ARTICLE BY MIKE GRUDT | PHOTOS BY GREG GRUDT
Monterey Car Week has so many activities scheduled so close together and even overlapping in many cases that visitors must schedule their time wisely to maximize what to see and do. We always make time to attend the major auctions to see very rare, unique and usually very expensive vehicles. Whenever I admire the auction vehicles I try to put it in perspective knowing full well that the cars I see will likely end up in a private collection in the U.S. or overseas and I will never have the opportunity to see them again. Many of the vehicles for sale have an amazing provenance and racing history which makes their viewing that much more special.
After the 2016 Monterey Car Week auction sales closed with a total of $338M, the experts weren’t really sure how the sales would stack up for 2017. There seemed to be so much turmoil around the globe and at home it was anybody’s guess. Well, apparently those outside forces didn’t impact the auctions much as the total sales came in at $328M. That was just a slight dip and a solid showing at the major auctions this year. It appears that collector cars are still a viable investment tool based on the amount of activity shown.
The top sale this year was again claimed by RM Sotheby’s with a sale of $22.55M that surpassed their top sale last year of $21.78M. Sales of the number 2 through number 10 highest priced automobiles sold at auction during Car Week were divided among Bonham’s, Gooding and RM.
Here are some highlights from the top five auctions that took place during Monterey Car Week listing the auctions in alphabetical order. The prices listed came from a number of sources and are for comparison sakes only:
This auction is located near Quail and is known as Bonham’s Quail Lodge Auction. The company has been in the business since 1793 when they were founded in London, England. They are a worldwide operation and car auction sales represent a very small portion of their overall revenue. In Monterey they follow the quality over quantity business model and always have a few extremely rare and or valuable cars for sale and seem to be near the top in top ten sale prices. They offered over 105 vehicles and achieved total sales of $56.43M. Their big draw this year was the offering of a very low mileage, single owner, silver 1995 McLaren F1 Coupe that sold for $15.62M and was the second highest sale price during the week. This set a record high price for the sale of a McLaren F1 and also the most valuable post-1970 automobile to ever sell at auction. The other top sellers at Bonham’s were a 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition Coupe ($8M), a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Alloy ($3.08M), a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 ($2.52M) and another Ferrari, a 2003 Enzo ($2.04M).
Last year Bonham’s had a Lamborghini tractor for sale and this year they were selling a Porsche diesel tractor. I guess they have cornered the market on sports tractors. I haven’t seen a Ferrari tractor, maybe next year?
Gooding & Company:
Described as the “Official” Pebble Beach Auction, Gooding is located adjacent to the many events surrounding Pebble Beach and of course the Concours d’Elegance. The Tour d’Elegance drive even has the finish line directly outside their front entrance. Gooding is noted for selecting a small group of coveted vehicles for display and sale during car week as shown by their $91.5M in total sales. This top tier auction sold the third highest priced automobile of the week, a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C for $14.52M. The second highest valued vehicle sold by Gooding and the fourth highest priced vehicle sold overall was probably my favorite of all auction cars this year, a classic 1970 Porsche 917K racer for $14.08M. That sale broke the previous price for a Porsche sold at auction, a 1982 Porsche 956 that Gooding sold for $10.12M in 2015. Numbers three through five sold at Gooding were a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Series I Cabriolet ($4.84M), a 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Berlinetta ($4.4M) and a 2015 Ferrari LaFerrari ($3.52M). That’s a pretty good return for two years of ownership.
Gooding also sold an amazing pair of unrestored cars that were owned by the same family. They were a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing ($1.67M) and a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster ($1.03M). They were absolutely beautiful sixty year old automobiles in their natural state.
This auction is the largest held during car week and greater in the total number of vehicles available for sale than all of the other auctions put together. Mecum enjoyed total sales of $34M for another successful Monterey Car Week. I always enjoy the diversity while viewing the Mecum collection of very old to very new automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and even a drag boat and a trailer or two. This year I checked out a drag boat, walked a few feet to view a 1970’s Pontiac Trans Am and then looked over to see a late model Porsche 911 Turbo next to a 1955 Chevy with flames. You just never know what you’ll see there.
The three top sales at Mecum were almost new vehicles, a 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari ($3.45M), a 2015 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse ($2.35M) and a 2017 Ferrari F12tdf ($1.25M). I wonder if the owners drove each of them around the block a few times and took them straight to the auction. The remaining of the top five sales were a 2004 Porsche Carrera GT ($985K) and a 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort ($950K).
Motorcycle sales were also strong at Mecum and 39 sales accounted for $1.54M in sales. The top seller was the oldest-known original-paint Indian that sold for $190K. Another top seller was a 1923 Indian Chief previously owned by Steve McQueen ($110K). They offered old Harleys and a few original condition Husqvarna dirt bikes from the 1970’s among others.
RM is the world’s largest auction house for investment quality automobiles and they provide service to the global collector car market. The hotel complex housing the RM auction has been under construction for the past two years so the cars were displayed in an inside room, and a large outside structure with the remaining vehicles spread outside in various areas. The construction had no negative impact on the auction. The top auction sale during Monterey Car Week this year was again claimed by RM with a sale of $22.55M which set a record for the highest price for a British car and highest priced Aston Martin sold at auction. The top selling car this year was again a British race car, a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 Roadster in the requisite racing green. RM took five of the top ten sales spots for all Car Week auctions and came out on top again overall with $132.99M in total sales.
In addition to the top selling Aston Martin, the second highest priced sale was for a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta that sold for $8.30M. The remaining three automobiles in the top five were a 1959 Aston Martin DB4GT Prototype ($6.76M), a 1955 Ferrari 121 LM Spider ($5.72M) and a 1959 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Series III Coupe ($5.33M). RM also offered an amazing single-owner group of 13 iconic Ferrari examples from the past 50 years. They celebrated another excellent year with numerous top tier automobiles offered for sale.
Russo & Steele:
Located on the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf in Downtown Monterey, Russo & Steele always seems to have a couple of surprises that you don’t see every day or ever. This year they offered a ten year old blue SSC Ultimate Aero (when was the last time you saw one?), a 1965-66 silver Ford Mustang coupe with burgundy flames and a double stacked blower that stood two feet above the hood (my first sighting of one of those) and many other crazy rides in their lot for sale. The inside collection housed a smaller group of their higher end offerings and probably accounted for the bulk of their $8.6M in total sales. They also had a few vendors that offered old fluorescent gas station and car brand signs and auto memorabilia. Leading the sales at Russo & Steel this year was a 1961 Ferrari Europa Coupe that sold for $1.16M. Followed by and rounding out the top five was a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT ($671K), a 2008 Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR ($352K), a 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 ($297K) and a 1983 Ferrari 512 ($231K). It was another great year for a unique auction.