The most successful automotive collector auction in history
By Jack Martin
May 3, 2010
RM Auctions’ inaugural Sporting Classics of Monaco event held on Saturday leaves little doubt that fine automobiles can be a rapidly appreciating investment. The average price achieved by the 88 cars which crossed the block was in excess of US$500,000 while the highest price fetched was EUR2,800,000 (US$3,799,600) for a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB (pictured top right). Some remarkable cars were sold on the day, including (pictured clockwise from bottom right) one of the world’s most significant pre-war sports racing cars, the 1937 BMW 328 MM ‘Buegelfalte’ (undisclosed but believed to be in excess of US$6 million), a handmade Rolls Royce which was the most expensive car made in the world in 1933 (US$1,975,792) and a Maserati Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’ (US$3,343,648).
With 105 pre- and post-war motor cars of the highest calibre on offer, it's not surprising that RM attracted a well-heeled clientele to the Grimaldi Forum on May 1. Registered bidders, 28 percent of whom were new to RM's books, came from 33 different countries and those who couldn't make it to the standing-room-only venue in the world's most upmarket tax haven, were able to bid via telephone or over the Internet - 3,300 people watched the live streaming video coverage of the sale over the Internet.
After 88 of the 105 vehicles were sold, giving an 86 per cent sell-through rate, the Sporting Classics of Monaco event had seen five automobiles fetch prices in excess of EUR2,000,000, two world records and EUR33,235,917 (US$45,101,139) in total sales, matching RM's previous record for the highest dollar single-day collector car auction in history, set in an auction held at the Ferrari factory in Maranello in May 2007.
The sale’s cover car, the 1937 BMW 328 MM "Buegelfalte," was passed in and changed hands less than 24 hours later for a confidential sum and was not included in the final sale results. Some indication of the price can be had from the bidding for the Buegelfalte, which reached a high bid of EUR4,300,000 (US$5,835,100) before being passed in. So the final price is most likely in excess of US$6 million and its addition to the final auction results would hence produce the most successful collector auction in history.
Some of the other lots surpassing the two million euro mark include a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta (EUR 2,632,000 – US$3,571,624), the ex-Harrah 1957 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Tour de France (EUR2,352,000 - US$3,191,664) and a beautiful 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder (EUR 2,072,000 - US$2,811,704)
Other notable auction results included a stunning 1938 Delahaye 135 MS Competition Cabriolet (EUR1,792,000 – US$2,431,744), a significant 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II “Special Town Car” by Brewster (EUR1,456,000 – US$1,975,792), a rare alloy-bodied 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Berlinetta (EUR784,000 – US$1,063,888), a fully-restored 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta (EUR767,200 – US$1,041,090), a matching-numbers 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Spider (EUR879,200 – US$1,193,074), a 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra Roadster Le Mans Racing Car EUR744,800 -US$1,010,694), the well-known ‘Star of India’1934 Rolls-Royce 40/50 hp Phantom II All Weather Cabriolet (EUR644,000 - US$873,908) and a 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Vantage Saloon which became the subject of a bidding war, pushing it EUR100,000 past its high estimate of EUR175,000 to EUR291,200 (US$395,158).
The 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB
The Superamerica produced a factory indicated 340 bhp, 3,967 cc single overhead camshaft V12 engine with triple dual-throat Weber 40DCZ6 carburettors, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with double wishbones and coil springs, rear suspension with live rear axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and four-wheel disc brakes.
The high performance luxury gran turismo was a new automotive idiom in the prosperous years following World War II. Moving into the 1960s, these fast, luxurious cars continued to be the car of choice for the rich and famous. Most combined powerful engines with a highly competent chassis, were clothed in unique or limited production coachwork from inspired designers, and were equipped to the highest standards and trimmed in the finest materials.
Production of luxury Ferrari GTs began in 1953 with the introduction of the 342 America, which was based on the 340 America and featured an extended chassis to provide additional interior space. Then came the 375 America (built until May 1954), of which only 12 examples were built for Ferrari’s wealthiest clientele, selling for prices which sent chills up the spines of even Rolls-Royce owners. It could achieve a top speed of 150 mph while accelerating from zero to sixty in less than seven seconds – very impressive indeed for its day! Carrozzeria Pinin Farina of Turin was tasked with designing and building the bodywork which shared an outward similarity to 250 Europa, but their interiors, wings, bumpers and detailing were all unique.
