Villa Erba auction offers Mercedes with long list of accolades
RM Sotheby’s is soon to return to Lake Como, Italy, for its traditional auction linked to the Concorso d’Eleganza di Villa d’Este. The sale will, as usual, be held at Villa Erba in Cernobbio, one of the lakeside’s most amazing villas and premises, which also provides the setting for the events of the Sunday, which is the day open to the public. The Villa Erba auction will get under way at 6 p.m. on Saturday 27 May, while previews will be possible both on Friday 26 May, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (free access), and on the day of the auction itself, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As always, the Cernobbio sale is not a huge event in terms of the number of lots offered — this year they number 66 in all, which include 20 motorcycles and one Riva classic runabout —, but it is an event that offers an important selection of modern hypercars and classic beauties.
RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba Auction features 15 Ferraris
The most represented brand by far, is Ferrari, with 15 cars offered, ranging from a 1960 250 GT to a 2016 F12tdf (seven of the Ferraris are post 1990), followed at a distance by Porsche, with six cars. The Villa Erba event will see just three cars offered without reserve, including two particularly “important” pieces: namely, a 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Spider Vignale, one of the only 242 built, being offered with an estimated value of EUR 750–950 K, and a 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 “Periscopio”, one of the only 150 built, which has been estimated to be worth EUR 0.9–1.1 million. The catalog includes seven cars with a lowest estimate above the EUR 1 million mark, four cars expected to fetch at least EUR 2 million, and another three at least 2 million, while the estimated value of a further car tops the EUR 6 million mark.
The car with the lowest estimate at Villa Erba auction is a 1955 Austin-Healey 100-4 BN2 (chassis #BN2-L/228635) that, following a total restoration, has been successful at many shows. It is here offered without reserve, and is expected to fetch EUR 75–100 K. The oldest car offered is the one with the highest presale estimated value (EUR 6.5–8 million), namely the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680 S Torpedo Sport by Saoutchik. The following three cars, all from 2016, are the youngest being offered at the sale: a single-owner, 1000 kilometers from new Porsche 911 R (chassis #WP0ZZZ99ZGS194133) with an estimated value of EUR 390–440 K; a McLaren P1 GTR (chassis #SBM12ABB9FW100033), one of the only 27 transformed by Lanzante for road use and estimated to be worth EUR 3.2–3.6 million; and a 3000 kilometers from new Ferrari F12tdf (chassis #ZFF81BHT3G0217175), expected to fetch EUR 750–800 K. RM Sotheby’s commission for this sale will be 12% + VAT (usually 22%) on the hammer price.
1928 Mercedes-Benz 680 S Torpedo Sport by Saoutchik
This is not only a wonderful, amazing and rare car, but it also has a romantic history, which adds a touch of poetry to its beauty. In 1928, chassis #35949, with the 6,789 cc Type S engine, was delivered to French Carrosserie J. Saoutchik, owned by Ukraine born Iakov Saoutchik, to be dressed in line with the wishes of Mr and (moreover) Mrs Charles Levine. Mr Levine, one of the wealthiest men of the period, had made a fortune recycling WWI surplus brass and was the co-founder of the Columbia Aircraft Company. Although we don’t know the exact reason why — whether it was the start of his personal financial crisis linked to a series of bad investments, or the federal government’s demand for half a million dollars in back taxes —, we do know that Levine never collected the custom-built car, finished in Dove Grey and with the interior covered in Dark Red Alpina (lizard skin from a French colony in Southeast Asia), which thus remained in the New York City showroom of Mercedes-Benz New York. The dealer took the opportunity to use the car as a part of its display at the 1929 New York Auto Salon and, after the show, the sales department contacted the young Standard Oil director, Frederick Henry Bedford Jr., whose family already owned a Mercedes, offering to sell him the car.
