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Top 10 classic car auction highlights of 2013


Photo courtesy Mecum Auctions

Soon, we’ll start previewing the upcoming Arizona Auction Week events and the highlights of consignments at the various venues. But before we look ahead to 2014, we need to check the rearview mirrors and do a little review of the classic car auction year 2013.

We’re limiting this top-10 list to auctions held in North America, so don’t expect to read about the all-time at-auction sales record for a single classic vehicle — the $29.65 million and change someone spent at a Bonhams auction in England this year to buy one of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196Rs that Juan Manuel Fangio drove to his second World Driving Championship.

Actually, I guess you just read about it. Oh well, on with our top-10 auction highlights for 2013:

10. RM does a one-day sale of much of the collection of Texas auto dealer Dan Davis. The sale realizes $21.2 million, including a record $1 million for a Japanese car, albeit a true classic Japanese sports car, one from the few dozen 1967 Toyota 2000GTs exported to the U.S. market.

9. One of 20 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 convertibles sells for $3.2 million at Dana Mecum’s auction in Dallas. Provenance matters, the Corvette came with the time slip from its sprint to the NHRA A/Sports national championship.

8. There were new players in the auction scene and some familiar faces were playing in new places. Consider: RK Motors staged its first two auctions, including one with a remote bidding parlor in Abu Dhabi; Motostalgia did its first auction; Barrett-Jackson added Hot August Nights in Reno; Russo and Steele added Newport Beach and Las Vegas to its travel itinerary; the tiny town of Nocoma, Texas, rekindled its automotive history with a Vicari auction and big cruise-in; and Auctions America visited California (more on that in a moment).

7. An amazing amount of money was left on the table as consignors refused to relent on their reserve prices, even in the face of million-plus bids. For example, at Amelia Island, consignors convinced their cars were worth even more declined bids totaling some $6.5 million. It also happened in Arizona and elsewhere and shows just how strong the classic car marketplace was this year.

6. The famed Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles sold off several dozen cars at auctions in 2013 (including the Auctions America event at nearby Burbank) and some people were in an uproar because they didn’t understand that museums sell parts of their collections from time to time and that most of what the Petersen sold wasn’t really part of its “collection” but just cars that had been donated to the museum, were taking up space in its parking garage, and in many cases weren’t worth the cost of restoration.

5. The auction year opened in Arizona, where sales exceeded $200 million for the first time where two Ferraris sold for more than $8 million each (at Gooding and RM) and where the original Batmobile brought a lot of excitement and $4.62 million at Barrett-Jackson.

4. Monterey saw Arizona’s $230 million and raised to more than $300 million during its auction week, which included a North American auction-record $27.5 million price for one of the 10 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spyders at RM’s sale.

3. RM and Sotheby’s set out to convince New York City fine art collectors that classic cars were, indeed, fine art. The result: some $63 million in sales during a two-hour auction.

2. This one may surprise you, because we rank the highly publicized and nationally televised VanDerBrink auction out in a farmer’s field in Nebraska of leftovers from the Lambrecht Chevrolet dealership No. 2 on our top-10 list.  So what’s No. 1?

Photo © Darin Schnabel / Courtesy of RM Auctions
Photo © Darin Schnabel / Courtesy of RM Auctions

1. The Lambrecht sale may have been a big deal with the general public, but within the classic car community, tiny cars were the big thing back in February when the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Georgia sold off its collection at an RM event and proved that big fun does come in small packages.


Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Yes, Emmitt, there are legit Japanese classics: Not only the 2000GT, but early 240Z, Supras, and watch the blog for Monday to see yet another future classic from across the Pacific.

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