The following year, Enzo Ferrari displayed the polished chassis #0423 SA at the Paris Salon. The completed version of the 410 Superamerica, also crafted by Pinin Farina, was on view at Brussels in January 1956. The 410 SA was given a larger engine and bigger brakes. Coil spring suspensions were used in the front. As was Ferrari practice, many variations of this model were built by several coachbuilders, including Boano, Ghia and Scaglietti.
In 1959, Ferrari ceased production of the Lampredi engine. Instead, an enlarged version of the Colombo-designed “short block” V12 engine would provide the power for the next iteration of Ferrari Luxury GTs, beginning with the 400 Superamerica, the outstanding successor to the 410SA.
The 400 Superamerica was introduced at Brussels in 1960 when chassis 1611 SA, a two place cabriolet, was first exhibited. It is considered one of Pininfarina’s great designs – an artful expression of Ferrari performance with stylistic elegance, minimizing the car’s apparent size while conveying its aggressive potential. Befitting their stature as the “top-of-the-range” and also the most powerful road going Ferraris of the time, the 400 SAs were superbly finished with the finest materials and, often with distinction, to the owner’s specification.
Once again, their dizzying price tags ensured that the client base would be restricted to princes, potentates, captains of industry and the stars of Hollywood and Rome’s Cinecitta. The first series 400 SAs were built on a 2,420 mm short wheelbase (SWB) chassis, after which a second series was produced with an extended wheelbase of 2,600 mm (LWB). More common to both series are the Coupe Aerodynamica versions, while a smaller number of cabriolets were produced. With their elegant lines and notably more aggressive stance, the SWB cabriolets are considered the most desirable of all the 400 SAs.
The extraordinary example offered here, s/n 3309 SA, is the last created of only six SWB 400 SA cabriolets bodied by Pininfarina (as the company was now known). As such, it was built as Ferrari’s star car for the Geneva Salon and New York Auto Show of 1962 and included many special features. For example, it is the only one of the six which displays the covered headlights so coveted on California Spyders. Extra brightwork is also abundant, including an attractive wide stainless steel panel along the sills, a chrome trim line across the side of the car, and chromed wheel arch and bonnet scoop accents completing the show detailing. There is further brightwork noticeable in the door openings and under the bonnet.
3309 SA is also equipped with its optional factory hardtop. An extravagant yet handsome design, it ensures the car remains as attractive in coupe form as it is with its top down (plus, the permanently installed soft top is neatly folded behind the seats).
3309 SA was sold to Phoenix, Arizona Ferrari dealer J.A. Stallings off the show stand in New York by Luigi Chinetti Motors. Wasting no time before enjoying its sparkling performance, Mr. Stallings used the car for hillclimbs before taking it to the Bonneville Speed Trials in 1962, where he was officially recorded reaching speeds over 145 mph, as featured in the November 1962 issue of Road & Track documenting the event. (An album with numerous photographic prints from Bonneville, along with copies of the original timing sheets, is included with the sale.)
In 1964, 3309 SA was acquired by well known GT racer Bob Grossman (a colour photocopy of a print of him with the car, believed to be from Virginia International Raceway, is included in the file), after which he traded it back to Chinetti in 1967. It was subsequently sold to well known Ferrariste Norman Silver of High Point, North Carolina. Mr. Silver kept the car until 1973, whereupon it was sold with the assistance of Tom Meade to Charles Robert of Nogent-sur-Marne and Paris, France.
Following his acquisition, and with further assistance from Mr. Meade, Mr. Robert had the car restored by Carrozzeria Fantuzzi in Modena. It was repainted a more stately maroon and fitted with a tan interior, altering the original colour scheme of Rosso Metallizzato Speciale (metallic red) with Avorio (ivory) upholstery.
Mr. Robert owned the car for the next 30 years, during which he showed the car occasionally at Ferrari club events and at a special Ferrari exhibit at Retromobile 2000, in Paris.
In 2005, the Ferrari returned to the U.S., whereupon its current keeper embarked on a meticulously researched, no-expense-spared total concours restoration by marque specialists. Patrick Ottis of Berkeley, California managed the project and restored all the mechanicals, including digging deeply into his trove of NOS parts for this favoured client. The striking and flawless body, black paint and trim were lovingly attended to by Brian Hoyt of Perfect Reflections. Finally, the luscious red leather interior was done by Ken Nemanic. Each of these restorers is an award-winning artisan of his respective craft.
