RM Sotheby’s 2019 Arizona sale

The recent RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale, held at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix (AZ) on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th January 2019, recorded some strong results. In particular, it generated an overall turnover of USD 36.7 million (commission included), almost replicating last year’s total. Of the 153 car lots included in the catalog, 85% were sold (a performance helped by the fact that 88 cars were offered without reserve). The average price per lot was in the region of USD 240 K, which, on the other hand, was lower than the result for the same sale a year ago, when it was USD 322.5 K.

Six lots exceeded one million dollars, with one car selling for more than USD 3 million, two managing to break the USD 2 million barrier, and three each topping USD 1 million. The most expensive car of the two days was a surprise, with the “top slot” going to a 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO (chassis #ZFFPA16B000056761), which changed hands at USD 3.3 million.


1985 Ferrari 288 GTO

The event’s cheapest car, another surprise, was a completely original 1934 Lincoln Model KA Four-Door Sedan (chassis #KA2850) with a clock reading of 90,000 miles, still equipped with its original V-12 engine. Offered without reserve, it sold for USD 22.4 K, well below its pre-sale estimate of USD 40–50 K. This car can probably be considered the best buy of the auction, as it is certainly a very long time since a 12-cylinder classic car last changed hands for so little.

Echoing what we already indicated in our review of the recent Bonhams sale in Arizona, the RM Sotheby’s auction results show that the market is still strong, but not as “crazy” as before, with potential buyers carefully weighing up every single car before deciding to make a purchase. Like Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s found that a fair number of its would-be top sellers remained unsold, despite boasting unique characteristics and being in perfect condition. This, more than anything, can perhaps be taken as the first strong signal sent out by the classic car world in 2019.

On the other hand, it should be remarked that more and more auction houses are regularly offering amazing cars, as many as four or five multi-million dollar specimens per sale, and in so doing they are perhaps sometimes “guilty” of creating an excess of supply.

The six cars we previewed

Four of the six cars we featured in our preview of the RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale were sold, with  three of them making it into the Top Ten. The freshly restored 1948 Type 48 Tucker, the 40th car of the series built, did well, becoming the 4th most expensive car of the auction. It fetched USD 1.6 million, a price that perfectly confirmed its pre-sale estimate of USD 1.5–1.7 million. Interestingly, exactly 12 months ago, at this very same sale, another Type 48 Tucker, in that case the one that had belonged to Mr Tucker himself, changed hands at USD 1.79 million, setting the world record for the model. The next of our chosen six to make it into the Top Ten was the 2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package, an “as new” example with only the delivery miles on the clock. It sold well, exceeding its lower estimated value — it fetched USD 885 K after an estimate of USD 0.85–1.1 million —, and became the 8th most expensive car of the sale.

The 10th most expensive car of the auction was “our” 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spider NART by Michelotti, a car gifted by Luigi Chinetti to his wife Marion, and still in as new condition today. It sold for USD 670.5 K, and therefore comfortably exceeded its pre-sale estimate range (USD 600–650 K). The other car in our selection to come under the hammer was the 1959 AC Ace Bristol, never restored and with a beautiful known history. It sold for USD 274.4 K, very close to its estimated value of USD 275–300 K.

Finally, two cars in our selection failed to sell: the one-off 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale by Pinin Farina once owned by a Belgian princess, and the perfectly restored 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, which has had just three owners from new. I consider both these cars extremely appealing, and would have happily placed money on them finding new owners. But perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t!

The Top Ten at the RM Sotheby’s 2019 Arizona sale

  • USD 3,360,000: 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO (chassis #ZFFPA16B000056761). Sold new in the USA, this car has remained there ever since, passing through the hands of five different owners. It has done less than 2,900 kilometers from new and recently had a full service. Its final price perfectly reflected its pre-sale estimate of USD 3.2–3.6 million.
  • USD 2,175,000: 1958 BMW 507 Roadster Series II (chassis #70157), one of the only 252 built. This completely (and beautifully) restored second series car still has its original factory hard top. It fetched considerably less than its (in my view optimistic) estimate of USD 2.5–3 million.

1958 BMW 507 Roadster Series II

  • USD 2,012,500: 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS (chassis #10773), a matching numbers Ferrari Classiche certified car with a documented history and only 33,750 original kilometers on the clock. It also has original A/C (a very rare feature). This car has had only one owner in the past 20 years, and had been expected to fetch in the region of USD 2.2–2.5 million.


