With one exception, you won’t find seven-figure cars or even very many gleaming classics at Bonhams’ third-annual Preserving the Automobile sale Monday at the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia.
Yes, Bonhams is a high-end auction house and, yes, the Simeone is the home to some of the most amazing vehicles in the world.
But the point of this auction is to present classics in need of preservation, or perhaps even restoration, as well as many of the parts needed for those tasks, and to match them with new owner-custodians willing to keep them from rusting to dust.
The hope and dream is that people will maintain the historical connection to the past and keep it looking old,”
— Eric Minoff
“The hope and dream is that people will maintain the historical connection to the past and keep it looking old,” he added. “Restored cars are beautiful, but they don’t look old. If we all looked as good as the cars on the field at Pebble Beach, it could be nice, but the reality that we all age. People like to buy cars that are from their youth, but those people don’t look like they did in their youth by the time they have the money to buy them.”
Only one of the cars being offered carries a pre-auction estimate that reaches seven figures: a 1907 American Underslung 50-hp roadster being billed as the “oldest existing sports car in America” and expected to sell for between $900,000 and $1.3 million.
Only another 15 of the lots have pre-auction estimates that reach six figures, and none of those estimates exceeds $250,000.
More typical (and if not truly typical, at least cars that caught our eye) are vehicles such as:
- A 1938 Cord 810 Westchester sedan ($70,000 to $90,000) formerly owned and driven “thousand of miles” by Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg expert Jim O’Brien. The catalog notes “the body work is generally straight” though the paint “shows a few signs of age here and there.”
- A 1918 National Highway Six Touring ($30,000 to $50,000) that “has survived in nice order. A largely original car that has seen some restoration along the way, it runs well…”
- A 1948 Tatra T87 sedan ($90,000 to $110,000) that’s been owned by the same family since 1975. The car was painted white (including the wheels) with red pinstriping when it arrived in the U.S. The car “has been continually driven and serviced.”
- Or even a 1953 Nash Healey Le Mans Coupe ($20,000 to $30,000), “largely complete and generally sound the engine is reported to turn freely,” bucket seats are incorrect but much of the interior and the carpets “appear original,” and while the exterior is heavily patinaed, it’s also “solid and rust free.”
The auction is Monday, with preview viewing Saturday and Sunday at the museum. For details, see the website.
The auction coincides with the annual AACA Eastern Regional Fall Meet at nearby Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Fall Meet begins Tuesday (weather permitting) with the opening of the flea market. The swap meet officially starts Wednesday, when the car corral also opens. The AACA Night at the Museum (the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum) is Wednsday evening. The meet runs through Saturday, with vehicle judging Sunday and an awards banquet Sunday evening at the Hershey Lodge.
“It’s entirely because of Hershey,” Minoff confirmed of the auction. “Having the sale on Monday is quirky, but doing it on Monday means people can arrive over the weekend, see the cars and the museum as well, and they they can do their bidding — literally and figuratively — on Monday, and arrive in Herhsey so they’re on the field (at the swap meet) bright and early to buy more stuff.”
For details, visit the fall meet website.