At Monterey Car Week, the Sheet Metal Shines

by Msnbctv news staff

The Monterey Car Week auctions in California, among the most important of the year to collectors, are set to return Aug. 12 to 14 after they were canceled last year because of the pandemic. Auctions by Bonhams, Gooding & Company, Mecum, and RM Sotheby’s will be offering classics that include Ferraris, Porsches, more Porsches, a Delahaye and a rare Talbot-Lago.

And after the auctions, which in 2019 brought in about $250 million, will be the pomp and splendor of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, where classic automobiles and their owners will be competing for the Best of Show award.

At the auctions, pedigreed Ferraris, which often draw some of the highest prices at these auctions, will face formidable competition this year from notable 1960s racecars and a 1995 McLaren F1.

A 1970 Porsche 917K consigned with RM Sotheby’s has a Steve McQueen connection, which often increases car values. It is a contender for highest sale price with a presale estimate of $16 million to $18 million. The McLaren, offered by Gooding & Company, could bring “in excess of $15 million,” the auction house said.

And for its Quail Lodge auction in Monterey, Bonhams has a 1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Record Sport Cabriolet Décapotable with coach work by Figoni et Falaschi. One of two said by Bonhams to exist, the car has an estimate of $1.8 million to $2.3 million.

The auctions also expect pre-World War II classics to make a strong showing, based on evidence from the top sales at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance auctions in May. There, a 1929 Duesenberg brought $5.7 million at RM Sotheby’s, and Bonhams had the No. 2 sale with a 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K Speziale Roadster for $4.9 million.

“Many market commentators seem surprised when a high-end prewar car sells, but there is an ardent following for phenomenal prewar cars,” said David Gooding, president of Gooding & Company. “It only takes a few buyers for these special cars to push the market forward.”

Here are some of the cars being offered.

After the “Ford v Ferrari” battles at Le Mans and Ford GT40s victorious four years in a row, it was Porsche’s turn at the French classic. Porsche earned its first victories there in 1970 and 1971 with the 917.

The 1970 Porsche 917K consigned with RM Sotheby’s has a presale estimate of $16 million to $18 million. This Porsche ran as high as third in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans before crashing in the rain-soaked event.

Film of the car during the race was used in the 1971 McQueen movie “Le Mans.” A similar 917 that never raced but was also featured in the movie sold for $14 million in 2017.

Gord Duff, global head of auctions, expects the car to set off spirited bidding from a small but ardent pool of Porsche and racecar collectors.

“The 917 is a unicorn of sorts,” Mr. Duff said. “Not many exist to start with, and when you dive into the histories, some are better than others. You might not see one come up for sale for 10, 15 years.”

A 1930 Cadillac V-16 Convertible Sedan with one-off coach work by Murphy is a notable prewar car from RM Sotheby’s, which is looking for a repeat performance. The company previously sold this car in 2015 for $1.925 million, then the highest price for a Cadillac V-16 at auction. Built for the auto dealer Charles Howard, who owned the racehorse Seabiscuit, this Cadillac won Best in Class at Pebble Beach in 1997. The car is expected to sell for $1.5 million to $1.8 million.

“It’s the only one to exist,” Mr. Duff said. “Some of the bidders may be people who lost out on it the last time.”

In the 1960s, Ford commissioned one of its factory-backed teams, Alan Mann Racing in England, to build five aluminum-body GT40s for possible entry in the 1966 Le Mans race. Just two were ultimately made, and one of those 1966 cars is being offered at an auction for the first time. The car tested at Le Mans, but did not race there, and was restored over 15 years by the GT40 specialist Bob Ash.

“This is the car’s first time on the market in 40 years,” Mr. Gooding said. He expects the car to sell for $7 million to $9 million.

Among the immaculately restored automobiles at these auctions, a scruffy little black and blue coupe appears a bit out of place. The 1956 Maserati A6G/54 is a true barn find, or unrestored. It is one of dozens of cars to emerge from the collection of Roger Baillon, a businessman, in France six years ago.

Maserati built just 60 A6G/54 chassis, each with a 150-horsepower six-cylinder engine. This car is one of four coupes from the coach builder Carrozzeria Frua, according to Gooding & Company, which estimates that the car will sell for $2.5 million to $3.25 million.

“With its history, condition and colors, this is a really captivating car,” Mr. Gooding said. “It draws you in. You’re looking at details you might not normally notice on a restored car.”

Two Ferraris in the Gooding sale exemplify the brand’s golden age. A restored 1958 250 GT Cabriolet Series 1, the 34th of the 40 built, wears its correct Andalusia Gold color (at one point it had been repainted red), a rare choice in the very red world of Ferrari. It’s estimated the car will sell for $4.5 million to $5.5 million.

“It just suits that design so well,” said Mr. Gooding about the color. “The gold really brings out that coach built Pininfarina design. The details come into sharper focus.”

A 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica LWB Coupe Aerodinamico, one of just 22 made, was displayed at the 1963 New York auto show. The pre-sale estimate is $2.2 million to $2.6 million

Since its founding in 1988, Mecum Auctions has been the go-to company for postwar American classics, muscle cars and Corvettes, and there will be plenty among its offerings at Monterey. Mecum’s top cars, however, the ones expected to sell for the highest amount, include rare European sports cars, modern supercars and historic Shelbys that more closely match the Pebble Beach vibe.

John Kraman, Mecum’s lead analyst and TV commentator, explains that such automobiles attract the global bidders essential for stature and success at Monterey. The auction’s highlight car, estimated to sell for $6 million to $8 million, is a 1936 Delahaye Type 135 Competition Court Teardrop Coupe with coach work by Figoni et Falaschi. This aristocratic French beauty is a rarity, the last of six short-wheelbase coupes bodied by that coach builder in 1936 and one of three existing.

“It was essentially a street-legal racecar,” Mr. Kraman said.

A 1952 Ferrari 340 America in the auction might be considered a midcentury equivalent to the Delahaye, a racecar that could also be driven on the road. One of just 24 made, the car placed fifth at the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans. From there, it followed a long and tortured road not unusual for used racecars, ending up with a Chevrolet V8 engine and a Devin fiberglass body over its chassis, and at one point sold for just $200, the owner unaware of its chassis’ origin.

Many years later, the car was restored by the Ferrari Classiche Department in Italy.

Another Ferrari, a 1966 275 GTB/6C “long nose,” is one of a handful of the models fitted with the optional six Weber carburetors in place of the standard three. Mr. Kraman estimated that the car could sell for $2.5 million to $2.8 million.

The auction house described the 1965 Shelby GT350R, one of 34 competition models produced, as having the most race wins of any Shelby Mustang. It won a Sports Car Club of America divisional championship with its first owner, and a second owner won 32 out of 54 races entered through 1971. Mr. Kraman said he believed that it could be a $1 million car.

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