A concours d’elegance—the French term is used in English—is a competition where classic vehicles are judged on authenticity, presentation, technical merit and elegance. Each year the Pebble Beach event seems to bring together the most spectacular cars, the richest owners and the most eager buyers.
Many of the cars auctioned each year have previously won awards in the Concours, raising their value as a result. During last year’s Monterey Car Week, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO fetched an all-time auction record of $US48.4 million.
This year RM Sotheby’s and Gooding & Company will offer a spectacular array of cars and many marque records are expected to be broken. A 1994 McLaren F1 coupe in Le Mans specification (the anchor picture in this story) has an upper estimate of US$23 million. That would be a new high mark for a McLaren, for an English car, and for any car built after the 1960s. The only other “recent” cars to fetch anything like that sort of money are other examples of the McLaren F1, a car known for its spectacular performance, lift-up “dihedral” doors, and unusual three-seater layout with central driving position.
Other spectacular British cars include a “works” Aston Martin DB3S from 1953, as raced by Peter Collins, Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori (US$8.75-$10.5 million), and a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 “Bond Car”. This was modified when new by Aston Martin to match the famous “Q Branch specifications” (weapons, ejector seat etc) on behalf of Eon Productions, which made the films.
It was not seen on screen, nor driven by Sean Connery, but is almost identical to the cars that were, and was used to promote the film Thunderball in the US. The “Bond Car” was restored in 2012, and that including refurbishing the 13 original special-effects modifications. The estimate is US$4-6 million.
Six of the seven most expensive cars ever auctioned have been Ferraris (the odd man out was a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 F1 car, as raced by Juan Manuel Fangio). Among the top shelf “Prancing Horses” to be offered this year are a 312T Formula One car driven by the late Niki Lauda during his successful pursuit of the 1975 world championship. It is expected to fetch up to US$8 million.
Another red race car, a 1962 Ferrari 196 SP by Fantuzzi (estimate US$8-10 million) is a superb example of the company’s first mid-engine racing Sports Prototype. However, an elegant road-going convertible from 1962 could fetch even more than the competition Ferraris. It’s a short wheelbase version of the classic 250 California Spider by Scaglietti, and reputedly has had only four owners since new. Auctioneer RM Sotheby’s gives guidance of US$10.5 to $13 million. A long wheelbase version of the same model – in grey – will be sold by Gooding & Company with a similar estimate.
Interesting Porsches include a tiny 718 RS 60 Werks from 1960, as raced by Stirling Moss, Graham Hill and Dan Gurney, and one of the most significant Porsches ever offered. Then there is a 1939 “Type 64” coupe which was owned and driven by Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry. Based on the prewar KdF-Wagen (“Beetle”), and already demonstrating the singular styling that would define the brand, the Porsche Type 64 is likely the only survivor of three built. Although initially reluctant to give an estimate, RM Sotheby’s now says it expects the Type 64 to “reach approximately the US$20 million range.” That will comfortably exceed the current all-time Porsche auction record of just over US$14 million.
RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auctions, August 15, 16, 17.
Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auctions, August 15 and 17.