My Car Quest

November 13, 2019

The RM Scottsdale Auction: Some Surprising Cars

by Wallace Wyss

Arizona in winter is a great place. Balmy, blue sky. Clean air. Incredible sunsets. It all puts a spring in your step. Especially when there’s lots of great cars for sale. I went to three of the auctions (couldn’t get in the Barrett-Jackson due to them not recognizing me as media—I guess 50 years as an auto reporter isn’t long enough for them…).

But even three auctions gives a potential car collector a good sampling of the way the auction market is going. If I had to coin a phrase, I would say it is “ever-expanding,” in terms of what auction companies think is collectable.

When I arrived in town Thursday, I went straight to the RM. Since 2000, RM’s Arizona sale has kicked off the auction season with an interesting selection of automobiles. The auction takes place at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel, which has a lot of art-deco styling that complements the cars.

RM did good, with an overall total of $59.8 million. The bidders were from 20 countries and I personally met attendees from Holland, Germany, and France. Ten of the cars RM sold went for over $1 million. Anyone can come to the RM auction and see the cars parked outside for free, and that’s worth going to see if you are already in Phoenix but you have to register and pay a fee to get into the auction itself or to see the more premium cars inside.

Ferrari and Cobras

Among the most interesting exotic cars was Lot 219 a 1955 Ferrari 250 GT Europa Boano ‘Low Roof’ Alloy Coupe that was estimated to sell for between $1,750,000 – $2,250,000. It was a no sale with a high bid of $1,675,000.

Ferrari 250 GT Europa Boano

Ferrari 250 GT Europa Boano ‘Low Roof’ Alloy Coupe

Then there was their red 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra estimated to go for $1,000,000 – $1,400,000. It went for $990,000. It was a genuine CSX 3000 series car, CSX3102, and had the 427. Now most people assume all 427s had 427s but in fact Ford sold a few of them with 428s figuring you wouldn’t know the difference and pocketing $200 more profit. The auction catalog said it had “LeMans” modified body work which means nothing to me – was it raced at LeMans? I wrote three books on Shelby and never heard that phrase in reference to Cobras.

Shelby 427 Cobra

Shelby 427 Cobra

Hot Rod

Obviously they were trying to stretch the conception of RM as a traditional classic car auction company by having a couple “hot rods” including a 1949 Mercury Convertible Custom by Dick Dean estimated to sell at between $60,000 – $80,000. They said it had a 300 hp. 350, I am thinking much later engine. The appeal of the car was as the James Dean Merc body style, such cars being featured in the James Dean classic movie Rebel Without A Cause. It sold for $71,500.

Also in the hot rod category was the 1951 Custom Hot Rod ‘Barbeque Stove Bolt Special’ that has parts from 16 cars, two motorcycles and an airplane and exemplifies the “rat rod” philosophy of building cars from whatever parts you can find, to hell with worrying about correct vintage. They estimated it would go for $80,000 – $100,000 with a four. I had my doubts, thinking most hot rods had V8s. It went for $49,500.

In Ferraris, the 275 models proved their strength when a red one, a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB by Scaglietti Chassis no. 08603 Engine no. 08603, estimated to sell for from $2,750,000 – $3,500,000. With triple Weber dual-choke carburetors, it was one of approximately 58 long-nose, torque-tube, triple-carburetor, steel-bodied examples. It sold for $2,750,000.

Ferrari 275 GTB

Ferrari 275 GTB by Wallace Wyss Fine Art

Some cars you can’t figure out why they are there. In that category was a light green 1966 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser priced at between. $55,000 – $75,000. The only thing I can figure is that they were hoping some guy who always wanted to buy one of these 40 years ago still had the hots for one. I don’t think it’s worth driving 500 miles to see, as I did. It sold for $49,500 so someone wanted it.

Bugatti

In exotics it was a surprise to see the Bugatti 110, the model that was built when Bugatti was first revived, before VW bought it. A 1993 Bugatti EB110 GT, they expected it would fetch $575,000 – $775,000 and said it was the sixth of only one hundred thirty-nine EB110 GTs ever produced, all of those having a 550-brake horsepower, quad-turbocharged V-12 engine capable of pushing it to 213 mph. While historically interesting I found its styling bland compared to the Veyron. It was a no sale at a high bid of $570,000.