In accepting, Mr Bedford could hardly have been aware of the importance that the car would play in his life, and in particular in his meeting with his future wife, Margaret Stewart. Bedford’s granddaughter, Muffie Murray, still recalls her grandma often recounting how, as young lady, she had been dating an old family friend, whom she found extremely boring, when one day, attending a party in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, she was introduced to Frederick Bedford, who, by contrast, was great fun and a good dancer. On leaving the party, she spotted his car, and ‘that was it’. When he offered her a ride back to Pittsburgh, ‘quite a racy proposition for a lady back then’, she accepted at once. Although her original date tried to keep up, he was no match for the ‘speed demon’ in the supercharged Mercedes-Benz, and Frederick and Margaret left him trailing in their wake. ‘After that’, she told her granddaughter, ‘there was no one else for me.’
Mr Bedford, a director of the Standard Oil Company for 25 years, and also president of the Atlas Supply Company, which sold tires, batteries and other accessories, made his home with Margaret in Greens Farms, Connecticut. Sadly, he suffered an untimely death while on a business trip in 1952; he was just 61. Mrs Bedford was so heartbroken by her husband’s passing that she parked the 680 S in the garage and did not use it again. In 1980, for her grandmother’s birthday, Muffie baked a cake in the shape of the car and Mrs Bedford loved it so much that she refused to cut it, and later surprised her granddaughter with the news that she was going to have the car restored for her. Several shops were contacted to offer bids for the work, including Paul Russell’s Gullwing Service Company.
Featured in the Mercedes-Benz centennial celebrations 1986
When Russell inspected the car in Greens Farms, it still had its original lizard skin interior and license tag, which Mr Bedford had renewed for 1953 before he died. Photographs taken during Russell’s inspection in 1980 would later provide valuable information to the team that carried out its most recent restoration. During the first restoration, which was finally entrusted to Gus Reuter, the original lizard skin was changed to red leather and the wheel discs were removed. The car was then exhibited at an AACA event in 1982, where it won a National First Prize, and Mercedes-Benz selected it to be featured during its 1986 centennial celebrations. It was at these events that James S. Rockefeller, founding chairman of the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine, spotted the car. He was intrigued by the car’s connection with his own family, the founders of Standard Oil, and requested the loan of the car to his museum. This was granted and the car remained exhibited in Maine for the next two decades.
In 2006, after 78 years of ownership, the Bedford family decided to put the car on the market, still with only 31,000 miles on its odometer. Two years later, 2008, it was purchased by collectors Paul and Chris Andrews, of Texas. They had an ongoing relationship with Paul Russell and Company and ultimately decided to commission the firm with a full restoration of the 680 S. This decision was made after Russell and his team gave a detailed presentation on the challenges of restoring a coachbuilt car at the 2010 Symposium on Connoisseurship and the Collectible Car, sponsored by the Revs Institute and the Collier Collection, in Naples, Florida. When the car, the only known survivor of just three built with low windshields, arrived at Russell’s Massachusetts facility in April 2010, its condition was thoroughly reviewed by the team before it was given a full frame-off restoration.
A car of impressive originality
In-depth inspection and research revealed the car’s impressive originality: very few parts had ever been replaced. All the chassis and drivetrain components were still properly numbered internally and externally, matching the original commission papers. Paul Russell still remembers how “the coachwork was remarkably sound, and the Saoutchik job number was stamped all over the original wood framing and metal fittings. Having been stored in such favorable conditions for so many years, the wood frame underneath the metal skin remained preserved, and only a few pieces in the top well had to be replaced.” The engine required a complete overhaul, but other vital mechanical components required only thorough maintenance, while every effort was made to restore and retain various parts that could have been more easily remanufactured, such as the original and slightly worn sill plates engraved ‘Carrosserie J. Saoutchik’, painstakingly re-engraved rather than replaced, and the original exhaust side pipes, which were carefully cleaned and re-plated.
