RM Auctions Art of the Automobile sale

RM Auctions New York City 2013 – Auction Report

RM Auctions at Sotheby’s ‘The Art of the Automobile’, New York, November 21, 2013

Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor

This auction report is going to be effusive. Be forewarned.

New York City has been a quicksand swamp for collector car auctions.

Consider the obstacles:

  • Traffic in New York City is dominated by various forms of Yellow Taxis driven by ambitious immigrants. It is not a car-friendly environment and the native New Yorker, if he or she owns a car at all, retrieves it from its $500/month subterranean parking slot on holiday weekends for a semi-annual refresher course in driving. New York City commuters take the train.
  • New Yorkers have an attention span measured in seconds. Only the biggest, baddest, flashiest occurrences manage even a sliver of their awareness, which is constantly divided among several competing simultaneous activities.
  • Life moves faster in New York City than anywhere else in the world. Just walk a few blocks and observe how the New Yorkers walk faster.
  • Logistically, New York City has become a nightmare for the kind of bulky transporters that carry high value automobiles. Permitted into The City only on special permits with limited hours in the middle of the night, Manhattan is harder to penetrate than CIA Langley.

A little history is in order.

The evolution of the collector car auction market began in New York City with the Parke-Bernet auction house (long ago absorbed into Sotheby’s) which had several collector car sales in The City in the 1960’s. They petered out in subsequent years in favor of auctions in more car-friendly and accessible venues, and as The City itself descended into decades of decline.

In the late 90’s Dennis Nicotra tried to bring back the glory that was New York’s with the New York Auto Salon & Auction, eventually passing that venue on to RM in 2000 through its final NYC sale in 2002. Christie’s vied for attention in 2002 and 2003 with a sale at Rockefeller Center. One later attempt, by Bradford Rand and David Workman in conjunction with Kruse, on Pier 94 in 2005 was, to put it mildly, an unmitigated disaster.

And there it ended, until Rob Myers audaciously determined to try again in 2013.

To say it was, merely, a success is too mild. It was brilliant, and succeeded in overcoming with style and flair (or at least coping with) its many obstacles.

The cars were displayed in Sotheby’s 10th Floor exhibition gallery, set up on raised white platforms in somewhat thematic cells separated by walls adorned with appropriate images ranging from an Alpine pass behind the 300SLs, E-type and 250 GT Cab II, to a giant reproduction of the Figoni & Falaschi concept drawing behind the Talbot-Lago Cabriolet.

The Delahaye Teardrop and Minerva got gorgeous Art Deco wallpaper backdrops while the 250 LM sat in singular isolation opposite a wall full of photographs from its history. (See RM New York Photo Gallery).

A total of 41 lots were offered: 33 automobiles, 1 child’s car, 1 ‘Park Drag’ coach by Brewster and six lots of automobilia. Sotheby’s displayed watches and jewelry for private treaty sale in one of the exhibit cells.

RM’s Erica Reaume designed the exhibition which continues the imaginative presentations begun early in 2013 at Arizona where RM made a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of an unwanted change of location at the Arizona Biltmore’s conference center.

It was nearly breathtaking, and suitably impressed even the jaded specialists at Sotheby’s.

And it had to be broken down to bare walls with all the cars removed to off-site storage by sunup on Friday, a process that began immediately after the exhibition closed at 2PM Thursday. Credit Reliable Carriers for an indispensable piece of that momentous logistical accomplishment.

RM captured New York’s attention which steadily grew as word of the quality of the cars and the exhibit spread. Banker-types wearing expensive overcoats and carrying discrete briefcases were commonplace, often getting their pictures taken in front of some of the more photogenic cars. RM’s Press office (Meghan McGrail) got feature coverage in Ralph Gardner, Jr.’s column in Monday’s Wall Street Journal’s ‘Greater New York’ section.

Max Girardo conducted the sale with introductions by Alain Squindo from the podium in Sotheby’s main 7th floor auction space. Entry was restricted to bidders and their guests but it was still crowded to standing room only. The cars, already cashing their return trip tickets in Sotheby’s freight elevator, were represented by framed Michael Furman photos on the same turntable where Old Masters and fine jewelry usually reside.

Despite generous estimates (or maybe because of them; this is, after all, New York where a decent dinner for one can easily end up in three figures) RM sold 32 of the 35 lots with wheels. 16 lots sold on hammer bids of $1 million or more, contributing to the $62,579,000 sale total and record-setting mean transaction of $1,955,594 (exceeding even the famed Christie’s Royal Albert Hall auction of 1987 with its signature $9,764,585 sale of the Bugatti Royale) and median of $1,265,000.

It must have been dauntingly expensive to produce, but the result in both presentation and transaction values more than rewarded Rob Myers’ investment and the Herculean efforts of RM’s staff.

