Scottsdale AZ — The tallies are in from Arizona Auction Week, and preliminary sales totals show $247.8 million in automotive lot sales, a 4.8% overall decline from last year’s $259.8 million total, and a far cry from the record of $294 million in 2015. While inventory was slimmer at 3,176 lots vs. last year’s 3,486 vehicles, average sale prices were up 3.6% to $92,887 according to raw results compiled by Hagerty Insurance.
There appears to be a disconnect between sellers and buyers at the upper reaches of the market, with 90% of cars priced at $250,000-plus bid to market-correct or above prices, but selling at only a 70% rate. The pair of Jaguar D-Type racers expected to fetch at least $10 million-$15 million or more at Gooding and RM both failed to sell at high bids of $8.85 million and $9.8 million respectively. Top seller Barrett-Jackson ($112.3 million) saw half of its reserve-priced “Salon” cars fall short, and sophomore effort of Worldwide Auctioneers saw Adolf Hitler’s Mercedes-Benz parade car fail to sell at $7 million. One factor in high rollers’ apparent reluctance might be the newly-passed U.S. tax code that limits 1031 exchanges which previously allowed those selling certain assets (collector cars, art, real estate) to reinvest the proceeds into similar assets without paying taxes on the gain. The new code limits such tax-free exchanges to real estate only.
If the one-percenters are thinking their tech stocks are a better bet than a Le Mans winner, the entry and mid-level cars are strengthening, likely buttressed via new participants in the hobby. A surging stock market and easy, low-rate financing may also take some of the credit. Restored and modified pickups and SUVs were strong this week, with restored or modified Ford Broncos and ’50s and ’60s pickups taking $50K prices and up. Purists might lift their noses at resto-mod Corvettes, but somebody’s buying them at prices from $100K to $440K at Barrett-Jackson and elsewhere. Could be there’s buyers for a split-window ‘Vette with cold A/C, better brakes, more tire and an LS6 motor that won’t strand you 60 miles out of town. Nor are nostalgia and cuteness extinct, apparently, as VW Microbus (21- and 23-window versions) prices hit $100K-plus, and Gooding & Co. sold one for a world-record $220K. Hippie, dippie, yippee.
Not surprisingly, Ferraris continue to lead the upper end of the marketplace, with the top seller of the week Gooding’s $8.085 million sale of the 1965 275 GTB Speciale Coupe, a stunning metallic green siren built for designer Batista Pininfarina that fetched a world-record price for a steel-bodied model, at an alloy-body price. The Maranello marque also copped the No. 6 and 7 spots with a ’72 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider sold for $2.64 million at Bonhams, and a ’67 330 GTS droptop fetched $2.53 million at Gooding & Co.
As we’re vintage racers, VM is pleased to report that three historic race cars made the top five sales for the week. Coming in 2nd on the sales podium was Bonhams’ 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder, 2nd in class and 5th O/A at Le Mans, and a Nürburgring class win to its credit, provenance enough to set a new world auction record for the model at $5.17 million. Third place was Gooding & Co.’s 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider, a stunning red racer sold at $4.455 million. RM Sotheby’s did splendid work with a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C at well over estimate to take $2.947 million, good for 5th place in Arizona sales.
Yet plenty of vintage race cars found new drivers at much more reasonable prices. Looking for a Rennsport ride? Gooding sold a nice ’85 Porsche 944 Turbo Cup car for $71,500, and a 1956 Deutsch-Bonnet HBR5 at $47,300. At the mid-range were Dale Earnhardt’s 2006 Watkins Glen NASCAR ride (Chevy Monte Carlo) that sold for $176,000 at Barrett-Jackson, and Gooding’s beastly (in sheer performance, not condition) 1953 Allard J2X Hemi that earned an under-estimate $286,000.
Fairly-priced race rides were evident at Russo and Steele, but their top seller was a real 1964 Cheetah coupe with in-period competition history that sold for a well-deserved $660,000.