In its first show outing at the XVIII Cavallino Classic in 2009, 3309 SA was awarded Platinum Status by Ferrari Club of America judges and featured in the April/May 2009 issue of Cavallino magazine.
Later, in August, 2009 – after further preparation by the restoration team – the Ferrari was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it earned a respectable Third in Class and was awarded 98 points. (Four half-points were deducted for minor issues, three of which have subsequently been addressed. The fourth – for exhibiting “too shiny paint” – has been left as shown!). The car was then again featured in Cavallino, October/November 2009.
Fresh, correct and superb, 3309 SA includes its full complement of books, complete tool roll, jack and restoration documents including dyno testing results. Although it is presented both cosmetically and mechanically in ‘as new’ condition, its road miles have been limited mostly to the 50-mile Pebble Beach Road Tour, where it performed flawlessly.
More powerful and much more exclusive than the vaunted 250 GT California Spyder SWB, this 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB represents the ‘connoisseur’s choice’ for a top-shelf open Ferrari. With its remarkable show car origins, notable racing exploits, bulletproof ownership history, extraordinary restoration and stunning presence, it has to be considered a worthy value in today’s market in addition to its unmatched desirability.
The BMW Bügelfalte with coachwork by Milbertshofen
BMW was actively involved in sports racing in the pre-war years, enjoying considerable successes with its advanced high performance 328. The 328’s success in competition and in the public’s perception established BMW’s reputation for high performance lightweight sporting automobiles. In fact, it made its debut not at an auto show but at the Nürburgring in the Eifelrennen, where in the hands of Ernst Henne it won on its first outing on 14th June 1936.
A series of racing successes followed for BMW in the hands of factory drivers, privateers and team drivers supported by the British importer Frazer Nash.
The 328 MM (Chassis 85032) for sale in Monaco enjoyed a successful career in racing before its extraordinary transformation in BMW’s factory racing department even began. Built in May 1937 as a specially-developed 328 for Rudolf Schleicher’s experimental department, it participated in the Le Mans 24-hour race with Anthony F.P. Fane behind the wheel, before going on to compete in the 1937 Donington Tourist Trophy.
The following year it participated in the last pre-war open road Mille Miglia with Fane and co-driver William James. The pair finished the race eighth overall and first in the two-litre unsupercharged sports class. In fact, BMWs finished in the top four spots of that class. Chassis 85032 then secured overall victory in the 1,672 km four-day Alpenfahrt in the hands of Fritz Roth and “Blasi” Huber. In 1939, Roth and Huber won the same race outright, in the very same car!
In autumn 1939, the car was dismantled at the BMW factory’s racing division in Milbertshofen before being extensively re-engineered and used as the basis for even more streamlined bodywork in preparation for the 1940 season and the Mille Miglia in particular. To that end, BMW built both an aerodynamic coupé and this lightweight open roadster.
Extensive modifications to 85032 included lowering the engine and driveline in the chassis to reduce the body’s frontal area and lower the centre of gravity to improve handling. Its design is credited to Wilhelm Kaiser, a very experienced member of BMW’s new design department, headed by chief stylist Wilhelm Meyerhuber. A 1:10 scale model was tested in the wind tunnel of pioneering aerodynamicist Prof. Dr.-Ing. Wunibald Kamm, with a long, tapered tail that took advantage of the lowered engine and profile.
The stunning bodywork was hand-formed by “Blasi” Huber in Ernst Loof’s racing department and made from a lightweight aluminium-magnesium alloy (Al MG 3-4) frequently used in high performance aircraft construction. Aside from its low silhouette and flowing fenders, the prototype roadster’s fenders had a pronounced ridge along their tops. It resembled the crease in a pair of ironed trousers and gave the unique car the name it still carries today, Bügelfalte or “ironing crease.”
Its panels were formed over an armature of small diameter tubing, preceding the similar superleggera system patented by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan years later. Welded to the twin tube frame, the body structure lends substantial rigidity to the Bügelfalte’s chassis while weighing just 103 kg. The wheel wells were made of the same lightweight aluminium-magnesium alloy, and the inside panels were partially made of pure magnesium. In fact, the seat frames were pure magnesium as well. This was the absolute cutting edge of racing technology and helped bring the car’s curb weight down to just 725 kg. An extraordinary achievement, then and now!
