Icons auction had numbers, but lacked energy

This time, New York proves a tough audience for collector car sale

On Wednesday, RM Sotheby’s held its third New York City auction, this one entitled “Icons,” on the 10th floor of the Sotheby’s showroom in Manhattan.

As many people have commented, the Icons were not quite as spectacular as the cars offered at the similar sale in 2015, yet there certainly was nothing shabby about vehicles such as a Phil Hill-raced 1952 Jaguar C-type that sold for a very fair $5,285,000, or the top sale of the evening, the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione that finished third in class at Le Mans in 1959 and brought a handsome $17,990,000 at the auction.

As usual, the presentation of the cars was a museum-like setting, very elegant.

Sotheby's Icons auction had numbers, but lacked energy | ClassicCars

The Spider previewed in museum-style setting

There were a number of other important cars among the Icons, including the stunning 1952 Chrysler D’Elegance by Ghia, which sold for $885,000; the breathtaking 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Volante that sold for a record price of $2,700,000; and the 2018 Bugatti Chiron, which sold for $3,772,500, a record price for a modern Bugatti at auction.

All of these fine automobiles are all truly rare and iconic and they performed very well on the auction block.

Where the auction was a bit lacking was with some of the other cars offered. The ones that come to mind are the 1966 Porsche 911 that was a no-sale at $200,000, the 1973 DeTomaso Pantera L that sold for a strong $145,600, and the 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS with “chairs and flares” that was a no-sale at $480,000. These are all nice cars but a bit lower end than we have seen in years past in New York.

The other very noticeable thing at the Sotheby’s Icons sale was a lack of energy in the auction room. The Icons auction was basically all business with little to no banter or conversation from the auction block. I know that RM Sotheby’s have been trying to fill the shoes left by Max Girardo, an auctioneer who was terrific at the entertainment piece that is important to a collector car auction, but there is still a ways to go.

Inviting more commentary from color commentator Alain Squindo would have livened up the room some. He is excellent at discussing the cars and added what he could to bring up the energy in the room. RM Sotheby’s might be wise to take a page out of its own past auctions book and work on improving the elements of dialogue between the auctioneer, the color person and, most importantly, the audience.

Had this been the case, there may have been fewer no-sales and likely even more record prices.

My favorite car of the sale, and the one I am calling out as the great buy of the evening, was the gold-plated and mink seat-covered 1956 Austin Healey 100-6 created for the 1956 Earls Court Motor Show. This car, named Goldie, is an important part of Austin Healey history and sold for a very fair $179,200.

Sotheby's Icons auction had numbers, but lacked energy | ClassicCars

‘Goldie’ on the block

With all that being said, this auction was definitely a success with a total of $45.5 million in sales for the 3-hour auction.

But the New York audience is a tough one for collector car auctions. It will be interesting to see what might have changed when RM Sotheby’s is likely to be back in the Big Apple in two years’ time.

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