Let’s have some fun with numbers (Gooding & Co. certainly did in 2013):
Now for the fun…
The 10 is here because 2013 marked a decade in business for the classic car auction company started by David Gooding, who grew up in one of the country’s best collections — his father was the curator at the National Automobile Museum (nee Harrah’s) — and David took his lifelong knowledge of classic cars with him to Christie’s and RM before launching on his own.
That 192.6 million is the dollar value of the 286 classic vehicles sold in 2013 at Gooding & Co.’s three auctions. Fifty of those vehicles sold for $1 million or more.
Yes, the fact that the average sale at a Gooding & Co. auction was $673,686 is quite impressive. But even more impressive to my way of thinking is the fact that 95 percent of all vehicles offered at those sales actually were sold.
“We love that number,” said Garth Hammers, one of the car specialists at Gooding. “We put a lot of work into that. We accept cars very carefully. It has to be the right car, the finest example we can find. It has to be priced competitively, and it has to be something people are looking for.”
Consider that the vast majority of vehicles sold at Gooding & Co. auctions carry significant reserve prices. Auction houses work with consignors to set those reserves. Set them too low and consignors go home discouraged they didn’t get what their cars were really worth. Set them too high and both bidders and consignors are discouraged, bidders because they couldn’t buy the car and consignors because the car didn’t sell.
But consign the right cars and know your customers — both sellers and buyers — and cars sell for the right price and everyone goes home happy.
Note that while other auction houses are adding events, Gooding has kept its calendar to three sales — Arizona, Amelia Island and Pebble Beach.
“The sales roster that we have allows us to focus on customer service and being able to hand choose every car that goes into each of the sales,” Hammers said.
The limited schedule allows Gooding & Co. specialists and other staffers to spend time searching for those best-example cars and to work on important but less publicized parts of the business — brokering private (non-auction) sales and helping car-collecting clients with estate planning.
Gooding opens its second decade with its annual January sale in Arizona, where it sets up shop in a couple of big tents next in the parking lot next to the Dillard’s department store at the high-end Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping mall.
The catalog for the auction includes 118 lots, and 20 of them are vehicles wearing the three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz.
“Once we saw it coming together and that we were moving in that direction, we thought it would be interesting to pull in a lot of different models from Mercedes-Benz,” Hammers said. “Historically, they sell very well. Mercedes has had so many timely designs and their engineering is beyond reproach.”
He added that classic Mercedes, even those just being “awakened from a sometimes long slumber” are capable and reliable drivers, whether on classic tours or in everyday traffic.
One reason for that, he said, was the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, a Mercedes-owned parts and restoration shop in Irvine, Calif., that has become something of a one-stop shop for keeping vintage Mercedes on the road and running and looking good.
Among the Mercedes being offered at Gooding’s Arizona sale are a pair of 1956 300SL gullwings that may share their red interior and black body colors, histories of nearly 50 years of single-family ownership, and even their estimated values, but otherwise are very different.
One, valued at $1.35-$1.7 million, was owned by a single family for nearly 50 years, but sold in 2006 and a year later underwent a concours-quality restoration at RM Auto Restorations. The car was sold again in 2011 and won best-in-class honors at the San Marino, Calif., concours.
The other, with an estimated value of $1.1-$1.4 million, is offered in original condition. The car was put into storage in the 1970s and only recently has been rediscovered.
“They are priced somewhat similarly but are probably for vastly different customers,” Hammers said. “One car has been off the road for decades. It has its original interior, but the leather has splits in it. The headliner is threadbare. But it’s wonderfully original.
“The other has been restored to an extremely high standard and is as comfortable on the road as it is on the show field.”
But the Arizona auction isn’t just a Mercedes-Benz showcase, Hammers said, pointing out cars such:
- the 1929 Duesenberg Model J dual-cowl phaeton originally owned by one of the Dodge brothers and the 2010 best-in-show winner at the Meadow Brook concours;
- the 1997 McLaren F1 GTR “longtail” FIA GT racer (see photo below);
- a 1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica, one of 16 and “likely the last one that’s unrestored”;
- a 1986 Ferrari 280 GTO that not only has been “federalized,” but is “California-legal”;
- a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Series 1 cabriolet.
And while those are expected to be seven-figure vehicles, the catalog includes several other less-expensive gems, Hammer said, including a pair of 1956 Austin-Healey 100Ms, a 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal and for the first time ever at a Gooding auction, a 1954 Hudson Italia.
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