Among the individual auction houses, there were of course ups and downs vs. 2017 results. Among the highlights:
• Barrett-Jackson: the 300-lb. gorilla around which the auction week revolves tallied its second-best total to date, with $112.3 million in sales, a 12% increase over last year. Average sale price was up a healthy 10.7% to $65,692 with a 99% sales rate as the vast majority are no-reserve lots. Three of its top 10 cars were charity benefits, including the 2017 Ford GT at $2.5 million, a 2018 Corvette Carbon 65 Edition at $1.4 million gaveled by former U.S. President George W. Bush (assisted by Jay Leno) for his military veterans non-profit, and a 2019 Corvette ZR1 at $925,000. To date, the auction house has raised just shy of $100 million for charity.
• Gooding & Co.: Hit it out of the park this year, with a $49.2 million tally, up 47.7% over 2017, an 85% sales rate and the highest average sales price of the week at $447,415, up a hefty 41%. Among the tonier auctions, all their top-10 lots broke the $1 million mark, and David Gooding and Brit auctioneer Charlie Rose deliver the most entertaining sales spiel of the week, bar none.
• RM Sotheby’s: Total tally of $36 million dropped 33% from last year’s $53.7 million take, but absent a couple of collections from last year, it’s not surprising with 127 lots up for grabs vs. last year’s 159. But RM’s average sale price dropped just 15% to $327,641 with a strong 87% sales rate, and notable sales included Preston Tucker’s personal 1948 Tucker 48 Sedan making a record $1.792 million.
• Bonhams: Its $25.2 million total was 30% lower than last year despite selling 94 of 108 lots (87% sales rate) vs. 2017’s 86 lots sold. Last year’s total was buttressed no doubt by the $7 million-ish sale of a competition 1963 Jaguar Lightweight E-Type, which boosted last year’s average sale price to $422,376 vs. this year’s $267,649 average.
• Russo and Steele: The auction-in-the-round gladiatorial arena sale managed to boost its average sale price up 6.9% to $38,197 despite a lower sales rate this year (64% vs. 74% last year). The second-largest consignment (646 lots) proved it offers a car for just about anybody at a reasonable price, but was constrained by 132 fewer lots this year. Nevertheless, the auction’s footprint at the Talking Stick spring training baseball field was much improved with siting on additional pavement and a new, less-raked auction arena. In addition to the $660,000 Cheetah, muscle cars and exotics ruled the roost, with a ’65 Shelby GT350 taking $341,000 and a 1967 Corvette 427/L71 convertible selling at $302,500. In a savvy move, Russo also announced they’ll be bringing a new auction to Amelia Island in March of 2019.
• Worldwide Auctioneers: This newcomer’s second effort fizzled due mainly to a no-sale on Adolf Hitler’s 1939 Mercedes-Benz Nazi parade car at $7 million. Last year’s $11.4 million debut dropped by 46% this year to $6.1 million in total sales of 50 lots (61% sell-through) vs. 64 lots and 78% sale rate last year.
Average sale price dropped 31% to $122,319. Auction principal Rod Egan nevertheless knows how to run a room, and future efforts should likely expand Worldwide’s take and footprint in Arizona. Top sales included a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet at $420,000, a 1965 Shelby GT350 at $352,000 and a ’57 Kurtis Kraft 500G Indy car sold for $308,000.
• Silver Auctions Arizona: Under new ownership, this affordable outlier at the Fort McDowell Casino east of everything in Fountain Hills, AZ managed to noticeably improve previous results with a $3.2 million take on a 50% sales rate and an average sale price of $17,620, a 16.8% improvement.
Top sale was a ’69 Ford Mustang Boss 429 at $206,280.
Arizona auction week offers the entire collector car spectrum in a concise footprint, from eight-figure Ferraris to five-grand Fieros. We’ve now seen it all: while making a phone call late Sunday outside Barrett-Jackson’s arena, our jaw dropped as a ‘60s Cadillac convertible piloted by a guy in a bathing suit trundled by. The entire interior was a Jacuzzi tub filled with water. It gave new meaning to the car’s moniker, “CarPool.” And it had a “Sold” sticker on it.
Buy what you love, but buyer beware…
Report by Mike Silverman