Arizona auctions showed Porsche 911s’ rapid rise

A 1973 Porsche 911S crosses the block at Gooding & Company | Bob Golfen photos
A 1973 Porsche 911S crosses the block at Gooding & Company | Bob Golfen photos

I walked into the Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale last Saturday just in time to witness a 1966 Porsche 912 being hammered sold for $75,000. No, not a proper six-cylinder 911 but a mild-mannered four-cylinder 912. With auction fee, the sale price was $82,500.

I don’t mean to be disparaging, but this seems like a heap of money for what is essentially the 911’s weak sister. However, with prices of early 911s going through the roof, this seems to be the new reality as 912s are dragged up from the value cellar where they have existed for so long.

The 1966 912 at Gooding was restored in 1990
The 1966 912 at Gooding was restored in 1990

The entry-level 912 has essentially the same iconic styling as the 911, so that apparently goes a long way in this overheated 911 market. The landmark shape of the original 911, which has held up so well through its generations to the present day, appeals to classic car enthusiasts of all ages, so the prices should hold up as younger collectors and hobbyists enter the market.

Values for 911s have spiked so fast that they were termed “explosive” and “meteoric” by the expert panelists at the Sports Car Market seminar last week. While Porsche prices pale compared with the run up in Ferrari values, they have been climbing rapidly, with 911s and their ancestor 356s hitting surprising numbers in just the past few years.

“Porsches are still on fire,” said Jonathon Klinger, a spokesman for Hagerty classic car insurance and Hagerty Price Guide.

Full disclosure: I am the owner of a 1962 356B T-6 Super coupe, not one of the great models but still a car that has risen in worth during the relatively short time I have owned it, according to various price guides. No matter, though, since I have no plans to sell.

The correct way to examine a 911
The correct way to examine a 911

The strong six-figure sales of 911s are getting lots of attention. Arizona Auction Week was packed with Porsches, mostly 911s, concentrated primarily in the higher-end sales at Gooding, RM and Bonhams as owners attempted to cash in on the new enthusiasm for the classic rear-engine sports cars. As expected, they did quite well with most of them going a good distance into six figures.

This is a fairly recent phenomenon. In 2011, the sale of a rare first-year 1964 911 coupe in great condition was an absolute shocker when it reached a record $222,500, including auction fee, at RM Auctions’ Amelia Island sale. Now, according to the latest Hagerty Price Guide, that ’64 911 in good to excellent condition would go for $242,000 to $303,000, not including the customary 10 percent auction fee. And nobody would raise an eyebrow.

Although 911s have always been popular collector cars and vintage racers, the boom in interest and prices for early 911s – the so-called “long hoods” from the 1964 through 1973 model years (before the advent of DOT bumpers) – started to climb after two things happened:

A 1969 911T heads toward the RM block
A 1969 911T heads toward the RM block

• Porsche 911 turned 50 in 2013 – The birthday was marked from when 911 debuted with much acclaim at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963. While such anniversaries are celebrated regularly for many car models, the 911 anniversary seemed to resonate with old-car enthusiasts everywhere, maybe because Porsche AG did such an excellent job of getting them out before the public eye where everyone could rediscover how totally cool they are.

• The sale of the Steve McQueen 911S from the movie Le Mans – Of course, the $1.375 million sale in 2011 of the 911S driven by McQueen in the opening sequences of Le Mans is a total outlier, far and away from any logical value of a non-ultra-celebrity 911S, but it did serve to focus attention on these cars.

I remember first seeing Le Mans years ago, and those loving shots of the car rambling through the French countryside made me long so much for a 911. Before that car came up for sale at RM’s 2011 Monterey auction, the film sequence was shown endlessly on numerous websites and blogs, and I’m sure those feelings of 911 longing were renewed for many of the people who saw it.

Plus, 911s are known for being sturdy, reliable cars.

“Unlike a lot of other collector cars, they do work every day,” longtime classic car expert Simon Kidston said during the SCM seminar. He also noted that the cars have excellent parts and service support from Porsche and a host of private concerns.

The 356 models are still holding their value
The 356 models are still holding their value

In Arizona, the Gooding auction was packed with Porsches, with 20 of them on the docket out of a total of 130 cars. Before its sale, Gooding had estimated the 912’s value at $60,000 to $80,000, so the result was right in there. Guess those guys know what they’re doing. Although that seems very pricey when the Hagerty Price Guide has the 1966 912 listed in good to excellent condition from $29,400 to $39,000.

Gooding had the deck stacked with all manner of Porsches – 356s coupes and cabriolets, including an appealing “barn find” 1958 Speedster and a high-performance Carrera 2 coupe; a wide variety of 911s ranging from the valuable early models to a powerful 2011 997 GT3 RS; a 1988 version of the rare and hotly desired 959, the all-wheel drive supercar of the 1980s based on the 911, which sold for $1.7 million; and one of the stars of the auction, a 1966 906 Carrera 6 race car that sold for $1.98 million.

The early 911 prices were solid at Gooding, most of them more than double what these cars were worth just two or three years ago. But Gooding’s pre-auction estimates were even more aggressive, and most of the cars sold for less than the auction company expected. Still, these are serious numbers for the cars that sold:

1965 911 coupe, $253,000
1966 911 coupe, $170,500
1967 911 2.0 S coupe, $253,000
1972 911 2.4 S Targa, $132,000
1973 911T coupe, $115,000
1973 911S coupe, $145,750
1973 911S coupe, $187,000

RM Auctions had 12 Porsches cross the block at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, including three pre-1974 911s. Again, big prices compared with the very recent past:

1965 911 coupe, $297,000
1969 911T coupe, $121,000
1969 911S Targa soft-rear-window, $286,000

At Bonhams, the 911 results seemed a bit softer but still healthy:

1967 911S coupe, $137,500
1970 911T coupe, $93,500
1972 911T coupe, $71,500
1973 911E Targa, $104,500

And it wasn’t just the high-end auctions where good results were posted for 911s. One of the top-selling cars at Silver Auctions’ laid-back sale was a 1975 911T coupe that sold for $59,940, which may not be as-big money but still shows the strength of the brand in a less-elite auction environment.

