Classic Car Capital

RM Auctions Weiner Microcar Museum – Auction Report

Numquam tanto minus – Never has so little cost so much

RM Auctions, Bruce Weiner Microcar Collection, Madison, Georgia, February 15-16, 2013

Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor

Rick Carey squeezes in the Peel P50
Rick Carey was all smiles in the Peel P50

Hands down, this was the best, most enjoyable, cheerful, enthusiastic auction in memory.

It’s right up there with Christie’s sale of the A.K. ‘Nutzy Stutzy’ Miller auction in 1996.

Most collector car auctions, and particularly single owner collection auctions, are serious affairs, gathering like-minded collectors from everywhere bent on serious deal-making, parceling out the gems from the collection among colleagues.

RM’s Weiner Collection was nothing like that. Faced with twenty-three Messerschmitts, the Peels, multiple variants of Isettas and Heinkels, Gabriel Voisin-designed Biscooters and Biscuters and literally dozens of diminutive vehicles built by imaginative entrepreneurs known well only by cognoscenti, seriousness was not an option.

Weiner aided his cause by decorating his Goggomobil Transporters in Coca-Cola, Dubble Bubble and Pez livery, and handing out copious amounts of related sugar confections as well as Hot Wheels models of the ‘Whatta Drag’ Isetta. There were racks of brightly colored reading glasses: the cars were small and older collectors might have needed them to get up close and see clearly.

The theme was ‘fun’ and it was abetted by Bruce Weiner and by RM Auctions’ presentation.

The array of diminutive vehicles, many with just three wheels (the alternate subtitle was tot vehiculis, tam pauci rotarum, ‘so many cars, so few wheels’) was an education in the variety of little cars. RM’s catalog, measuring 5×5 inches and 2 inches thick, was a masterpiece in concept and execution. It will be referenced for years for its encyclopedic presentation of the microcar era after World War II.

It is risky to characterize any car collection as ‘definitive’ but if any is, it was Bruce Weiner’s collection of micro cars. Of vastly divergent quality – in both design and condition – they spanned an equally vast range of individual, idiosyncratic concepts. From basically utilitarian like the French Mochets and Gabriel Voisin’s elemental Biscoo[u]ters to anthropomorphic evolutions like the Fuldamobils and Fuji to the fantastic Sixties Peel P50 and Trident, right out of swingin’ London, everything in the collection – except maybe the TR6, 914 and 240Z – was exciting, different and cute.

‘Cute’ may be the defining characteristic of RM’s Bruce Weiner Collection auction. ’Cute’ was everywhere. Even the auction reporter slipped into the Peel P50 [displayed in the auction’s vestibule with a looping video of a drag race between it and an Shelby GT350 of the same vintage – the Shelby’s driver visibly aged waiting for the Peel to reach the finish line.]

Some auctions are memorable for the quality of their cars and the magnificent prices they attain. Others present huge and diverse consignments. A sparse few others are distinguished by the imagination, determination, selectivity and whimsy of their collectors and the sympathy of the auction company to the intent of the collector.

RM Auctions’ Bruce Weiner Microcar Collection auction was the latter. It was a privilege to be even a peripheral part of it and to witness the joy of the successful bidders.

Fortunately they were little cars with few accessories or options and well-researched descriptions, so it was possible to write up a lot of them. Don’t expect them to ratchet up benchmarks for microcar prices. These were once-in-a-lifetime prices, eagerly contested and followed by everyone interested in microcars. Taking home a trophy from Bruce Weiner’s unparalleled collection carried a premium in and of itself that won’t be equaled if the individual vehicles come back to market any time soon. Numquan tanto minus is not about to be repeated.

But it was fun, and a nearly unparalleled education.

