Bonhams Scottsdale Auction 2019 – Preview

At the start of every new year, the eyes of the classic car auction world turn, almost immediately, to Scottsdale, Arizona (USA), and the January sales held there by Bonhams, Gooding & Co. and RM Sotheby’s. As always the Bonhams auction, this year taking place on Thursday January 15th at the Westin Kierland Resort, is the first of the three.

The lots will be previewed on Tuesday and Wednesday (from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days) and also on the morning of the sale itself, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., when the auction is scheduled to get under way. The buyer’s commission is 12% on amounts of up to USD 250,000 and 10% on any proportion of hammer prices exceeding this threshold. There will be 120 lots in the catalog, most of which (96 in all) will be offered without a reserve price. These 96 include a 1934 Bentley 3.5 Liter Drophead Coupe, with an estimated value of USD 175–225 K, and a 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Four-Passenger Tourer that is predicted to fetch in the region of USD 1–1.4 million.

There are two cars each valued at USD 15–20 K, which is the sale’s lowest estimate, namely a 1983 Dodge Shelby Charger (chassis #1B3BZ6485DD170629), which comes from Carroll Shelby’s personal collection and has covered only 3,005 miles from new, and a completely restored 1965 Morris Minor (chassis #D1125203). Both are being offered without reserve. Instead, the car assigned the highest pre-sale estimate (USD 5–6 million) is a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider.

The youngest car up for sale is a 2018 Bugatti Chiron (chassis #VF9SP3V3XJM795072) with only 365 delivery miles on the clock, while the oldest car offered is a 1914 Stevens-Duryea Model DD Tourer (chassis #32105), in preserved condition and full working order. The Mondial Spider is the only car in the sale estimated to be worth more than USD 5 million, while two cars are each expected to fetch more than USD 2 million, and a further five have each been assigned a minimum estimated value above the USD 1 million mark.

1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series I Spider, coachwork by Pinin Farina (lot 44)

There is no doubt that the early success of Ferrari was linked to the brand’s performance on the racetrack, not only in Europe, where the works team notched up regular victories, but also in the USA, where wealthy gentlemen drivers and promising young racers were choosing to compete in Ferraris, and winning!

Today, these “early American” cars are much coveted historical pieces and greatly appreciated by the market. The one being offered at the upcoming Bonhams auction (chassis #0438MD) is one of the most important of all, mainly because it boasts a perfect and outstanding history from day one. Forced by the 1951 single-seater racing rules to adapt to a two-liter engine, Ferrari had Aurelio Lampredi create a series of four-cylinder engines, where each cylinder had a capacity of 500 cc. In 1954, he adopted these same units on his sports cars, too, creating what he called the “Mondial” series. The construction of chassis #0438MD was completed in May 1954, making it the eleventh of the 12 Mondial spiders comprising the first series, while the engine assembly began in March 1954. The car was then shipped to Pinin Farina to receive its Spider body, which had been ordered by international playboy and gentleman racer Porfirio Rubirosa, a man who managed to bowl over of some of the world’s richest and most beautiful women, such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Hutton, Rita Hayworth and heiress of the American Tobacco Company Doris Duke. In July 1954 “Rubi” had the car, which was painted deep blue, registered with Bologna plates and then shipped to New York. From there it was flown across the States to Santa Barbara, just ahead of the Labor Day races being held there on the weekend of the 4th and 5th September, where it took second in class.

The Mondial was then sold to the successful amateur racer John von Neumann, who was one of the original founders of the California Sports Car Club and owner of the highly influential company Competition Motors. Von Neumann is today regarded as the man who first brought both the Porsche (not to mention Volkswagen) and Ferrari brands to California, and he is also acknowledged as having been a key supporter of future Formula 1 World Champion Phil Hill in the early part of his career. This 500 Mondial (#0438 MD) turned out to be just the first of von Neumann’s many Ferraris and he soon had it repainted in the more traditional Rosso Corsa before racing it at Palm Springs, where it did very well, taking first in class and second overall. These successes were the first in a string of great results over the following two years.

