Auction Week in Arizona, and Five I Would Buy

This Jaguar D-type greeted auction goers at Gooding’s sale this past week in Arizona, and was owned by a major collector in Hong Kong. While it seemed ace auctioneer Charlie Ross got close to meeting the reserve, in the end there was disparity between what the owner wanted and what the market wanted to pay. Which ended up being one of the takeways from the week: If a car wasn’t priced right, even at the very high end, it wouldn’t sell.

Arizona’s Auction Week is a seven-day whirlwind of great food, wonderful parties, fantastic cars, and of course, auctions. People come to have fun in sunny weather, see cars, and spend money in a location loaded with good restaurants, hotels and resorts of all kinds, efficient infrastructure, and more.

Bullitt Mustang

Here’s a machine I could actually afford. Ford’s new Bullitt Mustang had its world debut at Barrett-Jackson and the Detroit Auto Show, and I was pretty mesmerized by the color, shape and lack of ornamentation. It goes on sale next summer with a 475 horsepower 5-liter V8, 6-speed tranny, lots of swagger and cool, and I’m guessing a price tag somewhere in the $40s.

So what were some takeaways? At the auctions I attended (Bonhams, Gooding, and Barrett-Jackson), and in talking with friends in the business, bidding and prices seemed a bit more robust than anticipated. It’s not to say things in general are hot (they aren’t, for we are a long ways away from 2013-14 levels of buoyancy), but there were pockets of strength here and there.

The High Points

For instance, Group B cars. A friend with one of the world’s best Lancia 037s made a tidy profit when Bonhams sold the car “all-in” (hammer price plus buyer’s premium) at $451,000. On the flip

Porsche 550A Spyder

This Porsche 550A Spyder brought the second highest result of auction week, Bonhams selling it for $5.17 million. It had multiple class wins in its history to go with those wonderful looks.

side of the coin, there were more no reserve cars at the “fine art” auctions (Bohmans, Gooding and RM) than in past yers, but if the offering wasn’t spot on, it got punished when the auctioneer’s gavel dropped. The same could be said on the high end, for if the car wasn’t priced right, it didn’t sell—witness the two Jaguar D-types. However, something that couldn’t be found anywhere else brought a strong number. Two good examples are the unique Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale at $8+ million and one-off Iso Grifo A3/L at $1.7+ million (both at Goodings) with prices reflecting the quality, history and rarity of the cars.

And there was a wildcard that may or may not impact the market. Prior to 2018, in America you could defer paying taxes on the sale of a collector car by doing a “like kind” exchange, where you took the profit and used it to buy another, similar car. The new tax code eliminated such 1031 exchanges for everything but real estate, and there was much talk before auction week on how that might affect the market (I’ve already heard one or two ideas on how to lessen tax bites in this new, post-1031 world).

It will take time for the exchange issue to sort itself out, so let’s get to what many attend auction week for: day dreaming! There has been much in the news about the astonishing rise in Bitcoin, and how there were now Bitcoin millionaires and even billionaires, so lets assume you cashed out before the recent Bitcoin correction and headed to Arizona with a bulging pocketbook (or digital wallet), ready to buy. Here are five that would have ended up in my garage…

Maserati 3500

One normally associates Barrett-Jackson with American machinery such as muscle and pony cars of all ages, but the auction’s Salon section features a number of higher end offerings from Europe and elsewhere. This 1963 Maserati 3500 Vignale Sypder was a treat to the eyes. One of just 242 made from 1959-1964, this would have been seriously tempting if I had deep pockets.

If Money Were No Object…

The first was a Maserati found at a most unlikely location—Barrett-Jackson. The backbone of auction week is widely known for its American offerings and high-end state-fair atmosphere, but its “Salon” cars that cross the auction block Saturday evening usually have reserves, and many of them would be at home at any of the fine art auction houses. Such was the case of a lovely blue on red 3500 Vignale Spyder, one of 242 made from 1959 through 1964. They were approaching $1 million in value in the heady days of 2104, but $600,000-700,000 is the market today.

