Keno Brothers New York City 2015 – Auction Report

Keno Brothers, Starlight Clarkson Square, New York City, November 19, 2015

The collector car auction business is tough.

It is populated by people who have been doing it for decades, who have Rolodexes with thousands of entries, personal databases of collectors organized by bankroll, interest and inclination, networks of specialists, dealers, agents and experts to call on a moment’s notice.

From the outside it may seem like a simple formula. Put together an attractive docket, find an affluent location, create some generous promotion. The money is out there. The fruit is generous commissions both ways. Create some flowers and bidders will flock to the pollen like bees.

It’s not that easy.

The latest to try are Leslie and Leigh Keno. Their profile from ‘Antiques Roadshow’ is high and although lesser known for their collector car expertise both the brothers have a long history of collecting cars and historic racing. Their preservationist approach has earned them further recognition, including a long-winded chapter in Dr. Fred Simeone’s ‘The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles’.

Their entre into the collector car auction world was ‘Rolling Sculpture’, a one-day auction of 40 lots in New York City’s Starlight Clarkson Square commercial exhibition space in SoHo. The consignment spanned much of car collecting’s spectrum from classic barn finds (Stutz DV32 and BMW 327) through early Ferraris (212 Inter PF Coupe) to a whole wall of late model supercars heavy on Lamborghinis.

Five-figure cars were few and far between, but this is ‘The City’, just blocks from Wall Street, and the cost of the high style presentation, lavish accoutrements and generous open bar wasn’t going to be defrayed with Toyota Land Cruisers and ’69 Camaros. In fact there were only two American built cars in the auction, the Stutz and a shopworn Duesenberg.

The presentation was notably refined, with forty cars placed throughout the exhibition space with plenty of room between them for appropriate consideration of their style and design. The Wednesday preview featured a seminar hosted by the Kenos, ‘At the Crossroads of Art, Engineering and Technology’ but while some of the presenters dealt with art, engineering and technology there was a heavy emphasis on investment returns.

That emphasis was echoed in the descriptions which heavily featured statement describing meteoric value escalations. Examples: DB5: ‘We feel that this trend is likely to continue, and we think that they will be trading at North of $2 million in the next few years.’ DB4: ‘One can collect and drive any number of “lesser” vintage GT cars, but if you’re a gentleman with superb, discerning taste and a tendency towards quiet exhibitions of serious maleness, one needs a DB4.’ 365 GTC/4: ‘The Ferrari 365 GTC/4 is the last remaining vintage V-12 Ferrari that you can buy for less than the price of a house.’ In a short time that statement may no longer be true, however, as they continue to experience rapid appreciation.’ And so it was throughout the presentation.

Every registered bidder got a tablet computer with the cars’ descriptions. RFID spots by each car brought up the descriptions and videos of the cars in action (those that ran, anyway.) It was a tech-savvy presentation backed up by Proxibid’s systems but one that was not reflected in the printed catalog that had descriptions of only three headline lots (Miura, March-Porsche 83G and Competition Daytona). The remaining 37 lots got only brief bullet lists in print.

None of the cars had federally required warranty stickers. Pre-sale estimate ranges were extravagantly wide, in several cases having high estimates double or more the low estimates.

At the auction on Thursday evening the room was less than full. Auctioneer Simon Hope had to contend with lengthy video introductions that slowed the sale to a snail’s pace and interest was, as the numbers show, limited with only 17 of 40 lots selling on the block and three more selling post-block for a 50% sell-through. 45% of the lots sold closed on hammer bids less than the low estimate; none sold over their high pre-sale estimates.

That’s the ‘bad’. The good is that this was an honest, sincere attempt by dedicated car enthusiasts to create a successful collector car auction in New York City, a venue that has daunted every collector car organization for the last generation. It was a first-time sale with all the well-recognized challenges such an endeavor presents and it was, in the end, remarkably successful both in its quality presentation and in its final result.

Give Leigh and Leslie Keno credit for pulling out the stops to do it right, for putting together a quality crew to support them and for establishing a fresh beachhead in the forbidding New York City environment.