During the 1955 Santa Barbara race weekend, the #0438 was admired by film star James Dean, whose Porsche had just suffered a blown engine, forcing him to retire from his race. While he was waiting around, he had himself photographed in the car. In 1956, the 500 Mondial was campaigned by von Neumann’s team including Richie Ginther and Phil Hill, who shared the driving at the Torrey Pines endurance race in the January of that year. That was the occasion its engine failed, leading it to be replaced with a Monza three-liter unit. The car’s next owner was a Mr Lew Yates, who, having purchased it without an engine, installed a Chevy V8. From 1959 onwards, the car passed through the hands of numerous notable Ferrari enthusiasts, both in the USA and then in Europe. In 2012 it entered its current ownership under which, through a nut-and-bolt restoration carried out at Ferrari Classiche, every inch of it was meticulously restored to its original conditions. In short, it was returned to its as new, as delivered state. Since Phil Hill had blown the original engine, Ferrari reproduced an identical one, while the original gearbox and rear axle, front and rear suspension and brakes were all meticulously dismantled and brought back to as new condition.

Meanwhile, the original riveted Pinin Farina bodywork was found to be in incredible original condition, needing little more than sanding down to the raw materials before being repainted in its original livery. Following the restoration, the 500 Mondial was shown at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it won the class honoring Ferraris raced at the Pebble Beach Road Races. The very next day, at the Annual International Concours organized by the Ferrari Club of America, it took a Platinum Award as well as the coveted Phil Hill Trophy, awarded to the Best Competition Ferrari at the concours. It is now estimated to be worth in the region of USD 5–6 million.

1951 Maserati A6G/2000 Spider, coachwork by Frua (lot 54)

Under the ownership of the Orsi family, Maserati became one of the world’s most admired car manufacturers, capable of winning on racetracks and in long rod races all over the world, while manufacturing the most amazing and refined sports cars, always beautiful to drive. At the 1950 Turin Motor Show Maserati unveiled a new Spider, bodied by Turin-based coachbuilder Pietro Frua (chassis #2015), but chose not to reveal that it was fitted with a two-liter engine, so as not to penalize the sales of the last 1.5-liter cars still in stock.

Nobody knew it at the time, but this was the debut of the new A6G/2000, where the A stood for Alfieri (in honor of Alfieri, the most technically gifted of the Maserati brothers), 6 was the number of cylinders, and the G referred to the “ghisa” (cast iron) block, fitted with the enlarged 2.0-liter SOHC all-aluminum engine capable of producing 100 horsepower. Over the years that followed, only sixteen cars of this model were produced — nine Coupe 2+2s bodied by Pinin Farina, one Coupe bodied by Vignale, five bespoke Spiders, and a Coupe styled by Frua. The first three Frua spiders — chassis #2015, #2017 (the car offered for sale) and #2018 — were based on the A6 1500 chassis with a 10 cm shortened wheelbase, and they featured semi-elliptical springs in the rear for increased agility and better handling.

All three cars featured an extra central headlight embedded in the front grille, plus a split windshield and many other bespoke details, while the two subsequent A6G/2000 Spiders by Frua were built on the A6G/2000 chassis with a heavier and longer wheelbase and had two additional lights in the lateral grilles and a one-piece windshield structure. This 1951 A6G/2000 (chassis #2017), restored in Italy by the most renowned specialist, under the guidance of marque “guru” Adolfo Orsi, is therefore one of the only three short-wheelbase Frua Spiders built.

On July 24th, 1950, its chassis was delivered to Carrozzeria Pietro Frua, from where, six months later, it emerged with its beautiful dark blue hand-built Spider coachwork, ready to be returned to Maserati to receive its final fit and finishes. It was delivered to Maserati dealer Mimmo Dei of Rome on May 17th, 1951, and immediately sold to its first owner, Luigi Trevisan, who worked in the movie business, as did its second owner, Franco Di Stefano, who bought it one year later. In around 1957, the car was exported to the USA, to a certain Gene Tice of Santa Monica, California, where, at some point, it was fitted with a Corvette V-8 engine.

