Classiche.
Interestingly, despite the car becoming synonymous with a smash hit TV show, and an icon of eighties cool, it has had a checkered career on the auction block. The car appeared twice on E-Bay, first in January 2015 with an asking price of $1.75 million and again in March 2015 with the same price tag. It didn't sell either time at that price, and was then featured in Mecum's Monterey auction in August, 2015 and again failed to sell.
This time it will change hands because it is being sold by Barrett-Jackson with the company's favored "no reserve" format. Given prior sales of other famous movie and television cars, it will be fascinating to see what it fetches.
John Lennon's 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL Roadster
Worldwide Auctioneers' official estimate for this car characterizes the sale, stretching from $500,000 to $3,000,000. Three decades ago, Lennon's famous gypsy Rolls-Royce was once one of the most valuable cars ever sold, and as a titan of musical history and one of the top-earning dead celebrities, he retains immense cachet on the auction block. His pop culture gravitas might make this car very valuable, or it may not, as the 230SL was produced in vast numbers. We all love a good mystery, and many people will be watching to see how much value the Lennon name will add to a car that is otherwise just a freely-available commodity.
Steven Tyler's Hennessey Venom GT Spyder
The Hennessey Venom GT Spyder is a very special car. It weighs 1258 kg, and the mid-engined twin turbo 427 ci (7.0 liter) V8 produces 1,244 hp (928 kW), and has been timed at 265.6 mph (427.4 km/h). Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler ordered the first one at a cost of $1.1 million in 2012, and the four-time Grammy winner is selling the car to benefit charity through Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale Auction. It has no reserve, so it will answer the question regarding the value of Steven Tyler's provenance. Sadly, it won't disclose how a 68-year-old can have so much hair.
Burt Reynolds' Smokey and the Bandit Replicas
Burt Reynolds has been one of America's favorite sons for more than 50 years, and for petrolheads his custom Firebird in Smokey and the Bandit became an enduring icon as the B-grade film turned into a blockbuster entertainment franchise. The Bandit character portrayed by Reynolds resonated with the global public, returning a global box office of $300 million from a film that cost $4.3 million to produce, with Reynolds' fee accounting for $1.0 million inside that budget. Two cars with genuine ties to the film have fetched $550,000 and $450,000 respectively, but the tribute cars keep coming. They aren't genuine film cars, but Burt's place in folklore ensures they will always fetch a premium if he owned them, however briefly. Two such cars are available this year. They can be found here and here. Investment in collectible cars is usually based on the laws of supply and demand, and given there is usually a fixed supply (the number produced), then value will increase if the demand is there. If the supply continues to grow however ... caveat emptor!