RM Sotheby’s Icons: 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB sells for USD 17.99 million

The RM Sotheby’s “Icons” auction, held on December 6th at the firm’s New York headquarters, was a great success. And this is true whether you look at the values generated (USD 45.5 million from both the cars and the automobilia lots, or USD 43,425,200 from the cars alone), or at the sale rate, which, for the cars in the catalog, was a strong 77.4%. Indeed, only seven of the 31 cars offered failed to sell.

The auction was part of the “A life of luxury” week of sales organized by Sotheby’s New York, and the lots offered were presented and marketed more as artworks than “normal” cars up for sale. Eleven cars were offered without reserve, and the same number sold for in excess of USD 1 million.

Four new world records were set in the course of the event. The sale’s most expensive car, as expected, was a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, which sold for USD 17,990,000, well above its pre-sale estimate of USD 14–17 million. One car (a 1952 Jaguar C-Type) broke the USD 5 million barrier, while another (a 2018 Bugatti Chiron) passed the USD 3 million mark, thereby setting a new world record for a modern Bugatti at auction. One car (a 1965 Aston Martin DB 5 Convertible) fetched in excess of USD 2 million, setting a new world record for a DB 5 convertible sold at auction.

As expected, after excluding the Piaggio Calessino trike, the lowest price was fetched by a 1973 De Tomaso Pantera L, which sold for USD 145,600. All the prices given include the buyer’s commission of 12% on hammer prices of up to USD 250,000 and 10% for any amount over this threshold.

RM Sotheby’s “Icons” auction: The six cars we previewed

The six cars we featured in our preview of the RM Sotheby’s “Icons” auction all sold, two of them becoming the sale’s most expensive lots. One of “our six” set a new world record for its model, while four, including the two top sellers, made it into the Top Ten. As expected, the lot securing the highest price was the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione. After a good 10 minutes of fierce bidding, this car, which has been beautifully kept for many years and boasts a wonderful racing history, finally came under the hammer at USD 17.99 million, considerably more than its pre-sale estimated value of USD 14–17 million.

The auction’s second most expensive lot was the 1952 Jaguar C-Type, the first C-Type to be imported into the USA, where it enjoyed a successful racing career. It sold for USD 5,285,000 after being assigned a pre-sale estimate of 5.5–7 million. The 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible, one of the only 19 built in LHD configuration, fully equipped and perfectly restored, became the event’s fourth most expensive lot, selling for USD 2.7 million, and thus exceeding its estimated value of USD 2.45–2.65 million and setting a new world record price for the model.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

Another of our selected cars to make it into the Top Ten was the 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, a well restored and completely matching numbers car that fetched USD 1,457,500 after being offered, without reserve, with an estimated value of USD 1.25–1.5 million. This price made it the New York sale’s seventh most expensive car. The 1958 Austin-Healey 100 Six “Golden”, offered without reserve, was sold for just USD 179,200 — a fraction of its pre-sale estimated value of USD 350–550 K USD. This was a very surprising result as this is a car whose trim and numerous components, which would normally have been chrome plated, were originally gold plated as the car was built to be used by the firm for show purposes.

The last in our line up was Steve Job’s “old car”, a 2000 BMW Z8, which was offered without reserve. This well preserved car, which has never been repainted or restored, sold for USD 329,500 — a price comfortably within its estimated value range of USD 300–400 K.

The Top Ten at the RM Sotheby’s “Icons” sale

The level of the “Icons” sale is shown by the fact that its 10 top-selling lots all broke the USD 1 million mark. Having already covered the two most expensive cars in the review of our selected six, we move straight on to the third most expensive sale.

Bugatti Chiron, photo by Patrick Ernzen. 

The car in question, the first of its model to be imported into the USA, is a 2018 Bugatti Chiron (chassis #VF9SP3V3XJM795069), a “hyper modern” hypercar and also the youngest car in the catalog. In fact, it is still waiting be delivered to its very first owner, who will first have a tour of the factory and a test drive. The brand new car, predicted to fetch in the region of USD 3.5–4 million, in fact sold for USD 3,772,500, setting a new world record for a modern Bugatti at auction.

The fourth most expensive car has also been described among our selected six, while the fifth was another modern supercar, a 2014 Pagani Huayra (chassis #ZA9H11UA3ESF76078). One of the only 100 built in total, this car, with only one previous owner and a clock reading of less than 5000 miles from new, sold for USD 1.85 million and thus failed to reach its pre-sale estimated value of USD 1.9–2.3 million. Sixth place also went to a modern supercar, in this case a 2015 Porsche 918 “Weissach” Spyder (chassis #WP0CA2A16FS800652); offered with a single ownership from new and with only 270 miles covered, it sold for USD 1,732,000 after an estimate of USD 1.7–1.9 million.

In eighth spot, we find a well restored, matching numbers 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (chassis #198.040.5500593), which came under the hammer at USD 1,352,500 after an estimate of USD 1.3–1.5 million. The ninth most expensive lot was a 1990 Ferrari F40 (chassis #ZFFMN34AXL0087144) with a catalytic converter and without the adjustable front suspension. This US-configured car, with less than 8,100 miles covered from new, sold for USD 1,242,500 after an estimate of USD 1.2–1.4 million. The last car in the Top Ten was a 2016 Ferrari F12tdf (chassis #ZFF81BFA0G0219337), offered for sale with an odometer reading of 398 miles from new and a service program already paid up until 2023. It fetched USD 1,105,000 and thus just reached its pre-sale estimated value range of USD 1.1–1.4 million. These 10 top-selling cars, representing 32.2% of the lots in the catalog, sold for a total of USD 38,437,000 (about 88.5% of the total value of the sale).

Some of the other cars

Lancia Delata HF Intergrale Evoluzione, photo : Karissa Hosek.

Even without considering the event’s most expensive lots and modern supercar category, which is occupying an increasingly specific and important niche within the collector car market, the RM Sotheby’s New York sale included some interesting cars and produced some fascinating results. One surprise was the price paid for a 1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione, one of the most iconic youngtimers and a model that is increasingly being recognized as a wonderful car to drive and, even more so, to collect. This particular one (chassis #ZLA831AB000576428) is one of the 400 built in one of the final special series, in this case the “Giallo Ferrari” one, and it is complete with ABS, air conditioning, and perforated black leather Recaro seats.

Now 25 years old, and thus eligible for importation into the U.S., it was shipped over for the auction from Italy, the country where it was first delivered and subsequently remained, with only one owner to date. Now with 4,030 miles (formally 6487 kilometers) covered from new, still totally original, and complete with tool kit and manuals, it was offered, without reserve, with an estimate of USD 175–225 K. It sold for USD 190,400 and thus set a new world record (far outstripping previous results) for this model in its road-legal form.

Another car to do well was a 1990 Lamborghini LM 002 (chassis #ZA9LU45A2LLA12186), one of the only 60 ever built with LM/American specification for delivery in the U.S. market. This car, black on black and fitted with a new set of the dedicated Pirelli Skorpion tires, was offered with a well-documented history — the documents accompanying the car included photographs of a five-year-long restoration and a receipt for the USD 325,000 paid for this work — and fetched USD 467,000, a new world record for the model and a price perfectly in line with the USD 400–500 K estimate.

For more information on cars and results, please visit the website of RM Sotheby’s icons sale.

All photos courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

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