Classic car icons on sale at RM Sotheby’s New York

Icons is the name RM Sotheby’s has chosen for its forthcoming auction, being held next Wednesday, December 6th, at the 10th floor offices of Sotheby’s USA in New York (NY). Scheduled to get under way at 7 p.m., this will be a small sale; indeed, the vehicles being offered (including a Piaggio Ape Calessino trike, a sort of hybrid between automobilia and a motorcycle) number just 30, but all are particularly refined, high quality lots. They will be surrounded by bottles of wine and automobilia items, including a helmet worn by Steve McQueen in Le Mans with an estimated value of USD 400–500 K USD (offered without reserve). Almost an entire week will be allowed for previewing the lots, which, as from the previous Thursday, will be available for viewing daily (from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 1 p.m. on the Sunday). The buyer’s commission will be 12% + taxes for hammer prices of up to USD 250,000 or 10% + taxes for any prices over this limit.

RM Sotheby’s New York sale – small but refined

A sizeable proportion of the cars — 11 in total, including a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster and a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Riviera Town Car — will be offered without reserve. The car with the lowest estimated value (USD 125–175 K) is a 1973 De Tomaso Pantera L (chassis #THPNNR05756), offered without reserve, while the highest estimate (USD 14–17 million) has been assigned to 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione (chassis #1451 GT). The youngest car up for sale is a 2018 Bugatti Chiron (chassis #VF9SP3V3XJM795069), the first Chiron ordered for the US market and never registered or road driven, while the oldest is the 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Riviera Town Car (chassis #390XH), the only example of this body mounted on a Rolls chassis. The cars in the catalog are, on average, quite young, five being built from 2010 onwards, and a further two in the first decade of the 2000s. Eleven cars have been assigned a minimum estimated value above the USD 1 million mark, and another is expected to fetch more than USD 2 million, while two have estimated values in excess of USD 3 million, one is predicted to fetch at least 5 million, and another has been assigned a lowest estimated value of as much as USD 14 million.


1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

Photo copyright Diana Varga.

It is difficult to imagine a more exclusive car than the competition version of the 250 California Spider, even though this one is in the long-wheelbase version. Perfect to race on the track but also to take out for romantic drives, chassis #1451 GT was ordered as a racing specimen by American importer Luigi Chinetti to be entered, together with two other Ferraris, under its NART insignia in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. For this reason, the car was equipped with an alloy body — it was the second of the only eight to sport this feature — and a Tipo 128F engine complete with high lift camshaft, triple Weber DCL6 carburetors, and a competition fuel tank with external fuel filler.

The driver (and also owner) was Bob Grossman, a well-known racer making his debut in the French endurance race. His team mate was Frenchman Fernando Tavano. The pair did well, finishing 5th overall and 3rd in Class. Just after the race, the car was returned to Maranello to be painted in its definitive Metallic Silver color, after which it was shipped to New York, ready to be entered in 17 races organized by the SCCA for the 1959 and 1960 championship, in which it performed very well, notching up a series of 1st in class and 1st overall rankings.

Following the 1960 racing season, the car, by now well used, passed through the hands of a series of different American owners on the USA’s East Coast. In 1981 it was purchased by a Californian collector, Jon Masterson, and completely restored. In line with the trend at the time, it was repainted in Rosso Corsa over beige interior, but, luckily, all its racing specifications were left intact. At the end of the restoration, in 1983, it took Best in Class at Pebble Beach, before being used for rallies and classic car race meetings. Masterson kept it until 2007, when it was purchased by its current owner, who got it awarded Ferrari Classiche certification. In 2010, in a further restoration, it was returned to its original configuration and has since been used only for car shows. It is offered with an estimated value of USD 14–17 million.


1958 Austin-Healey 100-Six “Goldie”

Photo copyright Pepper Yandell.

A gold-finished 1958 Austin-Healey might not be to everybody’s taste, but, strange as this may seem, this particular car (chassis #BN6/2260) actually started life with this “flashy” look. Indeed, it was originally manufactured, with 24 karat gold plated trim on special white paint, and with kid leather and mink upholstery, precisely in order to create a splash at the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show, where it was presented as the Daily Express Contest Car.

It was Ken Gregory, the firm’s PR manager who first had the idea for the car and started trying to convince Donald Healey that a car like this would make a fantastic impact. Healey was not initially in favor, but his decision was reviewed when the Daily Express committee decided to buy the car for a fixed price after the show, to offer it as the grand prize in a special contest. The car was picked out from among those on the production line at the time and was then prepared in secret at the company’s production site: every single detail of the trimming was then gold plated, including the washers, bolts, mirrors, rims, handles, logo, ignition key and key ring. A single special mechanical feature was added: the car was fitted with four Dunlop disc brakes, normally only seen on the competition model, and it thus became only pre-1964 non-competition Austin-Healey to be equipped with them.

