RM Sotheby’s Motor City 2015 – Auction Report

RM Sotheby’s Motor City, Inn at St. John’s, Plymouth, Michigan, July 25, 2015

RM Sotheby’s auction at the Concours d’Elegance of America is an essential part of a delightful weekend of collector car events in the heartland of the automobile industry. The atmosphere this year was helped in no small part by the resurgence of the auto industry in America.

Record sales, record profits and less expensive gasoline and diesel fuel go a long way to improving the attitude of collectors, sponsors and vendors. It helps that the automobiles being designed and built these days are good vehicles: fast, comfortable, fuel efficient and attractive. Their quality highlights the vast collection on display both in Saturday’s RM Sotheby’s auction and on Sunday at the Concours.

The Motor City auction furthermore is a relaxed and lower key buildup to the upcoming marathon of car events, concours, shows, tours and overlapping auctions that follows only two weekends after in Monterey. It’s a chance to get social updates on the auction regulars, work the bugs out of photographing and observing skills that have been less vigorously exercised in June and July and generally tune up for the intense grind that Monterey has become.

RM Sotheby’s Motor City auction has vastly different cars from what is about to follow. They’re older, less flashy and not as select but, as RM Sotheby’s has proven again and again in docketing its auctions, well suited to the bidders and spectators. It is, after all, a commercial endeavor where matching sellers, inventory and buyers is the recipe for success.

This year’s Motor City auction was highlighted by the Duesenberg SJ Dual Cowl Phaeton (s/n 2952, J-562) with coachwork after LaGrande, selling for $852,500, one of seventeen lots selling on successful hammer bids of $100,000 or more.

It sets the stage for Monterey in just three weeks.

RM Motor City
Cars Offered / Sold
Sale %
Sold < Low Est.
Sold > High Est.
Avg. Sale
Median Sale
Total Sales
78 / 62
$66,000 [55.3%]
78 / 60
$82,500 [66.7%]
80 / 72
$78,100 [72.6%]
74 / 61
$63,250 [56.5%]
70 / 60
$66,000 [51.8%]