RM Auctions Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum – Auction Report

1953 Messerschmitt KR 175 Kabinenroller
Lot # 243 1953 Messerschmitt KR 175 Kabinenroller; S/N 2160; Light Mustard Yellow/Tan leatherette; Clear Plexiglas top; Estimate $35,000 – $45,000; Unrestored original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $20,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $23,000. No Reserve – 3-wheels, first generation with rubber suspension, kick starter and open chain drive – Dull original paint, faded upholstery, good bubble and side windows. Aged but complete and sound. Probably too good to restore. The first microcar across RM’s Weiner Collection auction block, the Kabinenroller in many respects defined the collection. There were 23 of them in variants almost impossible to enumerate, let alone discriminate. It dropped in below estimate, a good example of the best reasons to be early and audacious at a single-theme auction like this. A sound value in a sound and largely original Messerschmitt.
1961 Isetta 300 Pickup
Lot # 244 1961 Isetta 300 Pickup; S/N A12747; Red/Black leatherette; Grey vinyl; Green cloth top; Estimate $35,000 – $45,000; Truck restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $55,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $63,250. No Reserve – Wood floor, steel box pickup bed with cloth covered wagon top, folding sunroof, dual outside mirrors, Lucas headlights, four wheels – British-built but lefthand drive. Quick older repaint, good interior, chrome and sunroof. A typical pickup truck restoration, but not the typical pickup truck. Rated 165# (75kg) in the minute bed, this is the only known surviving [British] Isetta pickup. A more charismatic parts runner isn’t possible, which along with its rarity probably accounts for its over-estimate price. If it’s the only one, as seems likely, it’s a sound value at this price. And it has thirteen horsepower from its 4-stroke engine.
1961 Messerschmitt KR 200 Cabriolet
Lot # 245 1961 Messerschmitt KR 200 Cabriolet; S/N 74947; Red/Red, snakeskin vinyl; Black cloth top; Estimate $40,000 – $50,000; Cosmetic restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $46,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $52,900. No Reserve – Dual outside mirrors, luggage rack, wheel covers, three wheels, a late FMR (Fahrzeug und Maschinenbau Regensburg) Messerschmitt delivered originally in Canada – Good paint, chrome, top and interior. Very usable and presentable. ‘Sporty’ hardly describes this late FMR KR 200, but who came up with the snakeskin pattern vinyl interior accent? It’s a sweet little (very little) piece of history, sound and usable as is, but definitely not inexpensive.
1956 BMW-Isetta 300 Cabriolet Bubble Window
Lot # 249 1956 BMW-Isetta 300 Cabriolet Bubble Window; S/N 495137; Light Olive Green/Green plaid cloth; Grey leatherette top; Estimate $45,000 – $55,000; Recent restoration, 2 condition; Hammered Sold at $78,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $89,700. No Reserve – Luggage rack with wicker suitcase, Cream wheels, whitewalls, ‘Tropical’ vent front door – Restored like new top and bottom, inside and out. One of only about 50 bubble window cabriolets built. Cheeky, above reproach in its presentation and a rare BMW-Isetta variant, this price establishes a new benchmark for the marque and model.
1959 Messerschmitt KR 200 Sport
Lot # 251 1959 Messerschmitt KR 200 Sport; S/N 76103; Ivory/Grey cloth; None top; Estimate $50,000 – $60,000; Recent restoration, 2 condition; Hammered Sold at $80,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $92,000. No Reserve – Wire wheel covers, whitewalls, dual outside mirrors, luggage rack, Black cloth tonneau cover, FMR (Fahrzeug und Maschinenbau Regensburg) logoed, 3 wheels – Excellent paint, bright trim, upholstery, etc. Restored like new and very nice. The only known surviving KR 200 Sport. A vehicle (the use of ‘car’ when describing most of Bruce Weiner’s collection is inappropriate) that will never be overlooked wherever it appears, despite – or on account of – its small size. This is a benchmark price for it, but it’s the only known surviving KR 200 Sport.
1958 Trabant P50 2-Dr. Sedan and Weferlinger Heimstolz Camp Trailer
Lot # 253 1958 Trabant P50 2-Dr. Sedan and Weferlinger Heimstolz Camp Trailer; S/N 5005538; Yellow Snow/Beige cloth; Estimate $25,000 – $35,000; Unrestored original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $25,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $28,750. No Reserve – Outside mirror, hubcaps, sold with Weferliner Heimstolz self-contained trailer with built in propane stove – Awful mostly original paint touched up at body joints where water has leaked in and started to dissolve the papier mache. Grungy engine and chassis, dull trim, soiled interior. The trailer is fully equipped and much better than the Trabi. OK, the color description is pejorative, but it’s the way RM listed it on their Lineup Report and it perfectly describes the Trabi. This isn’t much of a car, but it deserves its status as an icon of the East German (GDR) approach to consumerism and is more vehicle than its West German counterparts from the period. The combination is a great value at this price, just don’t venture onto the Interstate pulling the trailer with 18hp.
1958 Berkeley Sports SE328 Roadster