Also at Barrett-Jackson was a fabulous 2017 Ford GT that brought $2.5 million, all of which went to charity.

2017 Ford GT

How can you not be seduced by that 2017 Ford GT’s incredibly rakish profile? It looks especially stunning in its blue with white stripes configuration, and brought $2.5 million at Barrett-Jackson, all of it going to charity. Any action in the secondary market undoubtedly cooled with the Ford-John Cena lawsuit that made news a number of weeks ago, so if you wanted a Ford GT without that risk, here was your chance.

While this number is several multiples above the sticker price, it’s not as high as one thinks. In the past few months several high-end brokers contacted me, looking to spend $1-1.2 million on such a machine, but with the entire production run sold out, here was the only chance to buy one for quite some time. That lusty blue-with-white stripes color scheme would have been enough to make me raise the bidder’s paddle, again and again.

Ferrari 275 GTB

The highest price of auction week ($8.05 million at Gooding & Co.) was the Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale that was first owned by coachbuilder Battista Pininfarina. While his firm designed the shape, this was likely the only example they built, save the prototype seen in 1964. Much was made of the rear valence pan, which showed incredibly advanced air-management thinking for the period. But it was really the shape that did it for me, for this car was that much more voluptuous and rakish than the “standard” 275.

Over at Goodings was the aforementioned Ferrari 275 Speciale that seemed quite overpriced by its $8-10 million estimate. Yes, the car’s original owner was coachbuilder extraordinaire Battista Pininfarina, but in the catalog it basically looked like any other “short nose” 275 GTB, save a few custom features. Spending time eyeballing the car at the preview brought its “speciale-ness” to the fore. Every body panel is different from the production 275, as the roof and its rearward slope are a bit lower, the rear fender “hips” that much more voluptuous, the nose that much more raked. No question Pininfarina was indeed the master of forms, and the sensuousness, finesse, and subtlety that this 275 possessed would have had me chasing it into a pretty big number.

Ferrari 275 GTB

Here is a wonderful example of what made the Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale so special–the details. This door handle was pure art…


Iso Grifo A3/L

The marvelous Iso Grifo A3/L from 1963 (foreground) is the car that really put Iso on the Sports & GT map, and was one of my favorites during auction week. We will take an in-depth look at this arresting one-off next week.

For my final two picks, there were

Ferrari 276 GTB

…And another artistic detail on the 275 Speciale. Rather than having the Ferrari badge lay on top of the nose, it is recessed into the body so it is flush with the nose’s surface. This car was loaded with such subtle details.

tempting offerings such as RM’s Shelby 427 S/C Cobra, Bugatti EB110 and BMW 2002 Turbo, and a Pontiac Super Duty Trans Am at Barrett-Jackson, but my fourth choice was found at the top of Bonham’s pecking order with a Porsche 550A Spyder. The car’s proportions and curves are utterly delicious, and to drive that high revving flat-four in a package that weighs less than 1200 pounds would be something. Oh, and it was 5th overall at Le Mans in 1958, and won its class at that year’s Nurburgring…

1958 Ferrari 250 Series I Cabriolet

Probably my favorite car of auction week was this luscious piece, a 1958 Ferrari 250 Series I Cabriolet. One of just 40 that was made by Ferrari and Pinin Farina from 1957 to 1959, I had known of the car for years, and helped the owner do a very quiet sale of it several years ago to its current owners. If I had the funds, this would likely have been my first choice of any car at auction week to have sitting in my garage. It truly is a thing of beauty, and a wonderfully involving drive…

I was going to put the Iso Grifo A3/L on the list (but instead will look at it in detail next week), so I will defer to an old friend, the 1958 Ferrari Series I Cabriolet at Goodings. I was blessed to put a number of miles on this car during its previous ownership, and it is tight as a drum mechanically. The new owners returned it to its original silver/red colors, and to say it’s stunning is an understatement. While the 275 cost more, this would be the crown jewel of my five-car binge from Scottsdale.

Those are my picks. Anything tickle your fancy that you saw in person, or online?

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