What These Interesting Collector-Car Sales Tell Us About the Market

Magic was in short supply during one key auction weekend, but lessons can be gleaned.

The day before the three top-tier auctions began in Monterey, California, this year, the Dow ominously plunged 800 points, leading many to speculate what effect the somewhat volatile stock market would have on collector-car values. As it turned out, we saw a large reduction in overall sales this year, but there are other factors at work here.

Blame a crowded auction schedule (both Bonhams and Gooding added a day each to their events), many less than top-quality cars, and perhaps too many cars in general. A 25 percent increase in inventory led to a 30 percent drop in total sales (from nearly $311 million in 2018 to $216 million in 2019), and some 76 percent of all cars sold did so at or below the low end of their presale estimates. Nearly half the cars sold in Monterey this year were offered without a reserve price, and the average sales price per car dropped significantly from $873,583 in 2018 to $528,249 this year. In all, some three-quarters of the cars offered at the "Big Three" auctions found new homes. We take a closer look at some of the key sellers and some that missed the mark.

RM Sotheby's

1939 Porsche Type 64 | Not sold: $17,000,000

In what could be one of the bigger auction debacles of our time (the self-shredding Banksy painting being another), a miscommunication from RM Sotheby's typically rock-solid Dutch-born auctioneer made for some high-stakes drama. Maarten ten Holder seemed to open bidding on this early Porsche prototype at $30 million, and bids quickly reached $70 million, drawing gasps from the crowd, before the mistake was noted. "I'm saying 17 million dollars," ten Holder told his colleagues. Whoops. Regardless, it failed to sell, and word on the street is this early Porsche prototype, from before the Porsche brand even existed, had previously already been shopped around to the big Porsche buyers with no interest. Clearly the consignor is out of touch with what this one-off is really worth.

1994 McLaren F1 LM Spec | Sold: $19,805,000

It's no understatement to say the McLaren F1 is perhaps the most desirable supercar of the 1990s and perhaps even beyond. The company built just 64 road cars, a race version won Le Mans outright in 1995, and development was done by noted Formula 1 engineer Gordon Murray. With a curb weight of 2,500 pounds, a mid-mounted 627-hp naturally aspirated V-12 built by BMW, a six-speed manual transmission, three seats, no driving aids, and butterfly-style doors, what's not to like? All these years later, it's nothing less than a masterpiece of engineering and truly the Ferrari 250 GTO of Gen Xers. Although RM Sotheby's hoped for a result in excess of $20 million on this uprated LM-spec F1, the final $19.8 million winning bid is still a new auction record for the model as well as the highest price paid at auction so far this year. This may look like a bargain in another decade or two. No, really.

1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype | Sold: $7,650,000

What do you buy if you already have a 1960s Ford GT40 and both subsequent Ford GT supercars? Owning one of five Ford GT40 Roadster prototypes built is probably on your list, and this was the second one offered in Monterey this year (the other failing to sell at Mecum). This car was used in period mostly as a development and promotional vehicle by Shelby American, which was responsible for heading Ford's GT40 motorsports program. Driven non-competitively by racing greats Ken Miles, Jim Clark, and Carroll Shelby himself in the '60s, this GT40 Roadster is more often seen on the show field today, having been displayed at Pebble Beach and The Quail.

1965 Aston Martin DB5 "James Bond" | Sold: $6,385,000

RM Sotheby's added a third evening to its Monterey auction calendar this year devoted exclusively to Aston Martin vehicles, and this James Bond-spec DB5 was a headlining car, as well it should be. Built as a promotional vehicle for the launch of the film Thunderball, the car was later sold into private ownership and eventually spent 35 years in a Tennessee museum. Bidding began fast and furious, slowing at the $4.5 million mark until a final sale at more than $6 million, about 10 times what a nice DB5 would bring without the Bond provenance. How that will change in the future will depend on the 007 franchise retaining its relevance among younger enthusiasts, as well as how much the continuation Bond cars will sate desires to own one.

Gooding & Company

1975 Ferrari 312T ex-Niki Lauda | Sold: $6,000,000

Austrian race driver Niki Lauda, who died in May at the age of 70, was one of the greatest drivers Formula 1 has known, despite a fiery crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring that nearly killed him. Lauda drove for Ferrari that year, as he did a year earlier when this 3.0-liter flat-12-powered 312T was one of five cars he drove to clinch the 1975 F1 World Championship. "Iconic" is a word that gets used far too often, but it's an apt descriptor of this car, which will undoubtedly be a star at any vintage race where it turns up. If the new owner offers drives, we'll be the first to raise our hand. A very fair price paid considering the history.