RM New York City
Cars Offered / Sold
Sale %
Sold < Low Est.
Sold > High Est.
Average Sale
Median Sale
Total Sales
2013
35 / 32
91.4%
53.1%
12.5%
$1,955,594
$1,265,000 [64.7%]
$62,579,000

The collector car world can only wait with anticipation the next New York City appearance for RM Auctions and Sotheby’s; RM’s staff may await that event with trepidation, but also satisfaction for a job done far better than merely well.

RM Auctions New York City 2013 – Auction Report

Ferrari 180 Testa Rossa Child's Ca

Lot # 105 Ferrari 180 Testa Rossa Child’s Car, Body by Modena Ferrarina Italia; Red/Blue; Estimate $50,000 – $70,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $115,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $126,500. – Chrome wire wheels, 180 watt 12 volt electric power – Lefthand drive, pontoon fender child’s car. Ex-Kirk F. White. Cosmetically refurbished to good, but not unusable standards. – The only four-wheeled lot in RM’s New York sale with an estimate range in five figures, the bidders seized upon it and quickly set the record straight with a six-figure price, but still less than the buyer’s commission on any other Ferrari in the sale.

1957 F.B. Mondial 250 Bialbero Grand Prix Motorcycle

Lot # 108 1957 F.B. Mondial 250 Bialbero Grand Prix Motorcycle; S/N; Silver, Blue/Black; Estimate $125,000 – $175,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $130,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $143,000. No Reserve – 250cc dohc twin, dustbin fairing – Clean, orderly, original bike. A few nicks and used but not abused. Fratelli Boselli Mondial works bike ridden by Cecil Sandford, Sammy Miller or Tarquinio Provini (or maybe all) to the 1957 250cc World Championship. – A simply delicious little bike that looks fast sitting still. No cafe racer, this, it’s the real deal and a sound value at this price.

1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

Lot # 109 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster; S/N 19804210002562; Engine # 19898010002622; Middle Blue Metallic, Middle Blue Metallic hardtop/Beige leather; Blue leatherette top; Estimate $1,000,000 – $1,400,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $1,500,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $1,650,000. – Bright polished Rudge wheels, fitted luggage, Becker AM-FM, two tops, full tool roll, jack, manuals, window sticker, Nardi steering wheel, Rudge-style centerlock hubcaps (not installed) – Two owners, 35,395 miles. Recently and meticulously restored to concours condition. Flawless. Multiple show winner and documented with, among other things, a complete restoration binder. – As good as it gets, with not only known 2-owner history but also documented miles, desirable accessories and relics and a restoration that can only be described as superlative. It’s expensive, but that’s the price of beyond-perfection.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II

Lot # 110 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II, Body by Pininfarina; S/N 2473; Engine # 2473; Red, Red hardtop/Black leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $1,600,000 – $2,000,000; Recent restoration, 2 condition; Hammered Sold at $1,850,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $2,035,000. – Chrome wire wheels, blackwall tires, no radio, covered headlights, Marchal head and fog lights, 564E internal number, Ferrari Classiche stamped block, two tops – Erratic chrome trim, thin interior door hardware chrome. Excellent paint and upholstery. Underbody is undercoated like new and clean. Engine is spotless. Ferrari Classiche certified, one of six known covered headlight Cab IIs, not that the bubble covers add anything to its profile. – This Cab II isn’t flawless, but it is sufficiently better in paint and interior to balance out some of the apparent shortcuts and oversights in the chrome. Even at that, though, it is a truly impressive price for what it is.

1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II Coupe 'Supersonic', Body by Ghia

Lot # 111 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II Coupe ‘Supersonic’, Body by Ghia; S/N AM300/1/1132; Ivory, Metallic Green/Dark Green leather; Estimate $1,800,000 – $2,400,000; Concours restoration, 1- condition; Hammered Sold at $2,100,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $2,310,000. – Chrome wire wheels, blackwall tires – 1956 Turin Auto Show display car. A show quality restoration by Brian Joseph except for some chrome trim that could have been better chromed and polished. Class second at Pebble Beach in 2011. – What Ghia did to adapt Savonuzzi’s ‘Supersonic’ design to the DB2/4 is amazing, as is the restoration – trim chrome excepted. The price it brought stands by itself with no relevance to anything else, not Ghia, not Aston Martin.

