Gooding & Company has brought another primo squad of collector cars for its Amelia Island auction, highlighted by great European sports cars that include a heathy dose of Porsches. With the soaring popularity of Porsches of every ilk, Gooding has populated its sale with 25 of them, more than a quarter of the total offerings and most of them exceptional examples.
Those of us bitten by the Porsche bug might wonder whether all these cars coming to auction during the past few years – all the other sales on Amelia Island this week also have strong contingents of them – will dilute the classic brand and cause values to fade. Hasn’t happened yet and unlikely to happen anytime soon, although it seems that every time I turned a corner at an auction preview, I encountered some kind of Porsche.
Gooding has touched all the bases at Amelia, though, with fascinating cars from England, Italy, even Spain, among the ones shown during the preview of the auction, which takes place today at the scenic Omni Plantation Resort. Vintage American cars are decently represented, notably a couple of cool woodie wagons, a wood-bodied Chrysler Town and Country and a classic 1934 Packard Eight 1101 convertible sedan.
But more than anything, Gooding is about rare sports cars from Europe, and my favorites are mainly them. Despite my Porsche tendencies, I kept those to a minimum.
1957 Jaguar XKSS Loaded with character and charisma, the unmitigated star of the Gooding auction is one of the 16 roadsters built at Brown’s Lane from leftover D-type race cars. Rarely seen at auction, this is a highly original beauty with just the right level of patina that is about perfect. That is, aside from its multi-million-dollar estimated value that keeps it way out of reach for most of us.
1947 Cisitalia 202 SC cabriolet I so much love the looks of this car, which to my eye perfectly encapsulates the essence of postwar European styling. I’m not alone, since it was featured at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1951. This was the first road-going model from the company founded by an Italian soccer star and racing hero, and it has been faithfully restored to showcase its elegant simplicity.
1962 Porsche 356 Carrera 2 coupe What looks at first glimpse to be just another very pretty 356 is actually a legendary Carrera powered by Porsche’s highest development of its flat-four engine, the iconic four-cam. It was a wildly complex solution for wringing more power out of the little air-cooled mill, but these cars will go like stink when they are properly set up. The Amelia Island Concours honors Porsche four-cam competition cars this year, and this is one of two Carrera 356 coupes – the other is a 1964 – at Gooding.
1942 Buick Special Series 40B estate wagon Woodie wagons are always super cool, and not just for surfers. This Buick version, one of the last built before the U.S. entered the war, was reputedly conscripted by the military for use as a staff car. The luxurious Buick’s styling, new for 1942, was inspired by Harley Earl’s famous Buick Y-Job, considered to be the first purpose-built concept car. So there is much to like about this striking classic.
1950 Volkswagen Beetle In 1950, few Americans were familiar yet with the simple little German car that would eventually take the world by storm. This is a truly wonderful example of a very early Beetle (never an unofficial name for the rear-engine car) that graphically shows the original intent of Ferdinand Porsche’s design for the people’s car. The 1,131cc air-cooled flat four may have produced just 25 horsepower, but the VW’s charm is limitless.
1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America Another star of the Gooding auction is one of the most beautiful roadsters ever produced. It’s also a piece of brilliant engineering, highlighted by the first successful production V6. The styling by Pinin Farina is a great example of the master’s handiwork. Just 181 left-hand-drive versions were built, which is why there is an S after the B24, for sinistra, the Italian word for left.
1955 Pegaso Typo Z-102B The flamboyant designs of Saoutchik are usually polarizing, and in my case, I can’t decide whether this car looks splendid or awkward. Made in Spain for a short time by a heavy-truck manufacturer, Pegasos are exquisite creations that were complex mechanically, extremely expensive in their day, and bodied by a number of different acclaimed designers. This is one of eight styled by Saoutchik. Whether I love it or not, I definitely find it fascinating.
1967 Maserati Mistral 400 Spider Gooding seems particularly adept at attracting interesting “barn finds” that appear at auction covered in crud. This lovely convertible, designed by the great Giovanni Michelotti, was dragged out from wherever it had been abandoned and is presented in “as found” condition. It’s also a very original and compete car that Gooding calls “an ideal candidate for a concours-quality restoration.” A very expensive proposition, but the Mistral Spider would be well worth it. Anyway, it’s fun to see these musty survivors come up for sale.
1993 Porsche 964 Turbo S Leightbau A young guy working at Gooding, who was a winner of an RPM grant to study automotive restoration at Pennsylvania College of Technology, called my attention to this spectacular example of Porsche performance engineering that I had mindlessly wandered past. Porsche’s first lightweight turbocharged production car, it was hand-built by the automaker’s motorsports experts. This one-owner 964 has gone just 1,400 miles. Which always begs the question, how can you own a car like this and not drive the hell out of it? Whatever, it’s now insanely valuable.
1967 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 The Italian bull’s second model, an evolution of the original V12-powered car that industrialist Federico Lamborghini created to show Ferrari how such a machine should be built, the long and luscious 400 GT is stunningly beautiful and very powerful. As an added attraction, this Lambo was once owned and enjoyed by the wonderful journalist, author, museum curator and all-around great guy Ken Gross.