What Larry likes at Bonhams’ Quail sale

A 1970 Cadillac Coupe Deville is among the cars scheduled to cross the block Friday at Bonhams' Quail auction | Larry Edsall photos
A 1970 Cadillac Coupe Deville is among the cars scheduled to cross the block Friday at Bonhams’ Quail auction | Larry Edsall photos

One of the premises behind our auction picks stories is that we don’t care about the prices or even necessarily the provenance of the collector vehicles on display. What matters here is purely personal taste: We give our reporters and editors the freedom to wander around an auction house’s offerings and then share what they liked the best.

The only requirement is that a reporter or editor select at least six vehicles for what we refer to as a “Pick 6” feature display.

Sometimes the cars selected and shared are, indeed, the most desirable, the most expensive on the docket. But like people who collect anything, price and even rarity aren’t always the key criteria.

“Buy what you like,” is perhaps the best advice anyone can hear, and that’s we’re trying to do here, to share with you what we or – in this specific case — what I liked best as I strolled the preview for Bonhams’ big auction Friday at the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley on the Monterey Peninsula.

Oh, and it says something about the quality of the Bonhams’ docket that I couldn’t restrict myself to only six vehicles but instead am sharing a full delightful dozen (at least to my eyes).

1934 Pierce-Arrow 840A coupe
I found this big, elegant Art Nouveau coupe to be simply breathtaking. And there’s even a rumble seat. Pierce-Arrow was re-energized in 1928 when it allied with Studebaker. Soon there were new inline 8-cylinder engines, such as the 385cid in this one, and renewed popularity for the brand with the archer atop its hood.
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1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
One year Peugeot loaned me a 205 GTI to drive for the week I was covering the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I loved that spunky, flingable little hatchback. Now I behold its big brother, the Turbo 16 homologation car that allowed Peugeot to compete in Group B international rallying. Only 200 such cars were built and this one was owned from new for 30 years by the same fortunate Belgian.
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1941 ‘Alfa Romeo’ 6C Plate Special
Powered by a 2.3-liter Alfa Romeo 6-cylinder engine (from the 1934 6C 2300 GT), this racing roadster was one of the cars built by Luigi “Gigi’ Plate, who as a youngster disobeyed his father by entering a bicycle race (which he won). Plate went from bikes to motorcycles and in his late 20s had his own garage specializing in motorsport. This Special, P-002, was owned for many years by the late John Murphy of Atlanta.
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1953 Bandini 750 Sport Siluro
So what if the 747cc Crosley inline four-banger pumps out only 50 horsepower at 7,200 rpm? This little lightweight roadster would be a hoot to drive on narrow mountain roads. It came to the U.S. from its native Italy as a brand-new car ready for racing, but in the 1990s it went back to Italy for a complete restoration by a team led by Dino Bandini, nephew of car-builder Iliano Bandini.
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1952 Muntz Jet convertible
Earl “Mad Man” Muntz first made money selling used cars, then by producing inexpensive television sets and the precursor to the 8-track audio system. In 1950, he bought a car design from Indy racer Frank Kurtis, stretched the chassis more than a foot to add a rear seat and launched the Muntz Road Jet with a Cadillac engine. This example, restored by Glenn Vaughn, scion of Hill and Vaughn, has a 336cid Lincoln V8 and a faux-snakeskin interior and top.
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1938 Talbot T23 4.o-liter cabriolet
Proceeds from the sale of this car will benefit the Simeone Foundation Automobile Museum in Philadelphia. The long, low convertible wears gorgeous bodywork by Figoni et Falaschi, made its debut at the 1938 London Motor Show and according to Bonhams is one of only two get this pontoon-fendered coachwork design from the French designers. The car originally was owned by an American banker but then went to a Mademoiselle Le Gris, who split her time between France and Texas, where Arthur Flores eventually owned the car for 40 years.
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1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Cabriolet A
Another big, black pre-war beauty is this Mercedes-Benz with its pre-auction estimated value north of $2 million. The car has a supercharged 5.0-liter inline 8 and originally was delivered to England, to a German who had business interested in the UK. It arrived in the U.S. in 1962 with a Swedish engineer living on this side of the Pond. It went back to Europe, was shown at Ville d’Este in 2014 and now is being offered for sale in California.
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1913 Delaunay-Belleville Type 06 45/50 Double Pare-Brise
That big round radiator was simply fascinating to see, and behind it is a nearly 8-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Three years before Charles Kettering invented the electric self-starter for Cadillac, this car had a “silent starter” operated from the driver’s seat. The bodywork on this example is by J. Rothschild et Fils, though the round grille was an early Louis Delaunay design.
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1904 Oldsmobile Model T ‘French Front’ light tonneau
Successor to the Curve Dash Olds, and larger as well, this Model T had a more European design ethic and thus the “French Front” nickname. The Model T, available in runabout or tonneau configuration, was the first Oldsmobile equipped with a steering wheel instead of a tiller.
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1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix racing two-seater
One of the stars of the Bonhams’ docket is this car, formerly owned by Earl Howe and raced by the likes of Taruffi and Nuvolari. The car raced four times at Monte Carlo and carries the 2.3-liter inline 8-cylinder engine Bugatti based on the design by American racer Harry Miller.
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1934 Riley 12/4 Special
Not only would this car be fun to drive, but I could just sit back and appreciate it as a work of sculpture with wonderful details to discover as the days passed. Originally, the car was a sedan that was converted into an open roadster with racing bodywork and a rear-mounted “continental” spare tire.
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1930 Stutz Series M cabriolet
Big and impressive, this Stutz convertible is bodied by LeBaron. Though built in America, the car was sold at an auction in Europe in 2007 and underwent restoration and preservation in Italy.
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