RM’s 15th Arizona auction sets records

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photos by Larry Edsall

RM Arizona 2014 at a glance

Total sales$45.56 million
Catalog125 automobiles
1 motorcycle
1 boat
Sell-through rate85 percent
High sale$8.8 million
1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider
Next 9 price range$1.045 million to $2.75 million
Next auctionFebruary 5 in Paris, France

Forget the adage about the third time being the charm, for RM, it was the company’s 15th visit to Phoenix that set the sales record with a whopping $45,563,450 in business during Arizona Auction Week.

And that figure could grow because RM has 30 days after the auction to complete the sale of classic cars that didn’t quite meet the consignors’ reserve prices during the bidding.

“We were on the phones on Monday trying to find homes for all the cars,” said RM car specialist Ian Kelleher.

And how’s this list for some of the leftovers: A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, a 1961 Chaparral 1 race car, a 1966 Porsche 906 Carrera 6, a 1957 Porsche 356A Reutter Carrera Speedster, a 1953 Siata 208S Spyder, and a 1929 Bentley 4 1/2-litre Vanden Plas Tourer.

Each of those cars was bid to at least $1 million at the Arizona auction, and the owner of the 275 GTB/4 turned down a bid of $2.85 million.

Had just those six cars sold for their high bids, the auction total sales would have been $10 million more than the already record amount.

But even without those sales, the sale’s total was 25 percent better than a year ago, when RM did a one-day, 84-vehicle sale. The $8.8 million price for a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT long-wheelbase California Spider at RM was the most money ever paid for a collector car at any Arizona auction.

'61 Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder (foreground) sold for $2.75 million
’61 Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder (foreground) sold for $2.75 million

“There was a new format with the two days and we think it went quite well,” Kelleher said in an understatement. “Attendance was greater, even on Wednesday when we opened for a ‘soft’ preview. that was pretty encouraging.

As for the auction itself, “There was in excess of a thousand people each night,” Kelleher said.

“There were a lot of familiar faces, but it also looked like [the audience] was getting a bit younger. Each year the younger group steps one step further into the full breathe of the market. It’s not an overnight transition, but I do see it transitioning.”

Kellerher said RM also is encouraged by the fact that “people aren’t attending to see if the market is going to crash. They’re coming to see what they can buy and take home. Nearly half of the people I talked with were new clients and first-time buyers, not speculators. They were end users.”

And he said the newcomers are doing their homework: “They’re taking time to see the cars, calling for more information, asking for documents, doing due diligence, doing all the things you want someone to do to become a long-term client.”

While total sales increased greatly, the average sale price was less than the one-day auction in 2013, but Kelleher said that was expected.

“It’s reflective of the increased number of consignments and some lower-dollar vehicles,” he said. The non-sale (so far) of some of those high-dollar cars also was a factor in the average sales price.

Kelleher added that while exotic post-war European sports cars were particularly strong at the RM, Gooding & Company and Bonhams sales in Arizona, even those from that genre in the sub-$150,000 price range were being snapped up by newcomers from around the globe. Examples sold in that range at RM’s Arizona auction included XK and E-type Jaguars, Porsche 356Bs, Alfas, and Austin-Healey 3000s.

“That’s very encouraging,” Kelleher said. “More people are looking to get in or to stay in the hobby. These are cars people can drive on a more regular basis and enjoy, and cars they can enjoy with their families and on [vintage sports] car tours.”

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