Later 911s, such as this 1976 Turbo, are moving up
Later 911s, such as this 1976 Turbo, are moving up

Later-model 911s are starting to follow the “long hoods” up the value scale, with formerly cheap coupes and convertibles from the late-’70s, ’80s and ’90s getting due notice, notably the desirable performance models.

Klinger said “1980s 911S prices continue to go through the roof,” pointing out the strong sales of several of the later cars at Bonhams, all of them achieving the top-dollar No. 1 values listed in the Hagerty Price Guide.

Some of the experts at the SCM seminar expressed concern that the rapid rise of 911 values might constitute a bubble that could burst with an unpleasant financial aftertaste. But given the dramatic upturn in today’s collector-car marketplace, especially for European sports cars, Porsches seem to be right where they should be. And still moving up.

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Experts assess rising tide of collector-car values in ‘Sports Car Market’ seminar

Values for top Ferraris, such as this 1959 250 GT LWB Spider at Gooding, continue to soar | Bob Golfen photos
Values for top Ferraris, such as this 1959 250 GT LWB Spider at Gooding, continue to soar | Bob Golfen photos

Rising values, worth vs. drivability, and the fact that high-value collector cars are too-often seen today as precious commodities rather than classic automobiles meant to be enjoyed – these were the overarching themes of Thursday’s second annual Sports Car Market Scottsdale Insider’s Seminar.

“As you heard, we are all slightly saddened that collector cars are being looked at primarily as investments,” moderator Donald Osborne said in summing up the panel discussion held at the Gooding & Company auction tent in Scottsdale.

Osborne, a well-know collector-car expert, writer, appraiser and commentator, both emceed and took part in the seminar, which provided a look at some of the leading trends of the classic car market during Arizona’s  famous auction week. Plus, the witty banter between the panelists drew lots of laughs from the crowd of several hundred.

The panelists consider the trends for Jaguar E-Type Series 1 roadsters
The panelists consider the trends for Jaguar E-Type Series 1 roadsters

Osborne was joined onstage by four of the top collector-car experts in the business, all of them regular contributors to Sports Car Market magazine: Carl Bomstead, writer, collector and concours judge; Colin Comer, classic car dealer, author, editor and prolific commentator; Simon Kidston, top-tier auction expert, car-collecting consultant and concours host; and Steve Serio, Aston Martin dealer and unflagging aficionado of European sports cars.

The rapid rise over the past few years of auction results for classic cars, especially for Ferraris, Porsches and other key vintage rides, is both exhilarating and worrying, Serio said.

“This is a like when the stock market first started,” he said. “This is relatively new. It really has become an asset-based marketplace.”

The discussion was wide-ranging but focused on eight European sports cars that represent various aspects of the collector-car market:

1960-63 Ferrari 250 GTE – “This is the runt of the litter,” Kidston said in dismissing the desirability of the four-seater that has been dragged up in value by more important Ferraris. “They are a ‘poor man’s Ferrari’ worth $400,000 to $450,000 today.”

1960-61 Jaguar E-type Series 1 convertible – “The devil’s in the details with these cars,” Bomstead said, noting that they are expensive to restore and become considerably less valuable with just minor flaws. They have seen a strong surge in overall value, he added, which will most likely continue.

Kidston called it, “The iconic supercar of the ’60s.”

1964-64 Porsche 356C and 356SC coupe – The $80,000 to $100,000 value estimate for 2015 by the SCM price guide is “wildly outdated,” Serio said. “For a great driving ’65, it would take $150,000 to $175,000 to get into one now.”

1968-76 Triumph TR6 – Values for these have stayed flat, in the $20,000 to $25,000 range, the panelists observed. “They are not an investment,” Kidston said. “They don’t have that ‘wow’ factor.”

But Comer took a more positive stance on the TR6, that they are fun cars that most people can still buy without breaking the bank.

“Not bad to have a British sports car that people can still afford and then have fun with them,” Comer said.

1965-68 Porsche 911 – “The explosion in value of 911s is quite incredible,” Kidston said. “I do find it troubling and somewhat baffling.”

But values for 911s are expected to remain strong, Serio added. “It’s a shape that appeals to all generations.”

1955-58 Lancia Aurelia convertible – “They have had a fairly solid run up, but these cars have arguably fallen back a bit,” Kidston said of the value. “This is a nice car to drive and to go on events, but it’s not the best (Lancia).”

1954-57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL gullwing coupe – “They continue to be the gold standard,” Bomstead said as he noted the expected 2015 value range of $1.1 million to $1.5 million.

“The gullwing is one of those cars that have a worldwide market,” Kidston added. “It is also one of the most usable of classic cars.”

1960-62 Ferrari 250 GT SWB coupe (steel-bodied) – Noting that the SCM estimated value for the short-wheelbase 250 GT has risen sharply to a very exclusive $9 million to $10 million, Comer said, “As for the values (for top Ferraris), when will they stop? They seem to be endless, but we all know better than that.”

Donald Osborne reveals his arcane, Lancia-dominated choices
Donald Osborne reveals his arcane, Lancia-dominated choices

After that discussion, the five experts engaged in a competition of choices called The Perfect Pair, in which they picked two collector cars that could both be purchased in three price ranges: under $50,000, under $500,000 and under $5 million. Each also picked a “wild card” of whatever they wanted.

The choices were revealing. Bomstead’s were all pre-war classics, Kidston’s were somewhat add Europeans (including a Fiat 600 Multiplia, a model that he said most often were seen in Italy driven by Catholic nuns), Comer’s were quirky and clever, Osborne’s were essentially all Lancias, and Serio’s were a thoughtful group of exotic sports cars and drivable classics.

Osborne took a vote based on a hand-held volume gauge to measure applause, and Serio’s range of picks was the winner hands down, although Bomstead, Kidston and Comer each received respectable applause.

Not so for Donald Osborne. By far the biggest laugh of the morning happened when Osborne’s turn for applause came around for his choices.

And absolutely nobody clapped.

What I’d like to take home from Gooding

NIce Porsches, such as this 356 cabriolet, are plentiful at Gooding | Bob Golfen
NIce Porsches, such as this 1961 356 cabriolet, are plentiful at Gooding | Bob Golfen photos

Let’s pretend that money is no object. That’s what I did as I strolled around Gooding & Company’s upscale auction in Scottsdale picking out my favorite classic cars, the ones I’d like to take home. I didn’t worry about being able to afford them, just whether they caught my eye.