Bugatti EB110 GT

Bugatti EB110 GT

Custom Iso Grifo

A bit problematic for me was the 1968 Iso Grifo. I was once a member of the Iso & Bizzarrini Owner’s Club (and owned a Grifo with a 351 Cleveland engine for a week) but this one had a few niggling details that screamed non-original, like being updated to a 7-liter Chevy where it was once a small block. It also had the 7-Liter badge on the roof and the seven liter hood (with what I call the “wedding cake” hood scoop) so all in all I thought their estimate of $375,000 – $425,000 rather high since to be original you would have to go back to a small block, remove the hood, remove the 7 liter badges and, oh, change the color of the interior and exterior back to the colors it came with. Still it brought $385,000.

Ford GT – A Continuation Car

So the Iso was customized to a later model engine and trim but in the case of the Ford GT Mk. IV I have to say that it was a car made of whole cloth, even though the builder they credit, Mike Teske, started a company called Kar Kraft, the same name of the chassis builder for the original cars. So superficially it is a Kar Kraft-built Mk. IV exactly like the originals, and has a chassis number that sounds like an original number, but it is in fact a replica, though the auction company called it a “continuation car.”

Ford GT Mk. IV Continuation Car

Ford GT Mk. IV Continuation Car

It will be interesting to see which vintage races will allow it to run alongside the original built-in-the-original-era cars. To me that would be like allowing replica Cobras to run against real ‘60s Cobras. It sold for $660,000.

Ferrari 250 LM

Everybody was wondering what a 250 LM would go for since they are rarer than 250 GTOs though a bit problematic to drive on the street. Would they beat the $52 million that one GTO is rumored to have sold for? This car was the 9th of only 32 built, this car, chassis 5899 GT with matching number engine, from the Scuderia Filipinetti Swiss team.

The racing record includes the Sierre-Montana-Crans hill climb in August 1964, driven by Ludovico Scarfiotti. It won the race, and then won again with Nino Vaccarella the following week at the Monza Coppa InterEuropa. It’s third race, the 1000 Km of Paris saw drivers Vaccarella and Jean Guichet retiring because of a broken radiator, and the car, after being shown at the Geneva Motor Show, went to a new owner. Then it went to private owners. It rolled but was sold and got a new body oddly a Porsche 906 body.

Another accident ruined that body and finally it was restored in Italy, and in 2000, 5899 GT went back to racing, in historic events, RM was estimating in would sell between $9.5 – $12.5 million. It sold for $9,625,000.

Ferrari 250 LM

Ferrari 250 LM

Porsche 904 GTS

In Porsches a very rare one at the RM was the mid-engined 904 GTS, a fiberglass bodied car that was successful for a brief period in the mid-‘60s. They estimated this one, chassis 904-107, would go for from between $1,500,000 – $2,000,000.They mention it was offered with a period correct four cam engine but not the same engine it was built with. It sold for $1,650,000.

Porsche 904 GTS

Porsche 904 GTS

In sum, it appears that the RM Auction is reaching out from pre-war classics and postwar sports cars to further corners of the car world, offering something for every taste. Going to their auction is like getting that second chance in life to buy your dream car. They are just expanding the dream…

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THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of the Incredible Barn Find series, available from Enthusiast Books (Hudson, WI). The next edition is due out in May, 2015.

Summary
The RM Scottsdale Auction: Some Surprising Cars
Article Name
The RM Scottsdale Auction: Some Surprising Cars
Description
This writer's overview of the RM auction in Arizona.
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Comments

  1. It seems there were a lot of disappointments for the bidding but overall, these cars are divine. The Shelby Cobra in itself has so much character, along with its colour. The Porsche 904 GTS is such a treasure as well; there’s no doubt it got a great deal.

  2. Great overview Wallace.

    Many big seven figure cars have already traded hands and are in the collections of those who are able to buy multiple cars of that ilk. What we are starting to see is some leveling in the market at the highest end as more and more VERY fine cars come onto the sales floors. But the auctions (as witnessed by many of Wallace’s examples) are becoming clouded with re-bodied cars, continuation cars, and other vehicles with cleverly articulated histories distracting from authenticity.

    Vexing as it may seem, the Iso with needs selling at near $400k is probably about right for the market given how rare the cars are and how rarely they come up for sale. The new owner will do his rework and have a fine car for about what it would take to buy an excellent one in today’s market. Much can be said for the $300-500k market today as nice, important cars are still filling that bracket for the eager collector.

    Hard as it might be to call this year “soft” with the sales numbers as large as they are, it is still a market that is slowing down in the huge dollar range. Still lots of juice left in the game and most waterlines remain high across the board. Short of big level economic devastation, the market will continue to be steady and rising on top level authenticated cars for at least a few more years.

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