All posts by Larry Edsall

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State Univeristy.

Sam Posey to talk about forgotten racing series

The Le Grand Mk7 raced by Sam Posey in the F5000 series in 1968 | IMRRC photo
The Le Grand Mk7 raced by Sam Posey in the F5000 series in 1968 | IMRRC photo

The car he initially raced may have been among his least favorites, and the series in which he raced may have been motorsports’ best-kept secret, but that won’t stop Sam Posey from sharing stories about the F5000 series at the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, New York.

Posey — racer, architect and television commentator — will speak at 1 p.m. May 10 about the racing series that, as he wrote several years ago in an article in Road & Track magazine, “no one outside the racing world seemed to know F5000 existed.”

Writing about the series in that article, Posey noted that, “Although I never won the championship, some of the achievements I’m most proud of as a driver came in F5000. The cars were fast, challenging and evenly matched because so many teams could afford the components you needed to win. The racing was terrific, and the opposition included some of the top drivers of the period.The F5000 was the professional version of the Sports Car Club of America’s Formula A category and featured open-wheel, Grand Prix-style cars powered by stock block American V8 engines. Cars came from McLaren, Eagle, Lola, Chevron and others and were driven by the likes of Posey, Mario Andretti, the Unsers, Jody Scheckter, Brian Redman, David Hobbs, Tony Adamowicz and others.

Posey was series runner-up in 1971 and 1972. But in 1968 he drove the Le Grand Mk7 that J.C. Argetsinger, president of the research center, called “one of Posey’s least favorite race cars.”

However, Argetsinger added, “The Le Grand was an early and important step in the development of Formula 5000 race cars. The reunion between Sam and the Le Grand is certain to be a memorable experience for all.”

In addition to Posey and the car itself, Bob Mayer and Jacques Dresang (Mayer and Dresang’s father, Rick, own the Le Grand) will talk about the car’s place in American racing history and the story of its restoration.

Also participating in the program is James Stengel, who is researching the Formula 5000 series and who drives an F5000 in vintage races.

The presentation featuring Posey is part of the Center Conversation series, which on June 21 will feature vintage car-event organizer Murray Smith. Others giving talks in coming months include Cary Agajanian, son of famed team owner J.C. Agajanian, Steve Zautke of the Milwauke Mile track, and Michael Martin, who will discuss the U.S. Road Racing Championship race series of the 1960s.

The Racing Research Center is an archival library dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports through its collections of books, periodicals, films, photographs, fine art and other materials. For more information visit the www.racingarchives.org website.

Eye Candy: American Driving Museum

Photos by Larry Edsall

Earl Rubenstein and Stanley Zimmerman had more in common than a 40-year friendship and their love of classic cars. They disliked the “look but don’t touch” attitude many classic car owners displayed at shows and on driving tours.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if people could get close to the cars?” they wondered.

But Rubenstein and Zimmerman did more than just ponder that question. They started their own car museum, the Automobile Driving Museum, which lives up to its name every Sunday by offering museum visitors rides in several of the cars from the museum’s collection.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and visitors on days other Sunday may not be invited to go for a ride, but they do get to see the cars up close and at least one of the cars is always positioned so those visitors can climb inside, feel what it’s like, and take some photos of themselves at the wheel.

The day ClassicCars.com visited, a Saturday afternoon, the climb-aboard car was a 1917 Overland 5-passenger tourer, with the top down for easier entrance and exit.

“We’re the best-kept secret in El Segundo.”

— Earl Rubenstein

 

The museum was relatively quiet that afternoon, but it had been busy that morning with dozens of Cub Scouts staging their annual Pinewood Derby races in what the museum calls its Packard Ballroom, which is available for various group events.

“We’re the best-kept secret in El Segundo,” Rubenstein laughs as he talks about the museum, which annually attracts around 11,000 visitors.

The American Driving Museum is located in a former brake riveting plant just south of the runways at LAX, Los Angeles’ international airport.

When Rubenstein and Zimmerman founded the museum in 2000, it was located in West Los Angeles, where they had only 9,500-square-feet of space. They left there in 2005 and began renovations at the new location, which opened in early 2006 opened  with nearly 30,000 square feet to show and store their cars.

“All cars are operational,”  Rubenstein noted.

There are 70 on the floor at any given time, and a several dozen more dozen in storage.

The cars are displayed in chronological order, Rubenstein said, so visitors can see the evolution of the automobile. Each car on display is accompanied by a specs and information sheet and very knowledgable docents are on hand to answer any questions and to share the cars’ stories.

There also are snack and gift shops and a reference library that is open to visitors.  The museum has its own research librarian and extensive files of automotive pamphlets, magazines and books.

