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Resource Guide
Auction Central
By Larry Edsall
Back to Community

RM, Sotheby's hope art collectors see value in rolling sculpture
By Larry Edsall

RM Auctions Each November in New York City, collectors bid millions of dollars to acquire fine art. This month, that artwork includes not only paintings and sculptures but classic automobiles. "Art of the Automobile: A Century of Automotive History and Design" is the title of the classic car auction being co-staged by RM Auctions, well-known for its work with classic vehicles, and Sotheby's, the prestigious and British-based art auction house that has been in business since 1744.

The sale will be held November 21 (yes, on a Thursday) on the 10th floor of Sotheby's American headquarters on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Only 34 vehicles will be up for bidding, but at least 16 of them figure to generate bids of at least seven figures.

Spectacular is an understatement regarding this docket. As if the anticipated prices to claim a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Cabriolet by Figoni et Falashi or a Bertone-bodied 1959 Ferrari 250 GT SWB "Competition" Berlinetta Speciale are not astronomic enough, there are the stunning shapes of the 1957 F.B. Mondial 250 Bialbero Grand Prix motorcycle, the 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II Ghia "Supersonic," the 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis concept (in stunning orange), and the pipes-skyward and rear-engined 1964 Chevrolet CERV II (see photos by Michael Furman).

But wait, there's more: an amazing Freestone & Webb-bodied 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sports Coupe, a red-and-yellow 1933 Auburn Twelve Custom Speedster, a 1936 Delahaye Type 135 Competition Court Teardrop Coupe, the 1941 Cadillac "Duchess" built for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, a Murphy-bodied 1933 Duesenberg Model SJ Beverly, a couple of hot rods -- a 1933 Ford crafted by Pinin Farina and the 1929 Dick Flint Ford Roadster famous for its appearance on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in May 1952.

RM Auctions About half of the cars are the only ones of their kind.

"These are cars that weren't previously on sale," said RM's Ian Kelleher. "They are not cars that were sitting around 'on offer.' Several have had restorations that have not yet been shown. They represent different periods in automotive history."

And then some: The range is from a horse-drawn 1892 Brewster Park Drag coach built for the Vanderbilt family to the 2011 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport known as the Bleu Nuit (Blue Night).

Most of the cars came from the RM side of the co-promotion effort, though several were made available because of Sotheby's relationship with its clients.

RM and Sotheby's have worked together before. For example, they staged an auction at the Ferrari headquarters in Italy, and another in London. Last year, they co-produced the sale of the Milhous brothers collection of cars and musical instruments

It was after the Milhous event that RM's Rob Myers and Sotheby's chairman Bill Ruprecht wondered if it might be time for a major classic car auction in New York City, to showcase classic cars as art and perhaps to convince fine art collectors that it made sense not only to have a Rembrandt on the wall but a Saoutchik in the garage.

There were RM auctions during the heyday of the Louis Vuitton-sponsored classic car shows at Rockefeller Center, but that showcase ended and RM canceled its auction scheduled for September, 2001 at the Waldorf Astoria in the aftermath of 911.

Now, RM has returned, in conjunction with Sotheby's.

"The idea of having the sale in Sotheby's building was to make that aspect of collection more palatable to their clients who may have been intimidated by or steered away from cars because they were different or even messy," said Kelleher, who noted that cars "leak, they make noise, they do things that diamonds and jewelry and art don't do."

To help educate potential bidders, the auction houses will stage a symposium on the eve of the sale with a panel including car collectors Sam Mann, Miles Collier and Peter Mullin, actor and car-collector Edward Hermann (he's also master of ceremonies at the Pebble Beach concours d'elegance), Ford design director Moray Callum and photographer Michael Furman discussing how the automobile can be appreciated and enjoyed as artwork.

That message also is being underscored by Leslie Keno, of Antiques Roadshow fame (Keno, a car collector and vintage racer, is a senior specialist for Sotheby's).

Kelleher added that "there's no guarantee all these cars are going to set world records, but promoting automobiles as an art form will garner more attention in New York City than anywhere else in the world."

