How big a deal is the annual classic car gathering on northern California's Monterey Peninsula? Well, consider this: At Arizona, Amelia Island and all the other places people gather to buy, to sell and to ogle, there's a lot of excitement any time a car is bid to $1 million. Last week on that piece of real estate that juts out into the Pacific Ocean, the excitement wasn't about million-dollar bids but double-digit multiples of that number.
Three cars sold for $11 million or more and more than a half-dozen others drew winning bids of $5 million or more. In one albeit long weekend.
The $11-million sales were the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Von Krieger Special Roadster for $11.77 million at Gooding & Company, a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, former Chicago Auto Show car from the Sherman Wolf Collection, for $11.275 million, also at Gooding, and the 1968 Ford GT40 racer that served as a camera car for Steve McQueen's production of the movie, Le Mans, that sold at RM for $11 million, a record for an American automobile at auction.
Another 250 GT, this one a 1962 SWB version, brought $8.58 million at RM, where a 1956 250 GT LWB Berlinetta "Tour de France" model went for $6.71 million, though both of those were eclipsed at RM by a 1955 Ferrari 410 S that went for $8.25 million.
And yet another 250 GT Cal Spider, this one the LWB prototype, sold for $6.6 million at Gooding, where yet another Ferrari, a 1955 857 Sport, brought $6.27 million.
And it wasn't just at Gooding and RM where such sales were taking place. The ex-Penske/Donohue/Follmer 1972 Porsche 917/10 Spyder Can-Am racer sold for $5.83 million at Mecum and a 1997 McLaren F12 GTR longtail FIA GT racer brought nearly $4 million at Bonhams.
Classic car insurer Hagerty, which tracks such things, notes that in 2011, the average auction sale at Monterey was $223,950. This summer, that figure was $345,272. If my high school math skills are accurate, that's better than a 54-percent increase in 12 months.
According to Hagerty, the average sales price this year on the peninsula was $1.13 million at Gooding, $883 thousand at RM, $164 thousand at Bonhams, $96,584 at Mecum, and $60,148 at Russo and Steele, where the top sale was $781,000 for a 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra.
Overall, Hagerty reports sales of $260.3 million -- that's more than a quarter of a billion bucks! -- in auction action at Monterey this year. A year ago, sales totaled $197.5 million.
Gooding accounted for $113.6 of that $260.3 figure, with RM at $94.6, Mecum at $30.7, Bonhams at $12.8 and Russo and Steele at $8.6.
(Before closing this section of this report, I am very happy to note that the sale of a dozen cars from the estate of the late William A.C. Pettit III generated some $4 million for the Shriners Hospital for Children -- Tampa.)
Much more to Monterey than auction action
Classic car week at Monterey started with sports car races and a car show back in the early 1950s and while those events have expanded and multiplied, they remain the focus of why the classic car clan gathers there each year.
There were car shows seemingly everywhere on the peninsula featuring everything from Le Mans racers to rusty but beloved "Le Mons" (still-running lemons) touring peninsula pavement.
More than 220 of the planet's most historic vehicles -- including swan-hooded cars specially built for the Maharajas -- were assembled on the 18th fairway of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Judged best in show was a Saoutchik-bodied 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Torpedo owned by Texans Paul and Judy Andrews.
Meanwhile, at the former Laguna Seca race track, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion drew more than 550 vintage racing cars -- the oldest among them a 1907 Renault Grand Prix racer -- for three days of competition. Shelby was the featured marque and Cobra specialist Lynn Park of La Canada, California, was presented with the "Spirit of Monterey" award as the driver "who excels in the spirit of the weekend." So far, Park has owned 50 Cobras.
There's more than Monterey
While many were enjoying Monterey, many others were back in Motown for the annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise and something like one thousand Corvettes showed up for the annual Back to the Bricks gathering just north of Detroit in Flint.
The Milwaukee Masterpiece classic car show is August 25-26 and then the classic car world focuses on Auburn, Indiana, for the Labor Day weekend and the annual Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Festival and Auctions American by RM and Worldwide auction events. This year, Worldwide will stage its auction in downtown Auburn in the old Cord L-29 Service building.
Meanwhile, at the Auburn Auction Park, Auctions America not only will stage its annual auction but will host a special Shelby Seminar, welcome racer Bobby Unser, "Storage Wars" resident car guy Barry Weiss, and offer art and memorabilia from the collection of the late John O'Quinn.
The weekend after the holiday, Mecum is at Dallas, Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum hosts its annual Old Car Festival, and the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance moves to its new home, LeMay--America's Car Museum.
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