The 2016 Bonhams, Gooding & Co., RM Sotheby’s Auctions in Scottsdale
Including a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300C Station Wagon sold at $489,500
January 28-30, 2016
Feature Car: 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300C Station Wagon
Sold at $489,500
Dark blue over red leather interior. 125-hp, 3.0-liter SOHC I-6; four-speed manual transmission. Darn near perfect everywhere. Exemplary paint. Excellent brightwork. Detailed throughout. Excellent leather interior. This car was refurbished by Hatch & Sons and also had recent restoration work done by Mercedes-Benz Classic Center of Irvine, California. A one-of-a-kind custom station wagon, originally coachbuilt by Binz.
The Story Behind the Sale
In 1956 if you were tremendously wealthy, say like Caroline Foulke, granddaughter of the co-founder of the American Tobacco Co., you could ask the folks at Mercedes-Benz to modify a 300C sedan into a station wagon because that's what you wanted. It was all top-quality work, as you would expect, and one can only imagine the engineering obstacles that needed to be overcome for a one-off vehicle. The spectacular result (which some say looks like a hearse) was one of the more photographed lots at this Gooding & Co. sale.
Let's put this in context to understand it fully. Although hardly best described as struggling, Mercedes-Benz was facing significant challenges after World War II, and the company was most likely very excited to have the opportunity to be involved in a custom project such as this. The coachbuilt era was already over when this car was made, but the power of the purse keeps that tradition alive in limited cases, just as it continues with some manufacturers today. It took another powerful purse to buy this car 60 years later at Gooding's Scottsdale auction. This sales price was a stunner to almost everyone in attendance, easily besting its high estimate. Clearly someone had to have this Benz, and in the case of one-offs, opportunity must be seized as another chance could be a long, long time coming.
1974 Citroën 2CV6
Sold at $49,500
Yellow and black over gray cloth interior. 33-hp, 0.6-liter flat-2; four-speed manual transmission. Better than new in all respects with beautiful paint, excellent trim, and an extremely well-executed interior.
Every country needs a "people's car," and the 2CV was France's. Like Volkswagen's Beetle, the 2CV project began before World War II and was designed to be a simple, easy to fix, and inexpensive car for the masses. The concept was a huge success, and production continued until 1990. (The final cars were built in Portugal.) Like the original Mini in the U.K., until a few years ago it was not uncommon to see dozens upon dozens still on French roads. In fact, you can still buy a worn-out example in Europe for less than a tenth of this price. Helped by its rare status in the U.S., this car sold for well more than its high RM Sotheby's estimate.
2015 McLaren P1
Sold at $2,090,000
Alaskan Diamond White over orange and black leather interior. 903-hp, 3.8-liter twin-turbo DOHC V-8; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The last U.S. delivery car, one of 375 P1s built. Fewer than 300 miles on the odometer and complete with all its factory-delivered accessories, including the custom-built scale model of the car. "As new" condition throughout.
Lest your friends tell you that new cars will never be collector vehicles, simply point to this P1 as evidence to the contrary. Ready to drive without that whole pesky ordering-and-waiting-for-it bit, Bonhams' Lot 12 was someone's chance to own a sold-out supercar. Said to have been shipped new to a Chicago dealer and bought by a Florida-based enthusiast who, we can assume, drove those 300 miles enthusiastically. No word on this car's original sticker price, but $1,600,000 is a good guess.
Best Buy: 1969 Lotus Elan SE
Sold at $55,000
Yellow over black vinyl interior. 115-hp, 1.6-liter DOHC I-4; four-speed manual transmission. Single owner for past 43 years. At the 2014 Lotus Owners Gathering, this was voted the Best Elan. Just 600 miles since its restoration, with excellent paint, trim, and brightwork.
To say you don't often see a fully restored Elan often is an understatement. Owners of these cars tend to drive them regularly at track events, club outings, and on weekend joy rides. And why wouldn't they be driven? The Elan set the benchmark for handling in the 1960s, and its abilities are still inspirational to modern automotive engineers. To see an Elan at Gooding & Co. in this condition is a reminder of just how pretty and distinctive the car's styling really is. Well bought at this price, as you could not restore a mediocre example to this condition for the money spent.