Keno Brothers New York City 2015 – Auction Report

1969 Lamborghini Miura S Coupe
Lot # 100 1969 Lamborghini Miura S Coupe; S/N 4377; Red, Silver sills and wheels/Tan Boar Hide (Cinghiale); Estimate $800,000 – $1,600,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $870,000 plus commission of 12.00%; Final Price $974,400. No Reserve. Power windows – A true Miura S, one of two with wild boar hide upholstery (the other first owned by Frank Sinatra.) Sound paint with some touched up chips and masking holidays. Good original upholstery with expected age. Represented as matching numbers and largely original paint. Original underbody with road dirt in the corners. A sound, well-maintained but used car. – Owned by the Keno brothers’ Historic Motor Car Investment fund, bought in February 2014 at Artcurial’s Retromobile auction in Paris for Euros 785,600 with commission, $1,069,516 at the time. It didn’t look nearly as good today as it did at Retromobile, perhaps because the lighting was better. In any event, it has added 1,169 km to its odometer, no doubt many of them in service of the production values of the video produced to feature the car, the only No Reserve car and first to cross the block in the sale. It is a painful transaction not only for the sellers but also for the Miura market.
1960 Lancia Appia GT Coupe, Body by Zagato
Lot # 101 1960 Lancia Appia GT Coupe, Body by Zagato; S/N 812013277; Red/Brown; Estimate $80,000 – $150,000; Not evaluated; Hammered Sold at $82,500 plus commission of 12.00%; Final Price $92,400. With Reserve. Covered headlights. – Not evaluated. – Sold by Rick Cole/RM at Monterey in 1997 as a basket case for $9,350, then by Gooding at Pebble Beach in 2008 after a sound restoration for $104,500. The seller came up significantly short of what had been spent on it seven years ago even though it is over the low estimate.
1972 Maserati Ghibli SS Coupe, Body by Ghia
Lot # 102 1972 Maserati Ghibli SS Coupe, Body by Ghia; S/N AM115492284; Red/Black leather; Estimate $250,000 – $450,000; Recent restoration, 2- condition; Post-block sale at $285,714 plus commission of 12.00%; Final Price $320,000. With Reserve. Chrome spoke Borrani wire wheels, Michelin XWX tires, Becker Grand Prix stereo, power windows, fitted luggage, power steering, tool roll. – Excellent paint, chrome and interior. Underbody is nearly like new with only a little road spatter. Small cover in front of the right rear wheel has loose, protruding screws. Stone chipped windshield. Represented as matching numbers and original colors. – The few little flaws don’t detract very much from this Ghibli’s presentation but do nothing to create a sense of confidence among bidders. Bid to $225,000 on the block, the auction company reported it a post-block sale at this result, an amount that is significantly above the low estimate and surprising for a post-block sale.
2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina, Body by Pininfarina
Lot # 103 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina, Body by Pininfarina; S/N ZFFZR52A210123074; Engine # 60656; NART Blue/Saddle leather; Estimate $650,000 – $725,000; Unrestored original, 2+ condition; Not sold at Hammer bid of $500,000. With Reserve. CD changer stereo, power windows, 6-speed, sport seats, owner’s manual, tools, 2001 Frankfurt Auto Show display car. – 2,044 miles and like new. – While this is one of six 550 Barchetta Pininfarina prototypes built and the Frankfurt Auto Show display car, beyond that it is just another 2,000 mile example different in no appreciable readily identifiable aspect from any of the other 447 built. It should have been on its way to a new home well before the reported high bid. Even half the low estimate would have been ample recognition of its limited distinctions.
1940 Alvis 12/70 Special Sports
Lot # 104 1940 Alvis 12/70 Special Sports; S/N 15884; Dark Green/Black leather; No top; Estimate $80,000 – $200,000; Recent restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $105,000 plus commission of 12.00%; Final Price $117,600. With Reserve. RHD. Cycle fenders, dual Brooklands aeroscreens, single sidemount spare, body color wire wheels, Blockley tires, Marchal headlights. – Converted from the original Mulliner sedan in the late 90’s and modified as needed for high speed tours including replacing the original 1,842cc four with a 3-carb Speed Twenty engine, hydraulic brakes and longer ratio rear axle. 4,732 miles on the odometer are apparently the mileage since the conversion. Dirty and used but not mistreated. Under the dust and dirt the body paint is sound and shiny. Upholstery is recent and sound. Noted to be running on five cylinders, a defect that apparently could not be remedied before the auction and not encouraging for a new owner.. – Offered last year at Bonhams auction at the Simeone Museum where it was bid to $160,000, the seller got [very] reasonable a year later here and accepted both an attractive (if broad) estimate range and a reasonable price for a car that should be a load of fun to drive even if its intrinsic value is hampered by the varied origins of its components and the defective engine. The seller should be pleased to see it go away at this price; the buyer not so much.
1965 Aston Martin DB5 Coupe
Lot # 105 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Coupe; S/N DB51990L; Sage Green/Tan leather; Estimate $950,000 – $1,600,000; Not evaluated; Post-block sale at $848,214 plus commission of 12.00%; Final Price $950,000. With Reserve. – Not evaluated – Sold at Gooding’s Pebble Beach auction in 2011 for $687,500 where it was described as: ‘Chrome wire wheels, fog lights. Deep chrome with fine scratches and moderately worn seats with light soiling. Excellent dash and newer Green carpeting. The underside is not crisp but presentable. Straight body and excellent paint with decent gaps except for the trunk lid. Thoroughly cosmetically restored in the early 00’s and unusually well presented and attractive today.’ Bid to $800,000 on the block here and closed later with this result.
1958 Porsche 356A Coupe
Lot # 106 1958 Porsche 356A Coupe; S/N 102500; Engine # P68139; Metallic Silver/Red leather; Estimate $130,000 – $210,000; Recent restoration, 2+ condition; Hammered Sold at $110,000 plus commission of 12.00%; Final Price $123,200. With Reserve. Headlight stoneguards. – Represented as matching numbers engine, gearbox, body and chassis. Excellent fresh paint, chrome and interior. Freshly restored to better than showroom condition. Even body gaps and flush panel fits. Noted on-site that it needs a new fuel line and ‘mount bushings’ (whatever those are.) – An attractively presented car with high quality cosmetics and the consignor’s usual attention to fit and finish, its price appropriately reflects its condition and value.
1932 Stutz DV-32 4-Dr. Sedan, Body by LeBaron
Lot # 107 1932 Stutz DV-32 4-Dr. Sedan, Body by LeBaron; S/N DV601448; Black, Black padded roof/Grey cloth; Estimate $150,000 – $350,000; Unrestored original, 4+ condition; Not sold at Hammer bid of $95,000. With Reserve. Black wire wheels, wide whitewall Bedford tires, dual sidemounts, brown leather trunk, rear vanity, smoker’s kit and pulldown shades, Ryan-Lite headlights. – Peeling paint, pitted rusty chrome. Good original interior and wood trim. Grungy chassis and underbody. Looks like hell but is way better than it looks at first glance. 80 years’ ownership by Axel R. Stockenberg family. Stored 37 years, 23,435 miles from new. 2012 Pebble Beach Prewar Preservation class winner, HVA ‘This Car Matters’ award. – Even at a little over the high bid and just into six-figures this is an automobile to appreciate not only for its exceptional preservation and history but also for its performance and safety. Someone will take advantage of its availability to acquire something rare and wonderful.