Lot # 254 1958 Berkeley Sports SE328 Roadster; S/N 1104; Red/Biscuit leatherette; Estimate $15,000 – $25,000; Older restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $20,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $23,000. No Reserve – Silver painted wheels, blackwall tires, cheap aftermarket woodrim steering wheel, Excelsior 2-stroke V-twin engine – Good repaint and interior. Engine has been out and is clean but the rest of the chassis and underbody are aged and grimy. Sold by RM at Monterey in freshly restored condition in 1999 for $8,250, this Berkeley hasn’t aged well but still offers potential as a weekend driver or in historic racing where the Berkeley’s light weight and tunable Excelsior V-twin will make MGs and Triumphs look bad. It’s a good value at this price and was somewhat overlooked by the Weiner auction bidders who focused on more (un)conventional microcars.
1964 Peel P50 Sedan
Lot # 258 1964 Peel P50 Sedan; S/N D535; Red/Black; Estimate $35,000 – $45,000; Recent restoration, 2 condition; Hammered Sold at $105,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $120,750. No Reserve – Three wheels – Restored like new with good paint and interior. Placed prominently in the vestibule of RM’s Weiner auction, RM played an endless loop video of a drag between the Peel P50 and a Shelby GT350. The GT350’s driver aged visibly waiting for the Peel to cross the finish line, but finish it did. Incredibly cute, which paid off in the bidding with a fabulous price that was enthusiastically applauded by the auction bidders. Driven onto the lawn of any concours or show it will upstage Duesenbergs and Ferraris. At this price, the first of several Weiner collection blockbuster results, it should.
1959 Messerschmitt KR 200 Kabinenroller
Lot # 261 1959 Messerschmitt KR 200 Kabinenroller; S/N 71344; Coral Red/Black leatherette; Clear Plexiglas top; Estimate $20,000 – $25,000; Unrestored original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $20,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $23,000. No Reserve – Wheel covers, blackwall tires, luggage rack, tail portholes, FMR diamond badged, 3 wheels – Original and unrestored. Rear seat missing. Plexiglas top is slightly foggy and scratched but sound. Has most of its exterior trim, with more in a basket where the back seat should be. A realistic, feasible project. Bought right, at least in the context of RM’s auction of Bruce Weiner’s collection which focused the attention of essentially everyone in the world with even a modicum of interest in microcars on Madison, Georgia and had sufficient inventory to provide abundant choices and opportunities. The appeal of a KR restoration project is both its simplicity and the charm of the finished creation and this was a reasonable price for this project.
1962 Trojan 200 Coupe
Lot # 262 1962 Trojan 200 Coupe; S/N XR7137; Red/Blue, Green plaid, Grey vinyl; Estimate $30,000 – $40,000; Cosmetic restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $47,500 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $54,625. No Reserve – Grey vinyl folding sunroof, three wheels, lefthand drive, metric instruments – Big bubble side windows. Quick but decent repaint, good upholstery, steering wheel, instruments and exterior chrome. Chassis and underbody are aged and coated in old sealer. Usable as is and pretty attractive. An example of the many licensed variants of microcars within Bruce Weiner’s collection, tiny data points scattered around the trend line of these designs’ histories. A Heinkel built in Britain by Peter Agg’s Trojan, but the new owner paid dearly for documenting its place within the Heinkel family tree. This is an expensive Trojan.
1956 Fuldamobil S-6 2-Dr. Sedan
Lot # 267 1956 Fuldamobil S-6 2-Dr. Sedan; S/N 200604; Hunter Green/Red plaid vinyl; Estimate $40,000 – $50,000; Recent restoration, 2- condition; Hammered Sold at $45,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $51,750. No Reserve – Whitewall tires, four wheels, wheel covers, whitewall tires, dual windshield wipers, electric reverse – Restored like new. Good paint, chrome, upholstery and gauges. Exterior aluminum brightwork could use a little elbow grease and Mr. Douglas but beyond that small issue this is Fuldamobil is like new. More car-like, with a fully enclosed aerodynamic aluminum body, the Fuldamobil’s anthropomorphic shape is like a marine creature glimpsed in an National Geographic deep sea exploration program. It’s cool, and it’s different, and it’s a sound buy at this price, at least in the context of this microcar-focused event.
1970 Honda N600 Hatchback
Lot # 272 1970 Honda N600 Hatchback; S/N 1027328; Dark Red, Black vinyl roof/Black vinyl; Estimate $15,000 – $20,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $20,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $23,000. No Reserve – AM-FM, alloy wheels – Good repaint with some orange peel, sound original interior and vinyl roof. Chassis and underbody are clean and are nearly in showroom condition, consistent with the 13,958 miles on the odometer. Owned and displayed for years at Honda North America’s headquarters. Microcars, called ‘kei’, were natural for Japan’s postwar recovery and its cramped urban environments. Honda established its North American bridgehead with this model, building on the success and positive reputation of its motorcycles, so it is understandable why it was displayed proudly. Any Honda dealer selling thousands of Civics and Accords a year would be proud and pleased to display it, which makes it a sound value at this price. The Weiner Collection bidders were more intently focused on European products and this Honda seems to have slipped by with insufficient notice.