The engine itself was completely upgraded in all respects, now producing 130 hp, a full 50 hp more than the standard engine of a road-going 328. A larger oil pan was fitted, as were an additional side-mounted oil cooler, a 100-litre fuel tank and a special air box that helped draw in air at high speed. This motor received a magnesium valve cover and was mated to a strengthened race-ready Hurth transmission with gearbox housing partially made of magnesium, as was the differential with a 3.44:1 gear ratio.
Magnesium was even used in the braking system, comprised of Alfin drum brakes with a Duplex system front and rear. The 17-inch steel disc wheels have riveted light metal rings, and the tyres were specially made by Continental for the Mille Miglia, so the car could go the entire distance without changing tyres. In true racing fashion, the rear leaf spring suspension was adjustable, controlled with additional stabilizing bars. Even the hubs were super-light special edition units, as was much of the hardware, aluminum nuts, screw heads and the like.
Following its completion at BMW’s Milbertshofen works, the Bügelfalte BMW was tested on the autobahns near BMW’s Munich headquarters. One can only imagine what contemporary motorists must have thought as this space-age streamliner blasted by at unheard-of speeds!
The coachwork of two more roadsters and a second streamlined coupé was entrusted to Touring in Milan, which had the capacity of finishing them before the 1940 Mille Miglia. It should be noted that these two “second series” Touring-bodied roadsters had their complete mechanics and tubular substructure completed in Munich, before the bodywork was completed in Milan. As such, they did not have the characteristic “trouser crease” fenders.
The 1940 Mille Miglia was held over nine laps of a 165 km circuit between Brescia, Mantua and Cremona on 28th April 1940, in the brief interlude between the declaration of war by France and Britain and the German invasion of France when Italy was still officially neutral, the 1940 Mille Miglia saw competitors from all four nations assemble in an uneasy sporting moment. They included two Delage D611s entered by the British importer Watney, four Alfa Romeo 6C 2500s and two Auto Avio Costruzioni 815s entered by Enzo Ferrari. They were matched against the team of five BMW 328s. The two closed cars were to be entered as works entries by BMW while the three open cars were entered by the Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde (ONS), the German national motorsport governing body.
The Munich-bodied coupé was entrusted to Count Giovanni Lurani/Franco Cortese while its Touring-bodied counterpart was in the capable hands of Count Fritz Huschke von Hanstein/Walter Bäumer. The Touring-bodied roadsters were driven by Adolf Brudes/Ralph Roese and Willi Briem/Uli Richter while the “Bügelfalte” roadster was handled by 1939 Le Mans class-winner Hans Wencher and Rudolf Scholz.
Von Hanstein set a furious pace from the outset with Lurani soon passing Piero Taruffi’s Delage and Giuseppe Farina’s Alfa Romeo. On the third lap, Von Hanstein averaged 174.102 km/h. Lurani began to have fuel system problems which eventually sidelined him, but the three BMW roadsters were more than capable of matching the speed of the Alfa Romeo coupés. Comfortably in the lead after Taruffi’s Delage retired with engine trouble and Comotti’s Delage caught fire, Von Hanstein relaxed his pace and cruised to the victory, finishing over 16 minutes ahead of Farina’s Alfa.
The BMW roadsters finished third, fifth and sixth with the “Bügelfalte” roadster of Wencher and Scholtz just a minute behind the fifth place car. It was an epic triumph for the Bavarian marque. The BMW team attempted to take part in another race at Kronstadt, but the onset of the shooting war intervened, and the cars were returned to Munich.
During the war, the Bügelfalte roadster on offer at Monaco was given to Albert Speer, the Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition (Armaments and Munitions). Remarkably, it survived five years of world war and was seized by Russia as reparations. The Russians awarded it to Artiom Ivanovich Mikoyan, head of the Mikoyan i Gurevich Design Bureau, creator of the famed MiG fighters. Mikoyan let his son use it, but the boy’s escapades eventually exhausted his father’s patience, and he traded the Bügelfalte in 1972 to Guido Adamson of Riga, Latvia, for a Lada, a vehicle much less inclined to excite the fantasies of a young man.
With the collapse of the “Iron Curtain,” Adamson drove the Bügelfalte from Riga to Munich and entrusted it to BMW’s care, using it occasionally, most particularly in the 1991 Mille Miglia Storica where it was featured on a BMW poster commemorating the event.
