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Lots to ameliorate winter blues during Florida’s auction week

WORDS: NATHAN CHADWICK | PHOTOS: BONHAMS, BROAD ARROW, GOODING AND CO., RM SOTHEBY’S

This year’s Amelia Island is all change – with Broad Arrow now established as the event’s official partner, RM Sotheby’s has set up its own extravaganza – and auction – elsewhere in Florida on the same weekend, entitled ModaMiami.

You can find out more about that event here; instead, in this piece we’ll focus on the cars heading across the block. Aside from Broad Arrow and RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Gooding & Co. are stepping up to the plate.

Early auction trends point to Mercedes-Benz – and not only those from the traditional 1950s-60s heyday. Given Broad Arrow’s duo of AMG W124s that both traversed $700k, it was only inevitable that special-model Mercedes-Benzes from the modern-classic era would start to appear. However, the critical thing with the US AMG market is true scarcity due to homologation (as explained here), and the cars presented at Bonhams, Broad Arrow, RM Sotheby’s and Gooding & Co. are largely much more numerous and easier to find on the open market, as reflected by their estimates. However, given the clamour for all things AMG – an ex-Sultan of Brunei SL73 R129 (one of 50) sold on Collecting Cars for £340,000 ($433,267) – could these ‘lesser’ AMGs be swept up in the hype? A direct marker could be RM Sotheby’s own SL73, pictured above and estimated at between $250k and $450k.

Another big story will be the Mullin Collection, a selection of cars from which are being offered by Gooding & Co. You can read more about that here, but this season is notable for the varied pre-war lots on offer from Gooding & Co., Bonhams and Broad Arrow, too, from Mercedes-Benz 540ks and Duesenbergs to special-bodied French wheeled art, such as the above 1938 Delahaye 135 MS bodied by Figoni et Falaschi, on offer with Broad Arrow. With interest in vintage cars appearing to be on the rise, as born out by results and event attendance last year, it will be interesting to see how such cars fare – could there be too much of a good thing, all at the same time?

We’ve picked out the leading lots from each of the auctions, plus some potential highlights further down the lot lists. What’s tempting you in Florida this year?

Bonhams

This 1904 Napier Samson L48 was the first car to exceed 100mph in America, and leads the lots for Bonhams. It set the record 117 years ago in Florida, with Brit Arthur Macdonald setting a world record of 104.651mph at Ormond Beach on January 25, 1905. The car returned to Ormond Beach a year later, with Walter Thomas Clifford Earp behind the wheel. While advances in technology and performance put a new speed record behind him, he won the 100-mile world record by 50 seconds, despite a tyre blow-out that left him racing on just a rim. In the same year, Dorothy Levitt set the Women’s World Land Speed Record driving the L48, which wasn’t beaten until 1963. Many decades later, the car was brought back to life by Alan Hawker Chamberlain, in June 1982. The rebuilt engine took the Napier Samson to 111.73mph in a rerun of the famous race, 67 years earlier. It’s been in the same ownership for 40 years, and is estimated at between $900k and $1.1m.

This 1991 De Tomaso Pantera 90 SI is one of just 41 produced to a fresh Marcello Gandini redesign of the Tom Tjaarda design. The car was also refreshed under the skin, with a redesigned chassis, suspension, brakes and engine. The Ford 302ci engine produced around 305bhp, through a ZF five-speed transaxle gearbox. These 90 SI models were never originally offered in the US – this car spent most of its life in Europe, accumulating 33,332km (20,711 miles) in the process. It’s estimated at between $310k and $360k.

This 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ is one of around 200 produced, and first delivered to Italian privateer racer Rinaldo Parmigiani. Parmigiani drove the car (which was originally finished in grey) at the Pescara Four Hours alongside Sergio Pedretti (‘Kim’) under the watch of Scuderia Sant’Ambroeuss. The team finished 19th overall and seventh in class, although better was to come for Parmigiani at the Coppa Inter-Europa later that year, with a sixth place overall and fourth in class. The Giulietta remained in Italy for much of the 1960s and 1970s, before being repainted and fitted with a Tipo AR00548 1750 GT Veloce engine. Bergamo-based collector Corrado Cupellini bought the car in 1978, and from there it headed to California courtesy of Alfa specialist Marvin Collins of El Cerrito. It was then sold to Jerry Gamez of Castro Valley, California, who had the SZ prepared for track use and entered it into the 1980 Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca. In 1984 it entered a private collection, where it would stay until 2020. It’s estimated at between $350k and $400k.

