More cars went to auction in Scottsdale this year than ever before, and with 2,900 sales from 3,486 vehicles on offer, it was remarkable that the sell-through rate (83.2 percent) remained in the mid 80 percent range that it has done for many years. What did change though was the average sale price, which declined for the second year in a row ($115,640 in 2015, $100,600 in 2016 and $89,600 this year), indicating that quality cars are a very finite commodity.
As usual, the most thorough analysis available of the Scottsdale marketplace is via Hagerty, the insurance company which dominates the global classic car marketplace and maintains a database of actuarial accuracy. The 2017 Hagerty Scottsdale Recap concludes that the most exclusive cars continue seeing strong interest, the upper-middle market (US$250K to $1M) is softening, and the bottom of the market remains strong.
What was obvious from our viewpoint was that the prices were inconsistent almost everywhere. When a quality Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider has trouble getting a bid above $10 million, there's something wrong. At the other end of the market, the $302,500 fetched by a 1965 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe T2 Samba van had me wondering if Timothy Leary had returned from the dead and slipped LSD in the drinking water.
The collectible car auction industry has twice transformed from being an enthusiast-only domain to an alternative to the stock market. It first happened back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when cheap money flooded the market and gave the industry its first tulip mania moment. The last six years has seen phenomenal growth and plenty of wealth created in this industry but the opening salvos of the 2017 profit hunting season suggest surprises galore for the coming year.
The following are the star cars of the week-long automotive festival with celebrity cars thrown in and the usual links to the official auction pages.
No sale | 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
Expected to be the biggest seller of the week's auctions but failed to meet reserve with a high bid of $10.6 million. If that bid had been accepted, it that would have become the most expensive car ever sold in Scottsdale, but it would have been well short of the going price for a car of this gravitas. From our auction preview: 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, the failure of the car to attract a bid beyond $10.6 million must be worrying for some in the industry. California Spiders are the last cars one would expect to see going home to the same garage after a major auction.
$7,370,000 | 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition
When the Ferrari California Spider failed to sell, this 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition suddenly became the odds-on favorite to take out top honors for the entire week. Billed as a "GTO Killer," this car was one of just 12 made, and won the 1963 Australian GT Championship. Thanks to having just three owners since new, and never having been fully disassembled, it went to sale as exceptionally original and nabbed a rare honor for Jaguar on the auction block.
$6,600,000 | 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster
The price fetched by this Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster offered some perspective on the robustness of the very top end of the market because it had previously been auctioned during Monterey Car Week in 2011, fetching $4,620,000, then again in Monterey in 2013, appreciating 62 percent in two years to sell for $7,480,000.
Subsequent to that sale it has had quite a deal of fettling to make it even closer to perfect, picking up a host of concours silverware along the way. Just the same, the 42-month ownership probably ran out to costing $50,000 a month after the car fetched just $6,600,000. Our list of previous Special Roadster sales might help frame that price with some perspective.
$6,380,000 | 1952 Ferrari 340 America Spider Competizione
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. Its provenance caused Bonhams to estimate between $7,500,000 and $9,000,000 but despite every indication it would perform as well on the block as it had in important races in period, the final price of $6,380,000 came in below expectation and indicates someone got themselves a bargain, as genuine Scuderia Ferrari race cars you can drive on the road are rare indeed.
$4,812,500 | 1928 Mercedes-Benz TYP S 26/120/180
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. This car was the fastest car in the world at the time it was built, bodied by Erdmann & Rossi and it was delivered new to the United States. It eventually sold below the estimated range of $5,000,000 to $6,000,000, so someone is no doubt considering they bought exceptionally well.
$3,602,500 | 1969 Ferrari 365 GTS Spider
This 1969 Ferrari 365 GTS is one of only 20 built, making it one of the rarest road-going Ferrari Spider models. The quality of the car is also beyond question, having been a six-time FCA Platinum award winner.
$3,300,000 | 1925 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix
The cover car for the Gooding & Company Scottsdale catalog, this Type 25 Bugatti was estimated to sell between $2,600,000 to $3,200,000, and was one of the few cars to sell above estimate during the week. It wasn't surprising that it fared well, as it is a very original example of the most successful racing car in history, and one of the original Lyon models, named after the site of the car's debut on August 2, 1924. Though the car is 91 years of age, the purchaser became just the fourth owner.
