Miscellaneous Observations from Monterey Car Week 2014
By Terry Sullivan, Vintage Driving Machines – August 22, 2014
Well once again I’ve over-dosed on motorcars at the annual Pebble Beach/Monterey festivities.
Ahh the auctions! Very entertaining. A cool $38,115,000 for the “no reserve” Ferrari GTO at Bonhams on Thursday night. Isn’t bidding in $50k increments a little out of place for this valuable a car? Right, it’s not my money. Nevertheless, the thing sold and reviews are mixed with some saying it was a good price for a car with a little bit of a story; others thought it was low for arguably the holy grail of Ferrari models. One thing is certain, the owner will have a lot of fun driving the car and that’s the point.
Attended The Quail on Friday. Funny thing about The Quail…it’s darn hard to get tickets and they are pricey but you forget that the day of the event. Very well organized. Fantastic cars, wonderful (free) food, beautiful people, great sponsors. Attention Jaguar fans, you must hear the exhaust note on the F-Type Coupe Project 7. It’s absolutely epic in a Carrera GT sort of way. I might have to get one. Bugatti was out in force. The carbon fiber body on the Veyron is gorgeous. Pagani showed a lot of their cars. Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Audi also had nice displays and hordes of interested visitors. The featured cars at the event were Maserati and Competition Ford Mustangs. I counted 18 vintage cars between those two marques.
Jay Leno made an appearance and you can always count on Jay to be an admirer of off-beat makes. Just as likely to engage the owner of a BMW 501 as a Simca 8 Sport. The man knows his cars and loves them all, not just the high-end stuff.
The Monterey airport is nearby and I could swear that the departing private-jet pilots put on a little show for the masses below. Whatever. I do love the sounds and sight of small jets climbing and accelerating.
There are great restaurants in the area. Try Passion Fish in Pacific Grove for great food and wine (you must try the crab salad! and the Prosperity tea.); all the cool car people tend to find this gem. Advance reservations strongly suggested. Did that on Friday evening before stopping by the RM Auction at the Portola to check out the action. While we’re on fine dining another stop that is a must is Roy’s Hawaiian in the Inn at Spanish Bay. Dress up and look nice. It’s a very hip, low key crowd.
Other auctions over the week were presented by Mecum, Rick Cole, Russo and Steele, Bonhams and Gooding. All had interesting cars; something for every sort of enthusiast. We are reminded that auctioneers spend a great deal of time and money putting on a show. It is not easy to do and it costs a small fortune to rent the facilities such Pebble Beach Golf Club, fine hotels or Quail Lodge facilities for 2-3 weeks for setup, event and tear down. Then when you consider the considerable research and write-ups on all the cars in their well-written, beautiful catalogs, you really get a true appreciation for the effort involved. By the way, auction catalogs make great coffee table items and gifts for us gear-heads.
Speaking of auctions, the official results indicated a continuing keen interest and healthy marketplace volume at all the auction houses:
Bonhams – reported total sales of $108 million including of course the record setting (most valuable ever for a car sold at auction) $38.1 million Ferrari GTO. The 1954 Vignale bodied Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith sold for $198,000. Lovely commode in the back seat. Couldn’t the occupants wait to do their thing at some fine hotel along the way? The new owner will have some stories to tell. And that was not a pretty car; I couldn’t find an attractive angle but perhaps that was the point of the design. Maybe Vignale was upset at R-R for some reason. But it sold! So everyone is happy.
Gooding – sold 88% of featured lots with an average price of $990.699 per car! Over 30 cars were sold for over $1 million. Tops at Gooding was $15.180 million for a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider. Perhaps as notable were a few cars that did not sell due to not meeting their reserve prices: the 1995 McLaren F1 had a high bid of $10.75 million; the 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale “Tre Posti” achieved a high bid of $22.5 million; a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta reached $10 million; a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing attained $2.8 million. That’s just 4 cars totaling $46 million that did not sell. Patient and disciplined buyers and sellers. No buyer needed the car that badly and no seller needed the money that badly. The market at work. Finally, the 1974 Lamborghini Countach had an estimate of $600 to $800k but did sell for an incredible $1.870 million.
Mecum – the daytime auction had lively action at the Hyatt Regency and they sold a total of 361 cars totaling $34.6 million. Their top ten included a 1961 Ferrari 250 Series II Cabriolet at $2.25 million, a 1930 Duesenberg Model Torpedo at $1.425 million, two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupes ($1.35 million and $1.075 million) and a 1968 Corvette L88 Convertible for a healthy $785K. Remember when we used to sit around back in the day reading the buff books about the high performance Corvettes that you could order from the dealer? Well these cars are now valuable because for one thing not that many people ordered that package; only 216 of the L88’s were built from 1967 – 69. Mecum has vast experience given their sales volume and number of auctions and it shows with their well-organized lively events.
RM Auctions – the RM team set a record of $143.4 million in sales at their flagship Monterey event. 91% of featured lots were sold. Thirty-five lots achieved $1 million. Top sales were a 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale for $26.4 million, a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM for $11.5 million, and the ex-Steve McQueen Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for a record $10.175 million. All vintage Ferrari’s currently seem to be in their own orbit and unaffected by gravitational forces.
Russo and Steele – they sold $12.075 million a 63% increase over last year’s results. Average sale price was over $115,000. Nobody beats the energy of a Russo and Steele event and it’s quite a show for all involved. High sale lots included the 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe at $1.320 million, a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster at $1.210 million and a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Coupe for $731.5k
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was once again the grand finale of the shows and it did not disappoint. The event raised $1,677,445 for charity this year and that brings the cumulative total charitable donations to $19 million.
All the Ferrari Testa Rossas seemed to be there. I counted 20 of them! The events showcased 216 cars and motorcycles, 35 of which were from outside of the United States.
The Preservation Classes showcased fascinating Pre-War and Post-War sections
whose entrants displayed cars that had never been restored. These cars received intense attention on the field and we enthusiasts ought to continue paying homage to the ever-rarer species of unrestored originals.
Best of Show as Jon Shirley’s 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe.
My personal favorite was the 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Vanvooren Sports Cabriolet. The Phantom III is a very complicated car and the level of difficulty involved is quite substantial. Kudos to Lord Bamford for bringing her all the way from Gloucestershire, England.
Next year’s show is on Sunday August 16th, 2015.