The two biggest weeks of the auction year happen at the end of summer on the Monterey Peninsula and when winter is in full swing in Scottsdale, Arizona. Most of the auction companies push their best offerings to these two events, and the consignors have learned that often the highest dollar results come from the best-known sales. But auction "real estate," the coveted lot numbers on what are considered to be the prime days and times to sell cars, has become crowded. Whereas a few years ago cars that were expected to bring less than $50,000 were part of that prime-time mix, today those cars might only be offered early in the sale -- or perhaps encouraged to wait until another sale.
The headline-grabbing car this year was a single-owner Ferrari 275GTS/4. Selling for $27.5 million, it became the most expensive road (nonrace) car -- as well as the most expensive Ferrari -- ever sold at auction. Although the overall numbers were up, with a total of some $308 million vehicles sold, it took many, many truckloads of merchandise to get there. Let's take a look at some of the offerings.
1967 Ferrari 275GTS/4 N.A.R.T. Spider
SOLD AT $27,500,000
SN 10709. Red with black top over tan leather. 300-hp, 3286-cc V-12; five-speed manual. Paint, brightwork, and interior are flawless. A superb example.
The right car, the right owner, the right season, the right story, and the right buyer all came together to make this one of the most memorable auction sales ever. The presale estimate was $14 to $17 million, so everyone knew it was going to be monumental. The last N.A.R.T. Spider that sold at auction came close to the $4 million mark in 2005, and the market has expanded since then.
The N.A.R.T. Spider is a 275GTB with the top cut off by Scaglietti when new. The story goes that American importer Luigi Chinetti saw a need for convertibles and convinced the powers that be to make a small number of them based on the 275GTB/4 coupe. They were given the N.A.R.T. moniker in honor of the decorated North American Racing Team. In the end, the cars weren't big sellers -- just ten were built.
This is the only known example that remained in the ownership of the original buyer. The story of that man, Eddie Smith, Sr., of Lexington, North Carolina, is one of rags to riches. He was orphaned at a young age but became a millionaire many times over as a result of his successful mail-order hosiery business. Smith owned multiple Ferraris, but this one was special -- not just to him but to his family. Smith died in 2007, and six years later his family made the decision to sell the car and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to charity. They knew the car would bring millions of dollars but probably never expected a price this high.
To say that the room was silent during the last minutes of bidding would be an understatement. When the final bid was gaveled, the room erupted in a roar that lasted through the next two cars to come up on the block. More than memorable, it was history.
1955 Jaguar D-type
SOLD AT $3,905,000
SN XKD530. British racing green over green leather interior. 300-hp (est.), 3781-cc in-line six; four-speed manual transmission. Physical condition is closer to "as raced" than restored. Configurable as a one- or two-seater. Cockpit is nicely done to the original spec aside from a few added rally clocks and stopwatches.
In the world of classic racing cars, engines, rear ends, transmissions, and other parts often got changed out. After the race cars were done with their careers, no one cared what happened when two or three major components -- all claiming the same serial number -- were separated. That's what happened after this D-type's ice-racing career in Finland ended. Two cars held a claim to the same serial number, which hurt the value of both vehicles because originality was in question. So the seller here did the smartest possible thing: he bought the other car and put all of the original parts on this D-type, selling the other as a replica. With a preauction estimate of between $4 and $5 million, this D-type fell short of the hoped-for price. Over time, however, more collectors will come to understand that this car is the real deal and should be treated as such. The new owner paid a below-market price on a genuine piece of Jaguar racing history.
1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Sprint Speciale
SOLD AT $126,500
SN AR381257. Navy blue over red leather. 112-hp, 1570-cc four-cylinder; five-speed manual. 51,359 miles. Excellent paint with light surface scratches. Brightwork is very good; plastic emblems are delaminated and cracked. Good leather, with loose stitching on passenger's seat. Steering wheel is the only serious problem area -- the horn button is cracked and the spokes could use replating.
Don't let the description fool you -- this was a much-better-than-driver-quality car. Sprint Speciale prices have been all over the board of late, from well below $100,000 to more than $150,000. This one hit the happy middle, and deservedly so.
1972 Lamborghini Jarama 400GT
SOLD AT $112,750
SN 10322. Medium metallic blue over tan leather. 350-hp, 3929-cc V-12; five-speed manual. 15,123 miles. Very good paint with only surface scratches. Same with the brightwork, although it's nice overall. Windshield and backlight gaskets are cracked. This one has unusual removable roof panels that cover most of the passenger compartment.