Broad Arrow

Leading Broad Arrow’s sale is this, the 1959 Porsche 718 RSK Spyder delivered new to Ed Hugus to compete in that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. He’d partner with Ray Erickson, and the car – nicknamed Lucybelle III – was running first in class and fourth overall before engine failure scuppered their chances. The engine was replaced at the Porsche factory, and the car was brought to the US and used by Don Ives for the 1960 race season, with podiums and class victories following over the next few years. By the late 1970s the 718 was in the possession of William Franklin of Sonoita, Arizona, and it would be used at the Monterey Historics. It then passed through several owners, before being restored at Rare Drive, Inc in 2018. An unstamped, correct-type 547/3 Carrera four-cam engine was sourced, rebuilt and installed. It’s since been seen at concours events such as Audrain, Pebble Beach and the Colorado Grand. It’s estimated at between $3.5m and $4.5m.

This is the fourth and last example of Dodge’s Firearrow concept car series, which blended the styling of Carrozzeria Ghia with the Chrysler Corporation’s mechanicals. Under the direction of Chrysler’s Virgil Exner, the quartet of concepts were touted on the auto show scene between 1953 and 1954, and – unlike many GM and Ford concepts of the time – most were drivable and largely production ready. This particular Firearrow was the only convertible of the four. Underneath the body lies a 241ci Red Ram Hemi V8, delivering 150bhp. After the Firearrow’s show duties were over, it was sold to Venezuela. It would only be unearthed in the late 1980s, around 90 miles outside Caracas. It was restored in Venezuela, and then bought by collector Noel Thompson, who quickly passed it on to Pebble Beach winner Sam Mann, who had the car re-restored. Mann sold the car in 2007, alongside Firearrow II, with the Blackhawk Collection providing its home until 2021, at which point the current vendor acquired it. It’s estimated at between $1.5m and $2m.

This is one of 18 Pegaso Z-102s bodied by Saoutchik, and one of just five surviving left-hand-drive Series II Berlinettas to wear a Saoutchik body. Built in 1954 and presented at the Paris Motor Show that year, its first owner was a Don Julian Sanchez Araguena of Madrid. After passing through two more Spanish owners, the Pegaso entered the stewardship of Garland W Burke, a USAF pilot stationed in Madrid. It later came to the US via its next owner, Arthur L Foley III, in 1989. It was restored before appearing at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, after which it was shown at the Colorado Grand. It later underwent another restoration with its next owner, Jim Patterson, and appeared at several US concours events. It’s been in the hands of its current owner since 2016, and is estimated at between $750k and $900k.

Gooding & Co.

This 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60HP ‘Roi des Belges’ was first ordered to the UK by Alfred Harmsworth, otherwise known as Viscount Northcliffe. As the founder of the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror newspapers, his publishing empire was large enough to enable him to be an early adopter of the motor car – and arguably one of the first collectors, thanks to his stable of vehicles. He even published his own book on motoring. This particular Mercedes-Simplex was first delivered to Nice, France, so that German racing driver Hermann Braun could set a new speed record; its next outing was as a reserve team car for Ireland’s Gordon Bennett Cup. It then won the Ballybannon Hillclimb, with E Campbell Muir behind the wheel – these and other adventures were featured in The Autocar and The Car at the time. Harmsworth used the 60HP for the next decade, before passing it on to his son Alfred.

It stayed in the family until the mid-1950s, when it was put on display by the Beaulieu Motor Museum. It remained there as part of a featured display until 2023, always in the stewardship of the Harmsworth family. Over this time, the car was seen at the Brussels World Fair in 1958, and on several London-to-Brighton runs, with Lord Montagu, Jim Clark and Bill Boddy among those to get behind the wheel. This is the first time the car has been put up for sale in 120 years of family ownership, and it is one of only four in private ownership; there is one other, owned by the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. It’s also one of two examples to retain its original bodywork, in this case from J Rothschild et Fils. It’s estimated at more than $10m.

This 1931 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing-Top Convertible Coupe is chassis 2365 – one of 140 Model Js bodied by the Walter M Murphy Company, and among the 52 convertible coupes bodies the firm built. It’s also one of 25 to feature the disappearing-top design, and served as a factory demonstrator before it was acquired by stove-manufacturing magnate Gene Gordon Culver of New York – who happened to be the grandson of Culver Military Academy founder Henry Harrison Culver. In 1938, the Duesenberg passed to David Archibald Smart, the co-founder and publisher of Esquire magazine. It then passed through a couple of owners, before it was donated to the Culver Military Academy for the Motors Course. When the academy ceased running the course, the car was offered up for sale, with Tom Hawkinson taking stewardship. The Hawkinson family would keep the Duesenberg for the next 61 years, with the car eventually being acquired by the current owner via the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company in Oklahoma. It was subsequently refreshed and returned to running order, before being displayed at October’s Hershey Fall Meet. It’s estimated at between $2.75m and $3.5m.