In the early 1960s, the car was sold to Robert P. Yorba of Cambria, California, and was registered in Newport Beach, CA, receiving a black Californian license plate (number OAZ 434). According to his daughter, Dee Dee, Yorba raced the car in SCCA events across the USA, before storing it away in his garage where it remained, forgotten, for decades. In October 1997, a group of European collectors lunching in a Californian diner were overheard by the waitress, Dee Dee, discussing their most recent automotive escapades. She told them that she was the owner of a rare Italian Maserati. Somewhat skeptical, the group asked to see the car and soon found themselves standing in the doorway of a one-car garage staring at the rear end of a Maserati A6G/2000 Frua Spider. That discovery of the A6G has become the stuff of legend!

After three years of negotiation, the car was sold to its current owner, a renowned collector of some of the rarest and most historically significant Maseratis. Soon after the purchase, in December 2001, the A6G/2000 was shipped to Modena. At the time, the same collector was also purchasing the remains of chassis #2013 (i.e. the first A6G/2000 built with the Pinin Farina Coupe body, unveiled at the 1951 Turin Motor Show), with the express intent of using the engine for the Frua Spider restoration. Engine no. 2013 had a well-known and noble history: before being re-numbered and fitted in the new Pinin Farina Coupe #2013, it had been used in the 1948 Mille Miglia, installed in the A6GCS “Monofaro” (chassis #2004) that was driven by Amendola/Bai (this was the race in which Bai lost his life). The original engine no. 2017 is believed to be currently installed in an A6 1500 Pinin Farina located in Italy.

It was Orsi who set about locating as many original parts as possible for the Frua Spider, including the housings for the original transmission and differential. His account of how he remanufactured the missing front grille is a wonderful story to listen to of an evening. “A perfect one to copy was installed on the Frua Coupé #2028, then in California” he recalls. “I asked to the owner if I could have had a look, with the intent of copying it. I spent a whole afternoon in his garage, taking pictures, doing drawings and noting all the measurements, before realizing that it would be impossible to achieve perfection without having the original one “on site”. The collector understood this, and offered to lend me the grille. It was a huge responsibility for me, because this was the only original grille left, and if I were to lose or damage it, it would be lost to everyone, forever. I had it as hand luggage, and kept it on my lap throughout the flight back to Italy!”

After restoration work lasting four and a half years, the car was shown at 2006 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este where it won the Trofeo Ruoteclassiche, which is the award for the best restoration. Soon afterwards, the September 2006 issue of the Italian magazine Automobilismo d’Epoca contained a 16-page article by Massimo Delbò describing the restoration of the car. In 2010, chassis #2017 was invited to the famous Quail Concours – A Motorsports Gathering, where it won Best in Class for Post-War Sports Cars, witnessed by Dee Dee and her sister. Then, in 2014, it came third in the Maserati Centennial Coachwork Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Still perfect today, it is offered for sale with an estimated value of USD 2.4–2.9 million.

1946 Fiat 1100 C Spider, coachwork by Carrozzeria Frua (lot 58)

Pietro Frua, owner and founder of Carrozzeria Frua, certainly left his mark on the Italian coachbuilding world of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many Maserati chassis, as well as AC, Glas, BMW, Monteverdi and Lancia ones, benefitted from his fine taste. Fiat, too, saw some of its most humble mechanics and bodies transformed into dream cars thanks to his capability. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Italy was a very poor and dilapidated country. Money was scarce and nothing could be wasted.

Any attempt at founding a new enterprise was a huge risk, undertaken only by the bravest, such as Pietro Frua, who launched Carrozzeria Frua in 1946. He immediately made a splash, producing an amazing-looking car built on the only mechanics he had available. Indeed, his creation was based on a Fiat 1100 C (chassis #279906) originally sold by Fiat to Carrozzeria Balbo in June 1946 and transferred to Frua shortly afterwards. The design of the completed one-off car, which provided a first indication of the new direction, in style, that would very soon be followed by other coachbuilders, made its public debut in September 1947 at the Concorso di Como Coppa Villa d’Este, where, entered by Fiat dealer Alvise DePasquale, it took second in class. It had previously been delivered, new, to a Mr Luigi Critterio on September 3rd, 1946, and promptly sold to a Mr Gino Bubbolini on September 28th the same year. The 1100 achieved its objective, capturing the attention of both the public and the press thanks to its ultra-modern spider design. It was featured prominently in reports in all the car magazines.