It was acquired by its present owner from Mr. Adamson in 2001 and, for the last decade, has been serviced and maintained by the expert specialists at Tom Fischer Classic & Race Car Service. Working in conjunction with BMW 328 engine specialist Georg Thiele and with utmost attention to originality, the complete mechanicals, including engine, front and rear axle and brake system, have been rebuilt.
Without exaggeration, 85032 is one of the most important, original and visually arresting automobiles in the world. Its sweeping design foreshadowed stylistic trends that transformed automobile design in the late Forties and Fifties, influencing a whole generation of post-war sports cars, such as the Jaguar XK120. Built for the long straights of the 1940 Mille Miglia circuit, it proved not only the effectiveness of its aerodynamic design, but also the potential of BMW’s milestone 328 chassis, engine and suspension. The only one of its type, the Bügelfalte is instantly recognizable by its trouser-creased fenders and is the only of the streamlined roadsters built entirely by BMW in Munich. It is absolutely unique and was even the subject of a replica now residing in the BMW museum in Münich.
With participation at Le Mans and not one but two appearances in the Mille Miglia, a class victory in 1938 and a member of the 1940 championship team, it is eligible for the most important and exclusive events. Never before publicly available, this is truly an opportunity unlikely to be repeated!
Special thanks to BMW 328 historian Rainer Simons for his assistance with this description.
1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Special Town Car by Brewster
The story of this epic Rolls-Royce began in 1933, when the U.S. economy was in the depths of the worst depression in history. Luxury items and automobiles were lacking for a market except for the very few who had somehow managed to preserve their fortunes. One of these lucky few was C. Matthew Dick of Washington, D.C., an heir to a major business machine company that attributed its continued success in part to a major increase in U.S. government spending and activity that required additional A.B. Dick equipment.
He was scheduled to be married in the coming months to a beautiful young woman who was expected to take her place in the highest echelons of society. In doing so, she would be traveling between events in the formal town car. The problem was that the traditional town car was far too stodgy to fit the form and personality presented by this beautiful young woman. The solution would be to create a town car unlike any seen before. To fulfill this requirement, the prospective groom contacted Rolls-Royce and their New York coachbuilding firm Brewster & Co. to provide a totally unique town car on the legendary Phantom II chassis as a wedding present for his bride-to-be. After a variety of meetings with the coachbuilder and its top designers and artists, the work commenced on this remarkable town car, and their combined vision was eventually achieved when this Brewster-bodied Special Town Car, chassis no. 218 AMS, was delivered to its new owner in 1934.
This Phantom II Rolls-Royce combines the best styling elements of the era, with its long hood, low razor edge roof design, dramatic V-windshield, sculpted windows, German silver hardware and complementing canework. The same degree of attention was paid to the custom fitted interior with its gold-plated hardware, vanity cases, indirect lighting, and lambs wool carpets. All of these elements were perfectly combined to create an exquisite town car that was tasteful, elegant and sporty and would soon directly inspire the re-body of two earlier Phantom II chassis with similar yet unique coachwork for other beautiful women.
The original cost for designing and building this Brewster-bodied masterpiece was an astounding $31,000, making it the most expensive car in the world built that year and over 50-percent more than the “Twenty Grand” Duesenberg created that same year. In comparison, this remarkable amount could have purchased at that time an entire fleet of ordinary new automobiles or a full block of fine homes.
Adding to the extraordinary nature of this Special Town Car is the fact that it has had only four owners from new and is a greatly original car. Mrs. Dick enjoyed the car for many years and eventually kept it at her estate in Newport, Rhode Island, where America’s wealthiest families often maintained grand summer homes. The second owner was Gerald Rolph who maintained and preserved the car for over 40 years, much of this time storing the car on his Isle of Man estate in England.
The subsequent owner, a well known and highly respected Colorado-based owner, purchased the car in the 1990s and enjoyed it as one of the highlights of his personal collection over the course of the next decade. The vendor, another collector with many concours award-winning cars of his own, acquired the car in 2008 and has maintained it in his private collection ever since.