1967 Ferrari 330 GTS

  • USD 1,600,000: 1948 Tucker 48 (chassis #1040). This car, one of our selected six, is covered in our review of the auction.
  • USD 1,077,500: 1956 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe by Park Ward (chassis #BC7LBG), one of the only 31 specimens built with this design on a LHD chassis. Accompanied by the original Rolls-Royce build sheet, and original in every last detail, this car, which has been part of an important private collection for the past 30 years, had been valued at USD 1.1–1.4 million.
  • USD 1,006,000: 2017 Ferrari F12tdf (chassis #ZFF81BFA3H0224226). One the youngest cars offered at the sale, this fully loaded and virtually new F12, with a color scheme of Grigio Titanio over two-tone blue interior and just under 280 miles on the clock, fetched a price perfectly in line with its estimated value of USD 0.95–1.1 million.
  • USD 940,000: 1930 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton by Fleetwood (engine number 702401, body number 42). This car is one of the 18 survivors of the only 85 Sport Phaetons ever built, and a specimen of the first Cadillac model to be equipped with overhead valves. It has a well-known history since 1972. It sold above its estimate of USD 750–900 K.


1930 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton by Fleetwood

  • USD 885,000: 2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package (chassis #JTHHX8BH8C1000485). One of our selected six, this car is covered in our review of the sale.
  • USD 687,000: 1968 Ferrari 330 GTC (chassis #11517). This matching numbers, Ferrari Classiche certified car was originally sold in Florida and has remained in America ever since. It is a two-times winner of the Platinum Award at the Ferrari Club of America show, and was the very first 330 GTC invited to enter the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Its final price confirmed its pre-sale estimated value of USD 600–800 K.
  • USD 670,500: 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona NART Spider (chassis #14299). This car, the third of our selection to make it into the Top Ten, is covered in our review of the auction.


Some of the other cars

Some of the fiercest bidding at the RM Sotheby’s auction was generated by the two Vectors offered for sale. This appearance of two Vectors at the same sale can certainly be considered a very rare occurrence, not least because both are early prototypes of what was, in its day, a rather unsuccessful American supercar. Vector Aeromotive Corporation was founded in Venice, California (where else?!), specifically to build the world’s most powerful car, an objective it achieved with a somewhat less than reliable turbo engine. Marketed as the first American supercar, the Vector W8 came with a V8 engine paired with twin turbos, and customizable power, ranging from 650 HP to 1000 HP. About 25 Vectors W8 were built in total, while the Avtech, which might have become a second model for the firm, never went into production. The Vectors offered in Arizona were a Coupe and a Roadster.

The 1993 Vector Avtech WX-3R Roadster Prototype (chassis #1V9VW2620PW048002), the 1993 Geneva show car and the only open Vector ever built, owned by the company’s founder Jerry Wiegert, sold at USD 500 K, perfectly matching its estimated value of USD 450–550. However, the 1993 Vector Avtech WX-3R Prototype (chassis #1V9VW2629PW048001), also owned by Jerry Wiegert, did even better, selling for USD 615,500 after an estimate of USD 450–550. This car, with a declared output of 1000 HP, was the 1992 and 1993 Geneva show car, and the only WX-3 coupe ever built. 

993 Vector Avtech WX-3R Prototype

Another very impressive result (a final price of USD 252 K after a pre-sale estimate of USD 100–150 K) was recorded by a 1987 Rolls-Royce Camargue Rectractable Top by Niko Michael (chassis #SCAYJ42A9HCX10402). Offered from John Ellison’s Calumet Collection, this is a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind car and it has covered only 987 miles from new. 

1987 Rolls-Royce Camargue Rectractable Top by Niko Michael

Finally, it is worth mentioning the excellent result achieved by a 2000 Bentley Continental SC (chassis #SCBZZ22E8YCX65102). This car, which is one of just four built as MY 2000, and one of the only 73 Bentley Continentals built in total, has done less than 25,000 miles, is still very original, and sports an attractive color combination. It did extremely well, selling for USD 246,400 after an estimate of 150–200 K. Interestingly, given that the SC was a model first marketed in 1998, this car’s original build sheet states that it was as the very first SC built. Bentley, however, chose to sell it, as new, as a year 2000 car.

Pictures credits:
Rolls-Royce Camargue: Robin Adams, courtesy of RM-Sotheby’s
Vector: Eric Fuller, courtesy of RM-Sotheby’s
Ferrari 288 GTO: Drew Shipley, courtesy of RM-Sotheby’s
BMW 507: David Bush courtesy of RM-Sotheby’s
Ferrari 330 GTS and Cadillac V-16: Darin Schnabel,courtesy of RM-Sotheby’s

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