Usually, it is the cars that draw us to the car shows and the classic car auctions. But sometimes, it’s the venue where those cars are being shown or sold.
Consider the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, right there on the 18th fairway overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Or the Arizona concours within the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture of the Arizona Biltmore Resort. Or Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic auction held within the buildings at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, an amazing mixture of concrete and glass construction. Or the upcoming move of the Barrington concours from north suburban Chicago to the site of the old Meigs Field, the island airport which will have the Windy City skyline as its backdrop.
We’re months away from summer, but you might want to mark your calendar now for the July 17-18 weekend and the change in venue for Auctions America’s California Sale, which not only will feature some intriguing cars — personally, I’m fascinated by the 1954 Sorrell-Manning Special Roadster — but which will offer those cars for sale in the historic Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport.
The hangar was built in 1954 by Bill Lear, who planned to use it to produce his Lear Jets. The city of Santa Monica shot down that plan, so Lear sold the building to Howard Hughes, who used it as a base for his personal fleet of three private jets while he lived in Bel-Air. When Hughes moved to Las Vegas, he sold the hangar to Conrad Hilton, who housed his corporate aircraft in the structure.
In the late 1960s, James Barker, an aerospace engineer credited with much of the build of the Apollo Project, bought the hangar.
As historic as the hangar might be, the Santa Monica Airport’s history is even more extensive. It dates to 1917, when it was a landing strip for World War I military biplanes. Donald Douglas formed his aircraft company at the facility in 1922. In 1929. the first Powder Puff Derby, featuring Amelia Earhart and 19 other women, took off from Santa Monica en route to Cleveland.
During World War II, as many as 44,000 people worked at the airport building military planes. By 1959, Douglas had built nearly 11,000 aircraft at the Santa Monica site.
Today, Barker Hangar is touted as the largest free-span venue on the west side of LA, with a ceiling arch 43 feet above the floor and with 35,000 square feet of event space beneath that roof.
“We’re excited to be moving to the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, a venue that plays host to some of the most exclusive events in South California,” Ian Kelleher, managing director of Auctions America’s West Coast division, said in a news release. “As one of the largest and most versatile event spaces in the Los Angeles-area, it’s almost as if it was purpose-built to host a collector car auction, not to mention its convenient location; it’s ideally situated just a few short miles to the beach, and close to major freeways as well as the Los Angeles International Airport.”
Auctions America’s two previous California Sales were held in a hotel venue near the Burbank Airport.
Early consignments for the third annual California Sale include six cars from a San Diego-based collection: a supercharged F-Code 1957 Ford Thunderbird , a 1954 Buick Skylark convertible, a 1960 Chrysler 300F convertible, a 13,000-mile 1963 Ford Galaxie R-Code Sportsroof hardtop, 1955 Studebaker President Speedster, and a 1957 Ford Country Squire station wagon.
And then there’s the stunning 1954 Sorrell-Manning Special Roadster, which is being offered for public sale for the first time.
According to kustomrama.com, Sorrell worked with his father at Sorrell Engineering in Inglewood, California, where he built aluminum bodies for Tommy Ivo’s AA fuel dragsters and well as a series of fiberglass-bodied cars for various racing events. He also created the SR-100 roadster, the first in aluminum and later seven copies in fiberglass.
“The design was a Sorrell original and owed nothing to the traditional body shapes being built in the early 1950s,” the website reported. “Sorrell’s use of an envelope design and unified fender-to-body expression were just two major themes he explored.”
The SR-100 made its debut at the Petersen’s 1953 Motorama show and earned the cover of the February 1954 issue of Car Craft magazine.
One of the seven fiberglass-bodied cars was ordered but delivery was never made and Sorrell kept the car, which was constructed on a chassis by aerospace engineer and racer Chuck Manning and powered by a Chrysler Hemi marine V8. Sorrell kept and drove the car, reportedly until his death in 2003. At some point afterward, it was discovered in storage, bought and sold by various classic car dealers and ended up in Texas before being sent to Colorado for a frame-off restoration.
Looking like new once again, the car was unveiled in 2010 at the Petersen museum’s Fantasies in Fiberglass exhibition and won its class at the Amelia Island concours the following year.
Auctions America, the grassroots-auction arm of RM Sotheby’s, estimates the Sorrell-Manning Special Roadster will bring $175,000 to $225,000 at the California Sale.