RM Sotheby’s Motor City 2015 – Auction Report

1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 Convertible
Lot # 103 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 Convertible; S/N 338675M181711; Red/Black vinyl; Black vinyl top; Estimate $30,000 – $40,000; Older restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $25,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $27,500. No Reserve. Automatic, power steering, power brakes, buckets and console with tach, wire wheel covers, red line radial tires, pushbutton radio, remote outside mirror. – Represented as matching numbers original engine. Decent older paint, chrome and interior. Repainted underbody, some weak trim chrome. Orderly, detailed engine compartment with some oil mist and road grime along the chassis. A tidy and unusual driver quality car. – Sold for $37,800 at RM’s Ft. Lauderdale auction in 2007, time and miles have taken their toll on this older restored 4-4-2, but even at that, this is a modest result for an inherently sound and eminently usable example of unusual American muscle.
1989 Porsche 911 Turbo Coupe
Lot # 104 1989 Porsche 911 Turbo Coupe; S/N WP0JB0931KS050487; Black/Black leather; Estimate $100,000 – $140,000; Unrestored original, 2- condition; Hammered Sold at $160,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $176,000. With Reserve. Blaupunkt Reno cassette stereo, Andial intercooler temp gauge, Black center Fuchs wheels, Comp T/A tires, A/C, power sunroof, power sport seats, power windows, power outside mirrors, Borla exhaust, aftermarket intercooler, original spare wheel and tire, tool kit, extra set of RUF wheels. – Good original paint and interior. Orderly but used engine compartment. Clean underbody. 51,419km and two family ownership from new, an exceptionally clean and consistently maintained example. – Ambitiously promoted by RM as “the last year of the 930 Turbo, ” this result at a hammer bid 14% over the high estimate is indicative of the near-frenzy that is manifest in 911 values in recent months. While this is a very good example, it also is a very expensive one.
1972 BMW 2002 2-Dr. Sedan
Lot # 105 1972 BMW 2002 2-Dr. Sedan; S/N 2581201; Chrome Yellow/Black vinyl; Estimate $40,000 – $60,000; Modified restoration, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $35,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $38,500. No Reserve. 4-speed, 14-inch ATS alloy wheels, BFG blackwall radials, later sport seats, black 3-spoke leather rim steering wheel, antenna but no radio, 40DCOE Weber carbs, Hella driving lights. – Good paint, interior and major chrome. Aluminum trim is slightly dull. Underbody is original and hasn’t been touched. Orderly engine compartment. – A thoughtfully and competently built cafe racer 2002, the price it brought is full value for the car, but possibly a bargain for the fun it will be to drive.
1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper 7-Passenger Sedan
Lot # 106 1947 Packard Custom Super Clipper 7-Passenger Sedan; S/N 21513026; Packard Blue, Lowell Grey roof/Rose broadcloth; Estimate $30,000 – $40,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3 condition; Not sold at Hammer bid of $25,000. With Reserve. Large hubcaps, trim rings, wide whitewalls, jump seats, rear compartment radio, fog lights, overdrive. – CCCA Full Classic ™. Poor but sound old paint, sound but old and slightly aged interior, weak old trim chrome. Underbody is original, clean and dry. An elegant and imposing but ultimately tired old car. – Offered here a year ago at a reported bid of 10% more than it attracted today, this is a big, imposing automobile, but an equally big, imposing project. The consignor should choose “No Reserve” next time and take any offer. In fact, the consignor should have grabbed this bid if there was any money in the Inn at St. John’s Grande Ballroom.
1948 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Convertible
Lot # 108 1948 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Convertible; S/N P15605096; Charlotte Ivory/Dark Red leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $25,000 – $35,000; Older restoration, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $19,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $20,900. No Reserve. 3-speed with overdrive, turn signals, pushbutton radio, hubcaps, trim rings, wide whitewalls, heater. – Sound old paint but with abundant edge chips. Good upholstery and top. Steering wheel and instruments are sound but ageing. Dull gauge faces. Choke knob looks like it has been chewed on. Underbody is done but not recently. Front axle is either lowered or the springs have sagged noticeably. An unusual car but now just good for touring. – ‘Attractive’ does not apply to the Plymouth. Even at this price well under the low estimate it has so many needs that it won’t be particularly satisfying to own or to take out on cruise night. The seller should be extremely happy to get this much for it.
1950 Buick Roadmaster Limousine
Lot # 109 1950 Buick Roadmaster Limousine; S/N 16340056; Dark Blue, Black padded roof/Dark Blue leather, two tone Blue cloth; Estimate $35,000 – $40,000; Cosmetic restoration, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $40,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $44,000. With Reserve. Rollup divider, automatic, 4-barrel carburetor, high performance cam, wheel covers, wide whitewalls, power windows including ventipanes, radio, power division window, upgraded to 1952 appearance specs. – Sound but unimpressive old repaint, good upholstery front and rear, weak dashboard and some trim chrome, clean underbody. A sound but utilitarian old cosmetic restoration of a Buick built for Harlow Curtice after he moved from being President of Buick to the GM executive offices as Executive VP of GM on his way to the Presidency and Chairmanship of The General. – Harlow Curtice was fiercely loyal to Buick, where he had constantly picked, picked, picked away at Cadillac’s domination of luxury status with ever larger and more powerful Roadmasters and Limiteds. It was no surprise he eschewed a Cadillac when he advanced to GM’s corporate offices on the 14th floor. It must have stuck in the throat of Cadillac’s boss, but Curtice rode Buick to the top of GM. This car was sold by RM in Arizona in 2006 for $24,200, then reached a mind-bending result at Amelia in 2007 just over a year later when it sold for $110,000. Today’s sale makes more sense than either of the prior two and is a significant and unique car for a realistic price.
1956 Ford Thunderbird Convertible
Lot # 110 1956 Ford Thunderbird Convertible; S/N P6FH291216; Red, Red hardtop/Red, White vinyl; White vinyl top; Estimate $60,000 – $75,000; Older restoration, 2- condition; Hammered Sold at $47,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $52,250. With Reserve. 312/225hp, automatic, P/S, P/B, two tops, chrome wire wheels, whitewalls, continental kit, cassette stereo, engine dressup. – Good paint, chrome and interior. Thoroughly restored to good but not top notch standards. Bought new by George and Peg Crockett, owners of Alamo Airlines and Alamo Field, now Las Vegas’s McCarran Field. Famously fed 5 gallon cans of fuel to a low flying Cessna 172 in 1958 to help keep it aloft for 64 days, 22 hours and 19 minutes. Later bought by Hughes Tool Company – Sold at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in 2006 for $86,400 and probably worth more in Vegas – where a replica is on display at McCarran – than in Plymouth, Michigan. This is a superior price for an otherwise ordinary ’56 T-bird, but its history sets it apart and makes is an unusual value at this price.

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Show Comments (4)

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  1. Curious what Mr. Carey thought of the ’33 Packard phaeton? Seemed like a very good buy on a lovely car–but mostly we read about cars from the ’40s–60s here.

  2. Everett,
    I apologize for disappointing you on the ’33 Packard, but I can’t view and do justice to all of them.
    I was a little tarnished (that’s a level below rusty) at St. John’s, having been moving into a new home for the preceding two weeks.
    I’ll keep your interest in mind when I’m in Monterey next week.

  3. I was a bidder on that ’31 Cadillac V12 Sedan, and I think your description is dead on. Fantastic car; so much presence. If it were an open model, it would have been 3x the cost. I just wish I was the successful bidder instead of an unsuccessful one.

    It seems like there are a lot of great deals right now in 1930s Full Classic closed models. Cars that were very expensively restored 20 or 30 years ago are coming up for sale at reasonable prices, often as their long-term owners are thinning out their collections. The buyers for 1930s Full Classics are heavily focused on open models, and they tend to be a pretty specific group. With closed models out of fashion, there are some great deals out there.

    Thanks for the excellent coverage, as always.
    -Regular Reader

  4. Total novice here – – but curious how you obtain the auction histories, which are often very enlightening (though also often sad to see how little most of the cars are driven over many years of ownership).