Our resident auction analyst provides perspective on what transpired during Monterey Car Week bidding
Monterey is finally behind us and that long and amazing week of car fanatic “summer camp” has left us with a good idea as to what is happening in the collector car market. The reason that Monterey is such a market-making week is the sheer number of auctions — six of them — and the number of cars offered — 1,277 — that provide us with genuine comps for realized prices, always helpful for weeding out prices that are one-time anomalies.
Let’s start with the winners for the week. As always, the big winners were any seriously significant cars with tremendous history — think the Aston Martin DBR1 at RM Sotheby’s, Jaguar E-type Lightweight at Bonhams and Porsche 917 at Gooding & Company. These are fabled cars that are as important as it gets, and cars in this category are quite likely to never have a market correction.
There will always be more buyers for these cars than sellers due to their rarity, transcending to more of historical artifacts than merely cars.
My favorite of the many cars of this type offered happened to be one of the least expensive. It was the 1953 Cunningham C3 at RM Sotheby’s that was Briggs Cunningham’s personal car. To me, it was a steal (relatively speaking) at only $1.1 million. I am happy to say that the Cunningham was purchased by a true enthusiast who will use it as well as preserve it in the condition it deserves.
The next winning category of the week were cars from the 1980s and ’90s. These cars were very desirable, and a great example of this category was the fantastic collection of Group B racers offered at Bonhams. All sold for very strong money and are likely to hold their values in the future.
A third winning group was any exemplary example of the common car. These were either perfect restorations or super-low mileage and all-original cars with complete documentation. Two that come to mind were the 3,192-original mile 1975 Porsche 914 1.8 at RM Sotheby’s that sold for a mind-boggling $93,500 and the super-low-mileage, all-original 1987 Porsche 944 that sold for $51,700 at Worldwide Auctioneers.
Other cars in this category were the No. 1 condition 1964 Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider selling at Gooding for $308,000 and the 1989 Mercedes 560SL that sold at Bonhams for $66,000.
Each of these cars were basically standard production cars of the period and generally can be purchased for much less than these special examples. But when the cars are all original or in perfect conditions, there are multiple buyers ready to bid, and push up the prices.
Of all the surprises of the week, the completely out-of-left-field winners were a pair of fiberglass-bodied cars built in South Bend, Indiana: the 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2s that sold for $90,000 and $115,000, both at Mecum Auctions. I have always had a soft spot for these cars and an R2 is much rarer than a standard Avanti. These Studenbakers are finally moving up in value and it is not likely to be long until the standard R1 cars are dragged up as well. Basically, if you have wanted an Avanti, buy it now or regret it later.
The last standout for me is another fiberglass car, the Chevrolet Corvette. Any rare-optioned Corvette that was either well-restored or preserved commanded serious money.
Two great examples were the 1962 fuel-Injected, big-brake tanker Vette at Gooding that sold for a strong $352,000, and the 1963 Corvette split-window fuelie tanker that brought $310,000 at Bonhams. Both of these cars were magnificent, as good as it gets, and commanded serious money. I feel that this is a trend that will continue.
Looking for such a Corvette? Buy it soon before the prices rise on even less spectacularly optioned cars.
Among second-tier models, many have either dropped or flattened in value. These include the 1973 Porsche Carrera RS, the Ferrari 365 GTC/4, other long-hood Porsche 911 cars, Mercedes W113 Pagoda SL cars, and a lot of Healey 3000s. They built a load of these cars and the days when they set auction records over and over are themselves likely over.
On the same token, the absolute finest examples of these cars are not likely to drop any more than they already have. However, the days of a No. 3 condition “hang-around-brown” Porsche 911S car selling for $250,000 are behind us — thankfully.
Why do I say thankfully? Because at Monterey we saw a mature and thoughtful market with people paying reasonable and market-correct prices for collector cars, much like they did in 2005. That stable market led to a healthy car hobby that grew at a good pace. I feel that reasonably priced standard cars and special cars setting records is the way to ensure that our hobby continues to grow and expand.
It is a buyer’s market.
To conclude, I want to share two final cars.
The first is what I consider the best buy witnessed at Monterey. That was the amazingly restored 1962 Lotus Elite Series II Super 95 at Bonhams that sold for only $79,200. It was a steal for a car of importance in the world of sports cars that is just starting to be understood by collectors.
The second is the are-you-kidding-me buy of the week — the incredibly minuscule 1964 Peel P50 that sold at RM Sotheby’s for a staggering $140,250. This is the craziest purchase I have seen in years, and I am sure everyone in the room is thankful for the entertainment that lot provided while on the block.
Once again, Monterey Car Week was an unmatchable experience, with auctions, concours, rallies, vintage racing and so much more, truly one of the seven wonders of the automobile world. And the place that sets the tone for the collector car marketplace for at least the next four months, until the January auctions in Arizona.4 comments