New Auction Records at Monterey

Of the six or so auction houses at Monterey for the car weekend, The Gooding & Co. Auction has the prime location, right where the shuttle busses drop off the Concours d’Elegance spectators on their way to the Lodge at Pebble Beach. They always have exciting consignments, and this year they had the weekend’s two stars. One was a Ferrari, and the other was a real Duesey.

World Record Ferrari

Saturday night we were priveleged to witness Gooding’s stellar auctioneer taking bids on the prototype of one of auto racing’s legends, the Ferrari Testa Rosa. The first volume of Gooding’s coffee-table quality two-volume catalogue ran on for nineteen pages (not including front and back covers) about the history of the car. Its drivers’ list includes a who’s who of great Ferrari pilots of the era, including the first US-Born World Champion Phil Hill, and they drove it to creditable finishes in most of the prestigious endurance races of the day.

When the gavel finally fell, the brilliantly restored and seductively presented vintage racing car sold for $14,900,000, the highest price ever paid at auction for an automobile. With seller’s commission, it cost the buyer $16.39 million.

Prototype Ferrari Testa Rosa
1957 Ferrari Testa Rosa sold at Monterey for a record $14.9 million (plus seller’s commission).

Dazzling Duesenberg

The following night, the car that caused so many to violate the Third Commandment as they entered the preview tent went under the gavel.

Built on the longer of two available chassis, the details on this car were positively stunning, with patent leather upholstery, chrome accents everywhere, and an aluminum roof in imitation of a convertible top, right down to the folding mechanism underneath. The car was specified by renowned playboy George Whittell Jr., famous for his pet lion Bill, and reportedly cost $17,000 to build when a Ford sold for $850.

Bids started at $5 million, and it was amusing to note, as each million-dollar threshold was breached, the cheers of all these car nuts, who are likely among the wiliest bargainers when it comes to buying a new car, applauding lustily for an ever higher price.

The bid that won the car was just under eight figures, at $9,400,000. The press will report it as $10,340,000, which again is the amount by which the purchase will drain the buyer’s bank account.

1931 Duesenberg "Whittell" coupe

Dazzling 1931 Duesenberg "Whittell" coupe drew a bid of $9.4 million at the 2011 Gooding Auction in Monterey, a record for a Duesenberg and for any American Car.

1931 Duesenberg "Whittell" Coupe right flank.
1931 Duesenberg “Whittell” Coupe showing chrome detailing on right flank.

 Celebrity Provenance – Again

In last year’s auction coverage I showed two Ferrari 250 GT Scaglietti Lusso coupes. Yours truly was seated in one, and the other had once been the “King of Cool’s” car. The one I sat in sold for $550,000, while in 2007 the McQueen car sold for $2,31o,000 (including commission) at Christie’s Auction.

This year there was a car at the RM Auction that you would hardly give a glance if you saw it on the street. In its restrained dark gray paint it had nothing to distinguish it from any other early Porsche 911.

The difference of course is that this car was featured in what most enthusiasts consider the finest auto racing film ever made, Steve McQueen’s Le Mans. Not only was the car a “character” in the movie (It was male lead  Michael Delaney’s – McQueen’s – daily driver), but Steve and his wife’s personal transportation while filming.

A well-maintained 1970 Porsche 911S that you owned might sell in the $20,000 – $30,000 range. Steve’s car attracted a final bid of $1,250,000.

With the kinds of prices being bid elsewhere, when RM reported this as the highest price ever bid for a Porsche 911 at auction, it seemed almost anticlimactic.

1970 Steve McQueen Porsche 911S

Looking like a car your neighbor might keep as a hobby, the 1970 Porsche 911S driven by Steve McQueen in racing film "Le Mans" sold for $1.25 million (plus commission) at the RM Auction in Monterey, 2011.

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About carmacarcounselor

I'm one of those people that friends call "that car guy," except I've made it into a profession. Since 1988 when a friend found my help in choosing, finding, and negotiating for a new car was worth a fee, I've helped countless people, listening to their car questions and challenges, and helping with their car purchases, insulating them from the adversarial process that is the new car retail model today. Their word of mouth is my only publicity. My newsletter CARMA won the description "The clear crystal ring of truth" from award-winning automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. Now I'm going global!
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