The main attractions?
Judging from the number of headlines grabbed, both before and after the fact, the numerous auctions held now seem the main attractions of the annual Monterey classic car week. With the prices exploding during the last decade and the memories still fresh of the late 1980s crash, each auction is another test of the market. None more so than on the Monterey Peninsula in the middle of August where all the major collectors and auctioneers gather. This year a world record seemed inevitable as Bonhams had consigned a Ferrari 250 GTO without reserve, although some suggested, perhaps optimistically, that both RM Auctions and Gooding & Co. had also signed up a Ferrari each that could break the existing record of around $29 million. After all the build-up, collectors and auctioneers anxiously held their breath when the 250 GTO went under the hammer, as it was only the third car to cross the block during the week and the outcome would give a solid clue of the state of the market at that time. We ventured to four of the major auctions as can be seen in this 180-shot gallery
Rick Cole Auctions
In 1986, Rick Cole was the very first to organise an auction in Monterey during the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance week. Several years later, he sold on the rights to the auction to RM Auctions, who still carry on his tradition. This year, Rick Cole was back with another ground-backing sale. Although the three dozen cars consigned were displayed in the ballroom at the Marriott in downtown Monterey, the sale itself was conducted entirely online. No cars crossed the block and interested parties could file their bids on the internet until midnight on Sunday. With this arrangement, Cole effectively created an Ebay for high-end collector cars. After the sale concluded the jury is still out on whether the conservative classic car world was ready for this type of auction. At the time of writing the sale of the cover lot, a highly original Ferrari 410 S, was still pending with a formidable high bid of $22 million. The most expensive car that did sell was a Ferrari 275 GTB 'Competizione Clienti', which by midnight on Sunday had attracted a bid of $12 million. Just over half the cars were sold with for a combined total of just over $20 million. If the sales that are currently pending will be finalised, that figure could easily double.
Not so long ago, the small kid on the block, at least in Monterey, Bonhams definitely staged the most anticipated sale of the week. The headline grabbing 250 GTO was joined by a further nine Ferraris from the late Fabrizio Violati's Maranello Rosso Collection. These ten cars were offered at no reserve on Thursday, while the remaining lots were offered the following afternoon. With figures of up to $70 million suggested by some, the bidding was quickly up to $30 million (already a world record), and then slowly moved up to a hammer price of $34 million ($38 million all in). This may have disappointed some but it was a fair price for a car with an interesting history. What it had going for itself was that Violati had bought the GTO directly from Enzo Ferrari in the mid 1960s but by that time, it had already been crashed heavily and re-bodied twice. It also had the distinction of being the only GTO that has been involved in a fatal crash. The remaining nine Ferraris offered on Thursday performed as expected, which set the scene for the rest of the week's sales. Bonhams followed up with a great sale on Friday, bringing in a further $41 million, which by itself was more than the company's result in 2013. The sale's total was around $108 million with a 92% sell-through rate.
RM Auctions' two-day flagship sale at the Portola Plaza hotel in downtown Monterey was also headlined by Ferraris; a 250 LM on Friday and a highly coveted 275 GTB/C Speciale on Saturday. The former had seen more than its fair share of drama but still sold for a formidable $11.5 million, no doubt helped by the recently issued Ferrari Classiche certificate. The special competition 275 GTB is considered by many as the 1965 GTO, and while one did very well in racing, the car on offer had no period racing history. It nevertheless attracted a bidding frenzy after an opening bid of $15 million! It eventually sold at a mesmerising $26.4 million. Even more stunning was the $10 million paid for a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 that had been converted to a Spider and more recently back to a Coupe again, for the sole reason that Steve McQueen was the original owner. By stark contrast, a much nicer, highly original 275 GTB/4 found a new owner a few minutes later for a much more reasonable $3.75 million. Further stars of the sale included the most original of the Ford GT Roadsters built in 1964, which came in at just shy of $7 million, while an early Mercer Type 35R sold at an impressive $2.5. Helped by a 91% sell through rate, RM Auctions had the highest total of the week at $143 million, up from $125 million in 2013.
Gooding & Co.
Staged just across the street from Pebble Beach, Gooding & Co. arguably have the most prestigious location for their two-day sale. Again, Ferraris stole the show at Gooding with a 250 GT SWB California heading the line-up on Saturday and the spectacular 365 P 'Tre Posti' show car attracting much attention on Sunday. The California certainly lived up to the expectations as it found a new owner for just over $15 million, all in. A bid of $22 million was, however, not enough to reach the reserve of the striking three-seater Ferrari, which was reportedly set at $25 million. A similar fate was bestowed on the other three seater in the auction; a McLaren F1. The $10.75 on the table (excluding the 10% fee) was apparently just $250,000 shy of the consignor's needs but it proved a gap too big to bridge. To put these figures into perspective, the most expensive F1 sold at auction, exactly 12 months earlier at the very same venue, went for considerably less at $8.5. A lot does apparently change in just one year. Gooding faired much better with a nice Aston Martin DB3S at $5.5 million on Saturday and $5.6 million for a Series I Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet on Sunday. One of the other highlights of the sale was a Buick Caballero Estate offered by comedian Jay Leno for charity; after the original winning bidder bought the car for $300,000, he immediately donated it back and it then attracted a further $280,000 for the George W. Bush Military Service Initiative benefiting war veterans. Gooding matched the generosity by donating the buyer's premium to the same foundation. Selling 88% of the cars offered, Gooding & Co. had a two-day turnover of $106 million.
With just $400 million worth of cars changing hands during week and often at record prices, the concerns over the market have gone away, at least until the next major auction. Ferraris certainly dominated this year with all but one of the top ten sellers bearing the prancing horse badge. The one interloper was the Ford GT Prototype Roadster. Fittingly, as it was after all designed to beat Ferrari at Le Mans.