While only a strand of rope — old parking meters are used as stanchions to hold the rope — separates visitors from most of the cars, a handful of very special vehicles are kept behind a wall of glass in a display that reproduces an elegant 1930s auto dealership.

When we visited, the room contained a 1937 Pierce-Arrow Town Car, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Brewster-bodied 1932 Plymouth Town Car, a 1935 Chrysler Airflow, the 1955 Packard Caribbean convertible that Howard Hughes gave to Jean Peters, a 1930 Stutz Monte Carlo sedan with Weymann fabric bodywork (one of only three such cars produced), a one-off 1935 Packard convertible touring car designed and built by Pinin Farina, and a 1956 Chrysler Imperial Parade Car that’s on loan from the Petersen museum.

Speaking of parades, cars from the California Driving Museum often are seen in the cruising up Colorado Boulevard in the annual  Rose Bowl Parade.

The museum also does special educational seminars with speakers. It has focused on vehicles designed by Darrin and by Dietrick, and this year had Gordon Wangers do a program on the Pontiac GTO and Peter Brock speaking on the Chevrolet Corvette.

 

RM offers ‘fantastic things’ at Monaco auction

Ferrari 275 GTB Competition has racing history | Car owner photo courtesy RM Auctions
1966 Ferrari Dino 206S has racing history | Car owner photo courtesy RM Auctions

Wouldn’t you just hate to work for RM Auctions? Each May, on an alternating basis, you face having to travel either to picturesque Lake Como in northern Italy or to the Principality of Monaco on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Of course, there’s a lot of work to do while you’re there, organizing a major international classic car auction. This year, that auction is at Monaco on May 10 in conjunction with the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique vintage racing weekend.

“This is our third year in Monaco,” said Gord Duff, one of RM’s car specialists. “It’s been hugely successful for us, exceeded our expectations.

“Obviously,” he added, in keeping with the venue, “it’s very driven toward sports cars and race cars.

“And it makes it more special that it’s every other year.”

The biannual sale at Lake Como is held in conjunction with the annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which takes place this year — for the 85th year — from May 23-25. As its name indicates, the main event is one of the world’s most prestigious concours d’elegance, which this year focuses on cars of the period of The Great Gatsby.

In addition to the various classes for cars, the event at Lake Como includes for the fourth year the Concorso di Motociclete for two-wheel vehicles. Thirty-five classic motorcycles will be on display after making a police-escorted parade along the lakeshore road.

From RM’s perspective, both are amazing venues, but Monaco provides room for about 90 lots to be sold, while the grounds at Villa d’Este can accommodate only around 40 vehicles.

“We’re right around 90 cars this year,” Duff said, “and there are some fantastic things.”

At Monaco, for example:

  • A 1966 Ferrari Dino 206S first raced in hill climbs by Italian nobleman Eduardo Lualdi Gabardi, who won overall or in class 22 times, and which has had the same ownership for some 40 years;
  • A 1968 Ferrari 275 GTB competition car that Duff said is one of 12 and perhaps the most original remaining, having never been in an accident or restored, just maintained and repainted when needed;
  • A 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Series I cabriolet, one of the last — the 36th of 40 — built and freshly restored;
  • “The James Hunt car,” or as Duff put it, “a piece of history,” the 1974 Hesketh 308 Formula One racer driven by F1 champions James Hunt in 1974 (yes, it’s the car made famous by Hunt’s late-race pass in the Silverstone International Trophy Race) and Alan Jones in 1975;
  • A 1956 Maserati 450S prototype by Fantuzzi that has had only three owners since new after being the works entry driven by Stirling Moss in the Mille Miglia;
  • A 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C with Scaglietti bodywork that was the ninth of only 12 built;
  • A 1989 Ferrari F1-89 F1 racer that was John Barnard’s first design for Ferrari and was raced by Gerhard Berger;
  • The 1966 Brabham-Repco BT20 that won the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix;
  • A 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental fastback that is 1 of 3 with bodywork by Franay;
  • A 1957 Porsche 356 A Carrera 1500 GS/GT coupe by Reutter;
  • A 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America by Pinin Farina;
  • The “Via,” a 1958 Riva Tritone originally owned by Prince Ranier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly;
  • The “Swift II,” a 1964 Ariston that also was used along the French Riviera.

The age range of vehicles goes from a 1926 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix racer to a pair of 2012 models — a Ferrari 599 GTO and a Ferrari 599 SA Aperta.

 

400-plus Scotti Collection on the block at Auburn

1958 Old 98 Holiday coupe among 400-plus John Scotti Collection | Auctions America
1958 Old 98 Holiday coupe among 400-plus John Scotti Collection | Auctions America

How long does it take to transport more than 400 classic cars from Montreal to northwest Indiana?