Best of Show in Pebble Beach 2012
One of the most difficult parts to restore, or more precisely re-create, was the lizard skin interior. “I flew to Germany,” says Paul Russell, “to analyze two remaining original Saoutchik lizard interiors, and also original Saoutchik photographs, and to research the family history. I then had to source 760 new lizard hides from Southeast Asia, a mandatory course of action that still makes me feel a little guilty. After preparing the skin, the location that each piece was cut from was deliberately chosen in order to ensure that the finished upholstery panels displayed consistency of grain and color tone.” The amazing quality of the restoration was recognized at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where the car was awarded 100 points before going on to claim the coveted Best of Show title.
Additional accolades bestowed on the stunning Mercedes-Benz include Restoration of the Year at the 2012 International Historic Motoring Awards and First in Class at the celebrated 2013 Concorso d’Eleganza di Villa d’Este. Soon afterwards, the Andrews offered the Mercedes for sale, through RM Auctions, and, in Monterey 2013, it was sold for USD 8,250,000 including commission. It is now offered for sale at Villa Erba auction 2017, with American documents, with an estimated value of EUR 6.5–8 million, and we can only hope that the new owner will be willing to keep it for the next 80 years, as would be befitting for a car of this kind, with such an amazing history.
1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Spider, 4th Series Carrozzeria Sport S.A.
Pre-war Alfas are among the most beautiful and technically advanced cars built, and it is certainly not every day that you come across such an original specimen, with such a detailed history, as the one shortly coming up for sale at Villa Erba auction. The 6C 1750 Gran Sport being offered (chassis #8513001, still paired with its original engine) is the first of the about 102 of the 4th series built, and is one of the only two originally dressed by Carrozzeria Sport S.A. of Milan. The car is believed to have originally been sold to 23-year-old Baron Horst von Waldthausen, scion of a wealthy family originally from Essen (Germany), who grew up on the shores of Geneva Lake in Switzerland.
His love of motorsports led him to build his own private autodrome, before making a significant financial commitment to the Meyrin circuit in Switzerland. The 6C 1750 was officially imported to his adoptive country on 10 June 1930. In 1932, von Waldthausen formed a racing team, known as the Equipe Villars-Waldthausen, with fellow countryman Julio Villars. The Baron then entered the Gran Sport in various Swiss Championship hill climbs, starting with the Grand Saconnex in March 1932 (wearing registration number 9221), where he finished 2nd in class, before handing over the car to Villars to be raced, successfully, in several events in Switzerland, Italy and France. The strong results fielded by the team’s Alfa Romeos propelled von Waldthausen and Villars to 5th place and 6th place respectively in the 1932 Swiss Championship (sports car class). During the 1933 season, the Equipe Villars-Waldthausen suffered the loss of the Baron, when his Alfa Romeo 8C blew a tire at speed and flipped over during the Grand Prix de Marseille in the August, and when Villars acquired an 8C Monza of his own, the 6C 1750 was essentially retired from team use.
The racing career of the 6C 1750 #8513001 appears to have ended here. Thereafter, the car remained in Switzerland for many years, eventually being purchased, in May 1949, by another Swiss resident Jean Sayare (registration number VD 20441), before being sold, about 18 months later, to Frank Gilroy, who also registered the car with Swiss number plate (VD 27635). In January 1953, the Alfa passed to a further Swiss owner (VD 23172), Ernest Maibach, who was to hold on to it for over 48 years, preserving the car in optimal original condition. In August 2001, Maibach sold the Gran Sport to the consignor, a French collector who commissioned a complete restoration by the specialists at Auto Classique Touraine in Veigne, France. It is now offered for sale, with European documents, with an estimated value of EUR 2.2–2.6 million.