It was valued at around GBP 4,000 — four times the cost of a regular Healey — and the contest winner sold it almost immediately after winning it. First registered on February 25th, 1959, little is known of its first decade, after which there are records of all the various owners. In 1983 the car was bought by American restorers and marque experts Bruce and Inan Phillips, who immediately started a full restoration, which was completed in 1986. Rarely driven since then, but kept in perfect running order, it was shown (mostly in American events) before being sold to its current owner some years ago. It is now offered without reserve, with an estimate of USD 350–550 K.


1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

The Mercedes 300 SL Roadster, one of the most beautiful cars ever built, may be regarded as a perfect classic car, as it is easy to drive and fast. The car being offered in New York (chassis #198.042.7500649) left the factory on January 10th, 1958. Indeed, the seventh and eighth digits of the chassis number confirm that production of the car began in 1957. Built to US specifications and painted in DB 180 Silver Grey Metallic over red leather interior, its original specifications included lower seats (by 2.5 centimeters), an extended steering column, wiring for additional fog lamps, and an extra reverse light.

Delivered to a lieutenant in the US army stationed in Germany, the car was taken back the USA when he returned home, and remained with him until 1970, when it was sold in Michigan. In 2014, three owners and one restoration later, the car, by this time re-sprayed in black, entered its current ownership. Perfectly restored, largely to the original specifications by Canadian specialist Rudy’s and Company, this still completely matching numbers car, barely used after its restoration and complete with interesting period items on request, is offered for sale, without reserve, with an estimated value of USD 1.25–15.5 million.


1952 Jaguar C-Type

Photo copyright Ryan Merrill.

In the year immediately following the Second World War, Sir William Lyon, owner of Jaguar, was focusing largely on the C-Type specifically built for racing, which he saw as the perfect marketing tool in order to sell cars. Fifty-three were built and most of them, driven by the top racers of the period, both for private teams and as works entries, achieved great racing results, starting with the 1951 Le Mans victory. The car up for sale on this occasion (chassis #XKC 007) is the seventh built (in June 1952) and the first to be imported to the USA (August 1952) and to win a race there. The race in question, held on September 6th, 1952, was the SCCA National Sheldon Cup meeting on Elkhart Lake, and the driver was Phil Hill. After this successful debut, this man/machine pairing recorded further successes in their next four races — two 1st overall placings and a 2nd place, but also a DNF as one of the races was suspended.

After a few years during which it remained idle, in 1955 the car was sold to Carlyle Blackwell of Hollywood (CA), who debuted it in the “Six Hours of Terry Pine” race at the end of October 1955 (DNF). Seventeen more races followed in the 1956 and 1957 seasons before the car was sold, at the end of 1957. Some owners later, in 1988, the car was back in the UK and lightly restored, preserving almost all of its originality; a similar approach was adopted by its next three owners (in the UK and in the USA), who all had specialists work on the car. This still completely matching numbers car is now offered for sale with an estimated value of USD 5–5.7 million.


2000 BMW Z8

Photo copyright Karissa Hosek. 

If cars were the symbol of the last century, there can be no doubt that the personal computer and electronic personal devices are the symbol of the current one. In this area, Apple is the “Ferrari”, with a die-hard group of followers all over the world. Apple’s founder and charismatic boss, the late Steve Jobs, is revered as very few are in modern times and, this particular car is Jobs’ own BMW Z8 (chassis #WBAEJ1340YAH60085). It is easy to spot the links between Jobs’ concept of style and beauty and the modern BMW supercar, built to closely resemble the 1950s 507, yet filled with state-of-the-art technology.

Jobs’ car, the 85th built to US specifications and finished in Titanium Silver over black, was completed on April 1st, 2000 and delivered to its new owner in the USA on October 6th the same year. Jobs kept the car, registered to his name, until 2003. The second owner quickly sold it on to the third one before buying it back 18 months later. Since then, this second/fourth owner has kept and maintained the car, doing an average of 1,000 miles per year in it for a grand total of 15,200 so far. It is offered, without reserve, with an estimate of USD 300–400 K, a value range that should be considered in the light of the approximately USD 200 K that might be considered the normal market price for a Z8 today.


1965 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible

Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller. 

If secrecy and privacy hadn’t been such an issue for 007, he might well have swapped his DB5 Coupé for the Convertible version. Only 123 open-top DB5s were manufactured, of which just 19, including the car being offered for sale (chassis DB5C/1923/L), were in LHD specification. Still equipped with its original engine, and the original Normalair air conditioning system, this is a car that has been well known to the “inner circle”, the Aston Martin Owners’ Club, for decades.

It was first restored in the 1980s, and then again by the current American owner, in 2000, on the second occasion by specialist company Steel Wings. It is now painted in Midnight Blue on Sand leather interior with a blue carpet and matching blue soft top. Successfully shown following this second restoration — its honors include prizes at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and at Amelia Island in 2010 —, it is in perfect running order and ready to be enjoyed at its best. It is offered with an estimate of USD 2.45–2.65 million.

All photos courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

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