And boy did they ever. I had to work hard to hone this fantasy-car list down to a reasonable size because the candy-store aspect of Gooding’s auction preview had me picking out everything in sight. Porsches were a huge draw, especially since there are no fewer than 20 of them on site, ranging from an ultra-exotic 1988 959 Sport to a rather tatty but very desirable 1958 356 Speedster coupe that’s begging to be turned into a showpiece. I chose just two for this list.

There are also a few so-called “barn find” cars, the rough and ratty remains of incredible sports cars from Aston Martin, Maserati, Alfa-Romeo and Shelby. For whatever reason, such classics coming out of long-term neglectful storage have soared in value in recent years, and have become unabashedly common at auctions. Look below to see which one made my list.

The cars I’ve ended up with are not all in the multi-million-dollar range, like the star Ferraris that are parked under Gooding’s tent, which I passed up as too obvious. But grab your wallet and consider:

1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster
There are plenty of 300 SLs around here this week. Gooding has four of them, three roadsters and a gullwing coupe, but this is the one that gets me because of its European headlights and four-wheel disc brakes. But those whitewalls have got to go. Estimated value is right up there at $1.75 million to $2.25 million.
1988 Porsche 959 Sport
Arguably the most-exotic sports car of its era, the all-wheel-drive 959 was originally designed to battle the dunes of North Africa in the Paris-Dakar Rally. They are powered by a twin-turbo, 540-horsepower flat-6 engine, and they look fantastic with that extreme back-end treatment. All that for $1.5 million to $2 million.
1963 Porsche 356 Carrera 2 coupe
OK, so I’m a sucker for a 356. Here we have the holy grail of late-model 356s, powered by the legendary four-cam flat-four engine that produced 152 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider that the car weighs basically nothing. I want it, even if it is valued at $550,000-$650,000.
1964 Shelby 289 Cobra
This is the “barn find” I was talking about, the one I picked out from that distressed group. It’s a highly original small-block Cobra that was put up on jacks in a barn, where it remained for 40 years. It looks pretty awful, but it’s all there and very deserving of a sympathetic restoration that will cost plenty, and it’s already valued by Gooding at more than a million dollars.
1968 Chevrolet Sportvan
This is a prime piece of Arizona motorsports history, reputedly the safety-crew van used at the Beeline Dragway during the ’70s in the heyday of drag racing. The truck is festooned with painted-on lettering and “moon eyes” up front. Inexpensive, but what a collector’s item for a drag-racing fan.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Here’s an all-time favorite, the split-window Corvette coupe sold for just one year then changed to full rear glass for ’64. Equipped with a 327 cid, 340-horsepower L76 V8 and four-speed manual transmission, which has to be fun, even if you can’t see what’s behind you. Gooding says it’s worth $180,000 to $200,000.
1966 Shelby GT350H
It’s hard to believe nowadays that Hertz actually rented out Shelby GT350 coupes to its customers. The cars were painted this distinctive black with gold striping and designated GT350H. You’d think that rental-car provenance would ding the value, but beautiful, restored survivors such as this one are highly sought after. The estimated value is $140,000 to $160,000.
1961 Jaguar E-Type roadster
Gooding actually has consigned two 1961 E-Type roadsters, which are early production models of what Enzo Ferrari called “The most beautiful car ever made.” Lot 123 is the one I love, mainly because of its luscious blue paint job. The value is estimated at $275,000 to $350,000.

 

2014 top stories: No. 4 — Classic cars auctioned online

Exotic cars shown in the hotel before Rick Cole's all-onlne auction | Rick Cole Auctions
Exotic cars shown in the hotel during Rick Cole’s all-onlne auction | Rick Cole Auctions

The news was big enough that veteran collector-car auction pro Rick Cole was returning to Monterey with his own sale. But the way he was doing it was even bigger news.

Cole created the first auction on the Monterey Peninsula during the classic car weekend in 1986. In 2014, he again demonstrated his inventive spirit.

A Ferrari 410 Sport sold online for $23 million |Rick Cole Auctions
A Ferrari 410 Sport sold online for $23 million |Rick Cole Auctions

For his return to Monterey, Cole lined up a premiere group of classic cars in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Monterey for prospective buyers to see and evaluate. But for the actual live sale, Cole went entirely online with all bids taken via smart phone with a special app.

This was a first for a major collector-car auction, although it’s something that’s been talked about for some time, an all-online auction that would have the bidding done offsite. Most auctions have online and phone bidding during live auctions, but no one before had the nerve to produce a major, high-end sale that was online only.

And it paid off. Cole’s auction resulted in spirited bidding and total sales of nearly $60 million, led by the post-bidding sale of a 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport for $23 million, the third-highest selling car of all the Monterey week auctions. Nine of Cole’s cars sold for more than $1 million, with five of them in the multi-millions.

The Cole auction gave a major boost to online classic car auctions becoming common in the future, just as many auctions of valuable art objects and prestige jewelry have gone online.

A 'barn-find' AC Bristol roadster was a BidAnywhere top seller | Auctions America
A ‘barn-find’ AC Bristol was a BidAnywhere top seller | Auctions America

In November, Auctions America by RM held its first one-day BidAnywhere auction, which it described as a “virtual live” sale with a auctioneer calling the action on an Internet feed and all bids being placed online. In this auction, the bidders never actually saw the cars in person, relying instead on in-depth descriptions by Auction America’s specialists.

The auction garnered $1.1 million with more than 20 of 65 cars sold, including a couple of “barn-find” British sports cars that beat pre-auction expectations.

“The sale attracted high levels of new interest and first-time clientele, with the barn-find and project cars in particular attracting strong interest and results,” Amy Christie, spokesperson for Auctions America, said after the event. “Based on the positive feedback, it is a format that we do plan to do again.”

Meanwhile, a German auction company, Auctionata, which specializes in online auctions of art works, jewelry, antique and modern furniture, and other valuable goods, held its first online sale of classic cars in Berlin. Although a total sales result was not available, the top-selling car among the 28 sold was a 1928 Riley Brooklands race car that went for $150,000.

