Alfa’s early post-war glory at Bonhams Quail Auction 2018

All the major international auction houses will be in the Monterey Peninsula for the Monterey Classic Car Week, which includes a series of classic car events, in particular the shows at Pebble Beach and The Quail, and the historic races at Laguna Seca. It will be Bonhams, as usual, that “sets the ball rolling” with its sale at The Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. A one-day auction, Bonhams Quail Auction 2018 will be held on Friday, August 24th starting at 10 a.m., after two full days of previews (Wednesday August 22nd and Thursday August 23rd, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and a final chance to view the lots on the day of the sale itself (Friday August 24th, from 8.30 a.m. to 10 a.m.). The buyer’s premium will be 12% on hammer prices of up to USD 250,000, falling to 10% on any amount paid in excess of this threshold.

An overview on the Bonhams Quail Auction 2018

The catalog includes 135 cars, 73 of which are being offered without a reserve price. The brand most strongly represented at the sale will be Porsche, with 25 cars offered, followed by Ferrari, with 15. The oldest car in the catalog is a 1911 Mercedes 28/60 Phaeton (engine number 16352), originally sold in London in 1913. It was imported into the USA in the 1950s, where it was restored in 2008. It comes from a long-term ownership, having been in the hands of a single family for over 40 years. It is now being offered with an estimate of USD 800 K – 1 million. The youngest car crossing the block will be a single-owner 2018 Bugatti Chiron (chassis # VF9SP3V31JM795073), which was delivered new in the USA in August 2017, and has covered 480 miles since then. It is being offered with an estimated value of USD 3.3–3.9 million. The event will feature ten cars built since the start of the new millennium.

There will be 15 cars with estimates above the million dollar mark, including one with an estimate topping the 2 million dollar mark and a further three predicted to fetch in excess of USD 3 million. The car that may well prove to be the most expensive of the sale, a 1962 Ferrari 250 SWB (matching numbers with period racing equipment) is being offered with an undisclosed estimate. If it sells, it will likely be for an amount in the region of USD 8–10 million. Finally, the car with the lowest estimated value (USD 20–25 K), a 1966 Ford Mustang GT 289 Hard-Top (chassis #6F07A139237), offered without reserve, will be the very first lot to cross to block. This completely restored car is a former AACA Grand National first prize winner.

1939 BMW 328 Roadster

Technologically advanced, beautiful to look at, and a real pleasure to drive, the BMW 328 is by far the most important collectible of the pre-war BMWs. Its six-cylinder, two-liter engine was so beautiful that, under the terms of their surrender to the Allies at the end of the war, the Germans were forced to relinquish all rights to it, and BMW had to agree to stop building it. A further huge plus for any owner of a 328 is that these cars can be taken practically anywhere: they are welcomed at concours events because of their lines and rarity (only 464 units were built in all), yet they are also great for track racing, as well as being Mille Miglia eligible.

The specimen being offered at the Bonhams Quail auction 2018 (chassis #85446) was built in 1939, during the final year of manufacturing. Nothing is known of its whereabouts during the war years. Just after the war, however, it was exported to the USA, where it has remained ever since. This car has had very few owners in America, remaining with one collector until 1980, with the next one until 1988, and with its present owner for the past four decades. This last, long-term ownership is an aspect worth underlining as it helps to explain the current condition of the car, which was restored a long time ago and has scarcely been used since. It appears to be a matching numbers car, although it is possible that number stamped on the engine block was altered at some point in the past. Even though this is not really an issue, given that the engine is correct both for the type and model of car, it shouldn’t take too much research to solve this mystery, if the next owner has a mind to do so. The car is expected to fetch in the region of USD 650–850 K.

1964 Shelby Cobra 289

It is difficult, in the classic car world, to imagine anything more brazen, extreme and fun than the legendary Cobra. Created by racer Carroll Shelby to overcome the competition from Ferrari and other European manufacturers on the racetrack, it is the ultimate USA-built collectible car. Built in 1964, this particular specimen (chassis #CSX 2328) is a late production model, already equipped with the rack and pinion steering system.

It was originally purchased, in the same color combination it wears today, by a certain Mr Doge Olmstead of Washington DC. The original invoice, dated October 29th, 1964, which lists all the special equipment requested, still accompanies the car. After just two years Olmstead decided to trade it in for a 427 Cobra, and so #CSX2328, by this time painted green, was sold to its second owner in Florida. In 1974, after changing hands a further two times, the Cobra was returned to its original color, and in 1986 it entered the collection of  a Mr Seymour Levin of Pennsylvania, with whom it remained for the next 24 years. Although many of the car’s components had been refreshed just before it parted company with Levin in 2010, its subsequent owner  decided to restore it. Barely used since this restoration, it has already proved its worth as an outstanding show car, winning the “Palmetto Award” at the Hilton Head concours. It is offered for sale with an estimate of USD 1.1–1.3 million.