1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sports Coupe, Body by Freestone and Webb

Lot # 112 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sports Coupe, Body by Freestone & Webb; S/N 42PY; Maroon, Gold coachlines/Beige leather; Estimate $2,000,000 – $2,800,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $2,200,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $2,420,000. – RHD. Single rear enclosed spare, body color wheel discs, blackwall tires, Lucas headlights and driving light, trafficators – Exceptional coachwork with helmet-style fenders, no running boards and a low razor-edge blind quarter roof. Specified and first owned by Sir John Leigh. Concours restored in the early 90′s and meticulously detailed, it is still concours-quality. Beautiful interior wood. Upholstery is slightly stretched but otherwise flawless. – Sleek, svelte and imposing, this is one extraordinary Rolls-Royce, no less because of the exceptional restoration now over twenty years old but still concours-ready. The consignor didn’t really want to sell, but at this price it made eminent good sense.

1957 Dual-Ghia D/G Convertible

Lot # 113 1957 Dual-Ghia D/G Convertible; S/N 145; Copper/Red leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $450,000 – $650,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $415,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $456,500. – 325/260hp Dodge, automatic, P/S, P/B, chrome wire wheels, whitewall tires, P/W, Town & Country radio – Even gaps, flat panels, flush fits. Beautiful paint and chrome. Lush Lipstick Red interior. A concours car. – Bought appropriately for this Dual-Ghia’s combination of features and exceptional restoration.

1933 Auburn 12-161A Custom Speedster

Lot # 114 1933 Auburn 12-161A Custom Speedster; S/N 2119E; Cord Red, Yellow/Yellow leather; Estimate $1,000,000 – $1,600,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $1,100,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $1,210,000. – Chrome wire wheels, double side whitewalls, Pilot-Rays, dual sidemounts with mirrors, radiator stoneguard – Flamboyant, eye-catching colors. Gorgeous paint, chrome and interior. Clean and sharp except for some storage dust in hard to reach prices. ACD Category One certified, original frame, engine and body. – This result will encourage all Auburn Speedster owners, an extraordinary example that brought a landmark price. It sets the bar high.

1932 Ford V-8 Cabriolet, Body by Pinin Farina

Lot # 115 1932 Ford V-8 Cabriolet, Body by Pinin Farina; S/N 18-81392; Dark Green/Green leather; Heather cloth top; Estimate $350,000 – $500,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $290,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $319,000. – Body color wire wheels, blackwall tires, rear-mounted spare, trafficators – The only known example, believed to have been commission as a design study by Ford [sic]. Later owned by Sergio Franchi. Restored in 2003 for the Custom-bodied Ford class at Pebble Beach where it was Best in Class. AACA National First Place. Excellent paint, chrome, upholstery and top. Better than flawless. – An amazing, sympathetic restoration to like new condition with show car cosmetics. The body design is not, however, very attractive and the Ford design study history belies Henry’s reputation for being dismissive of the importance of design. The seller should be happy to get this much for it.

Comments

  1. Peter says

    Thank you for capturing the magic. The crowd in the days before the auction was a funny mix of plutocrats and humble types (like me) with their children, and every one of us ogled the cars. Come back, Mr. Carey, and I’ll buy you a superb dinner with wine that will run under $50 a head. Promise. That’s the joy of New York.

  2. says

    Rick , I also remember Arlan Ettinger’s Guernseys Auction House holding classic car sales in Manhattan , one in 1989 ( ? ) at the Jacob Javits Centre and another in the early 90s on ( I think ) pier 94 ….alway enjoy reading your posts

  3. Tom says

    Rick, the photographs are awesome. And, as you inspect the cars, you report on the ‘niggling’ details that bother you, or aren’t right. I call your attention to your description of Lot 114 – the Auburn Speedster, where you say some dust was left in ‘hard to reach prices’. Perhaps a Freudian slip?

    • Anonymous says

      Tom,
      A slip, but not Freudian.
      I use a Windows slate computer with handwriting recognition and sometimes it slips in a word Windows likes better than what I intended. I don’t always catch them in the editing. I’ll ask Jamie to correct it when he has a chance.

  4. victor fischetti says

    Funny I have one of those Ferrarina’s, was a gift to my wife new some 55 years ago. Guess my 3 year old grandson better be careful driving that thing!

    • Rick Carey says

      As the grandfather of three boys under 4 years old I cannot imagine anything, I mean ANYTHING, better than seeing any of them wail on a Ferrarina that’d been in the family for 55 years. Your grandson can’t really hurt it, just add kid-patina.
      Turn him loose. It’s just a ‘thing’ that is made better by the YouTube videos. Painted, polished, chromed and waxed it is only wall decor, a waste of the grampa experience.
      Rick

      • victor fischetti says

        Thank you Rick, also if at any point you’d like to get the skinny on the real story about these cars I’d be happy to help. I had the good fortune of meeting Enzo Monari who made them years later with my father in-law at his home in Modena Italy. As an aside the cars where actually produced by his company named Savigini Monari in Modena and they had serial number plates riveted onto the bodies with both chassis and motor numbers stamped into them which ours retains

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