This Special Town Car has been shown at exclusive concours events throughout the world, where it has won numerous Best of Show and Elegance awards, and has been a part of special displays at the foremost museums – all accomplished with a completely original interior and trim in mint condition and a body that has never been off the chassis. As a result, 218 AMS has received its coveted FIVA certification, which is a tribute to its pristine originality, and is ready to be shown at prestigious events such as the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance.
This Special Town Car is considered by most historians to be one of the greatest Rolls-Royces ever built and quite possibly the most significant post-WWI Rolls-Royce in existence. Its one-off design was the direct inspiration for the Special Town Car bodies completed by Brewster for the actress Constance Bennett in 1935 and Dutch Darrin for the Countess de Frasso in 1938. These two examples have since become the centrepieces of the Nethercutt and Robert M. Lee collections – two of the most significant collections of automobiles ever assembled. The cost for acquisition of each several decades ago was substantial and reported to be in the multi-million dollar range. Of the three Special Town Cars completed, 218 AMS was the first example built and the only one to have been finished with its original body on the original chassis.
The engine is a 40/50 hp, 7,668 cc overhead valve, straight six-cylinder with a four-speed manual transmission, fully floating hypoid bevel axle, semi-elliptic front and rear suspension, four-wheel servo-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,810 mm (150")
Maserati Tipo 61Birdcage
The Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage was as technically innovative as it was successful, with its Birdcage nickname coming from its then unique spaceframe or trellis construction that was as light – just 36 kgs – as it was strong and Maserati provided the car with a beautiful body.
In same way as the Maserati 250F is often acclaimed as the ultimate Formula One car, the Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage is regularly described as the ultimate car built for sports car racing. Maserati’s racing cars have steadily appreciated in value over the last 20 years as the marque’s rich and successful history gets more and more of the recognition it deserves.
The Birdcage is one of the most iconic racers ever to come out of the hallowed Modenese factory. It is a tremendously competitive and enjoyable car to drive and a jewel of engineering.
Credit for the resulting Tipo 60/61 goes to engineer extraordinaire Giulio Alfieri who during 1958 created this stunning sports racing car. Its unique and very innovative trellis chassis construction, made of a plethora of small tubes between 10 and 15 mm thick (all 200 of them!) created a structure as rigid as it was light, weighing just 36 kgs, clothed in svelte wheel-hugging aluminum body – a true work of art and testimony to Maserati craftsmanship! Into this structure was fitted the Tipo 60’s 1,990 cc inline two-cam four-cylinder engine, very far back towards the cockpit.
Independent front suspension provided superb turn-in while the de Dion rear axle with transverse leaf spring and coil over telescopic shock absorbers made the car easily controllable. In what would become Maserati’s last factory entry in decades, a Tipo 60 was entered at Rouen Les Essarts in July 1959, winning the race outright. Naturally, the phones started ringing off the hook back at Maserati’s headquarters in Modena! Six Tipo 60s were sold before the 1961 upgrade to Tipo 61, which benefited from an increased capacity of 2,890 cc and delivered 250 hp – more than enough horsepower for a 600 kg heavy car.
In all, 17 were built, including one Tipo 60 that had been upgraded. The car’s notable wins were the Camoradi team victories at the Nürburgring 1000 kms in 1960 and again in 1961, against the might of rival factory teams.
From the beginning, Birdcages were very popular with American competitors. The car that set a new record at the weekend, chassis 2470, was no exception. The third-to-last Birdcage built, it was sold new in December 1960 to Jack Hinkle who was not just the proverbial wealthy amateur racer. A laid back, unassuming and popular Texas banker, oilman and then-president of the SCCA, he was described by historian Joe Scalzo as “one of the fastest men in competition today…He is in fact something all new – a wealthy sportsman driver who races as hard as the pros.”
Scalzo went on to note that Hinkle was also a bit of an eccentric, having his lawn mower modified so it would run 50 mph…and promptly losing control and flattening his wife’s rose bushes! The results he achieved with 2470 were stellar. In 1961 he entered seven races, of which he won three – La Junta, Colorado and two races in Oklahoma at Ponta City and Norman. He also had two second places finished, one third and just one DNF. The following year, he participated in nine more races, winning three (Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas), finishing second in three more, third in two races and again one DNF. Thus, he always finished on the podium, with the exception of the two races he did not finish. Hinkle eventually sold 2470 to a friend, Tracy Bird, who later became one of the founders of the Can Am series. Bird raced it in Castle Rock, near Tucson, on 5th April 1964, finishing fifth.