1935 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Prototype, Carrosserie Bugatti
The Type 57 chassis is the most important in the history of the Molsheim-based firm, and the few specimens teamed with an Atalante style body are considered among the most prestigious of all. The car being offered for sale on this occasion (chassis #57254 with matching number engine, paired with a Carrosserie Bugatti body) is the Atalante Prototype number 3 — four prototypes were built in total —, which was subsequently produced in a series of 34 cars. This prototype shows many coachwork features unique to the early cars, such as the distinctive low roof, the bonnet with longer single-column louvers, the forward-leaning rear wheel spats, and the semi-closed front fender edges. The assembly of the car was completed on 16 May 1935, and it was delivered, nine days later, to its first owner, the factory’s legendary co-director and former racing manager and driver, two-time Targa Florio champion Meo Costantini. According to the Molsheim archive, just two months later, on July 17, the car was back at the factory for the original engine upgrades, being disassembled and re-fitted with upgraded pistons and a special intake manifold, while the valve guides and camshaft were adjusted.
In March 1936, the car was bought by a Mr Rigaud of the Seine Départment in France, who sold it the following month to Louis Dubreuil, a livestock merchant from Mauze sur le Mignon. In November 1936, the Atalante was registered under his name with the Niort registration number 4743 XL 2. Two years later, as shown by correspondence with the Paris showroom, Mr Dubreuil wanted to sell the car back to the manufacturer, to be traded in for a Type 57S, but after failing to come to an agreement with the factory, he decided to keep the car, which he used as a daily vehicle until the outbreak of World War II, when it was hidden away for the duration of the conflict.
The car resurfaces in the official documents in January 1955, when, following the introduction of a new registration system in France, the Bugatti was re-registered, again in Mr Dubreuil’s name, with the number 744 AW 79, which is still the number on its plates today. After the owner’s death in 1957, the Atalante was inherited by his niece and essentially remained in storage for the next 41 years. Finally, in December 1998, after 62 years with the Dubreuil family, chassis 57254 was purchased by a French collector who briefly relinquished it to a private owner before re-purchasing it. Currently displaying just 25,733 kilometers, only 700 of which were clocked up over the last 60 years, this rare Bugatti has never left France. After a color change to two-tone black and red during Mr Dubreuil’s tenure, the car has now been repainted in its original monochromatic finish. This intervention apart, the T57 is almost entirely original, including the original body panels stamped with the number 3 (indicating its status as the third Atalante protoype produced) and the unmodified cable-actuated brakes. The interior still has its original door panels, seat back, and proper leather seat bottom in the original tan colour, original gauges, and the extremely rare original factory-issued toolkit. It is offered with European documents, with an estimated value of EUR 2.8–3.2 million.
1961 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder Vignale
Offered without reserve at Villa Erba auction, the Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder (chassis #AM101 1129) is a left hand drive car originally delivered to the United Kingdom to a Miss Teresa Mitarachi, a name most likely of Greek origin (Mitarakis). It was originally finished in white with black leather interior, and fitted with the coveted five-speed ZF gearbox and Borrani wire wheels. She kept the car until 1977, when she sold it to Frank Wilbur in the United States. Wilbur then sold the car to Frank Mandarano’s MIE Corporation in 1988, after which, later that same year, it was sold it to well-known Maserati collector Ivan Ruiz of Georgia. Ruiz acquired the car with the bodywork stripped back to bare metal, and embarked on a five-year restoration. In 2009 the car was sold again and further restoration work was carried out by Maserati specialists Ital-Auto of Stuttgart. An estimated 500–600 hours was spent on the repaint job alone, and at the same time, the engine was rebuilt and the interior re-trimmed in the original specification black leather. It is now offered for sale, with European documents, accompanied by its original tool roll, factory documentation, Maserati S.p.A. Certificate of Origin, detailed restoration records, and an original and extremely rare factory hardtop. It is predicted to fetch around EUR 750–950.
1957 BMW 507 Roadster
The 507, the most valuable post-war BMW, can be seen as the company’s first attempt to break into the supercar market at a time, the 1950s, when it was still associated with compact and middle class cars. Although the model was not a great success — its final price far exceeded the forecasts, and so only 252 specimens were built —, it is now an increasingly sought-after classic. Produced in July 1957, the car offered for sale (chassis #70044) is part of the first series, and it was sold new through Automag Buchner & Linse of Munich, Germany. It was originally finished in Papyros (a rare shade of off-white) with a red leather interior, and equipped with whitewall tires, a hardtop and a Becker Mexico radio with an automatic antenna.