 

2014 top stories: No. 7 — ‘Barn-find’ mania at the auctions

The barn-find 1954 Jaguar Xk 120SE will be presented at Auctions America just as it was found | Auctions America
A rusty, dirty barn-find 1954 Jaguar Xk 120SE sold twice at two major auctions during 2014 | Auctions America

Probably the best poster car for the seemingly insatiable rise of “barn-find” classic cars during 2014 was the British sale of what was most-likely the worst Ferrari Dino ever brought to auction, bar none.

That would be the incredibly rusted-out 1973 Dino that had stood neglected in a soggy English garage with a leaky roof for nearly 40 years. The car was so bad that even the auction house, Silverstone, described it as “rotten as a pear.”

Though probably only good for its low-mileage V6 drivetrain parts, the Dino sold for an astonishing $222,000, including auction fee.

Nearly four decades under a leaky garage roof decimated this low-mileage Ferrari Dino | Silverstone Auctions
Four decades in a leaky garage decimated this Dino | Silverstone Auctions

The car does have the interesting back story of a speeding driver who had outrun pursuing police, then hid the car in the garage because he was afraid of being caught driving it again. It has just 13,942 miles on its odometer, but that seems fairly irrelevant considering its scary state of being.

The sale speaks to the strength of the barn-find mania that has been sweeping through the collector-car world (original dirt became a major selling point), fueled by the preservation movement for old original cars or the lure of restoring a distressed relic, as well as the romance associated with the re-discovery of a lost treasure.

Or many lost treasures, such as the amazing recent discovery of a forgotten trove of 60 highly desirable European classics – Ferraris, Bugattis, Maseratis, Talbot Lagos and many other rarities – that were hidden away on a French estate. Left to the elements in open sheds for decades, the cars are in various stages of decay, but they will be brought to auction as-is in February by Artcurial Motorcars at the Retromobile showcase in Paris.

A little closer to home, last January’s Scottsdale/Phoenix auctions saw its share of dusty, musty derelict cars coming out of long-time storage. The Gooding & Company sale scored serious money for an as-found 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing needing everything that roared to $1.88 million, including fee, while an impeccably restored Gullwing went for considerably less at the same auction.

This burnt and neglected 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider sold for more than $2 million | Larry Edsall
This burnt and neglected 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider sold for more than $2 million | Larry Edsall

That and a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider sold at Gooding for more than $2 million, despite being fire-damaged and suffering from many years of neglect.

Auctions America’s spring auction in Auburn featured the ruins of a Jaguar XK 120 SE drophead coupe that was hauled from a Georgia barn and still wore a coating of red crud, which blended nicely with its rusted panels. It sold for just over $45,000, including auction fee.

The Georgia red-clay Jaguar appeared again in the same condition in August at Bonham’s Quail Lodge auction in Monterey, California, where it sold for $42,500, including auction fee, apparently having lost even more of its luster.

The first-ever online sale from Auctions America also featured British sports-car barn finds, a 1960 AC Ace Bristol roadster that sold for $176,000 and a 1953 Aston Martin DB2 coupe that reached $94,600, each of which sold well above expectations despite needing extensive restoration. Some beat-up domestic cars in as-found but restorable condition sold at more reasonable no-reserve prices: a 1953 Packard Caribbean convertible went for $6,390 and a sorry-looking 1964 Buick Riviera garnered just $1,760.

For yet another favorite result from the year of the barn find, we return to England for the sale by Bonhams in June of a highly desirable 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Prince motorcycle that went for a total of $153,000, despite being scattered about in rough-looking pieces after being taken apart in the ’60s.

Putting that in some kind of perspective, Bonhams sold a completely restored 1955 Black Prince at its January 2012 sale in Las Vegas for $125,000. And this past January, Midamerica’s Vegas auction sold a completed Black Prince for $125,000.

 

Next generation of collectors helps push auction action past $1 billion in one-year period

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sells for auction-record $28.5 million at Bonhams' Quail sale | Bob Golfen photo
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sells for auction-record $28.5 million at Bonhams’ Quail sale |Bob Golfen photo
The Classic Car Bookshelf

Classic Car Auction Yearbook: 2013-2014
By Adolfo Orsi and Raffaele Gazzi

Published2014
PublisherHistorica Selecta
FormatHardcover
Pages392
ISBN9788896232064
PurchaseAmazon

In the past year — and for the first time — the sale of classic cars at major auctions around the world exceeded $1 billion — yes, that’s -llion with a b — and with nearly double the number of cars selling for $1 million or more compared with the previous 12-month period.

And the classic car market was more “Ferrari-centric” than ever, with 48 of the highest 100 prices paid for cars branded with the prancing horse from Maranello.

Those facts and figures are just some of the news being generated by the publication of the 19th edition of the Classic Car Auction Yearbook, this latest volume covering the period from September 2013 through September 2014, which means the facts and figures in the book are so up to date that they include transactions that occurred on the Monterey Peninsula just a few short months ago.

The yearbook, its publication sponsored by Credit Suisse, is the work of Adolfo Orsi Jr., grandson and son of the Orsis of Maserati fame, and Raffaele Gazzi, banker-turned-auto historian and co-owner with Orsi Jr. of Historica Selecta, which has been generating these yearbooks for nearly two decades and now has some 60,000 vehicle auction-sales transactions in its database.

Speaking of that database, the authors note that the classic and collector car market has produced a 2,100-percent gain since they started collecting data on those transactions.

And here’s perhaps the other major news coming out of this newest volume:

“After more than 20 years of market analysis, we’re seeing the bigger picture of generational evolution among collectors,” Orsi Jr. says in the news release announcing the book’s publication, “with more interest among younger ages, and a shift in what is considered blue chip, which leaves us with the continuing need to better understand the data of what is selling and why.”

Certainly, what is selling is Ferraris. But not just Ferraris.

“What can we say about Ferrari 275s that go up by 500,000 Euros a year? Countach Periscopio that have risen by a million Euros in two years, or Ghiblis that have more than doubled in value in six months!” Matthieu Lamoure, managing director of Paris-based Artcurial Motorcars writes in one of the essays that comprise the “market analysis” section of the yearbook.

Interest in the 1970s and 1980s is growing. The clientele is getting younger.”

— Matthieu Lamoure

 

“The market is entering a period of change in which the clientele’s tastes are evolving at a furious rate,” Lamoure continues, suggesting that even concours judges are picking up on this evolution as evidenced by the selection of a post-war sports car – a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti coupe – as best of show in August at Pebble Beach, ending decades of domination by pre-war classics.

