RM Sotheby’s Icons Sale was a Strong Finish for the 2017 Collector Car Auction Scene

New York auction brought in $45 million

RM Sotheby’s recent Icons sale was among the last of the high-caliber collector car auctions of 2017. With a quality over quantity focus, just 49 lots of “iconic” items were up for grabs, including 29 full-scale automobiles (several children’s cars were also on offer), bottles of high-end wine and champagne, and other mostly automotive-related items.

More than $45 million was brought in by the sale, with an 84 percent sell through for all lots (76 percent for vehicles alone). Overall, the Big Apple event proved a relatively strong sale that has us looking forward to the annual auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona that kick off the 2018 calendar.

Lot 115: Racing Suit and Helmet Worn by Steve McQueen in “Le Mans”
Sold for $336,000

Most any item connected to Steve McQueen and automobiles continues to be hot at auction. Earlier this year, Gooding and Co. sold a Porsche 917 that had been featured in McQueen’s epic racing movie, “Le Mans,” for over $14 million. This driver’s suit, helmet, and flame-retardant underwear that McQueen wore in the film brought big bucks, though it fell short of the $400,000-$500,000 estimate.

Lot 118: Circuit Permanent de la Sarthe Cement Kilometer Marker
Sold for $12,000

This particular marker was originally placed at the 4.5 kilometer mark on the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit’s famous Mulsanne Straight. It may seem like a lot for what amounts to 170 pounds of cement, but the sale price was less than half its estimate, illustrating the difficulty in assigning value to esoteric pieces of racing history.

Lot 124: 2000 BMW Z8
Sold for $329,500

The Henrik Fisker-designed BMW Z8 has often been described as far better to look at than to drive, but there’s no denying that this car continues to have a lot of appeal and—incredibly for a 17-year-old car—still looks utterly modern today. For these reasons plus limited production figures (just over 2,500 were sold in the U.S.), most Z8s have never dipped below their original MSRP of around $130,000. This example had just 15k miles on the ODO and was originally owned by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, which likely led to the extra 25 percent or so it fetched over typical market value.

Lot 128: 1952 Chrysler D’Elegance by Ghia
Sold for $885,000

Based on a shortened Chrysler New Yorker platform, this concept was a joint design project between Virgil Exner, Chrysler’s noted chief of design at the time, and Italian coachbuilder Ghia’s star designer Mario Boano. The car would not only introduce several design cues found on later Chryslers, but the overall similarity to the new-for-1955 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia (also a Boano design) is impossible to miss. Expensive and worth it—especially given its importance as a one-off show car.

Lot 131: 1952 Jaguar C-type
Sold for $5,285,000

Just 53 Jaguar C-types were ever built and this example, chassis 007, is said to be not only the first delivered to the U.S., but also the first C-type to win a race in the U.S., courtesy of driver Phil Hill. The C-type was a serious race car in its day, and could be considered a heavy revision of the XK 120 road car with its updated straight-six engine, tube-frame construction, and new streamlined bodywork by Malcom Sayers. C-types such as this one put Jaguar back on the map in international competition thanks in part to its two overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Lot 132: 1973 DeTomaso Pantera L
Sold for $145,600

The DeTomaso Pantera was an Italian-built, mid-engine sports car, designed in Italy by American transplant Tom Tjaarda while at Ghia and fitted with a good, ol’ American V-8 (a Ford “Cleveland” 351). Confused yet? What if we told you U.S.-spec cars were sold and serviced through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships? Convoluted backstory aside, the Pantera was designed as a budget-priced alternative to more expensive European metal and while power was strong, typical Italian build quality issues limited the car’s success. This one was right on the money for its strong condition and 13,000 original miles, though purists favor earlier cars with the prettier, slim chrome bumpers.

Lot 137: 2018 Bugatti Chiron
Sold for $3,772,500

Said to be the first Chiron sold at auction, this particular car was also the first example ordered for the U.S. market. The Chiron’s 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged engine produces nearly 1,500 horsepower and catapults the car to an electronically limited top speed of 261 mph—the maximum its tires have been engineered to withstand. Just 500 will be produced at a price of around $3 million each. Its buyer gets to be the first on their gold-lined block to own one, for a mere $700,000 or so over MSRP.

Lot 141: 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione
Sold for $17,990,000

Ferrari’s 250 GT California Spider has always been an iconic member of the Prancing Horse family that also rocketed to mainstream recognition thanks to its appearance in the popular movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” This is the rarer Competizione version, one of just eight produced, with a factory hot-rodded engine, lightweight aluminum bodywork, and a larger fuel tank for endurance races. With Le Mans provenance, some would say this is the ultimate Cal Spider, and the new owner paid a big price—$1 million over high estimate—for the privilege of ownership.

Lot 148: 1990 Lamborghini LM002
Sold $467,000

Before there was the Urus, there was the LM002. Based on a stillborn military prototype that never reached production, the LM002 was a luxurious super-SUV before the world had ever wrapped its mind around the concept. With a V-12 engine from the Lamborghini Countach sitting up front and a 76-gallon fuel tank, examples bought new in the prosperous 1980s were soon selling for a mere fraction of their $158,000 MSRP a decade later, though the recent rebound in LM002 values has been strong among a new, younger set of buyers. This example was restored to the tune of $325,000, putting the purchase price in some context.