The car’s first owner was Herbert Dinkheller, although initially it was registered to the tobacco company in Frankfurt that employed him, the documents only subsequently being changed to Dinkheller’s name. The next owner of the car was Herman Beilharz of Mötzingen, and he remains its longest custodian. Beilharz was a successful amateur racer of Honda motorcycles and bought the 507 with what little funds he could scrape together. Throughout the five decades of his ownership, the car was always well maintained, carefully stored and driven regularly during the summer months. Photos from Beilharz’s long tenure include some of him posing with the car on his wedding day, by which time the 507 had already been repainted in its current shade of sea green.
Today offered for sale by its third owner at Villa Erba auction, who bought it in 2014, the car still has its original red leather interior, which shows traces of wear that bear witness to the 73,000 km (the correct figure) shown on the odometer. This 507 still retains its original engine, was recently refitted with a correct front bumper and steel wheels and retains a set of color-matched Rudge wheels, which will be included in the sale, along with a tool kit, owner’s manual, factory brochure, certificate from BMW, and the original front drum brakes which were replaced, years ago, with disk brakes. It is offered for sale with American documents and has an estimated value of EUR 1.7–2 million.
1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1, 3.8 Litre Roadster
It is difficult to imagine a car more iconic than the Jaguar E-Type, a model that, as discovered by Jaguar historian Marko Makaus, prompted Enzo Ferrari himself to declare it the most beautiful car in the world. Of all the series manufactured, the open version equipped with the 3.8-liter engine and flat floor, is easily the most coveted. The car offered at the auction, a first-series 3.8 (chassis #875807) combines this prestigious status with a glittering competition history. Originally delivered in Portugal in 1961 through official importer Martins & Almeida of Lisbon and dealer João Gaspar, it was one of the first 10 E-Types to be sold there.
Its proud first owner was Manuel ‘Mané’ Nogueira Pinto of Porto, a well-known racing driver and a member of a prominent Portuguese racing family. Pinto used his E-Type for the 1962–1963 seasons, immediately establishing an outstandingly successful record with it. The debut race, on 3 June 1962, was the ACP Cup (Automobile Club of Portugal) at Porto’s Circuito de Lordelo do Ouro, where Nogueira Pinto qualified 2nd behind the Ferrari 250 SWB that went on to be the winner; he, however, did not finish the race. Shortly afterwards, the E-Type was shipped to Southeast Africa to compete in the GT support race of the 1962 Mozambique Grand Prix at Autodromo de Lourenço Marques, which Pinto won, beating another 250 SWB and a Porsche Carrera Abarth GTL. By September, the E-Type was back in Portugal, where it continued racing successfully, beating some tough competition. 1963 brought a second victory at Montes Claros, in the rain, but the most interesting meeting was the 1963 Grand Prix of Angola where, after beating another E-Type and a 250 SWB, the car won the 6th City of Luanda Cup support race.
Following its retirement from racing, the car’s history resumes when it was discovered as a complete car (painted red with black interior) in need of a full restoration. The ensuing nut-and-bolt restoration was finished in 2011, just in time for the 50th E-Type celebrations, and it included a bare-metal re-spray and a re-trim back to the original specification. The engine, gearbox and differential rebuilds were carried out by Julian Godfrey Engineering of East Sussex and, unlike what is seen with many E-Type restorations, the presence of only minimal corrosion meant that few of the panels needed replacing. During the restoration, care was taken to retain original competition features, such as the brake cooling holes in the bonnet bulkhead; the cooling system was upgraded with an alloy radiator and header tank, and Coopercraft brakes were installed.
The car, with all-matching numbers and in its original specification, is now offered for sale, from Portugal, with European documents; it has been assigned a pre-sale estimated value of EUR 250–300 K.
For more info please visit the website of RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba auction and watch the video teaser of RM Sotheby’s below:
All photos courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.