“Interest in the 1970s and 1980s is growing,” Lamoure writes. “The clientele is getting younger. A few years ago, the average age of people buying cars for over 150,000 euro was around 60 years. Today a number of buyers start to spend their money closer to 40.”

Lamoure notes that it is young entrepreneurs who are fueling this generational shift. How else to explain the prices paid for vehicles such as a 1980 Renault 5 Turbo Group 4 rally car or Porsche 993s?

“Who would have thought that motorcars from the 1990s, even rare ones, were going to experience such a sudden increase in prices…” Lemoure asks. “There is a sense that these cars are becoming as collectible as art objects, as part of an industrial heritage…”

On the other hand, Lemoure wonders, for how much longer pre-war cars will command peak prices: “But who will still be driving Delahaye 135 MS cabriolets, Talbot T150s or Duesenberg coupe chauffeurs in 10 years time?”

“An interesting observation is that we are also beginning to see values rise for the previously unloved supercars of the 1970s, 80s and 90s,” writes Max Girardo, managing director of RM Europe. “As the cars of the 60s rise beyond the reach of many buyers, cars like the Lamborghini Countach, the Ferrari Testarossa and 512 BB and the Maserati Bora — all poster cars of their respective eras — are finding willing new buyers, happy to spend significant sums on the best examples.”

And this from Rupert Banner, vice-president of Bonhams: “In this era of ‘eight figure’ cars, it seems fair to report that collectible automobiles are finally commanding the status that Impressionist and Contemporary art have long been held in, and that those who are equally passionate about their hobby most will say, ’it’s about time’.”

For the record, the yearbook reports that total auction sales in the most recent year totaled $1.163 billion dollars, up from $779 million in just one year, and from $46 million in 1994-95.

And those figures are just for the highest levels of the classic car auction marketplace. U.S. auction houses included are Auctions America, Barrett-Jackson, Gooding & Company, Mecum, RM, and the Russo and Steele sales at Scottsdale and Monterey. Also included are Artcurial, Bonhams, Coy, Silverstone, H&H, Historics at Brooklands and the British Cheffins sale at Cambridge, as well as Automobilia Auktion of Germany, Osenat of France and the Theodore Bruce sale in Australia.

The authors note that 245 cars commanded hammer prices of $1 million or more compared with 136 the previous year.

Of that billion-plus that was spent, $338 million was invested on Ferraris, $102 on Mercedes-Benz, and $102 on Porsches, with Aston Martin next at $58 million.

Three pages of particular fascination in the yearbook are those tracking prices of cars that sold in the 2013-14 time frame after previously selling at another auction within the past 20 years. A few were selling for the third time during that time frame. Consider:

  • A 1956 Bentley Continental S1 fastback with Mulliner bodywork (chassis BC11BG) sold in 2003-4 for $112,000, in 2005-6 for $135,000 and within the past year for $478,000;
  • A 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV (chassis 4818) sold in 2002-3 for $123,000, in 2010-11 for $1.107 million and recently for $1.456 million;
  • A 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 (CSX2423) brought $247,000 in 2005-6, $453,000 in 2006-7 and $1.185 million in the past year.

On the other hand, a couple of pre-war classics — a 1911 Mercedes 38/70 PS Tourenwagen and a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost tourer — both dropped in value compared with their earlier sales.

So, what should we make of these 292 pages of facts and figures?

“Are we at the crest of a wave with some of these high prices?” the authors ask.

“Of course, we would be more at ease if we encountered, for a certain period, a ‘normal’ market in order to allow for a consolidation of quotes and to digest the strong gains of the past seasons.

“We recall, once again, that ‘collector cars cannot be considered by the same standards as commodities. While share certificates of a public company are all the same, this is not the case for classic cars, because, as we always say, there are no two identical classic cars in the world.’

“Regardless, we can’t be anything other than happy in observing further signs of growth and improvement in quality in our industry… and increasing recognition of the car as a significant element of social and economic history within our society.”

 

Monterey magic: Passion, wonder for great classic cars

A pair of 1959 Ferrari 250 TR59/60 Fantuzzi Spyders at the Pebble Beach Concours | Bob Golfen
A pair of 1959 Ferrari 250 TR59/60 Fantuzzi Spyders at the Pebble Beach Concours | Bob Golfen

I was following a low, curvaceous Maserati race car through the woods of Pebble Beach when a break in traffic allowed the driver to pick up the pace on the winding two-lane road.

The bright-red sports racer echoed with an intoxicating roar as he stepped on the gas and shifted through the gears of the ancient machinery. I was driving a new Nissan 370Z Nismo (a press-fleet loaner from Nissan) and thus could enjoy chasing after the exotic Italian through the curves. The Maserati was clearly from the early 1950s, though I never got a good enough look to fully identify it.

Soon we caught up with the next clot of traffic and the Maserati slowed to a more normal speed. But I had experienced an exceptional few minutes that evoked the days 60 years ago when cars such as the Italian racer competed all out through the wild turns of 17-Mile Drive.

A spectator point out a sparkling Delage reflection at Pebble Beach | Bob Golfen
A Pebble Beach spectator points out the striking reflection on a Delage | Bob Golfen

And such is the magic of Monterey Classic Car Week. Beyond the splendor of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the excitement of the collector-car auctions, and all the shows and events, there is a constant thrum of mad passion for great old cars that permeates the air and fills the peninsula’s roads with wonder.

Fun automobiles are just everywhere, rolling by on city streets – Ferraris, Packards, Porsches (many Porsches), Fiats, Morris Minors – and shown at such a staggering number of events that it’s physically impossible to attend them all. You might expect to become jaded by the constant barrage of great cars, but I found that it’s never too much, never too many.

I did not make it out to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to see vintage race cars on the track in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which is always an experience. Too much other stuff to cover for ClassicCars.com. Next time, for sure.

In no particular order, here are some observations and a few of my favorite things from the greatest classic car week of the year:

A group of 911s at the Porsche Werks Reunion | Bob Golfen
A group of 911s at the Porsche Werks Reunion | Bob Golfen

The inaugural Porsche Werks Reunion turned out to be an impressive event with a wide selection of sports cars, mostly with engines in their backsides. Nice selection of early 356s, my personal favorite. All during the week, classic 911s were the most numerous vintage cars spotted on the streets in and around Monterey. Even more than Ferraris.

