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Highs and Lows From RM Sotheby’s Palm Beach Online Auction, Part 1

Weird times beget interesting results.

Rory JurneckaWriterRM Sotheby'sPhotographer

With the current craziness around the globe, it's no surprise that automotive events are caught up in the fallout. While auctions, races, and shows are being canceled or postponed worldwide, RM Sotheby's acted fast with a decision to move its annual Palm Beach, Florida sale to an online auction format. It's a big departure for the traditional auction house and they've done a solid job, with most available cars getting additional scrutineering from staff along with photos and comments to highlight both strong and weak points of each.

As they say, a little honesty goes a long way-a lesson we see play out in the comments section and the bidding at online-only auction house Bring a Trailer. While RM Sotheby's rival Bonhams recently planned to follow suit and host a virtual auction last weekend, that plan was scuttled at the last minute. We say kudos to RM for carrying on amidst uncertain conditions, allowing us to get a glimpse of what's selling, what's not, and where the market is headed so far in 2020.

1991 Lamborghini Diablo

Sold: $68,200 (no reserve)

Estimate: $70,000-$90,000

Would you buy a Lamborghini from Mario Andretti? It's a tough question, isn't it? This car was ordered new by Mario himself, but after spending years going through several other owners' garages, it has suffered a bit in the interim. This Diablo was a non-runner with tired paint and interior and a variety of scuffs, dings, and chips. Diablos have rebounded of late with renewed interest from Gen Xers who have finally hit higher earning potential and are chasing the cars they lusted after in their formative years. Sadly, this one has seen far better days and even ownership by a Formula 1, Indy Car, and NASCAR legend couldn't quite get this one to the low estimate. The buyer is either very brave or eternally optimistic. Maybe both.

1973 Citroën SM

Sold: $29,700 (no reserve)

Estimate: $45,000-$50,000

What was Citroën thinking when it bought Italian car maker Maserati in 1968? It was thinking about the Citroën SM, a sporting two-door coupe with all the avant garde styling, hydraulic suspension wizardry, and luxurious appointments of the Citroën DS sedan. Maserati donated the SM's front-mounted 2.7-liter V-6 engine, which was used in 3.0-liter form in both later SMs and Maserati's own mid-engine Merak. These cars are interesting to look at and bank-vault solid (open and close an SM door and you'll see what we mean) but drive far closer to a soft and cushy DS than a Maserati. This car looked like a nicely presented driver, and at just under $30,000 could be considered a minor bargain if all the hydraulics are actually working well. If they aren't, the sale price is just a down-payment.

1977 Nissan Patrol GL60 4X4

Sold: $16,500 (no reserve)

Estimate: $30,000-$35,000

Second-generation Nissan Patrol 60s, of which this is a late version, were rugged off-roaders in the original Land Rover vein. This two-door, 98-inch wheelbase version is the medium-length variant with a 4.0-liter straight-six engine up front. By 1977, the three-speed manual had been replaced with a four-speed, and this example also includes its hardtop. Patrols were only sold in the U.S. in the 1960s through Datsun dealerships and volume was small, so it's tough to get an indication of what one might be worth in the U.S. today. It seems the market has spoken: about half RM's original estimate.  

1947 Lincoln Continental Convertible

Not sold: $27,000

Estimate: $40,000-$45,000

Classic mid-century Americana has become a tougher sell in recent years as the "greatest generation" and older baby boomers who bought these cars in droves as remembrances of their own youth move swiftly through their golden years. These buyers are also the least likely to feel comfortable with an online bidding format and/or buying a car without seeing it for themselves. As a result, a large number of the mid-century American classics at RM's Palm Beach auction, this V-12 Lincoln Continental Convertible included, had a tough time. This car had a reserve price, so it goes back home. Will it be worth more six months from now at a traditional, in-person auction? Time will tell, but traditional buyers won't be getting any younger.

2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale

Sold: $324,500

Estimate: $285,000-$325,000

Lest you think it's all doom and gloom, check out this Ferrari 458 Speciale that sold for nearly its high estimate at $324,500. With just 271 miles on the odometer, a fantastic Rosso Corsa with NART stripes paint scheme, and options including the Scuderia shields, titanium exhaust, and carbon fiber seats, this car was a highly desirable modern supercar, as reflected in the sales price. As the last and most speciale of Ferrari's non-turbocharged, mid-engine models, this is one to keep for the long-term. Remember, while you're worrying about paying next month's rent, there are plenty of high net-worth, relatively unaffected people that still have garages to fill and are ready to buy the best at the right price.