1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport
Sold at $121,000
Burgundy over white vinyl interior. 360-hp, 425-cubic-inch V-8; automatic transmission. Fantastic paintwork, preparation, and brightwork. From a few feet away, looks like a new car. Less than 10 percent of the Riviera's production in 1965 included the Gran Sport option, which listed for $306.38 but added the 360-hp Nailhead dual four-barrel engine, a modified exhaust, posi-trac differential, and Gran Sport ornamentation, including hubcaps.
Early Rivieras are noted for many things, especially beautiful lines and aggressive stance. This '65 version marked the first year for trick retractable headlight covers. If any Riviera was going to do this well on the block it's not hard to see it would be this one. Sold for just more than twice Gooding & Co. 's high estimate, so expect to see more very nice Gran Sports soon at an auction near you.
1963 Ford Thunderbird M-Code Sports Roadster
Sold at $123,750
Red over black leather interior. 340-hp, 390-cubic-inch OHV V-8; automatic transmission. One of just 37 Sport Roadsters for 1963, the rest of the 455 Sport Roadsters were 1962 models. Great paint, interior, and brightwork but not a fresh restoration.
The Sports Roadster package was an option for the Thunderbird convertible. Among the features was a fiberglass tonneau that made a four-seater into a two-seater with headrests and the distinctive Kelsey Hayes wire wheels. At a cost new in 1963 of $6,868 it was among the most expensive American cars on the market. As such, it's not a big surprise that they were not huge sellers. Air-conditioning, power windows, and power door locks were all on this car when new as was the triple-carbureted 390-cubic-inch V-8. Pretty much the holy grail of Sports Roadsters.
1984 Renault 5 Turbo 2
Sold at $66,000
Red over red and black cloth interior. 185-hp, 1.4-liter OHV I-4; five-speed manual transaxle. Good paint, excellent trim, and a clean interior. One of very few to be federalized to U.S. spec, as this WRC homologation special was never officially sold here.
Remember the Renault Le Car front-wheel-drive econobox? Move the engine from up front to where the rear seat was, powering the rear wheels. Then turbocharge it, bumping horsepower to roughly double the stock amount, widen the track, and get Marcello Gandini (the guy who designed the Lamborghini Countach) to rework the body so the huge tires fit and the mid-mounted engine stays cool. "Hot hatch" doesn't begin to describe it. This Renault Turbo 2 sold for well under Gooding & Co. 's low estimate and will certainly sound like a bargain in 10 years.
1989 Aston Martin Lagonda Series 4
Sold at $121,000
Windsor Red Metallic over cream leather with burgundy piping. 289-hp, 5.3-liter DOHC V-8; automatic transmission. One of 98 Series 4 cars built in the last year of U.S. importation and one of 50 left-hand-drive cars built. Under 36,000 original miles.
The target market for the Lagonda in all of its series was the fast-growing Middle Eastern market, although many were sold new in the U.K. home market, as well as in mainland Europe and North America. To be brutally honest, for years these were considered among the most hopelessly complicated cars ever built, having cutting-edge electronics for their day, though they seldom worked properly even when new. It appears the Lagonda is starting to shine as many collectors begin to appreciate its very '80s styling cues as well as its avant-garde looks. Big money for even a well-kept Lagonda.
1973 BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobile
Sold at $341,000
Polaris Silver over black leather with cloth inserts. 206-hp, 3.2-liter SOHC I-6; four-speed manual transmission. Low mileage example, matching numbers, known history. Nicely preserved and kept in all original style, this is not a show queen but an exceptionally well-presented example.
Lost to history is why these are called Batmobiles, though one could surmise that the less-than-ordinary stripes, spoilers, and flares have something to do with it. Built for Group 2 racing class homologation in Europe, the CSL (which stands for Coupe Sport Light) used thinner gauge steel and aluminum panels for the trunk, hood, and doors, saving about 300 pounds over standard models. It was a successful formula, as the Batmobiles won five back-to-back European Touring Car championships. Bonhams achieved a strong price for this CSL, but at the same time, this is the one you wanted. We'll mark this as well bought, anyway.