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Another Year, Another Record

By: Peter Volny

In the first two weeks of 2015 leading up to the Scottsdale, AZ, ‘Collector Car Auction Week,’ the S&P dropped 66 points or over three per cent. The pundits took this as a sign that other investments would also fall. After all, if the wealthy were seeing their stock portfolio decline, surely they would be more cautious about other investments as well, or buying expensive toys. Yet, like a canary in a coal mine, these auctions seem to be a harbinger of what’s to come and once again the skeptics were proven completely wrong as the cognoscenti flooded into the market with renewed vigor.

Scottsdale 2015 saw almost 3,000 cars offered with 86 per cent sold among the six auctions, an 18 per cent increase over 2014 numbers for a record $293 million in one very frenzied week of action.

Steve Chryssos, specialist programs manager at Barrett-Jackson, stated that fully 40 per cent of their buyers are new purchasers. What does this mean? Are these new entrants into the collector car market? Will that fuel (pun intended) continued growth? Are we aging baby boomers trying to recapture our youth?

Automotive Memorabilia

Barrett-Jackson is the perennial 600-pound gorilla of Scottsdale’s auction week and this year was no exception with an astounding 1,611 cars sold for over $130 million, smashing the record in this company’s 44-year history. Additionally 2,000 items of automotive memorabilia brought in $6.55 million. One single renowned car and memorabilia collection from Ron Pratte brought in over $40 million.

Barrett-Jackson’s top sellers were a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake at $5.1 million, a 1950 GM Futurliner Parade of Progress Tour Bus for $4 million, and a 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama Concept Car at $3.3 million.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake sold for $5.1 million dollars at Barrett-Jackson

Various organizations, clubs, and individuals work with Barrett-Jackson to raise money for a variety of charities and this year generated $8,635,000. The Futurliner was donated by the aforementioned Ron Pratte, a Vietnam veteran, to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation.

More than just a car auction, Barrett-Jackson is a major event with huge tents housing vendors selling everything from spectacular Cobra and Ford GT replicas to pretty well everything automotive related and beyond. Even Mark Fields, president of Ford Motor Company, was seen wandering about.

Interestingly, there were over 500 registered bidders from Canada and 27 Canadian cars consigned. (http://www.barrett-jackson.com/Archive/Event/List/Scottsdale-2015/Collector-Cars/c93f0953-b7b1-4e14-be54-399aa14dc28a/01-10-2015/01-18-2015)

Canada’s own RM Auctions astonished the market with $63.7 million in total sales an incredible 40 per cent increase over 2014 and an average of $10 million per hour. Bidders from 20 countries saw 90 per cent of cars sold and broke several records including the highest price ever paid for a car at the Scottsdale auction, a 1964 Ferrari 250LM at a paltry $9,625,000 in just five minutes as you can see in this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2cgxrywgh0&feature=youtu.be

1964 Ferrari 250LMOverall highest sale was at Canada’s RM Sotheby's for this 1964 Ferrari 250LM at $9.6 million (Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Sotheby’s)

Only 32 of these competition cars that could be driven on the road were ever made making them exceptionally rare, plus they are Ferrari’s first rear engine road-race cars.

Million Dollar Mark

Seventeen cars broke the million-dollar mark with, not surprisingly, Ferrari having eight of the top 10 sales. These included a 275GTB/4 bringing $3,657,000 and a 365GTB/4 Daytona Spider at  $3.3 million. Top non-Ferrari, but yet another Italian supercar, was a 1971 Lamborghini Muira SVJ at $1,897,500 in seventh and a 1965 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS at $1.65 million in ninth. (http://www.rmauctions.com/az15/arizona/results/)

Gooding & Company came in third with $51.5 million, 11 cars over that magic million-dollar mark and 25 new auction records. Of 126 lots listed, 90 per cent sold at an average per car of $451,900 again reflecting the demand for top quality vehicles.