$3,135,000 | 1995 Ferrari F50
Cited in the catalog as "without a doubt, the most special F50 that RM Sotheby's has ever offered," the details match that statement in full.
$3,080,000 | 1961 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Aerodinamico by Pininfarina
$2,915,000 | 1965 Ferrari 500 Superfast
$2,805,000 | 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 by Zagato
$2,475,000 | 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS by Pininfarina
$2,695,000 | Tommy Hilfiger's 2003 Ferrari Enzo Coupe
$2,310,000 | 1964 Porsche 904 GTS
$ 2,090,000 | 2013 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport 300
$2,117,500 | 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C
$1,980,000 | 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427/430 Convertible
No sale | Floyd Mayweather's Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport
This Pearl White 2011 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport was consigned to Barrett-Jackson's nine-day Scottsdale auction approximately one week after the auction had begun, and was the subject of two Barrett-Jackson press releases issued on January 20 (here and here), one day prior to it crossing the block on January 21. Such a late addition to an auction is unusual but it pales compared to the hoopla that unfolded around the Bugatti of retired and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather.
TMZ Sports reported Mayweather paid $3.5 million for the car and that he was expecting to sell it for more than he paid. It then reported Mayweather was very unhappy when it failed to sell. The only fact we can be certain of is that the high bid for the car was $1.9 million and it was less than the reserve. The Vegas prestige dealer selling the car for Mayweather did a selfie video interview for TMZ before the auction and now has the car listed on his web site for $2.45 million and Mayweather's 2015 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse is also for sale on the site for $3.95 million.
$1,732,500 | 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/2 Coupe
$1,595,000 | Pierre Louis-Dreyfus' 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Series V Grand Sport Roadster
As we covered in our 10 celebrity cars heading for auction feature last week, this 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 is believed to have once been owned by Pierre Louis-Dreyfus (1908 – 2011). Louis-Dreyfus 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. During the 1930s, Dreyfus competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in two different Alfa Romeo 8C 2300s.
$1,485,000 | 2011 Ferrari 599 SA Aperta Spider
$1,485,000 | 1964 Aston Martin DB5
$1,457,500 | 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
$1,430,000 | 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Series II Cabriolet
$1,347,500 | 1948 Tucker 48
$1,320,000 | 2008 Lamborghini Reventón
$1,320,000 | 1960 Chevrolet CERV 1
The 1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) 1 is an historically important vehicle with a fascinating history. It is the car from which the modern Corvette was born and the car used to develop the 1963 Sting Ray's independent suspension. When the car last went to auction at Monterey in 2015, RM-Sotheby's auction description named it as "the most important GM Engineering vehicle ever offered at auction."
It was Zora Arkus-Duntov's personal Corvette engineering test bed (pictured bottom right above) and was tested by greats such as Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss. It failed to sell against an estimate of $1,300,000 to $2,000,000 at that auction but changed hands in Scottsdale with "loads of paperwork and history on the car, which stands as one of the experimental landmarks of GM history."
$1,100,000 | 1928 Bentley 4 1/2 Litre Sports Tourer
$1,100,000 | 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America
This very original Pininfarina-designed 1955 Lancia Aurelia GT B24S Spider America was the Worldwide Auctioneers catalog cover car in Scottsdale. 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 sold with the removable hardtop, and retained 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 put expectations between $1,200,000 and $1,500,000 and car came in just below the estimate.
$1,100,000 | 1964 Shelby 289 Cobra
$1,100,000 | 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra
$1,100,000 | 1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster by Fleetwood
$1,089,000 | 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort
$1,045,000 | 1965 Aston Martin DB5
$1,034,000 | 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
$1,017,500 | 1939 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet
No sale | 1955 Chrysler Ghia Streamline X Gilda
The Chrysler Ghia Streamline X "Gilda" is a one-off, turbine-powered concept car first exhibited at the Turin Auto Show in 1955. After many years of storage at the Henry Ford Museum and having undergone restoration to original specifications, the fully operational machine went to auction on January 16 and failed to meet reserve. We were so impressed with the car we wrote it up as a separate feature.