1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV | Not sold: $4,300,000

This Alfa Romeo Superflow IV is a styling project designed and built by Pininfarina and based on an Alfa 6C 3000 CM race car. When the factory race program ended, this car was trucked to Turin, where it was rebodied not once but four times by the famed Italian coachbuilder and displayed at auto shows all around the world. By the 1960s the car was in private hands in the U.S. and thankfully was well taken care of through the years. The $4.3 million bid wasn't quite enough money to get the seller to part with this piece of rolling artwork, but the consolation prize is being able to continue to use it—or just stare at it.

1991 Porsche 911 Reimagined by Singer | Sold: $857,500

All eyes were glued to this Singer as it reached the auction stage; not only was it the first Singer to be sold at public auction, but it was also thought to potentially be a $1 million car. In the end, the "Mountain View Car," as it's known to Singer, brought in more than $850,000, supposedly a profit for the seller. The wait list for a Singer is reportedly measured in years, so although the buyer here didn't get to spec his own Singer, at least the car is already in his garage, ready to enjoy.

1986 Citroën BX 4TC | Sold: $61,600

At a sale price just a bit higher than the base MSRP for a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, it's tough to say whether this Citroën or a C8 would generate more Insta-pics or Snap-grams at your local Saturday morning cars and coffee. One thing's for sure: With just 62 of these BX 4TC sedans built for homologation in Group B rally racing (and possibly as few as 40 surviving), it's unlikely you'll have to share the limelight with another owner. With a 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive, and the marque's legendary hydraulic suspension, this is certainly not your grandfather's Citroën.

Bonhams

1959 Porsche 718 RSK "Center Seat" | Not sold: $3,700,000

The star of Bonham's Quail Lodge sale, this was one of six 718 RSK race cars believed to have been sold new by the factory with a rare center-seat option, allowing the buyer to set up the car as a traditional two-seater or as a centrally mounted single-seater, which allowed it entry in Formula 2 racing. A mid-mounted, four-cam Carrera race-spec flat-four makes about 150 horsepower and was used to win several races in its day, including the 1960 Buenos Aires Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the seller thought $3.7 million wasn't motivation enough to part company. We're told another half-million dollars might have done the trick, but no buyers were forthcoming.

1995 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8 | Sold: $231,840

Even some of the rarer 911s haven't held their tremendous value gains over the past few years. Three years ago, this Porsche Cup-based RS 3.8 would have been a $500,000 car, but at Bonhams this August it sold for even less than the reasonable presale estimate of $275,000 to $325,000. Part of the trouble is that a 1995 car is still only importable to the U.S. under the federal Show and Display law, which doesn't grant the owner unconditional driving rights. The good news is that if the new owner can wait until next year, this 911 will be eligible in most states for standard road registration. Then it can be enjoyed fully as the sharper, lighter, and more powerful 993-series 911 that it is. Nicely bought.

1974 Fiat X1/9 | Sold: $25,760

If you wanted a mid-engine Italian car with '70s wedge styling by Lamborghini Countach designer Marcello Gandini and an engine by ex-Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi, you only needed to look as far as this diminutive Fiat X1/9. Although the 1.3-liter four only pumps out 70 horsepower or so, weight is about 2,200 pounds and these cars handle well enough that with sticky tires, you'll never touch the brakes on your favorite back road. X1/9s are usually $2,000 Craigslist specials, but this rare early car had just 15,000 miles on it, wore the small European bumpers (found only on first-year U.S.-spec X1/9s), and, despite the boring color, found a new home for a record auction price.

1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider | Sold: $33,600

Against a $55,000 to $65,000 presale estimate, this little Alfa Spider sold for the price of a new Miata. There was no reserve on this red-hot Giulia, and although some engine modifications meant it wasn't a completely original car, this one should be a touch more powerful and reliable than a stock 1.6-liter Alfa. A friend of Automobile recently sold his similar-year Spider that was in need of full cosmetic restoration for about the same amount, so we'll call this one very well bought. One of several bargains at Monterey this year.

Top 10 Sales - Monterey Car Week 2019

  1. 1994 McLaren F1 | $19,805,000 (RM Sotheby's)
  2. 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider | $9,905,000 (Gooding & Co. )
  3. 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta | $8,145,000 (RM Sotheby's)
  4. 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype | $7,650,000(RM Sotheby's)
  5. 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Series I Cabriolet | $6,800,000 (Gooding & Co. )
  6. 1965 Aston Martin DB5 "James Bond" | $6,385,000 (RM Sotheby's)
  7. 1975 Ferrari 312T "Niki Lauda" | $6,000,000 (Gooding & Co. )
  8. 1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks | $5,120,000 (RM Sotheby's)
  9. 1958 Ferrari 250GT Tour de France Berlinetta | $5,100,000 (Gooding & Co. )
  10. 1951 Ferrari 340 America Coupe Speciale | $3,635,000 (Bonhams)

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