Top sale here too was a Ferrari, this one a 1959 250 GT LWB (Long Wheel Base) California Spider for US$7.7 million or almost a million dollars a word in its name. Ferraris took four of the top five spots with a 1962 Superamerica Series 1 Coupe Aerodinamico going for $4,070,000, a 1968 330GTS for $2,420,000, and a 1963 250 GT Lusso at $1,925,000. Porsche was fourth with a competition 1966 906 Carrera 6 missing the $2 million mark by a mere $20,000. (http://www.goodingco.com/results/realized/?cat=39)

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB CaliforniaGooding sold this 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California for $7.7 million (Photo courtesy of Gooding/Brian Henniker)

In only their fourth year in Scottsdale, Bonhams came very close to breaking the record for a car sold at auction with, yes, yet another Ferrari. This one a 1966 275 GTB Competizione went for $9,405,000, only a couple of hundred thousand, or a few Mercedes, less than RM’s record.

1966 275 GTB CompetizioneBonhams came very close to highest sale with this 1966 275 GTB Competizione at $9.4 million (Photo courtesy of Bonhams)

Bonhams’ total for 84 cars on offer was $25 million and it also had a 90 per cent sell rate. A 1969 365GTB/4 Daytona that was originally shown in the Montreal Auto Show and purchased by a Montrealer went for $748,000, a car that could have been purchased for about half that amount just two years ago, showing how much the market for classic Ferraris has gone up.

A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, formerly owned by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, brought $1,375,000 while a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster made $1,237,000 and a 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 went for $1,017,500.

Coffee Table Book

Bonhams have also just released a magnificent coffee table book, entitled ‘Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!’, in which they present in full color a wide selection of many of the most iconic and valuable cars in the world. In addition to complete descriptions and stats, unique stories pertaining to each vehicle are told, such as Rod Stewart’s Lamborghini Muira. Sounds like a perfect birthday or Christmas gift. (http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22205/#/aa0=2&MR0_length=100&w0=list&m0=0)

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!Ferrari 250 GT (Photograph by Pawel Litwinski ©Gestalten 2015)

Russo & Steele offered 660 cars of which 454 sold for $19.8 million. Topping the list was a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster at $1,430,000, followed by a 1969 Camaro ZL1 at $335,500 and a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429 at $330,000. If you were a newcomer to collecting cars or just wanted to bone up on the latest trends, Russo & Steele ran a popular panel discussion covering all the aspects. Hopefully they will repeat it next year. (https://russoandsteele.com/view-results/?auction_pk=141)

Silver Auctions was the sixth auction this week selling 219 out of 315 cars for a total of $3.6 million. Top sales were a 1997 Lamborghini Diablo Roadster for $71,280, a 1956 DeSoto Firedome CVT at $85,320, and a 1931 Packard Standard 8 CVT for $64,800.

In Monterey, CA, the acclaimed Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegence signals the finish of a week of events. However, in Scottsdale the Arizona Concours D’Elegance heralds the start. In only its second year, this event has grown to world class level with an exceptionally prestigious list of 87 magnificent entries from all over the United States and even one from Canada.

Held among the Frank Lloyd Wright designed villas at the Arizona Biltmore, also site of the RM Auction, the setting is perfect for these classic automobile works of art.

Best of Show went to a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A owned by Thomas Taffet. While not an award winner, certainly a major attention getter was the 1969 Tatra 603 from Czechoslovakia owned by Torontonian Frank Kolinek. (http://www.arizonaconcours.com)

TatraTatra (Bob Godden Photo)

What’s the prognosis? Well the experts are divided on whether this sellers’ market will continue unabated, but as these cars age and many disappear into private collections, the pickings are fewer and fewer so the basic law of supply and demand should prevail.

Peter Volny deeply regrets having passed on a 1972 Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona offered to him at $500,000 less than two years ago and now valued in excess of $850,000. Ah hindsight!

All prices are in US dollars and include buyer’s premium of typically 10 per cent

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