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Show Comments (8)

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  1. Good stuff Rick, had the pleasure of 100 mile trip in the back seat of a Fiat Multipla, great fun.

  2. Never mind the cars, the RM auctioneers alone were worth the price of admission. I especially enjoyed Max Girardo. An unique individual.

  3. I remember a warm summer day I thought a quick trip up the mountain to see the Giant Sequoias would be fun in my little Honda 600 like the one pictured. Not even half way up, I turned around the little car not wanting to burn up the engine struggling to keep up.

  4. Yes! The auction was very enjoyable. Even if the prices were unrealistic for most of the lots, everyone in attendance had a great time. RM did an outstanding presentation both before and during the auction. The RM staff was the best, from the preregistration conversations with the administrative staff to the check in on site and the auction itself it was a first class event. This all could not have happened with out Bruce Wiener, he started collecting these cars when everyone else thought bigger was better. If you missed seeing the collection intact at his museum you missed out on something this hobby will never see again.
    I hope all the new owners will not hide their new toys but share them with the world by bringing them to events. Now more than ever microcars are not only welcome at most automotive events but are search out by the promoters of the events and requested to attend.
    A tip of the hat to Rick Carey for authoring the above article. I found it to be one of the best reports on the event.

  5. I have a Fiat Multipla and an Isetta. They are great fun and people will stop and look at you like you are from another planet. I played the lottery for months hoping I could have money to go this auction. I bought mine years ago before the prices went through the roof. Try buying these on a teacher salary now.

    1. Auctions like RM’s sale of the Weiner cars draw every collector who ever dreamed of owning an Isetta, Kabinenroller or Biscu[oo]ter into attending. They want a piece of the “ex-Bruce Weiner” provenance and the diverse KR, Heinkel and Peel variants that he acquired. They’re also contesting over the cars with their microcar-buddies, and they don’t want to go home empty-handed.
      So they cast caution to the winds and bid with their hearts (or maybe their testicles), not their heads, which results in the prices we saw in Madison, Georgia.
      Typically prices come back to earth after a sale like this, but collectors are better educated [RM’s micro-catalog is a microcar encyclopedia] and better prepared intelligently to discriminate among marques and models.
      Enjoy the Multipla and Isetta.