Broadcasting pioneer Art Astor was a remarkable presence in Southern California, and the entire country, for that matter. As broadcaster and owner during the heyday of rock ‘n roll AM radio in the 1950s and ’60s, he built the presence of his stations, which eventually became the Astor Broadcast Group, and they continued their power and appeal into this century.
As his wealth grew, Astor became an inveterate collector of cultural artifacts, such as vintage radios, toys, slot machines, juke boxes and autographed photos of Hollywood stars. Most notably, Astor was a collector of great old cars, which numbered into the hundreds. Astor died in December at the age of 91.
The last 14 remaining cars from Astor’s collection will be auctioned at Russo and Steele’s 27th annual Monterey, California, sale to be held August 17-19 during Monterey Car Week. Known as the Devotion Collection, these cars were those most important to the passionate collector.
“These remaining offerings are vehicles that Art felt so passionately about that he kept them the closest to him, through the end of his life, and include prime examples of pre- and post-war American classics, American luxury cars and European sports cars,” according to a Russo and Steele news release announcing the collection.
Among the Devotion Collection cars (with news-release descriptions):
1932 Packard 902 coupe roadster– For 1932, one of the most attractive Packards in the Series 902 was the coupe roadster. A new top design allowed it to be folded flat into the body, which provides the roadster with a fluid, graceful appearance. All the Packard coupe roadster models were fitted with a rumble seat. The original list price ranged from $2,650 to $2,850, and wire wheels were standard. The 319 cid Standard Eight inline engine produced 110 horsepower.
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL 4-speed convertible – The Mercedes-Benz 280 SL was introduced at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, and was produced from 1963 through 1971. It replaced both the legendary 300 SL and the 190 SL. Of the 48,912 produced, the majority were destined for the U.S. Often referred to as Pagodas due to the distinctive concave styling of their removable hardtops, this example is finished in white with a red-leather interior. While most 280 SLs are fitted with automatic transmissions, this one has the more-desirable 4-speed manual.
1937 Cadillac convertible coupe– The well-maintained Cadillac convertible is powered by a 346 cid flathead V8 that produces 135 horsepower. It was serviced recently and driven, and is reported to start easily and drive smoothly. It has the rare combination of a rumble seat and rear trunk. The tan top is in good order, and the Caddy is equipped with fog lights, whitewall tires and goddess hood ornament.
1973 Jaguar E-Type roadster –This Series III is finished in British Racing Green and fitted with striking chrome wire wheels. The body is straight and solid, and the interior sparkles. The black leather interior is in good order, and the engine is clean and tidy. Recently serviced, this Jaguar XK-E is ready for the road or show. Offered at no reserve.
1936 Ford V8 convertible –The triple-tan convertible sedan offers V8 performance from an engine that is properly detailed. It is clean and tidy with no leaks or fluid leaks evident. The tan top is in good order as is the tan fabric interior. The paint work, while older, is almost flawless and complements the car’s styling, set off by whitewall tires. For 1936, the convertible sedan received a new integrated trunk-back design. Offered at no reserve.
1937 Dodge convertible – This Dodge convertible is one of only 1,345 produced for 1937, of which only a dozen or so are thought to remain today. It is powered by a 217-horsepower inline-6 engine that produces 87 horsepower. The interior is finished in red leather, and the car is fitted with fender skirts and fog lights. Offered at no reserve.
1939 Mercury coupe – The 1939 Mercury V8 was the first model in Ford’s product lineup, produced at the insistence of Edsel Ford, who realized Ford needed a car that filled the $500 gap between the Ford Deluxe and the Lincoln Zephyr. It was priced at $934 and featured a 95-horsepower flathead V8. The body is straight and solid, and the paint is in excellent condition, according to the description. A fine example of a first-generation Mercury. Offered at no reserve.
1948 Buick Super convertible – The styling for the 1948 Buick Super convertible was a GM staple for five years. This example has been well-cared-for and offered with an accessory bumper guard, drivers spotlight and radio. It is finished in green with a black canvas top, with standard power windows, seats and top. Power comes from a straight-8 engine. The seats in the immaculate interior are tan fabric trimmed with green leather. Offered at no reserve.
1955 Ford Crown Victoria –The 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria was the top trim level for 1955 and included chrome window and A-pillar moldings, and it was readily recognized because of its “tiara” roof trim. A 272cid V8 produces 162 horsepower. This well-cared-for example that has been serviced recently and reported to run smoothly and be a treat to drive. The unusual brown-paint color sparkles, and the chrome and other trim are in excellent condition. Offered at no reserve.
1953 Packard Caribbean Custom convertible – The 1953 Packard Caribbean custom convertible was based on the Pan American show car and did not appear until mid-year, priced at an impressive $5,210. Only 750 left dealer showrooms. It was powered by a 327 cid straight-8 engine that produced 180 horsepower. This example has been restored to a high standard and presents well. The red-leather interior is in good order and the dash plastic is not scratched or chipped. Offered at no reserve.
The Russo and Steele auction takes place on the waterfront in downtown Monterey near Fisherman’s Wharf. For information, visit the auction website.