A fire in Bird’s garage did some damage to the front of the car, and to repair it properly, he bought the ex-Roger Penske Birdcage (chassis 2471) from its then-owner Enus Wilson. 2471’s rear end had suffered in an accident, but it had an intact front end. Bird thus repaired 2470 using the factory correct parts from 2471, after which its wreck was scrapped. As a result, 2470 is the second to last surviving Birdcage, as 2472, the ex-Camoradi factory car now in the Panini Museum, is the only car with a higher chassis number.
Bird’s Maserati then crossed the Atlantic after its acquisition by F1 team owner and bon vivant Lord Alexander Hesketh. In his ownership, it competed with Charles Lucas (aka “Charlie Luke”) behind the wheel, who had previously raced a 250F. This was an era when vintage races were much more casual, cars arrived on flatbeds and starting grids were a patchwork of “run what ya brung.” On 20th May 1974, Lucas started on pole at the Silverstone Open Aston Martin Historic Race and was third for most of the event before retiring on the last lap.
He and Lord Hesketh recently shared some of their typically colourful memories: Charles Lucas: “It was a great car to drive. I don't think there were any old sports racing cars around that were quicker at the time – it even beat Robs Lamplough in his CanAm McLaren at Castle Combe. The best win was probably at the Historic support race for the Austrian GP at the Osterreichring in '75. We had such a good lead, Alexander hung out a pit sign that said 'Cocktails', so we came in to the pits for a quick one!” Needless to say this would not go down well nowadays!
Lord Hesketh recalled the same event: “I’d been advised by a friend who had a Tipo 61 to buy one as well so I did. It went to the Osterreichring in 1975. It was then a proper race track. We were disappointed in the GP – rather teed off, actually – and the only other race of the day was the vintage race but the trouble with that one is that it wasn’t really a race, it was meant to be a sort of 70 mph parade. Charles put in a lap at 130 mph. I mean at Zeltweg you’d expect to have a Type 61 unrestricted. This was going to get us into trouble, so we put out a pitboard that said “cocktails” in order to bring him in and slow him down. So he came in we gave him one, we let the whole of the field go by. Then he went out, overtook them all again and won the race. I think that is the only time we took it to a GP and raced it the same weekend.”
Later owners included Dieter Holterbosch of Oyster Bay, New York who had it restored and in 1998 sold it to Tony Smith in the U.K. The current owner acquired 2470 from Smith in 2004 and has used it in several Ferrari Historic Challenge Series events. The last Race entered was the 2009 Nürburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix, which the car won. One of the most original Birdcages in existence, it is fitted with a spare race prepared engine. The original engine comes with the car, however. The body is mostly original.
The car had an estimated 250 hp from its 2,890 cc overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine, two Weber 45 DC03 carburettors, five-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension, rigid de Dion rear axle, four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2200 mm (86.6")
The Type 135 model Delahaye
The Type 135 model Delahaye produced 160 hp from its 3,557 cc six-cylinder engine, four-speed Cotal pre-selector transmission, independent front suspension with transverse leaf springs, live axle rear suspension with leaf springs, four-wheel Bendix drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,700 mm (106")
The Type 135 model Delahaye was the first car produced after the merger in 1935 of Delage and Delahaye, enjoying tremendous success in competition, from Montlhéry to Le Mans. In 1936, the Model 135 M, or Competition version, joined the line-up with a six-cylinder 3,557 cc engine that had a larger bore and triple carburettors. In 135 MS form, with its larger exhaust valves, the Delahaye could reach 110 mph.
With stunning Figoni & Falaschi open coachwork constructed on the 135 MS Competition-type long chassis (Chassis no. 49197), this unique Delahaye offers the delectable combination of the best in late ’30s French custom body design with some of the highest specification mechanicals ever offered by the company. This particular Delahaye is also somewhat unusual in that it participated in two diametrically opposed forms of motoring competition by being both a show car and a racing car.
According to the Figoni archives and verification by the sales manager for Delahaye, Jean-Pierre Bernard (who later became the President and founder of the Delahaye Club), chassis no. 49197 was delivered by Delahaye to the Figoni & Falaschi works in April 1938 destined to be an exhibit on the Delahaye stand for the Paris Salon of 1939. In fact the Salon was cancelled owing to rumours, soon to be justified, about an impending war. This information was also verified by a long term owner of this car, Philippe Looten, similarly a previous President of the Delahaye Club. The beautiful two-seater cabriolet was created and finished in black and sent to the first owner, a Mrs. Chandler.