In August 1948, the owner took out a loan against the car with Arturo Caron, which was redeemed the following year, and the Fiat was sold to a Mr Tagliabue of Milan. In 1950, Tagliabue sold it to a Mr Monti of Pavia, at which point the registration was changed from MI 99124 to PV 31663, the number the car retains to this day. Several Italian ownerships later, in late 2015, Italian classic car historian Donald Osborne sourced the car (by then sporting red paintwork) for its current American owner.

After being driven in the 2016 Mille Miglia, the 1100 embarked on a comprehensive restoration at Carrozzeria Gatti Luciano of Bergamo, Italy. Following much detailed historical research, and an extremely lucky discovery (sections of the original light green metallic paint were found underneath the red paintwork that the car had worn for many decades), the restored 1100 was entered, exactly 70 years after making its debut, in the 2017 Concorso d’Eleganza di Villa d’Este. After participating in the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace in September 2017, and, in the same year, being shortlisted for “Restoration of the Year” by Octane magazine, in March 2018 the car was awarded Best in Show at the Concorso d’Eleganza Kyoto, before being shown at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Amazingly beautiful, with an important, well-researched and well-documented history, this car, the first designed and built by Carrozzeria Frua, is offered for sale with an estimated value of USD 650–850 K.

1934 Bentley 3.5 Litre Drophead Coupe by Thrupp & Maberly (lot 9)

One of the symbols of the “Derby Bentley” — this is the name given to the model manufactured after Bentley’s acquisition by Rolls-Royce in 1931 —, the 3.5 liters symbolizes the sporting attitude of Bentleys generally, while also enhancing brand’s image as luxury car manufacturer.

Following its launch, the “Silent Sports Car”, as the 3.5 liters was soon nicknamed, quickly became a hit, thanks to its inline six-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) engine and wonderful road attitude. Of the 2,442 examples manufactured (which include the 4.5-liter models), almost 50% were originally equipped with a Park Ward body. Chassis #B75BL (engine number X5BD), on the other hand, was fitted, from new, with a Coupe body made by Thrupp & Maberly. It was ordered by M.S. Spencer-Nairn, of Fife, Scotland, heir to the Michael Nairn linoleum company who, in his memoirs, described it as his dream car. As shown by the factory build sheets, #B75BLwas delivered on June 18th, 1934, equipped with several non-standard features, such as a speedometer with a clock mounted in the upper center of the dial, and a steering column and gear lever that were each shortened by two inches.

Stored during the war, and shortly afterwards replaced with a more practical Bentley, this 3.5 liters was sold to a Mr R.E. Merchant, of Derby, who owned it until 1984, when it was sold to a Mr Howard Brown, a Californian working in London. It is under his ownership that the Bentley was repainted, and the chassis, mechanics and cosmetics overhauled. The work resulted in a very reliable car, which Brown exported to the USA on his return home.

In 2008, Brown had the car’s body stripped to the bare metal, but sadly passed away before seeing the restoration work completed. The job was taken over by the subsequent (and current) owner. Still in excellent mechanical condition, complete and very original as regards its bare components, this car also boasts a detailed history. It is offered for sale, without reserve, with an estimate of USD 150–200 K.

1964 Porsche 904 GTS (lot 30)

First unveiled in 1964, the very successful 904, regarded as the final sports racing version of the four-cylinder racing Porsches, is today one of the most sought after of these Porsche models. Unfortunately, many of them had a hard life, and those that survive tend to contain few of their original components.

This does not apply to the 1964 Porsche 904 GTS (chassis #904 012) included in this Bonhams catalog. This car had an intensive racing career, but came through it quite well. Its most important parts are still the original ones, and there are some prominent names among its past owners too. According to the factory Kardex build sheet, #904 012 was originally equipped with a Type 587/3 Carrera engine (no. 99001); it was completed at the Zuffenhausen Porsche works in January 1964, finished in Silbermetall (Metallic Silver) paint over blue cloth interiors. It was only the second 904 GTS delivered to a customer outside of the works program. This customer was Steve Earle, the well-known Californian racing enthusiast and driver who went on to found the popular Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca. It was ordered and purchased through Otto Zipper’s Precision Motor Cars of Beverly Hills, to be raced in the 1964 season.

