Your life may have been impacted by downgraded debt ratings, a stumbling stock market and burgeoning unemployment statistics, but it appears those facts of contemporary American life meant nothing to the elite of the classic car hobby as it invested some $200 million in its collections during the annual Monterey Peninsula party.
Record prices were achieved by the dozens at the various auctions, and for everything from the highest price ever paid at any auction -- $16,390,000 for a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa at Gooding -- to those paid for a Mercedes-Benz, a Duesenberg, and even for a Siata.
By the way, those records were for any car wearing those automakers' badges. We aren't even going to try to list the records set for such things as 190 sLs, 3500 GTs, 911s or other specific models.
For the record, here were the top sales at Monterey auctions (note that we normally list all cars bid to more than a million bucks, but because of what happened at Monterey, it takes $2.1 mill to make this list):
1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa, Gooding, $16,390,000
1931 Duesenberg Model J Murphy "Whittell" coupe, Gooding, $10,340,000
1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Spezial roadster, RM, $9,680,000
1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB berlinetta competizione, RM, $5,280,000
1927 Mercedes-Benz S-type 26/180 sportwagen, Gooding, $5,040,000
1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Spezial roadster, RM, $4,620,000
1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K roadster, RM, $3,767,500
1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico berlinetta, RM, $3,685,000
1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California, Gooding, $3,355,000
1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Spezial coupe, RM, $3,080,000
1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Sport cabriolet A, RM, $2,970,000
1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Pinin Farina Series II coupe, Gooding, $2,970,000
1963 Shelby Cobra 289 factory racing car, Gooding, $2,585,000
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder, RM, $2,530,000
1953 Ferrari 375 Vignale coupe, Gooding, $2,200,000
1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica coupe, RM, $2,090,000
1931 Miller Bowes Seal Fast Special (Indianapolis 500 winner), Mecum, $2,100,000
Less money, but no less interesting
Though less money was involved, there were other sales at the auctions that were just as interesting. For example:
-The slate-grey 1970 Porsche 911S delivered to Steve McQueen in France and used in the opening sequence of his movie Le Mans sold at RM for $1.375 million. Not only does the sale show the value of celebrity provenance (at best a '70 911S may be a 400K car), but represented the 200th more-than-a-million-dollar sale in RM history.
-Also at RM, a 1899 Columbia Electric Laundaulet sold for $550,000, more than double its pre-sale estimate and a record price at auction for an electric-propelled vehicle.
-The oldest surviving production series Bentley -- the third chassis of the 1921 3-litre, brought $962,000 at Gooding
A 1959 Fiat Tipo 682/RN-2 may not be a familiar vehicle to most classic car enthusiasts. Actually, it's not a car but a commercial truck, and in this case it served as the race car transporter for the Ferrari Grand Prix team from 1960-70, which helps explain why it brought a bid of $990,000 at the Gooding auction.
While the 1931 Indy-winning Miller Bowes Seal Fast Special hit the $2-million mark at Mecum, the next-highest sale there was $585,000 for a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster. Eight other vehicles sold at Mecum for between $250,000 and $350,000.
-At Russo and Steele, the top sale was a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTS for $654,500. The only other sale there for a quarter-million or more was a 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 for $286,000.
-At the Bonhams sale at the Quail Lodge, New York's famed Guggenheim art museum sent the 1979 BMW M1 racer formerly owned and driven by Peter Gregg and featuring bodywork art by Frank Stella across the block. The car sold for $854,000. That was $44,000 less than the auction's top sale -- a 1966 Porsche 906 Carrera Cup racing coupe.
-Another highlight of that motorsports-oriented consignment was a 1928 Coventry-Eagle 980 cc Flying-8 motorcycle that brought $265,500.
Off the auction block...
-A 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne owned by Peter and Merle Mullin of Los Angeles (see photo) won best-of-show honors among the more than 225 classic vehicles displayed at the 61st Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
"Winning with the Voisin is the most special, significant, rewarding thing that's ever happened to me…outside of marrying my wife," said Mullin, a 69-year-old financial services entrepreneur and philanthropist who only recently had completed a six-year restoration of the car.
"There's nothing like the Voisin interior. You can't print the fabric in this car; you have to loom it. This interior is going to last a long time."
The best-in-show honors were the first for Mullin, who has been bringing his cars to Pebble Beach for 27 years.
"I've been showing at Pebble Beach for nearly three decades and this is the greatest venue in the world," he said. "It's the ultimate thrill, although I wasn't sure I'd actually won. "We were sitting in the bullpen with the other two finalists (out of a field of 227 cars), the judges pointed at me and I thought I finished third… and then the fireworks went off."
The other cars nominated for Best of Show were a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C owned by Richard Stephens from Auburn, California, and a 1929 Bentley Speed Six owned by Daniel Sielecki from Capital, Argentina.
"The Voisin is a four-door closed car, so it's actually an unexpected winner," said Concours chairman Sandra Button. "However, the car's remarkable attention to detail brought it forward during judging and it became a real crowd pleaser.
"The Voisin automobiles are always influenced by the fact that Gabriel Voisin came from the world of aviation. There was so much craftsmanship in everything he put together. For Voisin, form follows function, and this car features an amazing, interesting upholstery and interior."
Voisin, who built airplanes during World War I and converted his focus to automobiles afterward, sold more than 11,000 of his usually unconventional, rather expensive vehicles between 1919 and 1939. The distinctive C-25 Voisin, featuring a blend of French curves, highlights Voisin's aeronautic expertise, such as the use of lightweight materials and streamlined designs.
-The 2011 Pebble Beach concours show field included a celebration of Mercedes-Benz and 125 years of the automobile, with nearly 40 Benz, Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz vehicles participating, including the oldest car on the field – an 1894 Benz Victoria Vis à Vis. Also featured were the centennial of Stutz, with 27 vehicles shown, and the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GTO, with 21 of the 36 cars on display. Other special classes included Rolls-Royce Edwardian Silver Ghosts and Italian motorcycles. * Terry Larson (see photo) of Mesa, Arizona won the Rolex Award of Excellence at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The award goes to the person who best shows the spirit of vintage racing at the event. Larson not only brought three cars to the track -- a 1954 Jaguar XK120, a C-type Jag and a 1958 Lister Jag -- but helped coordinate the C- and D-type cars in the special Jaguar Heritage display.
Jaguar was the featured marque (this is the 50th anniversary of the E-type). The Reunion featured 550 vehicles competing in 17 categories. Former Group 44 Jaguar racers driven by Rick Knoop of Laguna Beach, California, and Doug Smith of Plantation, Florida, finished 1-2 in the Group 6b (1981-89 FIA manufacturers championship and IMSA GTP) class and saluted Group 44's Bob Tullius after the race.
-The featured marque at the motorsports reunion in 2012 will be Shelby Cobra.
-Best-in-show honors at The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering went to a 1955 Ferrari 375 America owned by Jack Thomas of Missouri.
-Cadillac used the Pebble Beach weekend to unveil a potential future classic -- a four-door convertible concept car called the Ciel (pronounced C-L and the French word for sky).
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