The car was custom fitted with red leather interior and upholstery (which included the dashboard and steering wheel) supplied and sewn by the master craftsmen from Hermès, the renowned saddlery, luggage, silks and handbag firm. According to the records, Mrs. Chandler took delivery of her prized Delahaye Cabriolet in July 1938 with the French registration number 2354 RL9. The next entry, according to J-P Bernard, is after World War II, when the car passed to French racing driver Marcel Contet, and the registration number changed to 9654 CL75. Contet was a well-known driver in French events during the late 1930s, and he quite often competed in Delahayes, including a victory in one at the 1939 Monte Carlo Rally.
According to Philippe Looten, the Delahaye was acquired by Contet before the war, and Madame Contet took top awards in 1939 at the Concours d’Elegance at La Baule and at the Concours of “La Grande Cascade” in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. A period photograph of the car on a mountain pass with a lady posing appears in Benedict Bocquet's book on Figoni Delahayes and is captioned as “Madame Contet in 1939 at the Col du Simplon.” More black and white photographs on file show the car crossing the parade ramp at other early Concours d’Elegance events.
Monsieur Contet returned the car to Figoni after the war to have the nose updated with a different grille, perhaps in an attempt to improve the cooling for racing purposes. In the Francois Jolly book on Delahaye, there is a racing photo of 49197 competing post-war (Car No. 75) at Montlhéry with this new nose fitted. Contet may have sold the car to another racing driver, Edmond Mouche, although this information conflicts with the recollections of J-P Bernard who states that in early 1955 Mr. Contet returned the car to him to re-sell, and it was purchased in February that year by a Michel Boujean, a salesman working for Mr. Bernard.
Apparently Boujean kept the car only for a few months and sold it in September 1955 to a Mr. Depaie Georgas of Blvd Raspail, Paris. It was sold again the following month to the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Le Havre (registration plate 9903GF59). Later, it was sold to Mr. Andre Ziegler who was President of the Chamber of Commerce of Dunkerque. In 1960, Mr. Ziegler decided to sell the car to a scrap dealer for 500 French Francs, because it had been in storage and received damage in one of his garages.
Fortunately, the car was to find a deserving new home, because the dealer’s son knew that Philippe Looten was a Delahaye enthusiast, and so he sold it to him for 700 French Francs! Mr. Looten, who was the long term President of the Delahaye Club (and is still the current Vice President), owned this important car from 1960 until 2002. During that long period of time, the Delahaye was restored twice and driven more than 160,000 kms on various rallies and pleasure trips. The original red Hermès leather interior had been almost completely destroyed during the period when the car was in storage, although a few parts did survive, including the leather trimmed steering wheel. Also of note was that the car came with racing buckets seats, which again had most likely been fitted by Contet.
In 2005, this fabulous car, complete with a spare 135 MS engine and the second nose which had been fitted in the early post-war period, was sold to the current (USA) owner. The decision was taken to have the Delahaye fully restored and ready to be exhibited at Pebble Beach in 2006, where it won a class award. A frame-off, full nut and bolt restoration was undertaken with the aim of returning the car to its former show glory with the correct colour scheme it had from new.
Since it had originally been supplied with a custom made interior by Hermès, the owner made contact with the family-owned business in Paris. After Hermès inspected the car and consulted their archives, they readily accepted the task of supplying a new red leather upholstered interior, including the correct bench seat. Furthermore, Hermès made a set of custom leather luggage suitcases bespoke for this car, complete with exquisite crocodile leather-trimmed corners and handles. Hermès even scoured their own archives to find new old stock, period correct latches and hinges! Apparently this was the very first car interior undertaken by Hermès since before the Second World War, and they were so delighted with the project that they expressed interest in borrowing the car for their future promotional events.
The car on offer at Monaco was offered publicly for the first time and came with the aforementioned spare post-war 135 MS engine, nose and original Hermès-trimmed racing seats, all of which accompanied the sale of the car.Share
- Around The Home
- Digital Cameras
- Good Thinking
- Health and Wellbeing
- Holiday Destinations
- Home Entertainment
- Inventors and Remarkable People
- Mobile Technology
- Urban Transport
- Wearable Electronics