“We’ve been transporting cars since December,” Auctions America car specialist Gord Duff said in late April of the John Scotti Collection that will be offered at no reserve during the annual Auburn Spring sale.

Scotti owns more than a dozen new-car dealerships in the Montreal area as well as the John Scotti Collection, which focuses on classic cars and exotics.

Duff said that Scotti has his brother run most of the dealerships so that John can focus on his Lamborghini store, and on buying and selling classics and exotics.

Scott's 1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL heads to auction | Auctions America
Scott’s 1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL heads to auction | Auctions America

“But he has gotten to the point where he’s 58 years old and has too many cars, yet he wants to keep buying and selling,” Duff said.

Or as Scotti recently told the Toronto Globe and Mail in an interview, “For me, the thrill is in the hunt. I do 60,000 kilometers a year, driving to places like Goderich, Ontario, on weekends, making 5 of 10 stops along the way.”

Scotti sounds just as interested in $10,000 cars as he is in six- and even seven-figure deals.

“If I can turn a profit, I’ll buy it,” he told the Canadian newspaper, adding that the most he’s ever spent is $1 million, three years ago, to buy a 1933 Duesenberg.

The newspaper said Scotti bought his first collector car when he was 23 years old. A friend needed money and had a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 that he thought was worth $15,000. Scotti bought the car for $12,000, put an advertisement in the classifieds, asking $15,900, and almost immediately did a deal to sell the car for $15,000.

He finally has decided he needs to slim down (his collection).”

— Gord Duff

“So,” Scotti told the newspaper, “$3,000 in profit in three days, pretty good.”

Although, he added, “Today that car probably would sell for $3 million.”

But as Scotti says, it’s not just the profit, but the hunt.

“He has too many cars, but wants to keep buying and selling,” Duff said. “He finally has decided he needs to slim down (his collection).”

So what’s he selling?

“Everything from a 1911 Ford to a ’32 Cadillac sedan to ’50s and ’60s American convertibles, late ’60s and ’70s muscle cars, a 5,600-mile all-original ‘57 Corvette roadster, a concours-quality piece-of-jewelry Z28 Camaro, Lamborghini Diablos — 3 of them! — a Testarossa, Bently Azures…”

You can see them for yourself at Auction America’s special Scotti web catalog: http://auctionsamerica.com/events/all-lots.cfm?SaleCode=AS14&grouping=The%20John%20Scotti%20Collection&category=

1958 Chevrolet Impala SS 427 goes to auction
1958 Chevrolet Impala SS 427 goes to auction

 

Real, pseudo Cadillacs top Leake auction at Dallas

El Morocco was Chevrolet disguised to look like a Cadillac | Leake Auction photos
El Morocco was Chevrolet disguised to look like a Cadillac | Leake Auction photos
This Cadillac is the real deal
This Cadillac is the real deal

Leake’s revived Dallas Spring auction posted $5.5 million in sales with 64 percent of the 434 lots going to new owners.

“As the collector car market continues to thrive, Dallas has become an emerging market for new collectors,” Richard Sevenoaks, president of Leake Auction Company, said in a news release.

“This is the first Dallas Spring sale we have done in quite some time, and the two-day sale was definitely a success. The interest in collector cars is at an all-time high.”

Leake aims at the grassroots level of the classic car market with many more cars selling for 4 figures than for 6.

Among those 6-figure sales were a Cadillac and a sort of faux-Cadillac.

The Cadillac was a bright red power-everything 1958 Series 62 convertible that led all sales at $165,000 (including the buyer’s premium).

The faux-Cadillac was a 1957 Chevrolet El Morocco four-door hardtop that went for $140,800. The El Morocco was a Chevrolet with revised rear body panels that made it look more like a big-finned Cadillac. The one sold at Leake was believed to be one of only 3 ’57 four-door hardtops remaining; 16 were produced.

The other 6-figure sale was $114,400 for a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette. A 1956 DeSoto Fireflight convertible was bid to $140,000, but that fell short of the reserve price.

Other high-dollar sales included a 1967 Ghia 450 SS for $96,250, a 2006 Bentley Flying Spur for $79,200 and a 2003 Ferrari 360 Modena for $78,100.

Leake’s next sale is June 6-8 in the River Spirit Expos Center at the Tulsa State Fair Grounds in Oklahoma.