Sold: $49,500

Estimate: $60,000-$70,000

The Vanquish is a modern classic, with its gorgeous Ian Callum-designed wide-body styling and naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V-12 engine. The time when such engines will no longer be offered is nearly upon us, in case you've forgotten. This car seemed to present as a nice, 38,000-mile example, albeit with the not so great and far more common automatic gearbox. We've been waiting for the Vanquish to gain ground in the market for a while; this auction result shows that we'll be waiting a while longer.

1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo I

Not sold: $56,000

Estimate: $70,000-$90,000

Like many good homologation specials, the Delta Integrale was derived from a front-wheel-drive econobox (the standard Lancia Delta), tuned to within an inch of its life by Italians who build race cars for a living. The results spoke for themselves: Lancia used race versions of the Delta Integrale to win six consecutive WRC championships between 1987 and 1992. This Evo I road car is finished in the unique but not necessarily desirable Derby Green color (it has been resprayed once) and has some 130,000 km (80,000 miles) on the clock, leading to weak bidding. Top-flight, low-miles examples of the Evo 1 are now worth over $100,000. Buyers seem to prefer more "racy" looking colors for what is essentially a de-tuned race car.

1969 Porsche 912

Not sold: $31,000

Estimate: $50,000-$60,000

If you're still trying to get top-Tdollar 2015 prices for your long-hood, air-cooled 912, it's time to wake up and smell the lost opportunity. It always took a special person to shell out big money on a car that looks like a '60s 911 but is saddled with a four-cylinder engine that had its heyday in the '50s. Today, with Porsche values down 30 percent from their peak and a financial storm brewing ahead, it's even more difficult to find a buyer. Most likely, this was a quickie restoration from a flipper who missed the bubble. RM's own inspection notes on the car report "…it is evident that new paintwork covers up some defects in body work. This is between a 'driver quality' car and a restoration project…" The buyer should have taken this bid, cut his losses, and left someone else holding the bag. Today's Porsche buyers are astute and not easily fooled by lipstick on a pig.

1963 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII BJ7

Sold: $37,400 (no reserve)

Estimate: $50,000-$60,000

As far as "Big Healeys" go (that is, the 100-4, 100-6, and 3000 models, which were physically larger than the little Austin-Healey Sprite), the 3000 was the most refined-and the least romantic. As the Big Healey models went later into development, they got longer wheelbases, larger six-cylinder engines to cope with increased weight, and in the case of later 3000 models, a rear seat was added and the windshield no longer folded flat for improved aerodynamics when racing. This car was said to be an older restoration, and at a sale price of $37,400 still makes for a bargain vintage English roadster. Even 20 percent more money would have been fair.

1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC AMG

Sold: $40,700

Estimate: $60,000-$80,000

One of the ultimate vanity cars of the 1980s and '90s, this Mercedes is a 560 SEC that was converted to AMG spec in Japan in-period with a 268-hp engine. The basic AMG body kit was installed (not the more desirable "wide-body" kit) and RM's inspection report notes the car's condition as a lower-level driver with visible overspray from a previous repaint, dry rubber seals, and worn interior, among other cosmetic issues. Though the car only has 56,000 km on it (around 35,000 miles) and was one of the most expensive cars on the road in 1990, this one has clearly had a less-than-privileged life, explaining why it only brought half its high estimate. There's probably not enough meat on this bone for a serious restoration—best to enjoy the car as it sits and hope nothing expensive breaks.

2005 Porsche Carrera GT

Not sold: $570,000

Estimate: $650,000-$720,000

The Carrera GT is many things: It looks good, the 605-hp 5.7-liter V-10 engine sounds incredible, and the car is very capable, with a 205-mph top speed. And Jerry Seinfeld himself even reviewed it for Automobile magazine! It's also a very "analog" supercar compared to today's road-grade weaponry, with a conventional six-speed manual gearbox and nary an electronic driving aid to be found. Porsche planned to build 1,500 examples, but stopped short at just under 1,300 as demand waned. The 2008 economic downturn led to some buyers unloading their cars in the low $300,000 range-significantly less than the $450,000 MSRP. Carrera GTs were headed for the $1,000,000 mark at the Porsche peak several years ago; today they're cheaper than they've been in a long time and seem to still be falling. The seller may be stuck chasing the market down.

Sold: $187,000

Estimate: $175,000-$210,000

Imagine cruising the empty, locked-down streets of your city in this Phantom Drophead Coupe as the world implodes around you. There are plenty of buyers who still have the means, so why not? This Drophead had under 10,000 miles on the clock and was originally sold at a Naples, Florida charity auction for nearly $2 million, according to RM Sotheby's. This is a Gatsby car for a new era, with its sumptuous rear seats, teak wood-trimmed deck, and massive presence. Is there a better way to self-quarantine? We think not. Rightly sold in the sweet spot of its estimate.