HomeThe MarketRM Sotheby's New York sale could be disruptive indeed

RM Sotheby’s New York sale could be disruptive indeed


Seek provenance? Fangio, Hill, vo Trips and others raced in this Ferrari | all photos courtesy RM Sotheby’s, this one by Tim Scott

We expect to see the full fruits of the business partnership between RM and Sotheby’s when they stage the “Driven by Disruption” auction December 10 in Sotheby’s showroom on York Avenue, between 71st and 72nd streets and between Central Park and the East River in New York City.

RM last ventured to the Big Apple in the fall of 2013, when its “Art of the Automobile” sale, also held at Sotheby’s, generated $63 million from the sale of 28 cars, two motorcycles and a 19th century horse-drawn coach.

Janis Joplin’s Porsche | photo by Darin Schnabel

Earlier this year, Sotheby’s purchased a 25 percent stake in RM and now, some nine months later, the partnership figures to demonstrate its strengths with a sale that very well could be disruptive to the classic car auction industry with the potential of more than $100 million in sales in a single evening.

Alain Squindo, an RM veteran and vice-president of RM Sotheby’s, said the partnership already has provided “tremendous” benefits.

“By the summer auctions, their (Sotheby’s) involvement was extraordinary,” he said. “We have 25 specialists (more than any classic car auction company, he added). They have 40 separate departments and many more people, and now they are showing cars to their clients (as well as art and other collectibles).”

Squindo said that while day-to-day operations at RM’s offices in Ontario have not changed, the classic car auction company has benefited from “exciting new friends and colleagues we visit from time to time” seeking creative input and a widening horizon of potential clients.

And the partnership seems to be working both ways. The Driven by Disruption auction originally was scheduled for the third week in November but was moved to December 10 in part to take avoid conflict with a major art sale added to Sotheby’s calendar but also to take advantage of two other auctions Sotheby’s has scheduled next week — Magnificent Jewels on December 9 and Important Watches on December 10. Both those sales start at 10 a.m. The Disruption sale begins at 7 p.m. on the 10th.

But instead of the usual one- or two-day preview, Disruption’s pre-bidding showcase will be a six-day event, starting Saturday morning, December 5.

“We wanted to be open for the weekend before the sale,” Squindo said, “to allow people to come when they’re not at work.”

Zagats-Bodied Aston martin DB4 | photo by Patrick Emzen

What those people will see also figures to be disruptive, from the 250-page auction catalog with its eclectic design style to a preview with each car to be displayed in a unique but appropriate setting, from urban to elegant, cowboy to psychedelic, art deco to futuristic fantasy.

Oh, and that’s just the cars. The sale also included automobilia selected to appeal not only to long-time car collectors but to art collectors as well. There are Chevrolet cutaway engine displays formerly used at auto shows as well as artwork — albeit automotive-oriented artwork — valued at more than $125,000.

But the stars are the cars, and with room for only 31 vehicles and with higher overhead costs because of the NYC location, RM Sotheby’s has had to be very selective in what it offers at the auction. The result is a magnificent collection of 31 vehicles, a virtual indoor concours of cars with proper provenance and wonderful whimsy.


‘Sportabteilung’ 300SL ‘gullwing’ | photo by Remi Dagegen
  • The 1956 Ferrari 250 MM built for Juan Manuel Fangio to drive in the 1956 Mille Miglia, where he drove without relief and through a rainstorm to finish fourth overall. Later, Phil Hill, Masten Gregory, Wolgang von Trips, Peter Collins and others raced the car which despite all that time on the tracks never crashed and remains in basically original condition, including its Argentine color scheme (pre-auction estimated value: $25 million to $32 million).
  • The last of the 14 aluminum-bodied 1962 Aston Martin DB4 coupes, and this one with coachwork by Zagato, and the only car of the breed sold in Australia, where it won the South Pacific GT racing championship (pre-auction estimated value: $15 million to $17 million).
  • One of four “Sportabteilung” 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “gullwing” coupes, the first of four factory-upgraded competition cars with a history that includes Stirling Moss at its wheel (pre-auction estimated value: $5 million to $7 million).
  • The last of the 32 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante coupes was one of only a dozen with aluminum bodies, and this one was unveiled at the French Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The car was owned by Macy’s heir John Straus, who stored it away for decades until it was barn-found in 2007 (pre-auction estimated value: $2.2 million to $2.5 million).
  • One of five 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrows — and one of only three that survive — and this one, the third built, was displayed at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and formerly owned by legendary car collectors D. Cameron Peck and Henry Austin Clark Jr. (pre-auction estimated value: $2.5 million to $3 million).


And those are only a few examples.


Roy Rogers’ ‘Nudie’ | photo by Nathan Leach-Proffer

OK, imagine an entertainment event that puts Janis Joplin, Roy Rogers and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the same stage. Never happened, but cars they owned will be included in the disruptive sale:

  • Joplin’s famous and psychedelically painted 1964 Porsche 356 C 1600 SC Cabriolet by Reutter has been owned by the singer, who used it as her daily driver, or her family since new and has been on display for 20 years at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (pre-auction estimated value: $400,000 to $600,000).
  • Don’t get the wrong idea when you hear about Roy Rogers’ 1963 Pontiac Bonneville “Nudie Mobile,” which is being offered for sale after 45 years in the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum. The car takes its name from Nudie Cohn, who became well-known as the tailor to various country music singers and who also created a series of 18 customized vehicles for his customers (pre-auction estimated value: $250,000 to $350,000).
  • Boxing champion Mayweather Jr. is known for his flamboyant lifestyle and collection of outrageous cars. Going up for bids in NYC is a 2003 Ferrari Enzo original sold in Abu Dhabi but purchased in 2014 by Mayweather, who reportedly added only 200 miles to an odometer that shows less than 600 miles traveled since new (pre-auction estimated value: $3 million to $3.5 million).

    Mayweather’s Enzo | photo by Patrick Emzen


The average pre-auction value of the 31 cars on the docket is nearly $3 million. Yes, that figure is skewed by the pair of eight-figure cars. Nonetheless, the median pre-sale estimated value is still an amazing $1 million.

“We do so many auctions, our goal is to be creative and fresh,” Squindo said.

And, it seems, disruptive.

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. Gee, “disruptive”, really? Why not some other nerd-trying-to-be-hip words like “authentic” or “cool”? Give me a break: these people have done more to destroy the car culture as we knew it than any government agency could pray to do. We’ll never have another generation of car kids become car women and men when all the really nice cars cost so much damn money they’re never seen on a road again, and THAT’S where these people are taking us…

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