Million-dollar cars change hands at California car auctions

By Jenny King
Special to The Detroit News


This 1956 Aston Martin DBR1, the first of five DBR1s ever produced, sold for $22,550,000 at RM Sotheby's Monterey Auction in August. It was the winner of the 1959 Nurburgring 1000 KM and a sister to the 1959 Le Mans winner.  Considered the most important Aston Martin ever built, this car set is an auction record for a British automobile.

The Monterey Peninsula goes car crazy every August. The annual Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, the vintage races and tours, the impromptu car shows that disrupt traffic even more than usual and the highly competitive classic car auctions all contribute to the frenzy.

Several hundred million dollars exchange hands annually at California’s car auction sites. Just off-site of the Pebble Beach Golf Links, Gooding & Company raises its white tents and fills them with the exotic and unusual from over a century of the world of motoring.

Nearby Monterey hosts automotive auctions by RM Sotheby’s, Russo & Steele and Mecum. All compete for the best cars and, of course, the most capable buyers. Each can boast of significant results.

RM Sotheby’s said its August vehicle sales totaled $133 million, with an 88 percent sell-through rate. A 1956 Aston Martin DBR1/1 sold for a whopping $22,550,000, setting a world record for any British automobile sold at auction, RM said. Other big-ticket sales included a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Scaglietti ($8.3 million), a 1955 Ferrari 121 LM Spider ($5.7 million) and a 1930 Bentley 6 1/2-Litre Speed Six ($3.4 million).

RM added some bling to its August 18-19 sale by offering some 20 pieces of jewelry, including sought-after watches - perhaps a pleasant distraction for those not interested in the wealth of automotive treasure parked about the Portola Hotel and Spa, or those looking for something to wear while driving a new exotic.

Gooding & Company reported sales of over $91 million during its Aug. 18-19 auctions. A 1970 Porsche 917K featured in Steve McQueen’s “Le Mans” film sold for $14 million, and that wasn’t even the largest sale price at the auction. A 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C topped it at $14.5 million. A 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Berlinetta was a steal at a mere $4.4 million.

Staked out at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey, Mecum offered some 600 cars August 16-19. It has yet to announce its total, but big sellers included a 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari ($3.45 million), a 2010 Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita ($2.6 million) and a 2015 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse ($2,350,000).

Mecum said the above numbers are the hammer prices realized through bidding. It said adding 10 percent makes Mecum results comparable with other auction houses reports, although the actual premium charged elsewhere may vary.

Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions announced early sales totals reaching $8.6 million, led by a 1953 Ferrari 250 GT Europa that sold for $1,155,000.