For one week in January, all eyes in the classic car world are on the luxurious Phoenix, Arizona suburb of Scottsdale. The reason is a succession of auction staged by most major players in the business, which kick off the season. This year, we attended the three international auction houses and have captured all the interesting lots. They are featured in three galleries, which serve to illustrate the respective results of the Bonhams
, RM Sotheby's
Bonhams The Scottsdale Auction
With a one-day sale on Thursday, Bonhams kicked off the proceedings. Their sale was headlined by a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder. Although, it was the less desirable open-headlight version, bidding quickly shot up eventually stalling at $10.6 million. This was not quite enough to meet the reserve set but we understand the vendor and high bidder were in negotiation over a post-sale deal. A headliner that did sell was the beautifully preserved Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Roadster, which found a new home for well over $7 million, making it not only the most expensive E-Type ever sold but also the most expensive car of the weekend. Further results of note included a Ferrari 340 America that found a new custodian for $6.4 million, an early supercharged Mercedes-Benz that brought $4.8 million and a lovely 6C 1750 Gran Sport Alfa Romeo that changed hands for just over $2.8 million. It was interesting to note that neither of the 365 GTB/4 Daytona Ferraris sold and that the Ferrari 275 GTB consigned fetched considerably less than than the $2.5 million lower estimate at 'just' $1.7 million. At the end of the day 81% of the lots had sold for a total of just over $36 million.
RM Sotheby's The Arizona Auction
Later that same afternoon, the RM Sotheby's sale also kicked off with the first of two sessions. The location for the two-day sale was the same Arizona Biltmore resort that had hosted the fourth annual Scottsdale Concours d'Elegance a few days earlier. A total of 141 lots were consigned to the sale, which ranged from a diminutive DAF Daffodil to the Ferrari Enzo that had been bought new and was brought to the auction by fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. With just 3,620 miles on the odometer, it eventually found its second owner for just shy of $2.7 million. Although other Ferraris also featured prominently in the results with a very rare 365 GTS fetching $3.6 million, the two-day sale was topped by a custom Mercedes-Benz 540 K Spezial Roadster. It changed hands for $6.6 million, which was quite a bit less than the vendor had bought the car at just over three years ago. At the more modest end of the lot list Mercedes-Benzes also did well with a 200 V Sport Roadster selling for over three times the lower estimate at $176,000 and a 600 Pullmann changing hands for well over the top estimate at $148,500. At the end of the evening Friday, 90% of the lots had sold for around $54 million in total sales.
Gooding The Scottsdale Auctions
Like RM Sotheby's, California based auctioneer Gooding & Company also staged a two-day sale, starting on Friday afternoon. Although the sale did not include real big hitters, Gooding did manage to assemble an eclectic mix of machinery, many of which were among the best available of their kind. Among them was most definitely the Type 35 Bugatti that topped the sale at $3.3 million, which was a world record for the type. The subsequent sale of a Type 52 Bugatti children's racer at $88,000 was no doubt driven by the great result for the full scale machine. Another noteworthy lot was a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing offered from the estate of the first owner. A true time-warp machine, it rallied to a final sale price of just under $1.5 million. Also representing the best of its kind was the Shelby Cobra offered. A rare unmolested, road-legal small-block car, it sold for $1.1 million. One of our pre-sale favourites was the rare mid-engined AMC AMX/3. Engineered by Giotto Bizzarrini, it sold for $891,000, making it the most expensive AMC ever sold at auction. Ferraris also featured strongly at Gooding with a 500 Superfast selling for just shy of $3 million and a much more recent 599 SA Aperta bringing $1.5 million. At 84% sold, Gooding grossed a total of $33.4 million.
Every time all the major auction companies stage sales, it is a new test of the market. The Scottsdale auctions showed the market has quieted down but just like in 2016, there certainly is still much demand for the right cars. It is interesting to see that of the Ferraris that have seen a dramatic rise in value like the Daytonas and 275 GTBs a majority saw bids ended up far short of the estimates and/or reserves. The next test of the market is just a few weeks away when another three major sales will be held in Paris.