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Show Comments (12)

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  1. Excellent write up. One point though is the Bizzarrini GT 5300, although the high sale for this auction at $1,010,800, is not a world record for the model. That belongs to chassis No. 0301 sold at the Artcurial auction in Paris this past February for $1.3 million. At the same auction an Iso A3/C sold for $1,172,643.

    1. Mike,
      Good point.
      I have never been able to get a comprehensive list of results from Artcurial in any form that facilitates data entry. Matthieu gripes when their results aren’t reflected, but has never done anything to help include them, so they get passed over.
      The American auction houses are, with the exception of Motostalgia, gracious, prompt and inclusive in providing results; the Brits are less so, the French are clueless about publicity, but judging from the way they conduct their auctions they seem to think all their bidders are French and the rest of the world doesn’t matter.
      Rebecca Ruff has tried on behalf of SCD to get consistent, timely, complete information but without success. I’ve given up trying.
      But, thank you for the clarification.


  2. Thank you for the cogent write-up. I was amused at your comment about the restoration of the BMW 327 as being straightforward, however. That may be so for the likes of Andreas Freudenberger, but for the mere mortal these old ladies are tougher than one might think at first glance. I am the owner of one of these, it is currently undergoing restoration from having been a basket case, and it’s not a walk in the park. While it’s true that these may be quarter million dollar cars when in fine shape, I am aware of at least one that’s had more than twice that amount lavished upon it in restoration costs alone. I don’t know if paying $100k to start the restoration process makes any financial sense, but I suppose that doesn’t matter. Anyone spending that quantity will surely bring the car back to life and that truly is what matters for any real enthusiast

  3. I was there too, along with a friend in the collector car business. Excellent and comprehensive report, except for……. no mention at all of the automobilia portion of the auction.

    1. I generally don’t cover automobilia, or even motorcycles. There’s more than enough to keep me busy [and my feeble brain engaged] trying to keep track of the cars.
      Too many cars, not enough time.

  4. Thoroughly entertaining. Seems the higher-end market continues to gravitate towards the fashion/art world, which leaves many of us scratching our heads.

  5. So, to summarize, people bidding on cars of this level do not require (or want) educational seminars, videos, sales pitches, and “spread-out” displays. (Some don’t even personally attend.) They would rather rely upon their own trusted advisors and/or their own knowledge and research. The 50% sell-through could happen in any small auction, but drastically scaling back the “event” could have ensured a nice profit nonetheless.

    1. John,
      It’s true that low key live sales and online sales, e.g., Motostalgia or BringaTrailer, can be successful and put more on the bottom line but that’s not the kind of exposure that brings recognition within the collecting community.
      This was the Keno brothers’ debut with car collectors. They staged it carefully in a New York Fashion Week style, true to the ethos and environment of The City.
      It wasn’t about maximizing the profit of this event, it was about building the Keno Brothers’