1958 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT Coupe Pinin Farina, Serie VI

The Lancia Aurelia is considered one of the best, if not the best, cars of its era. The unitary body construction, the V6 engine — this was a first for a production car —, the quality of the craftsmanship, and the refinement all add up to a wonderful template to follow, even by modern standards. The only drawback of the first model was the low power of the engine, due to its small capacity (1.8 liters). An initial evolution saw the capacity increased to 2 liters. By 1957, and the sixth series, the engine had a capacity of 2.5 liters, capable of delivering 112 HP. This made the Aurelia, in the GT Coupe configuration, a remarkable sports car.

The Aurelia B20 GT now up for sale (chassis #B20S 1832) is the 69th to last of the only 425 pieces built to Series VI specifications. Little is known of its early history, only that it was already based in California in the 1970s, before being sold to a Californian collector in 1980. It was bought by its present owner, a leading sports car collector, in 1984, and therefore comes from a long-term ownership, 34 years so far. In the latter part of this ownership it has been professionally restored — a job carried out with great attention to detail, respecting as far as possible its originality. Barely used since being restored and still in perfect condition, it is offered, without reserve, with an estimated value of USD 150–200 K.

1953 SIATA 208S Spider by Motto

The story of the birth of SIATA, Società Italiana Auto Trasformazione Accessori, founded in Turin in 1926 by Giorgio Ambrosini, is very similar to those of other small Italian car manufacturers of the time. It all began with a car lover, armed with good technical expertise and plenty of enthusiasm, deciding to start up his own business, which consisted mainly of preparing Fiat components with a view to making the Italian car manufacturer’s standard cars to go faster, or simply make more noise and look better.

Before long, the company was developing its own creations, albeit continuing to base them on the Fiat mechanics. SIATA became one of the best manufacturers of this kind, producing, among other things, dual carburetor set-ups, high compression cylinder heads, and overhead valve transformations. As a testament to the new company’s expertise and capability, Fiat, on launching its 8V project, which saw the creation of a two-liter, eight-cylinder engine, decided to have SIATA on board from the outset. When Fiat abandoned the project after building just 49 cars, numerous chassis and mechanical parts were left unused. These were offered for sale to the very few coachbuilders and small car manufacturers then in existence. SIATA, given its involvement in the project, managed to secure the purchase of most of them.

This is how the SIATA 208S series came into being. This particular one (chassis #BS518) boasts a Carrozzeria Motto Spider design, which makes it one of the most beautiful looking (and expensive) SIATA 8Vs ever built. The 18th of just 33 built in this configuration, it was sold new in 1957, in Beverly Hills (CA), equipped with engine BS103, which the first owner immediately removed, replacing it with a Chevy V8. In 1979, having had a series of American owners, it was purchased by Rick McBride, the late jet-setting photographer, who put it through a 14-year professional restoration. This work involved the chassis, the body and (once an original 8V engine had been tracked down) the mechanics. After passing through the hands of a further two American owners, in 1998 the 208S entered the collection of famous Pixar cartoonist David Difrancesco, who decided to embark on a new restoration, with the aim of further improving the standard of the car. To this end, he sourced an original 8V SIATA engine (number BS078,  originally installed in car #BS507).

In 2012, the car entered its present Belgian collection, one of the world’s most notable collections of 8Vs and derivatives. The consignor, adopting a “money’s no object” philosophy, commissioned Epifani Restorations of Berkeley to carry out a complete restoration, with the result that the car, down to its very last detail, was returned to its original specification. Once this work was complete, the car was shown at Pebble Beach and Villa d’Este, in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It is now offered at the Bonhams Quail auction 2018 with an estimate of USD 1.5–1.8 million.

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500 E

The Mercedes-Benz W124 Series, or “middle class sedan”, was launched in 1985 and was soon recording remarkable success in terms of sales. With millions of these cars produced, however, the average W124 is a humble player in the classic car world, of little value. Nevertheless, designed and used to cover hundreds of thousands of kilometers without creating problems, W124s remain a symbol of the very best in engineering and construction quality applied to cars. While diesel versions were the choice of taxi drivers and successful sales reps, and the petrol-driven four-cylinder type came to be the symbol of the middle-class driver, the six-cylinder, three-liter (later 3.2 liter) version was the car preferred by executives and professionals.

