WORDS: NATHAN CHADWICK | PHOTOS: BARRETT-JACKSON, BONHAMS, RM SOTHEBY’S, WORLDWIDE AUCTIONEERS
The Scottsdale sales extravaganza in Arizona, US may not be the season-opening sales event it once was, thanks to Mecum’s rivalling Kissimmee mega sale, but with four auction houses battling it out there was something for everyone.
Several interesting trends filtered out from the desert, most notably the popularity of modern hypercars in North America. Barrett-Jackson’s eight-day extravaganza saw a great deal of its top results taken with cars built within the past 15 years, while Bonhams’ biggest hitter by a significant margin was a 2022 Bugatti Chiron and RM Sotheby’s top sale was a 2020 McLaren Speedtail (pictured above). Although there were concerns it might be too early for the potential tech/crypto bull market bounce for hypercars in Europe, the reality was that it was such cars that led the way across much of the auction houses in a much more positive US.
We’ve previously discussed the fortunes of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL in its anniversary year with the Kissimmee sale. So, after the dust has settled from Arizona, what are the indicators? Well, Barratt-Jackson’s top-selling lot was a 300SL Gullwing that went for a record amount, but other auctioneers struggled to sell their offerings, including the Bonhams car pictured above, which was offered publicly for the first time in 50 years. With such abundant choice at auctions and on the wider dealer market, it looks like buyers are only really prepared to step up for truly exceptional examples.
2023 wasn’t the greatest year for 1950s and ’60s Ferrari sales, and as we move into 2024 the highest-end sales in Scottsdale were notable for the relative lack of little yellow badges from this era, perhaps indicating that owners would rather hold on to them at the moment. Those high-end Ferraris that did cross the auction block didn’t have a good time of it, including the 1968 Ferrari 330GTS offered by RM Sotheby’s (above), which didn’t sell and had a $1.9m price tag at the time of writing. The Rétromobile sales had far more Ferraris of this era up for grabs to provide a better picture, but with the upcoming Florida auctions also broadly Ferrari-lite (at the time of writing), will this situation persist through the year?
We’ve picked out some of the most interesting lots from each of the auctioneers. What were you looking to take home?
This Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was one of 311 built in 1956, and was originally delivered to Rome, Italy by official Mercedes-Benz distributor Mario Morescalchi. By 1993, it had made its way to Pennsylvania, before joining the collection of Roger S Gallet two years later. The vendor acquired the Gullwing from Gallet’s estate in 2020, and engaged Coachwerks of Canada to perform a comprehensive restoration, retaining the matching-numbers body, engine, transmission, rear axle, front spindle and steering box. It sold for $3.41m, setting a new price record for a normal Gullwing.
Coming from the Don Williams collection, this 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster featured a unique body from the Mayfair Carriage Co. It was originally dispatched to a factory store in Paris in October 1936, for undetermined reasons. It’s proposed that it was originally ordered by a British expat living in Paris at the time, but it’s also suggested that it was a commission for an Indian maharajah. By the 1950s the car was in London, before being acquired by Peter Kessler of Quebec, Canada. It swiftly passed on to Paul Suckling of Toronto.
In 1968, publisher Richard C Mertz acquired the car, exporting it to the US and restoring it with his son, Steve Mertz. The restoration work included the input of Alcraft, Harry Flynn, Harry Kennedy and John Graham, as well as the Mertz father-and-son team. The car was sold to Ralph Englestad of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1994, when it was painted red during another restoration. After Englestad’s passing in 2002, it joined a Southern Californian collection. It sold for $2.42m – third time lucky, after no sales at Mecum Monterey in 2023 and Bonhams Quail in 2018, and went for $1.08m less than the pre-sale estimates in both.
This 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT was specially ordered by Donald Trump in a then out-of-range colour – Le Mans Blue. One of just 132 Diablo VTs built for the US market between 1997 and 1999, it was driven by the future President of the US for four years. It sold for $1.1m.
In a Scottsdale season in which modern supercars were the hot ticket, one result stood out far and wide all the others. In fact, this stood out over the other Chiron, at Barrett-Jackson, by almost double the price. There are no truly ‘ordinary’ Chirons, but this was a 2022 Super Sport 300+ model, one of 30 such special editions built.
Only eight of these were originally delivered to the US, to celebrate Bugatti’s smashing of the 300mph barrier in 2019. The car carried several of the improvements that allowed the record to be completed. This particular example had 255 miles on the odometer, having been supplied through Manhattan Motorcars in February 2023. It sold for $5.175m.
This 1936 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Sunroof Coupé was one of only four factory-built sunroof-top cars known to survive. First delivered to Marseille jeweller Charles Olivera, it was believed to be the first Atalante to be specified with telescopic dampers and hydraulic brakes. It competed in the Rally des Alpes, Monte Carlo Rally and Rome-Liège-Rome event, before being sold to French aviator Léon Givon in summer 1939.
In later life it would live in the Belgian Congo, where it would help its then-owner and recent restorer make a hasty escape from civil war in 1963. After this it formed part of the Bernard Mérian collection, and it was restored during the 1980s and 1990s. It passed to Victor Muller, and then to another Dutch collector in 2003, who kept it for the next 20 years. It sold for $1.38m, against a $1.5m-$1.8m estimate.
