The original Hot Wheels Lincoln Zephyr "Scrape" heads for auction
One of the most iconic hot-rods of all time is to be auctioned by RM-Sothebys in Santa Monica on June 24 – 25, and it will be interesting to see how it is received by the marketplace. Unveiled in 1998, it featured on the cover of five magazines and starred at concours events such as Meadowbrook, the Louis Vuitton Classic and SEMA. It toured 20 major car shows in the USA and Canada as the feature attraction in 1998 and 1999.
It's move into mainstream culture was complete when Mattell built a 1/18 scale model of the car for it's top selling Hot Wheels range of toy cars (below), ensuring it became one of the most instantly recognizable cars on the planet for a generation.
The Lincoln Zephyr custom was sold at the end of this publicity blitz in August, 2000 at Monterey for $275,000, being purchased by the Robert E. Petersen Museum in Los Angeles where it has resided since, once more in the public eye.
Though the Scrape's design is located somewhere near the intersection of art and automobiles, it is likely to be shunned by both genres on the auction block.
Without the spate of newsreel coverage and magazine covers driving it's public recognition, it may only sell for slightly more than it did 17 years ago. The official RM-Sotheby's estimate for the car is from $300,000 to $400,000.
If you had $275,000 to spend on a car back in 2000, you could have purchased a Ferrari 275 GTB/4, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing or Ferrari 500 Superfast. Indeed, it was such a long time ago in terms of the prices paid at auction, that you could have purchased two 250 GT/L (Lusso) Ferraris with $275K. A Ferrari 250 California Spider sold that year (2000) in Monterey for $925,000 and in Brooks Gsaad auction in December that year, a Ferrari 250 GTO was passed in with a high bid of CHF 13 million (US$7,672,687).
By contrast to the Scrape's value being only marginally more now than it was then, the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 in now worth 10-15 times that original $275K, a Gullwing will fetch 4-5 times and a Superfast around ten times. Lussos now sell in the $2 million bracket, and just to emphasize that the rest of the market has done likewise, the California Spider is now worth around 15 times that figure and the GTO has also increased by an order of magnitude.
Hence, the question must be asked as to whether the Scrape's price in 2000 was overinflated by the hype in the two years that preceded the sale, or whether it really is worth a lot more than the estimate suggests.
My take is that in a world where authenticity of manufacture is more important than authenticity of concept, the Scrape is one of the landmark cars in American Hot Rod culture, and a purchase in the estimated range will offer long term upside as the significance of the car is recognized by a new generation of collectors who grew up dreaming about it. What's more, it shoots real flames, and there's every chance one of those kids is now collecting big boys cars and can harness the value in it.