In 1990, Mercedes-Benz launched its W124 500 E, the perfect Q-car, at the Paris Motor Show, taking the market by storm. The model was quickly nicknamed the spaceship, because of its speed, advanced technology and cost. Following a long family tradition, begun in the 1960s when the director of the firm’s R&D department decided to put a V8 6.3 engine, taken from the flagship 600, under the hood of the S class, thereby creating the 300 SEL 6.3, the first dragster with a luxury sedan body, and later the 450 SEL 6.9, the 500 E was equipped with the five-liter, V8 engine taken from its bigger sister, the S-Class. To the untrained eye, the car, capable of doing speeds of up to 260 km/h (162 mph), looked practically identical to its smaller sisters, the 124s, presenting only minor modifications. But an expert appraiser, on the other hand, would spot the lowered suspensions, the slightly enlarged front wheel arches (necessary to accommodate the bigger tires) and the bigger braking system of the S-Class.

Whereas the external differences could largely pass unnoticed, the work done under the body was so major that the 500 E could practically be considered an entirely different car from the other W124s. Indeed, the modifications were so complex and important that it proved impossible to keep the 500 E on the same production line as the other versions: to do so would have slowed down the production of the whole series. Thus, Mercedes asked Porsche, whose Zuffenhausen plant is only few kilometers away from the MB plant in Sindelfingen, to take over production of the 500 E. Accordingly, standard W124 bodies began to be shipped to Porsche to be dismantled and modified as required. They were then sent back to MB to be painted before being returned to Porsche to be fitted with the specific 500 E drive train and, in what was a mostly hand-made production process, finished. This whole process took 18 days. The resulting 500

Es were so good that they immediately become the must-have car of the hyper rich with taste for fast cars, and a remarkable 10,479 were sold in total. 500 Es are now among the most sought-after youngtimers, but it is quite rare to find one in good conditions. Most of them have been well used, with odometers recording 300 or 400 thousand kilometers and log books showing a long list of ownerships. This is why the 1993 500 E (chassis # WDBEA36E4PB949815) being offered at the Bonhams sale is so special: it has only ever had one owner, a well-known car collector in the USA, and has done a mere 14,980 miles (less than 24,000 kilometers) from new. It was collected new, by the owner himself, at the Porsche plant of Zuffenhausen, and then taken to New Mexico, where it has lived a pampered life, to-ing and fro-ing between there and the family home in Florida. Recently serviced at an MB dealer, the car, complete with everything and looking like new, is offered without reserve with an estimate of USD 40–50 K.

1948 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione

During the years preceding the Second World War, Alfa Romeos were among the best cars, if not the best cars, being manufactured anywhere in the world. The 6C was the real symbol of the company, its six-cylinder engine, especially in the maximum 2.5 liter version, being capable of giving limousine-bodied cars real speed and making the racing version almost unbeatable. The Tipo 46 6C 2500 Competizione (see header visual) was the most extreme configuration. Its wheelbase, shortened by 100 inches, was based on the 8C 2900 chassis, while its independent front suspensions were derived from the single-seater Tipo 308. Only three of these cars were built, in 1948 directly in the Alfa Romeo plant, all featuring the more aerodynamic coupe body designed to allow the car to compete in, and win, the Mille Miglia.

This one, chassis #920002, is the only survivor. Bought new by Italian privateer Franco Roi, it was entered in the 1948 Mille Miglia, where it did not finish. Instead, in the same year, it won its class and finished 5th overall at the Coppa D’Oro delle Dolomiti. In 1949, 1950 and 1951, the car again took part in the Mille Miglia, in 1949 winning its class and finishing 3rd overall. Sold to its second owner in Switzerland in 1951, the 6C 2500, sporting some modifications to the front, continued to race at minor events before being sold in 1953 to another Swiss owner. Its fourth change of ownership proved to be potentially fatal, as the 6C was sold to the infamous Michel Dovaz, the Swiss collector famous for storing about 50 important classic cars outside his Paris castle. It was saved by Alfa Romeo specialist Raoul San Giorgi in 1995, who then sold it to a German collector before, shortly afterwards, buying it back again to start the process of restoring it. The 6C then went to a collector in Washington state, who restored it to the highest possible standard. Shown on the field at Pebble Beach in 2005, it finished with a score of 100 points, a testament to the attention to detail shown during this restoration work. It is now offered with an estimated value of USD 3–3.5 million.

For more information: website of Bonham’s Quail Auction 2018

All photos courtesy of Bonhams.

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