$891,000 | 1969 American Motors AMX/3 Coupe
$880,000 | 1930 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton
$800,000 | Steven Tyler's Hennessey Venom GT Spyder
One of the features of Barrett-Jackson auctions is the constant flow of cars auctioned for charity. This year the top charity seller of eight cars was the Hennessey Venom GT Spyder owned by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and four-time Grammy winner Steven Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith).
The Hennessey Venom GT Spyder weighs 1,258 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). Tyler ordered the first one at a cost of $1.1 million in 2012 and the car fetched $800,000 for the charity Janie's Fund. Tyler put on quite a show for the crowd and it was a selfless act to give away a car of such significance for the greater good.
$434,500 | Justin Bieber's Custom 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia
Well, it's humble pie for me, because I dissed Bieber and suggested his celebrity would not find much traction but he went on stage, acted with humility, threw in some concert tickets and a backstage pass as part of the deal, and nabbed a world record price for the Ferrari 458 Italia. I stand corrected!
$275,000 | Burt Reynolds' 1978 Pontiac Firebird Custom Coupe
Burt Reynolds' Smokey and the Bandit Replicas still keep pulling big numbers, with this one selling for $275,000.
No sale | 2004 Ford GT Prototype CP-1
Thoroughly deserving of its place on the catalog cover at Russo & Steele's Scottsdale auction, this first functioning Ford GT prototype has a rather limiting aspect: before selling the vehicle, Ford installed a chip in the engine that gives it a top speed of 5 mph. It's a special car but Barrett-Jackson didn't sell it last year and Russo & Steel didn't sell it this year as the vendor considered a high bid of $600,000 wasn't enough.
$400,000 | Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 1970 Chevy Chevelle Resto-Mod & 2014 Chevrolet Race Car
NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned up at Barrett-Jackson's auction to sell two cars as one lot to benefit Nationwide Children's Hospital: a 1970 Chevy Chevelle Resto-Mod he helped design, and his 2014 #88 race car, with the pair going for $400,000.
$385,000 | 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
Murphy's Law struck hard at the 46th Annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction. During the nine day event, 1,711 vehicles crossed the block and only eight of them didn't sell, giving B-J the best sell-thru rate of any of the auctions at 99.5 percent. As luck would have it, two of the three cars chosen for the catalog front cover didn't sell, being a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88 and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda Convertible. Sadly, both were in with a chance of the world record for their respective models.
$302,500 | Volkswagen T2 21-window Samba Bus
See our feature article based on the sale of this vehicle: How the Volkswagen Kombi became a family heirloom
$220,000 - 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. At $220,000, this car has undoubtedly been party to more deals than a croupier.
$181,500 | Magnum P.I. Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole
At $181,500, this car seems a bargain, as only roughly half of the price was provenance and half the car's book value. That's a lot of bang-per-buck considering it was the star of the Magnum P.I. television series (1980 - 1988). We thought this car was the pick of celebrity cars on offer in Scottsdale and that the official estimate of $150,000 to $250,000 was Bonhams being polite. Someone made a very sound investment.
$159,500 | John Lennon's 1956 Austin Princess 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. It previously went to auction in 2005 when it fetched $155,000, and in 2016 it failed to sell against an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. Lennon's place in popular culture will not diminish so there's plenty of growth due for this $159,500 investment.
No sale | Al Jolson's 1932 Packard Twin Six 906 Convertible
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." The car was offered 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 but failed to meet reserve in Scottsdale.
$151,800 | 1986 Ferrari Testarossa from Miami Vice
Despite being the hero car of the Miami Vice TV series (1984 - 1989) this car continued a checkered history on the auction block in Scottsdale. The car appeared twice on eBay, 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 changed hands for less than one tenth of the price it was advertised for just two years ago.
$61,600 | James Gandolfini's 1972 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible
James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano in The Sopranos) previously sold several cars at auction that demonstrate his popularity, but this customized 1972 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible did not break any records.