Wilson’s Wisdom: Kevin picks favorites at RM Sotheby’s Motor City auction

RM Sotheby’s Motor City auction Saturday includes a proper array of grand classics that could feature on the lawn the next day at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, including a Duesenberg SJ that should sell for somewhere around a million dollars, a few Auburns and several Packards.

A highlight will be one dozen cars from the notable collection of Howard and Norma Weaver, all offered without reserve and in excellent show-worthy condition.

Choosing which of 78 cars (and two beautiful boats) we’d like in our own driveway was a tough task. While trying to keep the choices within reason, we were betrayed by deep desire for historical significance and a peculiar fascination with cars that marked turning points, often the first or last of a kind.

SJ15_r166_0071986 Mercedes-Benz 560SL (Lot 158)
Neither the earlier pagoda-roof style SLs that collectors favor nor the later models that took sports car performance more seriously, this ’86 has been lovingly looked after and has traveled only 36,000 miles. Maybe it’s personal… I started writing about cars full-time in 1986. Offered at no-reserve with a pre-auction estimate of $25,000 to $40,000, it’d make a fine ride for going to a concours.
Ryan Merrill Photography1927 Packard Six Runabout (Lot 154)
Subject to an outstanding restoration and a frequent award winner, this is one of about 10 known surviving roadsters of the six-cylinder Packard. There are other more valuable Packards in the auction, mostly huge cars better suited to the fairway than the freeway. At an estimated $100,000 to $125,000, this one’s not exactly affordable, but it’d be fun to drive.
SJ15_r117_0051950 Chrysler Royal Town & Country Station Wagon (Lot 172)
One of the last wood-bodied Chryslers, this one is from the Weaver collection and we’ve admired it for years. There was a slightly older (’48) version in my family when I was a kid in the ‘60s, just an old used car retired from a life spent delivering dry cleaning, so personal reasons again, but at no-reserve with a catalog estimate of $50,000 to $60,000 for a road-ready woody, I’d warm up the bidder paddle.
SJ15_r141_0021956 Continental Mark II (Lot 113)
Oh my! Yes, please. Continental was its own division, so don’t call this a Lincoln. Its elegant design by John Reinhardt and Gordon Buehrig remains a landmark. Another offering without reserve, the pre-sale estimate of $45,000 to $65,000 holds promise of good value on a car that’s still undervalued by collectors. The odo shows 48,000 miles and condition suggests that’s a real reading. The Mark II was the most expensive American car offered in 1956 with a base price of $10,000.
SJ15_r167_0011955 Chrysler C-300 Coupe (Lot 153)
This was the first of the “letter series” Chrysler 300s, though they didn’t know it was a series yet. It’d be an “A” where the ’56 is a B. The 300 was a gentleman’s performance car with the early Hemi engine and established its reputation when it famously trounced the Oldsmobiles that had supplanted Hudsons as the hot ticket in stock car competition. These are great drivers cars and this one is ready to hit the road. If you wanted a set, there’s a 1961 300G convertible in the auction, too. The ’55 wears a pre-sale estimate of $75,000 to $90,000 while the ’61 is expected to top $100,000.
SJ15_r182_0011922 Mercer Series 5 Raceabout (Lot 149)
Okay, now I’m just getting greedy. The Raceabout was the Corvette of its day, guaranteed to do 75 mph. This isn’t quite the last of the Series 5s and there was a Series 6, but Mercers in general are more scarce than a kind word from Donald Trump. This one has a great well-documented history including acquisition in Venezuela and ownership by Raymond Wolff, the longtime Duesenberg historian. It’s expected to go for $325,000 to $375,000 and it doesn’t even have doors but I’d settle for a one-car collection if this were the one.
SJ15_r134_0201940 Cadillac Series 60 Special Sedan (Lot 125)
There are “better” prewar Cadillacs in the auction, but none of those is the first car completely designed by William Mitchell, the young protégé of Harley Earl who would become GM’s second-ever VP of design. It’s a little smaller than other Cadillacs of the time, better to drive than to be chauffeured in; the ’38 was Fleetwood-built, but by ’40 it was body by Fisher using Fleetwood plans. This one from the Richard and Linda Kughn collection has been maintained to a high standard. The catalog projects it will sell between $40,000 and $50,000.
SJ15_r143_0331988 Lamborghini LM002 (Lot 142)
Take the 444-horsepower, 5.2-liter DOHC V12 out of a Countach, slap it in the most outrageous thing this side of a Mad Max movie and you get the legend known as the Rambo Lambo. It’ll get to 60 mph in under 8 seconds despite weighing over three tons (Car and Driver weighed one, with full 76-gallon gas tank, at 6,780 lbs). A four-wheel-drive four-seater, there were only about 300 made. This one’s carbureted (six Webers, preferred by many over the fussy injection system, though the latter tends to sell for more money) and was built and sold in the U.S. during that brief period when Chrysler owned Lamborghini. With 32,000, it’s expected to sell for between $140,000 and $180,000, which isn’t a lot more than the original price of $120,000-plus. Anyone got a really big garage space?

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