RK Motors' two-venue auction does $9.5 million

RK Motors, known for its restoration business and its classic car dealership, wants to be a big-time player in collector car auctions as well, and took a big step in that direction when it moved more than 100 "investment-grade racers, rare muscle cars and European classics" at its first major event, a two-day sale that included a second bidding parlor at the Abu Dhabi Emirates Palace Hotel.

Sales totaled nearly $9.5 million for the event based at the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina.

"The opportunity to launch a two-day auction with sites both here in Charlotte and across the world in Abu Dhabi, combined with the debut of real-time bidding, truly made these collector cars available to bidders from throughout the world," said RKMCCA executive vice president Bill Mathews. "We look forward to our next auction, and are already conducting extensive outreach to locate pristinely conditioned, investment-grade cars for international bidders and collectors."

The high-dollar transaction of the event was $1.3 million for one of six 2002 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR roadsters, this one showing only 71 miles on its odometer.

The 1977 McLaren M26 that James Hunt drove to his final Formula One victory went for $1.2 million.

Other top sales included $505,000 for a 2012 Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition, the only one of 50 produced with white exterior and Alcantara interior; $300,000 for the 1967 Chevy Nova "Innovator" that was the GoodGuys 2011 Street Machine of the year; $232,500 for one of 17 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge convertibles; $156,000 for a 1967 Ford Mustang GT with a 545-cid engine.

The 1977 Chevrolet Nova that Dale Earnhardt drove to victory in the 1986 Goodys 300 at Daytona brought $140,000. The car has participated three times in the Goodwood Festival of Speed and recently was restored in anticipation of the historic races next summer at Laguna Seca.

Gone Farmin Vintage tractors bring $1.5 million at Mecum's Iowa sale

Yes, we know, the name of this website is ClassicCars.Com, but if you love aged mechanical vehicles, you also love old tractors, so we're sharing news about Mecum Auctions" Gone Farmin' Iowa Premier event at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, where some 225 vintage tractors and 300 "signs and farm relics" sold for a combined total just shy of $1.5 million.

Of those 225 tractors, 181 sold, a sell-through rate of 80 percent. Among those selling were 46 from the George Kerckhove collection.

The top sale was $65,000 for a 1963 John Deere 3010 Orchard tractor, on e of only 19 gasoline-powered built that year.

Other top sales were $41,500 for a 1974 International 1568, $39,000 for a 1937 John Deere 62, $38,000 for a 1972 John Deere 4320 Standard Open Station, and $36,000 for a 1972 John Deere 4000 Power Shaft model.

Seven of the top 10 sales were classic John Deeres.

Hollywood cars headline Leake auction at Dallas

Cars with star power are scheduled to cross the block November 22-24 at the Leake auction at Market Hall in Dallas, where the docket includes a 1941 Ford Super Deluxe convertible driven by Ryan Gosling in "Gangster Squad," a 1963 Lincoln Continental and 1956 Cadillac limousine convertible used in the movie "Parkland," and a 1999 Chevrolet K1500 Suburban driven by the late James Gandolfini in the HBO series "The Sopranos."

Mecum has Steve McQueen's motorcycle

Mecum Auctions' November 21-23 sale at Anaheim, California, will include a 1938 Harley-Davidson WLD Solo Sport formerly owned -- and ridden -- by Steve McQueen.

"There's a big difference between a bike that McQueen owned and bike that McQueen rode," said Dana Mecum.

McQueen had a collection of more than 100 bikes, but the WLD was one he actually rode. The bike was sold at the McQueen estate sale in 1984. It shows 21,000 miles on its odometer and includes McQueen's personal tools found wrapped in denim inside the frame-mounted tool box.

On the calendar this weekend:

* Motostalgia auction in conjunction with the U.S. Grand Prix at Austin, Texas (see catalog at

* Goodguys Rod & Custom Association's Southwest Nationals at Scottsdale, Arizona

* Torque Meet Tour at UTI Campus, Avondale, Arizona

Click here for event calendar.


Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.

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