Selling for $32,750 above its high estimate of $80,000, this car very much surprised most observers. Jaramas are not the first cars you imagine when you think of Lamborghini, but they're still front-engine V-12 cars from an era when Lamborghini was a small company making a big impact. Expensive today, maybe not so much next year.
1963 Porsche 356B cabriolet
SOLD AT $121,000
SN 158075. Metallic silver with black top over red leatherette. 88-hp, 1582-cc flat-four; four-speed manual. 50,399 miles. Restoration completed in February 2013. Originally ivory over black. Good paint. Chrome looks great from four feet away but has scratches and some surface pitting, mostly on the hubcaps and windshield surround. Porsche crests show their age. Seats are new, but some of the interior trim is worn.
Selling for just $1000 over its low estimate, this Porsche isn't going to be a high-point show car anytime in the near future. But in the current market, it's worth the price paid. This 356 is a great choice for the owner who wants to just get in and drive.
Gooding & Company
1954 Bentley R-type Continental fastback
SOLD AT $1,980,000
SN BC5LD. Dark green over gray and green leather. 178-hp (est.), 4887-cc in-line six; four-speed manual. Without flaw. Immaculate paint over impeccable bodywork, with excellent chrome and trim. Interior shows great wood, excellent leather, crisp gauges, and correct and well-fitted carpet. One of seven 4.9-liter left-hand-drive Continentals with a center-mounted four-speed manual shifter.
Bentley used the name Continental to denote its high-end grand touring car. For a time it was the fastest four-seater in the world, as well as the most expensive production car. The Continental could be expected to tour all day at speeds exceeding 90 or 100 mph.
This Continental was coachbuilt by Mulliner; aluminum was used extensively, and even items such as the glass and the carpet were made of lighter-weight materials. This car, built on the later D-series chassis, has its original 4.9-liter engine, as installed in eighty-two of the original 208 Continentals. Only forty-three Continentals were built with left-hand drive.
In the right colors and with a very good provenance, this car's sale fell just $20,000 short of the $2 million mark. That's big money in the world of Bentleys. Gooding called it "arguably the finest example in existence." Until a better one is found, most people would agree.
1959 BMW Isetta 300
SOLD AT $33,000
SN 592213. Red with gray canvas sunroof over white vinyl. 13-hp, 298-cc one-cylinder; four-speed manual. Odometer shows just 1 mile. Decent paint, but flaws can be found. Great chrome, much of which appears to be freshly done. Some problems with the trim include dry rubber seals and the discoloring of at least one badge. Interior is nice, but seat vinyl could fit better. Worn steering wheel. Overall, a very nice driver that appears to have had quite a bit of money recently spent on it.
A good price for a good car; you could spend more and get less. Isettas seem to be priced on a scale of cuteness. This one was plenty cute and will provide lots of fun for the new owner.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro 396 RS/SS coupe
SOLD AT $110,000
SN 124379L501175. Rallye green with white vinyl top over white and black houndstooth. 375-hp, 396-cubic-inch V-8; four-speed manual. Nearly flawless paint. Well-done vinyl top. Excellent glass. All trim is new or as new. Interior is nearly perfect; we will happily forgive a flaw in a headrest seam.
Sold for well below the $160,000-to-$180,000 presale estimate. Perhaps the Gooding crowd is more attuned to European classics than American muscle. This was a great opportunity. If you took a nice example to a restoration shop, it would likely cost more than the price paid here to make it this nice.
1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante
SOLD AT $8,745,000
SN 57523. Black over tan leather. 200-hp, 3257-cc supercharged straight-eight; four-speed manual. 589 indicated miles. Excellent paint with no notable flaws. Excellent brightwork. Interior is the superstar here: the pigskin leather duplicates what the car would have originally been fitted with. Interior wood and trim are all excellent, as well. Truly a presentation worthy of Pebble Beach.
For the kind of money it took to buy this Bugatti, the buyer should expect nothing but the best. And nothing but the best is what was offered here. This car would be welcome on any concours field in the world.
1965 Lamborghini Miura P400 prototype chassis
SOLD AT $473,000
Engine # 0293. Gray/black. Inoperable, 3929-cc V-12; five-speed manual. A stand-alone rolling chassis and powertrain. Excellent chrome wire wheels. Looks good but is not show ready.
Said to be the prototype chassis displayed at the 1965 Turin auto show, this would be perfect to hang on your wall if you already owned multiple Miuras. The chrome wire wheels -- or at least the rear ones -- might twist into little bits if you were to apply a full measure of throttle, not that it's currently possible to do so. However, we wouldn't be surprised to see this chassis as a fully built Miura sometime in the future. There are more than a handful of craftsmen just waiting to construct new body panels to fit it.