The limited amount of time available before the start of the season made it necessary to ship the car by air: on January 16th, 1964, it was flown from Stuttgart International Airport to JFK Airport in New York on a Pan America jet. This is documented in Jürgen Barth’s book on the model, which contains many spectacular photos of 904 012 being loaded and unloaded. It does not appear that Steve Earle ever raced #904 012, which he sold on, again through Otto Zipper, to fellow Californian Mr Steve Berg, while instead taking delivery of a Ferrari 250 LM. The 904 went on to race successfully in 1964, starting in February, under Otto Zipper and the Precision Motor Cars banner and livery, with Hollywood TV producer Kurt Neumann behind the wheel.

After the 1964 season, #904 012 was painted dark blue with a silver nose, and fitted with Le Mans type brakes, before being entered by Steve Berg, under his own name and with the support of Al Cadrobbi’s shop in Culver City, in the 1965 racing season, during which it was still driven by Kurt Neumann and, later in the season, by Denny Harrison. With the Carrera 6 model soon to be unveiled, the 904 was offered for sale in the March 12th 1966 issue of Competition Press, and quickly purchased by celebrated actor and producer Robert Redford, who kept it for the following decade before selling it. Two ownerships later, the 904, still in the USA and by this time a tired old racing tool, lost its original engine before changing hands once again (in 1981).

In 1982, it was sold to a Belgian racing car enthusiast named Stefan Talpe, who kept it for the following 34 years, restoring it in the early 1990s, installing an early two-liter 911 engine, which constituted a period-correct upgrade to a 904 GTS, and was actually the very type of engine that the Porsche factory installed in the last 904 GTSs it produced. Repainted in Irish Green, a period-correct Porsche color, and with all the original mechanical systems refurbished, the car, still complete with the original fiberglass body and transaxle, was sold in 2016 to a Danish collector, who has used it sparingly for gentle trips out. It is now offered for sale with an estimate of USD 1.4–1.6 million.

1934 Mercedes-Benz 500K Four-Passenger Tourer by Mayfair Carriage Works Ltd (lot 32)

Few classic cars have the imposing beauty and technical sophistication of the pre-war compressor Mercedes. Very rare and much sought after, the models featuring inline eight-cylinder engines, with their Roots superchargers, are capable of great performances, even by today’s standards, and these cars make wonderful contenders both at classic rallies and in concours of elegance.

This 1934 500K (chassis #123689), with a matching numbers five-liter engine, is one of the just eight RHD 500K chassis delivered new to England to receive custom coachwork (out of a total production volume of about 350 chassis, which included 56 built in RHD configuration, only 70 are known to have received a custom body). Daimler-Benz commission number 207792, for a long wheelbase, 129.5-inch, right-hand-drive chassis, was ordered and delivered through Norwich dealer Mann Egerton to its first owner, Sir Everard Talbot Scarisbrick (1896-1955), the 2nd Baronet and 30th Lord of Scarisbrick in Lancashire, who raced at Brooklands in period.

Completed at the Mayfair Carriage Company of Kilburn, London, it was delivered to the baronet in July 1935, painted in British Racing Green and wearing UK license plates (registration number BYU 150). By 1939 it had, reportedly, already received the updated sporting aluminum body, with steel fenders, that it still wears today. It is not clear whether the car parted company with the baronet before or after the war, but it is known to have appeared in a sales advertisement placed by London dealer Jack Bond in the November 1952 issue of Motor Sport.

Two English owners later, the car was exported to the USA in 1961, and was used by its first American owner, a certain Nancy Carragan, at a Lime Rock meeting of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America in 1962. There then followed long list of American and English owners, including the American collector who, in 1999, bought it (restored in the early 1990s) and kept it for 15 years. It is now offered for sale, without a reserve price, re-finished in a rich British Racing Green livery with cream leather upholstery, and with original matching numbers chassis, frame and engine, as well as its original Typenschild, or data plate. It has been assigned an estimate of USD 1.2–1.4 million.

All photos courtesy of Bonhams

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