HomeThe MarketClassically futuristic, modern fashion are keynote cars for RM Sotheby's Arizona sale

Classically futuristic, modern fashion are keynote cars for RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale


One-off Ralph Roberts' Chrysler CG Imperial heading to auction | RM Sotheby's photo by Erik Fuller
One-off Ralph Roberts’ Chrysler CG Imperial heading to auction | RM Sotheby’s photo by Erik Fuller

A futuristic American classic and perhaps the ultimate in modern automotive fashion highlight the docket for RM Sotheby’s 18th annual Arizona Auction, scheduled for January 19-20 at the Arizona Biltmore resort.

The futuristic American classic is the one-off 1933 Chrysler CL Imperial dual-windshield phaeton that was designed and driven by Ralph Roberts, whose work at Briggs and Le Baron included the design of vehicles for Lincoln, Chrysler and other luxury automakers.

How's this for fashionable? Tommy Hilfiger's own Enzo Ferrari | photo by Ryan Merrill
How’s this for fashionable? Tommy Hilfiger’s own Enzo Ferrari | RM Sotheby’s photo by Ryan Merrill

Perhaps the ultimate in modern automotive fashion would be the 2003 Enzo Ferrari owned since new by clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger.

“When it comes to American Classics, the one-off 1933 Chrysler CL Imperial Dual-Windshield Phaeton set for RM’s Arizona sale is groundbreaking in design,” RM Sotheby’s noted in its news release. “Believed to be the last example completed, chassis no. 7803657 was the stunning personal car of LeBaron’s renowned automotive designer Ralph Roberts.

“More than just a custom creation, it is an important design statement — a reflection of Roberts’ forward-thinking genius and his ideas and philosophies about what a modern automobile should be. From its low-mounted headlamps to its extended fender line, aerodynamic rear fender skirts and dual rear-mounted spares, such styling cues were ahead of their time, and their influence can be clearly seen on the Chrysler Airflow and Airstream models that followed.

“Further differentiating 7803657 from its peers, it was the only CL Imperial Dual-Windshield Phaeton to have its radiator shell painted as opposed to chromed, along with its headlights and horns, a very unorthodox idea in 1933.”

The auction house noted that Roberts’ Chrysler has been part of the Otis Chandler and Milhous collections, won best of show at the Concours of America and best in class at Pebble Beach.

CG Imperial has been best of show at a major concours | RM Sotheby's photo by Erik Fuller
CG Imperial has been best of show at a major concours | RM Sotheby’s photo by Erik Fuller

“The importance of this Chrysler CL Imperial cannot be overstated,” RM Sotheby’s car specialist Gord Duff is quoted in the news release. “It is, by far, one of the most significant Chryslers ever built, and arguably one of the best-looking American Classics.

“Then comes its incredible provenance: not only was it a designer’s personal car, but past ownership by some of the hobby’s top collectors reinforce its importance and value in collector car circles.”

RM Sotheby’s had set a pre-auction estimated value of $1.4 million to $1.8 million on the car.

As historically important at the Roberts’ Chrysler may be, its value in dollars pales compared with that of the Hilfiger Ferrari, which in the current collector car market has a pre-sale estimate of $2.7 million to $3 million.

“Designed by Pininfarina, the Enzo was a drastic departure from the cars that came before,” the auction house noted. “From nose to tail, form was secondary to function providing for an unrivaled driving experience. Gone was the massive rear wing that defined both the F40 and F50, replaced by a small speed-activated spoiler at the rear, while the protruding nose was a styling cue taken from Ferrari’s contemporary Formula One cars to highlight its use of race-inspired technology.”

Owned since new by Hilfiger, the Enzo has been driven less than 4,000 miles.

Rare black-colored F50 | RM Sotheby's photo by Drew Shipley
Rare black-colored F50 | RM Sotheby’s photo by Drew Shipley

But even the Hilfiger Ferrari’s value is exceeded by the pre-sale expectations for a 1995 Ferrari F50 on the Arizona Auction docket. Not only a low-mileage example driven only 2,000 miles since new, the car is one of the few done in black. Its pre-sale estimated value is $3 million to $3.5 million in the current collector car marketplace.

Also on the docket are a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 cabriolet with coachwork by Letourneur et Marchand ($1.25 million to $1.5 million) and a succession of more recent collector cars, including a 1985 Ferrari Testarossa, 1990 Mercedes-Benz Cosworth 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (which RM Sotheby’s noted is the first of its breed to be offered for public sale in North America), and a 12,150-mile 1997 Porsche 911 Turbo S in yellow over black.

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.

Recent Posts