Concorso Italiano is back in its old location, the Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside, and the rolling hills provide a fine venue for the huge selection of Italian beauties, around 700 from what I could gather. My favorite part, as usual, was the wide-ranging selection of Alfa Romeos, from the regular drivers to the odd and exotic. In my view, there were too many late-model Ferraris, predominantly red (or bright yellow). The recent Lamborghinis at least have a more interesting color palette. I prefer the vintage stuff.

The 1954 Plymouth Explorer by Ghia at Concorso | Bob Golfen
The 1954 Plymouth Explorer by Ghia at Concorso | Bob Golfen

One of my favorite cars at Concorso might seem an odd choice. It was the luscious 1954 Plymouth Explorer show car, Italian by way of its unique coachwork by Ghia. It is a recent restoration that was presented at Concorso by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Italian cars and German cars are heavily celebrated with their own special events, but what about English cars? I would love to see something similar for LBCs (Little British Cars).

The splendid scene at the Concours on the Avenue in upscale Carmel launched my visit to Monterey on Tuesday. There were many exceptionally nice cars at this laid-back show. As a bona fide Porsche fanatic, I was impressed by the presence of the historic 1952 Porsche 356 Glockler roadster, a petite racing special that won its class and set a speed record at Nurburgring in 1952.

The teeny Peel Trident at the Little Car Show in Pacific Grove | Bob Golfen
The teeny Peel Trident at the Little Car Show | Bob Golfen

Hearing and seeing the minuscule, bubble-topped 1964 Peel Trident go buzzing past our guest house was absolutely priceless. It is remarkably tiny, and powered by a 50cc two-stroke engine.

At first, the drizzly weather threatened to spoil the start of the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, in which most of the prized automobiles entered in the Concours go for a drive. But the early morning dampness only added to the lovely aura. And, of course, it is simply awesome to see these very special cars on the road, each one making its own mechanical music as it goes past.

There is so much to say about the gaggle of collector car auctions – RM, Gooding, Bonhams, Mecum, Russo and Steele, and Rick Cole – that I don’t know where to begin. But here are some quick hits:

The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold at Bonhams for a remarkable $38.1 million might have come slightly under expectations, but it’s still an amazing sale and the most ever paid for a car at auction, and that seems like it should be enough.

Obviously, it was all about Ferrari this year, making up all of the top 10 sales except one (a rare Ford GT 40 prototype roadster). And at that, some of the greatest Ferraris on hand fell short of reserve and didn’t sell, such as the unique 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale “Tre Porti,” which was bid to $22.5 million at Gooding, and the 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport that reached $19.51 million at Rick Cole. Again, those bids seem like plenty from over here.

Firing up the 1956 Maserati 250F race car at Gooding | Bob Golfen
Firing up the 1956 Maserati 250F race car at Gooding | Bob Golfen

Porsche values seem pretty steep and some observers were wondering if the bubble could burst after the recent fierce run up of prices for earlier 911s. Case in point is the no-doubt well-restored 1965 911 2.0 that sold at RM for $308,000, including auction fee. Maybe I’m living in the past. But the recent past.

During the pre-auction viewing at Gooding, they cranked up the straight-6 in the terrific 1956 Maserati 250F race car. The intense blast of sheer power was incredible. That historic car sold for $4,620,000.

Probably my favorite car at the Pebble Beach Concours was the recently restored 1931 Bugatti Type 50 S coupe that the Mullin Automotive Museum debuted. But there was such an amazing wealth of wonderful cars, I’m sure I will change my mind 10 times by the time this commentary is posted.

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The handsome 1931 Bugatti Type 50 S coupe | Bob Golfen

Though veteran concours folks seemed stunned, it’s not entirely surprising that a Ferrari won Pebble Beach Best of Show for the first time in the 64-year history of the concours. Just look at what was happening at the auctions. This was indeed the year of Ferrari.

It was somewhat staggering to see no fewer than 20 Ferrari Testarossas lined up in their special class at Pebble Beach.

But my favorite and most memorable scene at Pebble Beach, and perhaps the entire week, was the wonderfulness of 94-year-old Norman Dewis, the famous test engineer and racing driver for Jaguar during the 1950s, climbing into the very 1952 Jaguar XK 120 in which he set a world speed record of 172.4 mph in 1953 on a Belgian roadway.

Norman Dewis tells of his record-breaking ride in the bubble-roofed Jaguar XK 120 | Bob Golfen
Norman Dewis tells of his record-breaking ride in the bubble-roofed Jaguar XK 120 | Bob Golfen

Still cocky and funny and always ready with a story from his adventurous past, Dewis sat under the clear bubble roof that Jaguar had added back then to lower wind resistance, and he revved the engine with a high-performance howl.

The diminutive Dewis was dressed in his typical Western attire, including cowboy boots and bola tie, which he sports due to his late-in-life connection with Arizona.

Someone in the crowd asked what it was like running at top speed under that bolted-on bubble. Grinning as ever, he said, “I couldn’t even wear a crash hat because I only had three inches of headroom.”

Later, during the award presentations, Dewis drove the Jaguar over the podium for the Swiss owner to receive the first-in-class award for Postwar Sports Racing. He received an ovation from the appreciative crowd.

Watch for Eye Candy photo galleries from Monterey Classic Car Week coming up during the next week. 

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Preliminary figures show $399 million in auction sales at Monterey

Engine detail of the record-setting Ferrari 250 GTO | Bonhams photo
Engine detail of the record-setting Ferrari 250 GTO | Bonhams photo

Preliminary results show sales of $399 million at the five traditionally conducted classic car auctions this weekend on the Monterey Peninsula.

However, Hagerty Insurance, which monitors the auctions and provides preliminary numbers to the media, notes, “It is important to point out that there were a handful of significant no-sale’s from Sunday at Gooding that were reported to be close and (to be) announced within the next day, so once the final official numbers are reported by all auction companies the final overall totals may be noticeably higher than this report suggests.”

Also, Hagerty’s figures, which include buyer’s fees, do not include the new Rick Cole Auctions sale, in which bidding was done by smart-phone technology. That bidding concluded at midnight Sunday evening.