This second-series 1938 Bugatti Type 57C features bodywork from Gangloff. Sold new to an M Zurstrassen of Liège, Belgium, it entered the stewardship of Romanian racing driver Georges Bouriano in the early 1950s. It would later join the collection of Alden Sherman, who’d keep the car for 60 years. This is the first time this Bugatti has come up for sale publicly; it’s one of just 96 factory-built supercharged 57Cs. It’s estimated at between $350k and $450k.

RM Sotheby’s

This 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa was displayed at the Paris Motor Show in October of that year, before heading to its first home via RRR Motors, to its proprietor and racing driver George Reed of Homewood, Illinois. In 1959, Reed would become a sub-dealer to Luigi Chinetti, and he would go on to race a 250TdF, 375MM, 250 Testa Rossa and others, before rounding out his motor sport career in a Cobra. During Reed’s ownership, the front bumpers were replaced by two vertical bumperettes. Chassis 0295 EU would pass to founding member of the Ferrari Club of America, Ken Hutchison, before being acquired by Robert F Tarwacki, also of Illinois, in 1964. It would pass through several American owners, before being acquired by Gilbert Walton of Danville, California, in 1971. He would keep the car until 2015, during which time it was restored by Crockett Auto Restoration in the US. Since 2015, the current owner has shown the car at concours across the world. It’s estimated at between $4.5m and $5.5m.

RM Sotheby’s has done good business with BMWs in the recent past, and its inclusion of no fewer than four E30 M3s catches the eye. The quartet includes an Evolution model, as well as a Convertible, but the prize lot is the 1990 Sport Evolution pictured above. The final and most developed version of the E30 M3, with a 238bhp 2.5-litre engine in a bid to remain competitive in Group A touring car racing, just 600 were produced for homologation purposes. This particular car was first delivered to the UK, and features extras such as electric windows, air-conditioning and a headlight-cleaning system, but retains the Anthracite Motorsport Design cloth seats rather than leather items. Having covered 26,683 miles, it’s estimated at between $250k and $280k.

The Aston Martin market has had a difficult time of it for the past few years – will this continue into 2024? This car will be a stern test, because it’s something very rare – one of eight left-hand-drive Aston Martin DB4 Series V Convertibles ever built. A mere 70 DB4 Convertibles of all kinds were manufactured, and this is among 33 built with the Special Series engine, which boosted output from 240bhp to 266bhp courtesy of triple SU carbs, larger valves and other enhancements. This car, chassis DB4C/1082/L, was built in September 1962 and delivered to California Aston Martin distributor Peter Satori. The car is unique, in that it’s the only one finished in Black Pearl over red leather; it went on to be displayed at the 1963 Los Angeles International Motor Show. It first owner was the Wheeldex Simpla Corporation of Los Angeles – inventor of the Simplawheel, the forerunner of the Rolodex. The DB4 is believed to have stayed in California, up to and including its time with its next owner, Forrest Moore. He purchased the Aston Martin in the late 1970s, and had it restored by marque specialist Kevin Kay, at which point it was painted green.

It was then sold to Bob Fountain of The Aston Workshop in the UK, via US Aston Martin collector Eric Jeffries. It was next owned by two German enthusiasts, before the car entered a Middle Eastern collection in 2008. The current vendor acquired the DB4 in early 2022, and tasked Classic Motor Cars of Shropshire with a fresh, bare-shell restoration and a return to its original colour combination. The matching-numbers engine was also restored and rebuilt by Oselli, with larger pistons, upping displacement to 4.2 litres. The car is estimated at between $1.5m and $1.8m.

Further details

The Bonhams Amelia Island Auction takes place at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club on February 29. More details are available here.

The Broad Arrow Amelia Auction takes place at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island resort on March 1-2. More details are available here.

The Gooding & Co. Amelia Island Auction takes place at Racquet Park at the Omni Amelia Island Resort on February 29-March 1. More details are available here.

RM Sotheby’s ModaMiami sale takes place at the Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables on March 1-2. More details are available here.