’69 Boss 429 Mustang tops Mecum’s KC auction

Crowds and cars and lots of room for both at Mecum's Kansas City auction | David Newhardt photos
Crowds and cars and lots of room for both at Mecum’s Kansas City auction | David Newhardt photos

Mecum Kansas City 2014

Total sales$8.7 million
Catalog574 automobiles
Sell-through65 percent
High sale$260,000 for a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 427
Next 9 price range$59,000 to $107,000
Next auctionIndianapolis, May 13-18

Mecum’s annual Kansas City spring auction of classic cars posted a sell-through rate of 65 percent and total sales of nearly $8.7 million with 370 cars going to new owners.

The sale followed closely on the heels of Mecum’s $34.9-million sale in Houston and will be followed in just a couple of weeks by Dana Mecum’s big 27th Original Spring auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The auction at Indianapolis features some 2,000 vehicles spread around in several huge and historic exhibitions. That’s quite a contrast to Kansas City, where Bartle Hall in the Kansas City Convention Center provides one huge indoor area the equivalent in width and length of eight football fields.

Boss 429 Mustang was the top-dollar sale
Boss 429 Mustang was the top-dollar sale

The high-dollar sale of the KC auction was a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 fastback that not only was documented as one of the first 50 hand-built prototype vehicles but the first one to wear Candyapple Red paint. KK #1238 sold for $260,000 (prices are hammer prices and do not include any buyer premium fees).

Second-highest sale was a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette “split window” coupe that hammered at $107,000.

While three of the four high-dollar sales involved Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros accounted for six of the top-10 transactions.

Here’s the complete top-10 list for the auction:

  1.  1. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 (Lot S95) at $260,000
  2. 2. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Coupe (Lot F198) at $107,000
  3. 3. 1967 Ford Mustang Resto Mod (Lot S67) at $96,000
  4. 4. 1968 Shelby GT500KR Fastback (Lot S89) at $90,000
  5. 5. 2013 Ford Shelby Raptor Pickup (Lot S113) at $76,000
  6. 6. 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible (Lot S114.1) at $74,000
  7. 7. 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS (Lot S86) at $61,000
  8. 8. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS Z28 (Lot S105) at $61,000
  9. 9. 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible (Lot S68) at $60,000
  10. 10. 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible (Lot F186) at $59,000

    Split-window Corvette tops $100K
    Split-window Corvette tops $100K

(Prices are hammer prices and do not include buyer premiums.)

At Bonhams, Bentleys beckon to British buyers

1927 Bentley 3-Litre Speed tourer | Bonhams photos
1927 Bentley 3-Litre Speed tourer | Bonhams photos

With three British-built Bentleys among the top seven sales, Bonhams classic car auction at the RAF Museum in England posted $3.55 million in sales.

Leading the sale in terms of price paid was a 1956 Bentley S-Series Continental sports saloon with coachwork by H.J. Mulliner. The car sold for $426,282 (prices include buyer’s premium).

1956 Bentley S1 Continental goes for $426,282 at Bonhams
1956 Bentley S1 Continental goes for $426,282 at Bonhams

However, the star of the auction was a bright-red, Vanden Plas-bodied 1927 Bentley 3-Litre Speed tourer that sold for $379,197, far beyond its high pre-auction estimate of $252,000.

Unveiled at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition, the W.O. Bentley’s 3-Litre became legendary for its success in racing. Bentley produced 1,600 examples of the car.

Yet another Bentley, a red-and-black 1947 MKVI 4 1/4-litre saloon with coachwork by Freestone & Webb sold for $106,108.

“We are delighted with the results achieved at Hendon, particularly as the top prices achieved were for outstanding vintage Bentleys — a marque for which we hold the record price at auction,” said Tim Schofield, head of Bonhams motor car department.

“We pride ourselves on being the only UK-managed international auction house, so to be able to deliver a result like this for another great British brand is deeply satisfying.”

Other top-dollar sales at the auction included $332,113 for a for a 1966 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage, $153,192 each for a 1989 Porsche 911 Turbo SE “flat nose” convertible and a 2008 Ferrari 612 Sessanta coupe, and $141,892 for a 1987 Lamborghini LM022, the so-called Rambo Lambo 4×4.

Multiple Choice: Original or contemporary ‘Black Bess’ Bugatti?

You can buy this Veyron 'Black Bess' for a mere $3 million | Bugatti photo
You can buy this Veyron ‘Black Bess’ for a mere $3 million | Bugatti photos
Aviator Garros' 1913 Type 18 'Black Bess'
Aviator Garros’ 1913 Type 18 ‘Black Bess’

Bugatti is doing a series of six Legends Edition  Veyrons, and the latest pays homage to the original Bugatti Type 18, known as “Black Bess,” that was delivered to a French aviator more than a century ago.

