HomeThe MarketCollegiate Duesenberg tops RM Sotheby’s Motor City sale

Collegiate Duesenberg tops RM Sotheby’s Motor City sale


College gets $1.54 million from sale of Duesenberg | RM Sotheby's photos by Darin Schnabel
College gets $1.54 million from sale of Duesenberg | RM Sotheby’s photos by Darin Schnabel

With 80 percent of the lots selling, RM Sotheby’s annual Motor City auction, held Sunday in conjunction with the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan, posted sales of $6.4 million Saturday.

The top sale was a 1929 Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top” convertible coupe with Murphy bodywork that sold for $1.54 million to benefit Hillsdale College, a fiercely independent and highly regarded liberal arts school in southern Michigan.

Unlike so many other top-end sales, the Motor City auction is not dominated by Ferraris and the like. The highest-selling cars, all domestic, were the Duesie, a Saleen S7, a pair of classic Packards and a rare Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow.

Held at the Inn at St. John’s, the site of the concours, the auction focuses on classic American vehicles, many produced nearby in the Detroit area.

The auction drew bidders from 35 states and nine countries.

“Our Motor City auction continues to be a very consistent venue and provides a fantastic and fitting backdrop to celebrate America’s rich automotive history,” Gord Duff, RM Sotheby’s car specialist, said in a news release.

“We were delighted to offer such great vehicles as the Duesenberg Model J and the Cord L-29 as part of this year’s lineup; their solid results reflect a continued healthy appetite for quality American Classics.

Saleen S7 sold with only 300 miles on its odometer
Saleen S7 sold with only 300 miles on its odometer

“The Duesenberg Model J sale was a particular highlight – it was great to be able to support the fundraising efforts of Hillsdale College with such a strong result, and to see the car go to a great new home.”

Though perhaps not a vintage American “classic,” the 2006 Saleen S7 that brought $632,500 was one of only 13 with twin-turbocharged engines and is among the lowest-mileage examples with only 300 miles on its odometer.

Other highlights include the 1930 Cord L-29 cabriolet being offered for the first time since its consignor purchased the car in 1946; the 1934 Silver Arrow, the first produced and one of only five known to still exist; and the 1955 Jaguar XK140 MC drophead coupe that sold for $187,000, well above its pre-auction estimate of $100,000 to $140,000.

In addition to the vehicles, the auction included three “experience” packages — a Ron Fellows Performance Driving School package, a runway-side visit to New York Fashion Week and a trip to Super Bowl IL. Together, those packages raised $23,575 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Top 10 sales, RM Sotheby’s Motor City auction 2016

  1. 1929 Duesenberg Model J “Disappearing Top” Convertible Coupe, $1,540,000
  2. 2006 Saleen S7, $632,500
  3. 1933 Packard Twelve coupe roadster, $365,000
  4. 1938 Packard Twelve coupe roadster, $330,000
  5. 1934 Pierce-Arrow Eight Silver Arrow, $242,000
    1930 Cord L-29 cabriolet, $187,000
  6. 1955 Jaguar XK 140 MC drophead coupe, $187,000
  7. 1960 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE cabriolet, $165,000
  8. 1965 Jaguar E-type Series 1 4.2-Litre roadster, $159,500
  9. 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, $154,000

(Prices include buyer’s premium.)


A 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta was a no-sale after being bid to $600,000 and a 2006 Heritage Edition Ford GT got to $345,000 but was still short of the seller’s reserve price.

RM Sotheby’s next event is its annual Monterey sale, August 19-20 in northern California, where the docket will include more than 100 vehicles including the 1956 Le Mans-winning Jaguar D-type, the first Shelby Cobra, the first Alfa 2.9 to be offered at auction this century, and many other stellar offerings.

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.

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