They say that auctions are just the tip of the classic car iceberg because only around 15 percent of all collector car sales are transacted in such a public forum. Well, the tip of the iceberg is floating much more prominently since one of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula One racing cars that carried Juan Manuel Fangio to his second World Driving Championship sold at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed sale for an astounding $29,650,095.
You read that correctly. The sales figure is just shy of $30 million -- for one car!
Oh, and that figure represents a world record for a classic car sold at auction.
And it's a world record by an astounding margin. The previous high-dollar public sale was for what now seems a mere $16,390,000 -- for a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa at Gooding's Pebble Beach event in 2011.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that the ex-Fangio Mercedes wasn't the only car to set a world record at that Bonhams sale, where someone paid $6.09 million for a 1955 Maserati 300S Sport-Racing Spider, a record price at auction for any car beating the Maserati Trident emblem. (As a result, Bonhams, the British auction house founded in 1793 and primarily known for selling fine art and antiques, holds the record for auction prices for Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, Bentley, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce automobiles.)
Overall, Bonhams' Goodwood auction totaled $54.5 million in sales. (The next sale for Bonhams Motoring department is August 16 at The Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, where the catalog includes the prototype for the 1924 Bugatti Type 35, a car that would become the most successful of all Bugatti racers.)
The (almost) $30-million Mercedes is chassis number 00006/54 and was the car Fangio drove to victories in the 1954 German and Swiss Grands Prix.
The high-dollar sale "reflects the true appreciation for cars as art," said Alain Squindo, vice president of RM Auctions.
"It's a validation of purity," he aded. "There were no questions about the car. Everything was right.
"That's exciting for all of us," he continued, adding that the W196 combined history, design and provenance to a degree that was recognized by those bidding in such big numbers.
"And it makes the next few months all the more interesting," he added as he looked toward the classic car auctions next month on the Monterey Peninsula.
While the $30-million sale may not float all boats higher, "the upper end of the market will benefit," Squindo said.
Before Monterey, RM moves to a Motown beat
But don't necessarily look for any million-dollar sales at Squindo's next auction.
We talked to the RM veep during the press preview for the Concours d'Elegance of America at the Inn at St. John's in Plymouth, Michigan. For the 19th year, RM will stage a significant auction on the eve of the show.
"This sale celebrates the automotive history of Detroit," Squindo said of the 80 cars (plus two wooden boats and one motorcycle) that will be offered for sale.
No Ferrari will cross the block at the sale, but there will be lots of Cadillacs and Lincolns and Packards, and a lot of cars from the 1950s and ‘60s.
Many of those cars, 24 in fact, are coming from the collection of Richard and Linda Kughn, long-time and highly respected collectors from the Detroit area.
American concours features automotive extremes
The 35th Concours d'Elegance of America will feature some of the extremes of American automotive production -- from early electric vehicles designed for a top speed of 30 miles per hour to the highest of the high-performance Detroit muscle cars.
The electric car class will include an 1889 Edison.
At one time, noted concours' car selection committee chairman Brian Joseph, more electric cars were being built in the U.S. than those powered by petroleum.
Petroleum won out -- though electrics are making a comeback -- and gasoline-powered cars reached an excess in the late 1960s and early ‘70s with the Detroit muscle cars. The most extreme of those vehicles -- the "dealer super cars," by Nickey, Yenko, Mr. Norms, Royal Pontiac, Baldwin-Motion, etc. -- also will be featured at St. John's.
Other special displays will include the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, 1952-1972 Vintage NASCAR, the 60th anniversary of the Porsche 911, Jet Age convertibles, cars that have participated in The Great Race (including two specially built of the movie of that name), the 50th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz 230/250/280SL, a "Racing through the Ages" grouping, one-off Cords and a special collection to showcase the differences between classics built in Detroit (Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard) and the Midwest's other early Motor City -- Indianapolis (Duesenberg, Marmon and Stutz).
The concours is July 24.
Barrington concours moving to Chicago lakefront in 2014
The 1935 Avions Voisin Type C25 Aerodyne from the Mullin Automotive Museum won best-in-show honors at the seventh annual Barrington concours d'elegance, which featured some 140 vehicles on the fairways of the Makray Memorial Golf Club north of Chicago.
A 1950 Vincent Series C Black Shadow owned by Tim Holcroft took motorcycle honors at an event that established an attendance record with 3,500 people, double the 2012 turn out.
Speaking of Chicago, the concours will move there next year.
"The Barrington Concours' commitment to educating the public about the history of motoring aligns perfectly with the vision of the City of Chicago and its desire to draw over 20 million visitors to the city," said concours co-chair Patty Dowd Schmitz, who said the event will be renamed the Concours d'Elegance of Chicago and will be staged on Northerly Island, former site of the Meigs Field airport on the shorts of Lake Michigan just south of the Windy City's Loop downtown.
LeMay museum celebrates 60 years of Corvettes
LeMay -- America's Car Museum -- celebrates the history of the Chicago Corvette with a 60th anniversary exhibit that opens August 9 and runs through the rest of this year.
The opening weekend of the exhibit will feature three Corvette concept cars -- the 1959 Stingray racer, the 1961 Mako Shark and the 1965 Manta Ray, all on loan from the GM Heritage Center in Michigan.
Visit www.lemanmuseum.org for more information.
Click here for event calendar.
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