Maserati celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, and the Ghibli Spyder in particular is a car at the forefront of desirability. The most in-demand Spyders are the 4.9-litre SS models, of which just 46 were built. However, the 4.7 Spyder is only marginally more numerous, with around 82 built. In the mid-2010s, a 4.7 peaked at around $800k, and prices have been edging backwards since then, with that trend continuing with the result for this particular car.
First delivered to the US East Coast Maserati importer Foreign Car City, Inc of West Nyack, New York, its history is patchy until the 1990s, when it first had a cosmetic restoration. Records point to a change of ownership in the early 2000s, before it was owned by Bob Gett of Sudbury, Massachusetts, where it was mechanical fettled at KTR European Motorsports in nearby Ayer, Massachusetts. It changed hands again in 2008, to a collector in the New York region. Recently it was repainted in light metallic blue, having changed colour over the years since its first finish in Argento Auteuil (metallic silver). It sold for $596,250.
Away from RM Sotheby’s leading McLaren result, this 1963 Ferrari 250GT/L Berlinetta Lusso was a highlight. The 129th of 350 examples built, chassis 5129 GT was built for the European market and sold via Milan’s Crepaldi Automobili. A few years later it was acquired by Luigi Chinetti Motors and brought to Greenwich, Connecticut.
In 1969 it was purchased by Baker Motors in Atlanta, Georgia, and in the 1980s it was in the stewardship of Steven Lawrence of Wilton, Connecticut. In 1983 it was purchased by a Stan Nowak for a client in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who took delivery in May 1984. The owner would keep it for the next 39 years, maintaining it and rarely using it, racking up around 1944 miles over that time. Although the paint had changed, the engine, gearbox and rear axle are matching-numbers. It sold for $1,352,500.
This would be one of the most important AC Cobras ever anyway – it was the first 289ci Cobra built from new – but chassis CSX 2044’s story is quite remarkable. First ordered by Stanford University computer scientist (and future Steve Jobs collaborator) Dr Harrison Horn, when Shelby was still using the 260ci V8, delays meant the 289ci engine was available instead. Horn put 23,000 miles on the car over the next six years, until he dislodged the muffler on his garage threshold.
With his attentions elsewhere, the car spent 30 years in the family garage, before being sold to Lynn Park in 2001. It was repainted its original colour and had a carburettor upgrade, before changing hands again in 2013, covering 200 miles since. Against an estimate of $1.2m-1.4m, it sold for $1.215m.
There’s a new motor sport-themed movie due this year – no, it’s not one based on Ferrari. It details the 1983 World Rally Championship, and the battle between Lancia and Audi, and although it’s unlikely to have the same mainstream appeal as Ford vs Ferrari, it may shine a light on rallying’s wildest era – Group B.
This 1984 Audi Sport Quattro is one of 214 units produced to homologate the competition cars, and was originally delivered to Japan. It comes from the collection of a former North American Rally Championship driver, who acquired the car ten years ago. It’s been looked after by Anderson Motorsport of Chanhassen, Minnesota and Audi of St. Paul, Minnesota, and wore 8806km at the time of the sale. It sold for $665k, a new record for a road-going Sport Quattro.
This 1940 Packard Darrin 1807 Convertible Sedan is one of 11 built, and was originally used by Packard as a show car at the Auto Club of Southern California spring show in downtown Los Angeles. Chassis 1807-2010 is believed to have lived on the West Coast for much of its life; period photography shows society gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and opera singer and entertainer James Melton, as driver and passenger.
It entered the collection of Lee and Bob Belf in the 1970s, and would be treated to an extensive restoration by Henry Seitz in Detroit. Following 27 years in the Belfs’ collection, it was acquired by Steve Chapman in Texas, who would restore the car again. He would subsequently win an award at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It sold for $335k.
This 1964 Sunbeam Tiger Mk1 Roadster is the first production Tiger built, and was originally delivered to Danyluk Motors in Glendale, California. Its first owner was Martin Prager, who then sold the Sunbeam to Kenneth H Miller of North Hollywood, California in 1966. Brett Simpson of Washington purchased the car in 1995, and set about a four-year restoration. The fourth owner, Dennis Collins, purchased the Tiger on an episode of Coffee Walk, with the car having covered ten miles since the restoration’s completion. On the day, it sold for $134,400.
This 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster was Worldwide’s highest result. Originally sold at Keeman Motors in Philadelphia, it was one of 250 300SL Roadsters built in 1961. Optioned with a Becker radio, automatic antenna, W/SW tires and chrome wheels, it would be kept by the first owner until 1972, when it was sold to David Coggins of Madison, Connecticut, who’d keep it for 35 years.
In 2007 it was purchased by Andre Vant Westeinde of Dallas, Texas, before passing through the hands of Jerry Bensinger and then onto Pebble Beach Concours chief judge Peter Hageman. The 300SL was then treated to a bare-metal respray by Fenders and Fins Inc. in Woodinville, Washington, and a new interior from 300SL expert John Compton in Oregon. It was then rebuilt by Mercedes expert Sigfried Linke of Mount Vernon, Washington. It was sold in 2015 to another collector. On the day, it sold for $1.215m.