Vintage News

1/24/2014 - With Post-Sales, AZ Auctions Crack The $250 Million Mark

Right: Top-selling race car at AZ auction week, the '97 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail (photo: ©Tom Stahler 2014 Vintage Motorsport)

Scottsdale, AZ -- With a few days of give and take in the post-sale lots, the final tally of Arizona auction week has crept past the $256 million mark, a 14.3% gain over last year's $224 million total, to a new record. While impressive, the reality is a certain level of rationality appears to be percolating in the marketplace for high-end collector cars, with the average sale price of 2,321 lots sold increasing 6.9% to $107,096 over 2013's sales here. However, the velocity of year-over-year price increases is dropping, as the average price per lot in 2013 had increased 17.6% over the 2012 stanza.

The higher sales total this year also stems from an additional 100 or so vehicles sold in 2014, the bulk of them sold at volume leaders Barrett-Jackson and Russo and Steele. At the tony end of the consignment scale, perennial high-end leaders Gooding and RM saw their average prices decline by 13% and some observers noted that the joint RM/Sotheby's November auction in Sotheby's elegant Manhattan gallery, which pulled in $62 million for 30 cars in just two hours, likely took some "big cars" out of the Arizona mix. There were still plenty of cars to wallop some wallets, as more than 30 lots achieved $1 million-plus, with the top seller, RM's 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider setting a new Arizona auction record for any car at $8.8 million, topping the previous record-holder, also a '58 Cal Spider, sold here last year at Gooding's auction for $8.25 million.

As usual, vintage race cars with provenance, performance and patina held major sway in the $1 million+ neighborhood, with Gooding's 1997 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail making an auction record $5.28 million. The 1969 Chevy Corvette L88 "Rebel" (IMSA GTO '71 champion) set a world record at $2.86 million at Barrett-Jackson, and RM sold a '61 Porsche 718 RS 61 Spyder at $2.75 million. Also of note for cars sold on a bill of sale only (not street-legal, of course) were Barrett-Jackson's 1998 Ferrari F300 Formula 1 racer said to be Michael Schumacher's primary test car at $1.87 million, and a 1963 Shelby Cooper Monaco King Cobra at $1.65 million. For drag buffs, Barrett-Jackson's ensemble of the "Snake & Mongoose" Plymouth Duster and Barracuda funny cars, along with their matching restored "Hot Wheels" transporters, sold in post-sale at a reported $990,000. Russo and Steele's #2 seller was a world record, $335,630 for the 1963 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans Super Duty Lightweight, one of six built to contest the NHRA's A/FX class.

Predictably, Barrett-Jackson was the week's big kahuna, filling the new permanent equestrian center structure at Westworld in Scottsdale with a claimed 300,000 onlookers, celebrities, vendors, nightclubs and even two nights of real bullriding. Yup. Auction chief Craig Jackson is surely pleased at the new $45 million layout courtesy of local taxpayers, which finally allowed him to move his 1,400 cars up and out of the lower polo field that habitually flooded when it rained. B-J jumped its total take by 10.7% to a record $113 million across 1,381 no-reserve lots (with the exception of the high-end "Salon" collection). Average sale price inched up 1.7% to $78,042, and 16 "Salon" lots that sold brought $22 million. In addition, the auction raised a whopping $4.4 million via 14 lots sold to benefit charities. Of note, the new auction record for a Corvette was made via the 1967 L88 coupe that sold for $3.85 million, and rounding out its top five (besides the IMSA "Rebel," Ferrari F1 and King Cobra) was the 1955 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing at $2.09 million.

Gooding & Co. put on its usual entertaining show via the good-natured banter and cajoling of Brit auctioneer Charlie Ross and prez David Gooding that kept their slightly relocated tent at Scottsdale Fashion Square mall packed with cash-flush bidders for most of the Friday-Saturday daytime schedule. Their $49.5 million take on 110 lots was down 6% overall from last year but still good enough for 2nd place overall and a 94% sell rate, at an average price of $449,650. Six cars were over $2 million, and 11 auction world records were set, including: 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet, $6.16 million; 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider, $2.06 million; 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America convertible, $1.815 million; 1973 Ferrari 246 Dino GT, $473,000; 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal, $176,000 (said by many to be the nicest example ever seen, and double the low estimate). Gullwing fans' brows furrowed when a "barn find" 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL coupe fetched $1.897 million, while a nicely restored '59 model in the same black over red scheme made "just" $1.43 million, adding fuel to the debate over shabby originals vs. pristine restorations. The debate continues...

A few miles west at the Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix, RM Auctions was third on the podium, taking $45.6 million across 108 lots sold with an 86% sell-through and an average price of $421,884. Not surprising as RM expanded to a two-day format to accommodate a single consignor's 22-car collection, vs. its Friday-only sale last year. RM packed the hotel ballroom for most of two nights, with Max Girardo working over the crowd's wallets to set a new Arizona record for the auctioneer in its 15th year here. Besides the record-setting California Spider, auction records were set for a 1964 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso at $2.447 million; 1958 Bentley S1 Continental coupe, $511,500; 1961 Bentley S2 Continental "Flying Spur" at $297,000, and a huge $165,000 for a "Pagoda"-roof 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL. Potent race car bargain may be the 1986 Toyota Celica IMSA GTO that sold for $242,000, but notable no-sales were the ex-Jim Hall Chaparral 1 built by Troutman & Barnes that got to $1.75 million and 1966 Porsche 906 Carrera 6 that just missed at $1.18 million.

Taking the "most improved" trophy for the second year in a row was Bonhams, which notched just under $25 million across 86 lots at an 85% sales ratio. In only the third year of its Thursday sale at the Westin Kierland resort in Scottsdale, the auction house has quadrupled its tally, upping its average sale price by 85% over last year to $272,890. Continuing improvement in Bonhams' consignment quality bears watching, with its top seller a 1951 Ferrari 212 Export coupe at $3.19 million, and setting a world record for its 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Spider at $3.08 million. Bonhams' #3 car was a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C coupe sold at $2.64 million.

Russo and Steele's tented complex saw a varied mix of 750 muscle cars, hot rods, classics, European sports cars and exotics sell at a 60%+ rate, with post-block sales pushing their total to $21 million on 456 sold lots. Average price was up by 10% over last year to $41,761 and overall tally was up some 30%. Unlike its larger neighbor to the east, Russo offers sellers reserve pricing, and some sellers left empty-handed due to unrealistic reserves. In addition to the Tempest drag car, Russo set a world record for a 1966 Lamborghini 350 GT at $742,500, its top car of the four-day desert sale. Others in the top 5 were: 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR roadster, $308,000; 1971 Chevrolet Corvette SS 454 convertible, $250,250; and a 1964 Porsche 356SC Cabriolet at $242,000.

Some 10 miles east of everything in Fountain Hills, AZ, Silver auctions held forth with a Friday/Saturday bazaar at the Fort McDowell casino, with a relatively affordable smorgasbord of classics, muscle cars, sports cars and, frankly, just plain used cars. Silver bumped its total up 11% over last year to $3.1 million across 179 lots (54% sales ratio) with an average price of $17,414. Top sellers were a '72 Jaguar Series 3 E-Type roadster for $81,540, a 1948 Cadillac Model 62 convertible at $76,140 and a 2009 Dodge Viper coupe for $71,280.

Look for a complete report in the March/April issue of Vintage Motorsport, on sale and in the mail Feb. 26.

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