Pricey but dicey: Dr. Andy checks pulse of Monterey marketplace

Andy's Monterey favorite is this 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 | RM Sotheby's photo by Tim Scott
Andy’s Monterey favorite is this 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 | RM Sotheby’s photo by Tim Scott

It’s less than a week before the first hammer drops at the six collector car auctions taking place on the Monterey Peninsula and everyone is anxious about what’s going to happen — what will sell, what will not sell, and at what price?

First, a few data points: Last year by my count, there were 88 cars offered at Monterey auctions with pre-sale estimated values of more than $1 million. This year, I count 72 of them.

This reduction is likely to be a safe strategy by the auction houses because I question if there are sufficient buyers in the market today for so many so expensive collector vehicles.

I think that the modern supercars will continue to hold steady and sell for top dollar. After all, the newest crop of buyers want these vehicles and there are still more buyers than cars available.

The big-dollar cars with great history and extreme rarity also will sell for top dollar. A person only has a few opportunities to buy truly rare cars and the buyers will be out there to become the next caretakers of these historically significant cars.

Examples of these cars are the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1, my favorite car at any of the auctions, and the 1956 Ferrari 11 LM Spider at RM Sotheby’s, the E-type lightweight and McLaren F1 at Bonhams, the Maserati A6G/54 and the 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial at Gooding and Co. All of these are some of the more desirable classic sporting car in the world from different eras and are always going to be in big demand.

Porsche 917 used in Steve McQueen's Le Mans movie | Gooding & Co. photo
Porsche 917 used in Steve McQueen’s Le Mans movie | Gooding & Co. photo

On the other hand, race cars are a more dicey marketplace and in that space, history is everything. A great example of this is the tale of two Porsches.

RM Sotheby’s is offering a 1970 Porsche 908/03 with history that includes being raced in period by Hans Herrmann and Richard Atwood. This car is a stellar example of a vintage racer and is welcome at any vintage race event anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, Gooding is offering Porsche 917 and that cars history is a bit less storied. It was used in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans but it was really never raced. The estimate of the car is a staggering $13 million to $16 million. The estimate on the 908 is only $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

Yes, the 917 is a more fabled and mythic racer, but the lack of any real competition history for the model in question could hurt it unless the Steve McQueen celebrity effect still has some power.

Gooding does have another race car, the awesome Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT that was driven to wins at Spa, Zeltweg, and Watkins Glen by Bell and Pescarolo. This car is a fantastic vintage racer with all the period history you’d ever want and is likely to meet or exceed its $2.4 million to $2.8 million estimate. Of all the race cars offered in Monterey, except the DBR1, it is the one I would most love to own.

Elsewhere, and among the more typical collector car auction offerings, I expect that long-hood early Porsches will be flat if not down a bit from previous years. There are a lot of these cars and at this point we seem to have a situation where everyone who wanted one already bought one.

The same holds true for run-of-the-mill, driver-condition Jaguar E-types and Healey 3000s. There are scores of these cars and unless the E-type is a Series One in fantastic original condition or one that has received a stellar restoration, these cars are likely to be at best flat.

Ditto the Mercedes W113 Pagoda and 190SL cars. These cars rose very high very rapidly but now are likely to be flat if not in decline.

On the lower end of the hobby, regarding cars between $25,000 and $75,000, the market has been pretty strong lately. If the cars in this price range are great examples they are likely to sell for strong money.

I don’t think we will see any $50,000 MGBs, but any nice examples of cars in this range will likely sell for full market price, if not a bit more. One car that comes to mind in this category is the 1976 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT at Gooding. This is a stellar example of a rare car an I would not be surprised to see in meet it’s pre-auction estimate of $35,000 to $45,000.

In a week or so all of this will be history and I will be proved correct or wrong. As collector car valuation and appraisal specialist Dave Kinney likes to say, “My crystal ball for this stuff is powered by Lucas.”

Bottom line: If you are bidding, be sure the car for which you are raising your hand is one you love, no matter what the price might be.sigandy

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