Unveiled at the recent Beijing auto show next to its namesake, the “Black Bess” Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse Legend model is one of three to be built and offered for sale for a mere $3 million. The car is the fifth in the Legends series to be offered so far by Bugatti.

Bugatti claims the original Black Bess was “the first-ever street-legal super sports car.”

“Over the course of its history, Bugatti has not only been responsible for crafting enormously successful race cars, but has also created some outstanding road vehicles,” Wolfgang Schreiber, president of Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., said in a news release. “As the fastest road vehicle of its time, the Type 18 was in a class of its own. It truly is the legitimate forerunner for the Veyron, and is therefore a Bugatti Legend.”

Powered by a 5.0-liter, 4-cylinder, overhead-cam inline engine that pumped out more than 100 horsepower, even with its chain-drive system, the original “Black Bess” could reach a top speed of 100 miles per hour.

Ettore Bugatti drove the Type 18 prototype to victory in the 1912 Mont Ventoux hill climb and then produced seven copies for customers, including aviator Roland Garros, who took delivery of his car on September 18, 1913. Garros would name his car “Black Bess” after a legendary British horse.

Garros’ car is one of three from the series extant and was loaned to Bugatti for its Beijing display by the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands.

Multiple Choice: ’27 or ’56 Bentley interior?

1927 Bentley 3-Litre Speed tourer
1927 Bentley 3-Litre Speed tourer

At a recent Bonhams auction in England, the high-dollar sales were both Bentleys — a 1927 3-Litre Speed tourer sold for $379,197 and a 1956 S-Series Continental sports saloon brought $426,282.

But what we’re curious about is your opinion of the respective interiors of those two cars. Do you prefer the raw simplicity of the ’27 model or the green-carpeted elegance of the Continental?

1956 Bentley S-Series Continental
1956 Bentley S-Series Continental

Bonhams bike auction obliterates pre-auction estimates

In period photo, George Brough has sidecar attached to his Superior SS100 | Morton Achieves photo courtesy Bonhams
In period photo, George Brough has sidecar attached to his Superior SS100 | Morton Achieves courtesy Bonhams

With many motorcycles passing their pre-auction value estimates as if those figures were standing still, Bonhams annual Stafford Sale of Pioneer, Vintage and Collectors’ Motorcycles and Memorabilia was, well:

“Overall the sale was exceptional,” said Ben Walker, head of motorcycles for the British auction house. “We are delighted with the results achieved for this long and well-established sale.”

Overall, Bonhams reported an 89-percent sell-through rate and total exceeding $3.4 million.

1939 Brough Superior SS100 | Bonhams
1939 Brough Superior SS100 | Bonhams

The star of the sale was a Brough Superior SS100 formerly owned by George Brough himself. The bike, first registered in 1939 and raced by Brough in the London-Edinburgh Trial that year, had a pre-auction estimate of $235,000 to $300,000 but sold for $427,000.

“The SS100 was a record price at auction for a Matchless-engined example, and the owner was truly astounded with the result achieved,” Walker said in a news release.”

He called the overall results of the sale “a real return to form,” and added that “Online bidding was strong with buyers from as far away as Australia and New Zealand — along with people in the auction room from, amongst other countries, Canada, America, France, Italy and Holland.”

Among the most impressive sales were:

  • A 1972 MV Agusta 750S that went for $144,000, nearly double its pre-auction estimate,
  • A 1914 Henderson Model C that sold for $134,600, again nearly double its estimate,
  • A 1953 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow that brought $70,940, again nearly double pre-auction expectations,
  • A 1989 Ducatti 888cc Lucchinelli replica racer still in its original crate that was estimated to go for around $25,000 but brought nearly $64,000,
  • A 1939 Brought Superior 990cc SS80 Project that sold for nearly $62,000, three times its pre-auction estimate,
  • An ex-Phil Vare/Isle of Man TT 1929 Scott racer that sold for more than $52,000.
Prough Superior 'project' brings $62,000 | Bonhams
Brough Superior ‘project’ brings $62,000 | Bonhams

The sale was held at the annual Stafford Internationnal Classic MotorCycle show, but at a new location at that show.

“A new venue within the show for the first time in 27 years gave greater comfort to bidders and a better viewing platform,” said Malcolm Barber, Bonhams Group chief executive and the auctioneer for the motorcycle sale.”

Barber also credited the sale’s success to “new buyers and international bidding” that “buoyed prices with a strong sell through rate.”

Barber added that the show and sale serve as “the barometer of the international motorcycle market each year in April… show all the trends and indicators for this important collectors’ market — and the indicators are strong.”

1914 Henderson Model C | Bonhams
1914 Henderson Model C | Bonhams