According to the Cole website, it appears that half of the lots sold, though with at least two sales — including one for $12.0 million — yet to be completed. Cole’s final numbers could add around $25 million to the Monterey weekend total.

Hagerty’s preliminary figure of $399 million in overall sales compares to a $312.1-million figure for the Monterey auctions in 2013. Also significant are an increase of more than $100,000 in the overall average sales price and a nearly $27,000 increase — that’s nearly 40 percent — bump in the median sales price.

The high-dollar sale Sunday at the Gooding auction was $5.61 million for a 1959 Ferrari 250 SI cabriolet. Three other cars — a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB coupe, a 156 Ferrari 250F race car and a 1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 cabriolet sportive — each sold for more than $4 million.

Not selling, however, was the 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale “Tre Porti,” which was bid to $22.5 million. Meanwhile, according to the Cole website, the 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport was bid to $19.51 million, also short of the owner’s reserve price.

A world auction-record price for a collector car was set at Monterey, with a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO coupe selling for more than $38 million at Bonhams. Four other cars also traded hands in eight-figure transactions at the Monterey auctions.

Nine of the top-10 sales on the peninsula involved Ferraris. The only non-Ferrari to break into the top 10 was a 1965 Ford GT40 prototype roadster that sold at RM for $6.93 million.

Based on the preliminary numbers, RM led the auction houses with $143.3 million in sales, followed by Bonhams at $106.5, Gooding & Company at $106.2, Mecum Auctions at $33.5 and Russo and Steele at $9.6.

Again, however, those are preliminary figures. For example, Bonhams post-auction news release claims total sales of $108 million for its sale. That figure is based, Bonhams reported, on a 92-percent sell through, while Hagerty witnessed only 87-percent of lots selling on the block.

Overall from all auction companies:
Cumulative Total: $399.0M | 745/1235 lots sold: 60% Sell-Thru Rate
Average Sale Price:  $535,648 | Median Sale Price: $99,000

2013 Cumulative Results
Cumulative Total: $312.1M | 749/1251 lots sold: 60%
Average Sale Price:  $416,696 | Median Sale Price: $71,500

Overall Top 10 Sales from all auctions:
1.       1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Coupe sold for $38,115,000 (Bonhams)
2.       1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale Coupe sold for $26,400,000 (RM Auctions)
3.       1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spyder (closed headlight) sold for $15,180,000 (Gooding)
4.       1964 Ferrari 250 LM Coupe sold for $11,550,000 (RM Auctions)
5.       1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe sold for $10,175,000 (RM Auctions)
6.       1953 Ferrari 250 MM Coupe sold for $7,260,000 (Bonhams)
7.       1965 Ford GT40 Prototype Roadster sold for $6,930,000 (RM Auctions)
8.       1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Speciale Aerodinamica Coupe sold for $6,875,000 (Bonhams)
9.       1958 Ferrari 250 SI Cabriolet (closed headlight) sold for $6,820,000 (Bonhams)
10.   1959 Ferrari 250 SI Cabriolet (open headlight) sold for $5,610,000 (Gooding)

Auctions ending Sunday

Gooding & Company
Sunday total: $45.8M | 45/57 lots sold: 79% Sell-Thru Rate
Average Sale Price: $974,647 | Median Sale Price: $319,000

Top 10 Sunday Sales:
1.                   1959 Ferrari 250 SI Cabriolet (open headlight) sold for $5,610,000
2.                   1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Coupe sold for $4,620,000
3.                   1956 Ferrari 250F Race Car sold for $4,620,000
4.                   1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 Cabriolet Sportivo sold for $ 4,400,000
5.                   1967 Ford GT40 Mk I  Coupe sold for $3,520,000
6.                   1927 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix sold for $2,970,000
7.                   1964 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Coupe sold for $2,200,000
8.                   1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,512,500
9.                   1964 Aston Martin DB5 Coupe sold for $1,485,000
10.               1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America sold for $1,347,500

Cumulative Total: $106.2M | 106/121 lots sold: 86% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price:  $996,903 | Median Sale Price: $411,125

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1.       1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spyder (closed headlight) sold for $15,180,000
2.       1959 Ferrari 250 SI Cabriolet (open headlight) sold for $5,610,000
3.       1953 Aston Martin DB3S Roadster sold for $5,500,000
4.       1956 Ferrari 250F Race Car sold for $4,620,000
5.       1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 Cabriolet Sportivo sold for $ 4,400,000
6.       1967 Ford GT40 Coupe sold for $3,520,000
7.       1927 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix sold for $2,970,000
8.       2001 Ferrari 333 SP Race Car sold for $2,365,000
9.       1964 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Coupe sold for $2,365,000
10.   1956 Ferrari 250 Europa Coupe sold for $2,310,000

2013 Cumulative Results
Total: $114.0M | 116/130 lots sold: 89% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price:  $983,048 | Median Sale Price:  $354,750

As previously reported

Bonhams
Overall total: $106.5M | 104/117 lots sold: 87% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,030,807 | Median Sale Price: $192,500

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1.       1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Coupe sold for $38,115,000
2.       1953 Ferrari 250 MM Coupe sold for $7,260,000
3.       1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Speciale Aerodinamica Coupe sold for $6,875,000
4.       1958 Ferrari 250 SI Cabriolet (closed headlight) sold for $6,820,000
5.       1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Coupe sold for $3,850,000
6.       1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder sold for $2,640,000
7.       1978 Ferrari 312 T3 Formula 1 sold for $2,310,000
8.       1993 Ferrari F40 LM Coupe sold for $2,200,000
9.       1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,897,500
10.   1948 Talbot-Lago Record T26 Grand Sport Coupe sold for $1,485,000

2013 Cumulative Results
Total: $31.1M | 77/89 lots sold: 87%
Average Sale Price: $403,703 | Median Sale Price: $148,500

Mecum
Cumulative Total: $33.5M | 334/676 lots sold: 49% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $100,295 | Median Sale Price: $44,820

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1.       1961 Ferrari 250 SII Cabriolet sold for $2,430,000
2.       1972 McLaren M20 CAN-AM sold for $2,160,000
3.       1930 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Berline Convertible sold for $1,539,000
4.       1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sold for $1,485,000
5.       1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sold for $1,161,000
6.       1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster sold for $1,080,000
7.       1995 Porsche 962 K8 Spyder sold for $1,004,400
8.       1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible sold for $847,800
9.       1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Coupe sold for $702,000
10.   2006 Ford GT Coupe sold for $550,000

