Classic Cars

The Nine Coolest Cars from RM Sotheby’s 2016 Motor City Sale

Proof that Pebble Beach doesn’t get all the cool cars

The gamut of Pebble Beach Auctions might loom on the horizon, but that doesn’t mean RM Sotheby’s recent 2016 Motor City sale wasn’t bursting at the seams with extremely cool cars. We visited the auction and picked our nine favorite cars.

1990 Renault Alpine Turbo

One of the most rare and offbeat cars at this auction, this 1990 Renault Alpine V6 serves as one of the rare examples of France’s incursion into our bloated automotive market.

The Alpine was Renault’s idea of a Porsche competitor back in the 1980s, and served as a direct follow-up to the rally-winning A110 sports car. Despite the large front overhang, the Alpine is strictly a rear-engine car, with an updated PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) V-6 squatting over the rear axles. The engine pushed out 200 hp, enough to make the car competitive against the Porsche 944 when new.

This Japanese-market Alpine has racked up just 17,000 miles on its odometer. It was picked up for a song at a final hammerfall of just $15,000.

1978 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser RM Sothebys front three quarters

1978 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser

As the values of vintage four-wheelers creep up, nice ones like this two-owner 1978 FJ40 have begun to leak out from private collections and museums. The FJ was Toyota’s rugged and willing alternative to the Jeep, and carried the same boxy profile as the American SUV. Underneath the slab-like front hood beats the tried-and-true 4.2-liter inline-six engine, pushing out 135 hp, routing power through a four-speed manual transmission to all four wheels.

Restoration on this truck completed in 2013, when it received a full mechanical and visual rejuvenation. It went home with a new owner for a reasonable $66,000.

1937 Cord 812 Custom Beverly RM Sothebys front three quarters

1937 Cord 812 Custom Beverly

This being the “Motor City” sale, it’s no surprise there was a deep field of vintage American cars crossing the auction block. It wasn’t all muscle cars and trucks, either, as illustrated by this gorgeous 1937 Cord.

What is surprising is where the 125-hp Lycoming V-8 engine sends its power. The Cord 810 (and 812) were some of the first front-wheel drive cars made available to the car buying public. The 810 was renowned for its blend of comfort, speed, and design, and has given rise to an extremely active and passionate enthusiast base.

This Cord was recently restored to concours condition by well-known Cord experts, leading to a final purchase price of $132,000.

1973 Citroen SM RM Sothebys front three quarters

1973 Citroen SM

If we made a list of the most advanced, influential, and forward-thinking cars ever created, the majestic Citroen SM would rank near the top. In the 1970s, Citroen, with help from Maserati, created a masterclass of design, poise and technology that resonated with powerful world leaders and celebrities.

If you don’t take our word for it, ask some of the SM’s illustrious owners, including Lorne Greene, the Shah of Iran, The Rolling Stones, and Carlos Santana.

The secret to the SM’s greatness lay in a combination of groundbreaking components, including a cutting-edge hydropneumatic system for the brakes and self-leveling suspension. The car was front-wheel drive, powered by a Maserati-sourced V-6 engine. It wasn’t the most potent powertrain, but a super slippery drag coefficient of 0.26 allowed for a top speed of around 140 mph, making it the fastest front-wheel drive car in production at that time.

Even with all the technological achievements listed above, we didn’t even scratch the surface of the SM’s enduring legacy.

RM’s 1973 Citroen SM claimed $36,000 at auction.

1960 Glas Isard 400 Coupe RM Sothebys front three quarters

1960 Glas Isard 400 Coupe

In years following World War II, Europe experienced a boom of microcars, especially in French and German markets. These tiny terrors were bare-bones, inexpensive, and targeted buyers who lived in cramped city centers like Paris and Berlin. Us Yanks were never privy to these microcars, so they tend to catch decent values at auction, much like this 1960 Glas Isard 400 Coupe.

Hans Glas, the owner and creator of the German automotive company, created the adorable and very, very popular Goggomobil line of cars. Unfortunately, “goggo” was an offensive slang term in France, so the little car was rebadged with the more demure “Isard” badge. Power (or lack thereof) came from a 400cc two-stroke engine.

The new owner paid $24,200 to relive the post-war microcar craze.

2006 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo RM Sothebys front three quarters

2006 Saleen S7 Twin-Turbo

In the early 2000s, Mustang tuning legend Steve Saleen caused many a sleepless night in Molsheim, where Bugatti engineers nervously watched as the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo crested 248 mph, just a nudge under Bugatti’s 253 mph top speed. In the end, the S7 TT never reached beyond that 248 mark, Bugatti retained the title, and the S7 was discontinued in 2006 after Saleen began to accrue financial issues.

This car packs the upgraded, full-fat Twin Turbo kit from Saleen, boosting the stock 7.0-liter Ford V-8 engine up to a max output of 750 hp. Along with that bonkers top speed, the S7 will scuttle to 60 mph in a scant 2.8 seconds.

Incredibly, despite questionable build quality and a kit-car interior, the S7 has retained its market value exceptionally well. This low-mileage example claimed $632,500 at auction.

1930 Cord L 29 Cabriolet RM Sothebys front three quarters

1930 Cord L-29 Cabriolet

Sporting a fantastic color scheme, this 1930 Cord L-29 was purchased by longtime Cord connoisseur and collector Wendell Gates II when he was still in high school, way back in the 1940s.

Over the years, the car’s appearance changed multiple times, finally settling into the current blue-on-cream design. At the time of his passing last December, Gates was the longest single Cord owner in existence, with 69 years of ownership under his belt.

Gates’ beautiful L-29 claimed $187,000 at auction.

1920 Detroit Electric Model 82 Brougham RM Sothebys front three quarters

1920 Detroit Electric Model 82 Brougham

If you can believe it, there was a time in the early era of motoring when electric and steam-powered cars outnumbered gas-powered equivalents in major cities. The reliable and easy-driving electic cars were seen as luxury items compared to the noisy, costly, and temperamental combustion engines of the early century.

Of those early electric cars, Detroit Electric produced some of the best. This Model 82 is motivated by a tiny 84-volt DC motor, pushing out a miniscule 4.3 hp. This car was originally purchased by a well-known Canadian family. In its 94 years, the car has remained in the sight of collectors and Detroit Electric enthusiasts for quite a while now, resulting in a final price of $66,000.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville RM Sothebys front three quarters

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville

This 1955 Cadillac Series 62 is by far and away our pick for the “best buy” from the Motor City sale. Despite having all the style, verve, and chrome the 1950s were known for, the new owner spent a little under $20,000 on this fabulous Coupe de Ville.

It’s hard to see why the Series 62 commands such low prices. Cadillac was a superstar brand in the 1950s, eclipsing contemporaries like Lincoln and Packard. If you parked a Cadillac in your driveway, you were living a comfortable life; owning a Cadillac was the attainment of the American Dream.

Now, this well-kept driver represents the golden era of American automotive design, when cars were big, shiny, and had fins on the rear quarter panels. All of this majesty went home for just $19,250, easily the best value at this auction.

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