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Best from the block: Highlights from the Pebble Beach collectible car auctions


August 21, 2014

Begun in 1950,  the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance has grown in stature over the ...

Begun in 1950, the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance has grown in stature over the last decade to become THE most important upmarket automotive event in the world. Five of the ten most expensive cars ever sold at auction have sold at Pebble Beach, with our stats showing that 12 of the top 20 and 57 of the top 100 have also sold at Pebble Beach, most of them in the last three years

Image Gallery (281 images)

Last weekend some of the world's biggest auction houses came together on the misty hills of Monterey for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and automotive auction extravaganza. Featuring big names like RM Auctions, Bonhams, Gooding & Company, Mecum and Rick Cole, the weekend provided a number of surprises for buyers and watchers alike. Gizmag's Angus MacKenzie was on the ground for auction action that saw US$400 million change hands.

As Gizmag's Mike Hanlon reported ahead of the event, anticipation for this year's Pebble Beach auction was high. But now with sales closed we can see exactly how 2014 fared compared to last year.

On the money front, initial reports peg total sales for the weekend at US$400 million, an increase of nearly $83 million over the 2013 auction. According to Hagerty Insurance, this figure, which doesn't include Rick Cole's sales (a figure estimated to be around $25 million), means the total increase from the previous year is closer to $100 million.

The 1954 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing on display was a beautiful example of the first producti...

Predictably, Ferrari dominated the sales at Pebble Beach with nine of the ten most valuable cars changing hands wearing the prancing stallion. The only other car to squeeze into that list was a 1965 Ford GT40 prototype that RM managed to fetch US$6.93 million.

This domination reflects the entire rare car marketplace. When the dust settled after the weekend, 52 of the top 100 most valuable cars ever to sell at auction are Ferraris, with Mercedes-Benz second (10 cars in top 100), Bentley (five cars in top 100) third, and Bugatti (4) and Talbot-Lago (4) equal fourth.

Average sale price for the cars that sold was estimated to be around $535,000 with the median selling price coming in at just under US$100,000 (an increase of more than 30 percent over 2013).

According to classic car specialist, Hans Wurl from Gooding & Company, the buyer demographic is shifting slightly from the older, more established auto collectors to a younger crowd. The hardcore car people are still there, but more and more buyers from areas like the tech sector and similar are moving in. Perhaps coming into the game in an effort to acquire either cool toys for their garage or to expand their portfolios and collections as longer term investments.

I asked if cars purchased by secretive persons/entities ever just vanished after auction. "Sometimes vehicles are sold to anonymous bidders from outside the country," Wurl said. "In some cases cars have been shipped to secret locations and countries only to go into hiding for years."

This 1955 Aston Martin DB3S sold for US$5.5 million. It was constructed in the factory rac...
This 1955 Aston Martin DB3S sold for US$5.5 million. It was constructed in the factory race shop and debuted on the Aston Martin stand at the 1955 Earls Court Motor show (Photo: Angus MacKenzie/Gizmag.com)

Surprisingly, Gooding & Company failed to sell its Top 10, a shock to many as these cars were expected to bring premium dollars. Cars like the 1966 Ferrari 365 "Tre Posti" and the McLaren F1, despite getting close to reserve amounts, failed to meet minimum bids.

So what does this mean for future sales? Have the old-school collectors gone underground to deal privately and so avoid aggressive bidding wars? Or is it just the market correcting itself in order to better normalize valuations and perhaps turn down the heat on the hype? Only time will tell.

The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta was rumored to sell for as high as $60 million before ...

The most anticipated sale of the show was definitely the 1962 Ferrari GTO, courtesy of Bonhams. Although the car did in fact sell with the auction house's estimates, the popular media had hyped the car's value beyond realistic expectations.

The 1968-69 Ferrari Dino 166/246T Formula 2/TASMAN at Bonhams sold for US$1.2 million on t...
The 1968-69 Ferrari Dino 166/246T Formula 2/TASMAN at Bonhams sold for US$1.2 million on the day (Photo: Angus MacKenzie/Gizmag.com)

However, the condition of the car and the amount of work required to bring it to a "Concours" state all influenced the final price. The US$38.1 million sale figure for the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Coupe included the house fee. It was, nonetheless, a new world record at auction.

Follow these links to our stories on the previous records: Juan Manuel Fangio's US$30 mill...

To view some of the top auction items and other beautiful examples of automotive innovation and design, check out our extensive gallery.

Over the next few days we'll also bring you highlights from Pebble Beach's Concept Lawn, the oceanside experience of Concours d'Elegance, historic vehicles and surprises from the Rolex Historical motorsports event at Laguna Seca, and a surprise event by Aston Martin.

A close look at the Top 10 sales at Pebble Beach over this past weekend shows Bonhams and RM Auctions each sold four cars in the top ten, with Gooding & Co selling two.

Top 10 sales from Pebble Beach

  • 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Coupe US$38,115,000 (Bonhams)
  • 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale Coupe US$26,400,000 (RM Auctions)
  • 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spyder US$15,180,000 (Gooding & Co)
  • 1964 Ferrari 250 LM Coupe US$11,550,000 (RM)
  • 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe US$10,175,000 (RM)
  • 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Coupe US$7,260,000 (Bonhams)
  • 1965 Ford GT40 Prototype Roadster US$6,930,000 (RM)
  • 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Speciale Aerodinamica Coupe US$6,875,000 (Bonhams)
  • 1958 Ferrari 250 Series 1 Cabriolet (closed headlights) US$6,820,000 (Bonhams)
  • 1959 Ferrari 250 Series 1 Cabriolet (open headlights) US$5,610,000 (Gooding & Co)
About the Author
Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine.   All articles by Angus MacKenzie

I know rarity commands a price, but some of those prices are close to being ridiculous!

If your name does not have 'sheik' or 'Bill' in front of it, who can afford this sort of money?

The Skud
21st August, 2014 @ 06:30 pm PDT

Sickening! These historic vehicles just fall into the hands of investors and posers who wouldn't know a supercharger from a soup spoon. They'll take them home to gloat, perhaps take them on trailers to some shows where they bask in the adulation of the public, whilst only talking to other exhibitors. Seen it all - human nature at it's saddest.

22nd August, 2014 @ 04:19 am PDT
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