Monterey 2014 – 5 Days of Automotive Porn – Day 3

Thursday/Friday – Auctions 1

The Benefit of Experience

This year there were at least six car auctions in Monterey. At times there were four going on at once. You get used to it, and learn where to be at what time, and what to skip altogether.

Now it seems there’s a new auction, Bonhams, debuting with a powerful attraction. The presentation did not match the quality of the consignment though, and after attending the first day’s bidding, it’s unlikely we will return unless they make some changes.

The Thirty-Eight Million Dollar Ferrari

Publicity Photo Bonhams Ferrari GTO

Bonham’s publicity photo of their 1962 Ferrari GTO #3851. Styling cues include a nose with a hint of E-Type Jaguar, punctured with multiple vents to supplement the obviously inadequate primary air intake. This one shares a difference with the car currently on display in “The World’s Greatest Sports Coupes” at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Nearly all 250 GTOs have a pair of small rectangular driving lamps flanking the central oval air intake, those two do not.

Bonhams held the auction of their highly anticipated “Violati Collection,” of which the GTO was part, at the Quail on Thursday evening. Parking was on a mulched field. If you were driving a low-clearance car such as are common among those able to bid successfully on million-dollar collectable cars, you’d have been seriously annoyed, if not angry.

The signature consignment, Ferrari 250 chassis number 3851GT, is one of 41 Ferraris with the designation GTO (some quite different than this example). The name derives from their certification or “Homologation” (thus Gran Tourisimo Omologato – GTO, in Italian) for competition in the GT class. Ferrari was supposed to make 100, but the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile winked, and they were allowed to compete with the lower production.

They were very successful racing cars, with many victories around the world, although the most coveted prize, overall victory in the 24 hours of Le Mans, eluded them. This particular car’s curriculum vitae included 2nd place in the 1962 Tour de France with Jo Schlesser at the wheel.

The auction itself was held in a rather small tent, considering the crowd one would expect. It was standing room only, and since there was no ramp to raise the cars into view, and no cameras flashing live pictures of the cars on the big screen TV monitors (only publicity stills), most of the audience couldn’t see a thing.

Please excuse the stock photo. We didn’t attend the preview, and after the bidding concluded, the car was whisked away behind a screen and covered, so we never got a picture of the star GTO.

Was the Price Right?

As the only example of the model to be offered at auction in many years, there were two possibilities. It could set a new record, or it could be a mythbuster, proving the “$50 million dollar Ferrari” hype was all eyewash. It did both. The hammer price was $34,650,000, setting a new record, but nowhere near what the buzz had the crowd expecting. Of course the popular media called it $38 million, because it’s more sensational. The buyer actually paid $38,115,oo0 plus taxes.

Pundits blamed the “low” price on the car’s unfortunate history, with the only fatality attributed to the model, and the fact that it had been rebuilt after the crash. But the latter is a common issue with old racing cars, and the former is sometimes a factor in inflating a car’s value if it’s infamous enough. We won’t know until the next one comes up at auction. Don’t hold your breath.

The Classy Ones

Among the other live auctions over the long weekend (Rick Cole’s is by remote only) there are two styles.

Mecum, Barrett-Jackson and Russo & Steele are of the circus ring variety, with floor managers hollering and an auctioneer rattling off the patter of a livestock auction. Not our cup of Earl Grey.

Gooding & Co. and RM are of the Sotheby’s style with dignified auctioneers playing the individual bidders against each other with respect, patience and wit as in a fine art auction.

Of the two, RM has the advantage  of being right in downtown Monterey, with ample public parking at a reasonable price and free if you don’t mind walking. Cars are displayed inside the Portola Inn and outside on the large brick-paved plaza. You have to pay to see the cars on the plaza, more if you want to see many of the marquee consignments, even more if you want to be in the hall during bidding.

Both typically have star offerings, and they usually vie with each other for top sale and most total sales. Last year RM had the Ferrari 275GTB/4S that beat Gooding’s 2011 auction record for Ferraris, set with the prototype Ferrari Testa Rossa.

Gooding displays their cars in large well-lit tents where the shuttle buses drop you off from the public parking at Spanish Bay. Since one is right there after watching the awards at the Pebble Beach Concours, and Charley Ross is easily the best auctioneer in the business, the Gooding wins our loyalty.

Gooding's Ferris Bueller Ferrari

Gooding & Co. offered an example of one of the most sought-after open Ferraris, the 250 GT Short Wheelbase (SWB) California Spider that was immortalized (and wrecked) in the teen-rebellion comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not to worry. The one in the movie was a fake.

Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 Special

There was considerable debate as to whether this 1966 Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Special, coachwork by Drogo, and consensus selection for “worlds ugliest Ferrari” would meet expectations that had Gooding estimating its value at between $400,000 and $600,000.

Ferrari SWB Berlinetta at Gooding

Successful precursor to the Ferrari 250 GTO, the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta (Italian for “little sedan”) is the next most sought-after Ferrari Coupe. Gooding declined to list an estimate range for this car.

Unrestored Duesenberg With Dash Inset

Fewer than 1,000 Duesenberg Models J, SJ and JN were made. Most of those still working have been restored at one time or another, but this Murphy-bodied J Convertible Sedan is, in the collector-car vernacular, “unmolested.” The cliché is “A car is only original once,” and Gooding estimated that meant it would bring between $1,350,000 and $1,750,000.

Silver 289 Cobra

Unlike the Duesenberg above, while the patina on this 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra CSX2567 is well-earned, you would never accuse the car of being “unmolested.” The original owner is unknown, and it has been modified for racing. So while a more original Cobra with better provenance might expect to bring up to a million and a half, this one was estimated to bring about half that.

CSX 2005 In McCluskey's Shop

The Gooding people though Mike McCluskey’s reputation for expert work on Cobras would boost the value of this, the 5th production Cobra, CSX2005,  and they mention it in their catalog. Here it is in his shop ready for trimming out a month or so before the 50th Anniversary tribute at the NHRA museum in Pomona back in 2012. It bears a “T” for “Training” instead of a race number because it was used in the Shelby School of Performance Driving. It also appeared in a couple of movies. Gooding thought that history would help it sell for over $2,000,000.

Other Interesting Consignments

There were hundreds of cars being offered at all those auctions, but the one I was looking forward to was a car at RM that had been on display at the Petersen Museum up until about a week before. Displayed with a couple of others previously owned by Steve McQueen, it’s a Ferrari 275GTB/4.

McQueen 275 GTB4

I admit that curiosity over the “McQueen Bump” had me awaiting bids on the Ferrari 275GTB/4 he once owned. This car was briefly displayed with others from his collection at the Petersen. At least five other 275 GTBs were on the block in Monterey so we’ll see how much that “bump” is worth now.

That takes care of Friday. The Concorso Italiano was Saturday this year, so we’ll have our report on that event in the next issue – along with Saturday’s auction results. Stay tuned.

Carma is a publication of
The OM Dude Press
a service of
Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

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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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