2013 Cumulative Results
Total: $34.9M | 363/560 lots sold: 63% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $95,958 | Median Sale Price: $41,390

RM Auctions
Cumulative Total: $143.3M | 118/129 lots sold: 91% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,193,745 | Median Sale Price: $462,000

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1.       1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale Coupe sold for $26,400,000
2.       1964 Ferrari 250 LM Coupe sold for $11,550,000
3.       1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe sold for $10,175,000
4.       1965 Ford GT40 Prototype Roadster sold for $6,930,000
5.       1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Alloy Coupe sold for $3,382,500
6.       1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe sold for $3,750,000
7.       1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Coupe sold for $2,915,000
8.       1953 Ferrari 250 GT Europa Coupe sold for $2,750,000
9.       1911 Mercer Type 35R Raceabout sold for $2,530,000
10.   1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Coupe sold for $2,117,000

2013 Cumulative Results
Total: $125.0M | 104/118 lots sold: 88% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,201,740 | Median Sale Price: $364,375

Russo and Steele
Cumulative Total: $9.6M | 81/185 lots sold: 44% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $118,379 | Median Sale Price: $61,600

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1.       1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sold for $1,320,000
2.       1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,210,000
3.       1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Coupe sold for $731,500
4.       1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Sportsroof Coupe sold for $401,500
5.       1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS Spyder sold for $335,500
6.       1984 Mazda Lola T616 Race Car sold for $280,500
7.       1983 Ferrari 512 BBi Coupe sold for $269,500
8.       1970 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 Coupe sold for $233,750
9.       2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS GT Roadster sold for $192,500
10.   1928 Rolls-Royce Thunderbolt Custom Boatail sold for $187,000

2013 Cumulative Results
Cumulative Total: $7.1 | 88/216 sold: 41%
Average Sale Price: $80,417 | Median Sale Price: $49,225

All sales figures include buyer’s fees.

Behind-the-scenes auction action: ‘Mecum Dealmakers’ debuts on NBCSN

A Ford GT40 prototype sold for $7 million will be featured in the first episode | Mecum Auctions
A Ford GT40 prototype that sold for $7 million will be featured in the first episode | Mecum Auctions

For the uninitiated, a classic car auction can seem a confusing array of fast-paced bidding and auctioneer harangues, plus mysterious tactics by veteran buyers and sellers, sometimes with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake.

A new reality series, Mecum Dealmakers, premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. (Eastern time) on NBCSN, is designed to take the lid off the auction pressure cooker with behind-the-scenes access to a number of Mecum Auctions’ nationwide sales.

The atmosphere and high intensity of Mecum Auctions is paralleled by the unique personalities of Dana Mecum and his son Frank.” 

The debut episode focuses on the recent Houston auction and the sale of a 1964 Ford GT40 prototype, purchased by Utah Jazz chief executive Greg Miller for more than $7 million. There also are segments with former Houston Rockets owner Charlie Thomas and pro football tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who had his eyes set on a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS.

The series on NBCSN, which also televises Mecum auctions, tells how auction founder and president Dana Mecum and his son, Frank Mecum, coordinate the high-stakes action on the auction floor while managing a business that sells 15,000 collector cars per year.

“The atmosphere and high intensity of Mecum Auctions is paralleled by the unique personalities of Dana Mecum and his son Frank, who balance the tension between buyers and sellers and really bring Mecum Dealmakers to life,” said Ron Wechsler, vice president, Original Programming and Entertainment, NBC Sports Group.

Eleven 60-minute episodes will examine a specific auction, including upcoming Mecum sales in Monterey and Kansas City. The series is to be shown weekly, Thursday nights at 10 p.m.

Retromobile classic car fest opens in Paris

This automotive photo mashup is the 2014 image for Retromobile’s 2014 poster.  (Illustration: Retromobile)
This automotive photo mashup is the image for Retromobile’s 2014 poster. (Illustration: Retromobile)

Retromobile, the sweeping annual classic car festival in Paris, opens its doors today with more than 400 exhibitors, three major auctions, collector cars and automobilia for sale, and with many special features, including 15 magnificent maharaja cars of India, a display dedicated to Italian automaker Lancia, and the sights and sounds of early land-speed-record race cars.

Continuing through Feb. 9, the 39th annual Retromobile has grown for the first time into the largest hall at the Place de Versailles Exhibition Center as it kicks off Europe’s classic car season for 2014.

A couple of vintage racecars in an exhibitor display during a past Retromobile.  (Photo: Retromobile)
Vintage racers in an exhibit at a previous Retromobile. (Photo: Retromobile)

Among the special exhibits is an homage to land-speed-record drivers of the 1920s, John Parry-Thomas and Sir Malcolm Campbell, and their streamlined cars. On display is Parry-Thomas’ reconstructed racer named Babs – in which he fatally crashed during a record attempt– that’s powered by a 27-liter V12 aircraft engine, and the 500-horsepower Blue Bird Sunbeam that Campbell drove to more than 150 mph.

You can witness the Blue Bird being fired up recently at the National Motor Museum in England in a video posted on the ClassicCars.com Blog by clicking on: Blue Bird Flies. The engine is expected to be started again during Retromobile.

Even if you’re not traipsing around Paris this week, Retromobile and its three associated auctions offer some great articles and eye candy that are available online. Check out Retromobile’s enjoyable and extensive website at www.en.retromobile.com, which includes photos and information about the current exhibitors as well as a number of photo galleries from past shows.

'Le Mans Legends' to be auctioned at RM. (Photo: RM Auctions)
‘Le Mans Legends’ to be auctioned at RM. (Photo: RM Auctions)

Websites for the three collector-car auctions are loaded with high-quality photos and descriptions of the cars, motorcycles and automobilia that are coming up for sale. Click on each auction’s name to be taken to its website:

RM Auctions, which holds its inaugural Paris auction today.

Bonhams, which holds its high-end sale Thursday.

Artcurial, which has expanded its event to Friday for its regular auction and Saturday for an all Alfa-Romeo sale.