RM Sotheby’s New York City 2015 – Auction Report

RM Sotheby’s New York City, December 10, 2015

There was small, discrete vinyl press-on lettering on the façade of Sotheby’s New York headquarters during the RM Sotheby’s “Driven by Disruption” auction. Almost hidden behind the revolving door’s drum on the uptown side, it said: “RM Auctions, Inc. d/b/a RM Sotheby’s”.

In the packed auction room (Fire Marshal’s capacity 960 and filled to Standing Room Only that challenged the rated occupancy) there was little Sotheby’s presence. Phones, bid-spotters, Max Girardo and Alain Squindo on the block, Rob working the bidders: this was an RM classic car production on the big stage in the Big Apple.

What little there was of Sotheby’s presence consisted mostly of carefully turned out barely wet-behind-the-ears associates, notable for their stylish New York black-and-white attire, taking in the unusual scene. They weren’t quite slack-jawed at the RM show, but close.

The 10th floor preview area was, as it was two years ago, lushly presented. Access was limited, but rarely presented a real problem and if a respite from great cars was needed there was an adjacent preview for to-die-for mechanical watches. Troupes of handlers walked through pushing carts of carefully covered up timepieces on their way to the auction room, shadowed by watchful guys almost certainly licensed and carrying.

The consignment was down slightly, from 35 to 31 lots, and the sell-through also was well below the 90+% RM Sotheby’s has achieved in most of its recent auctions. However the total sale at $72.5 million was well above the $62.6 million of 2013.

While the sale’s popular sensation was the $1.76 million sale of Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. The car guys in the room, on the other hand, were aghast at the $3.74 million realized for the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow sedan, another notch in the belt of a healthy and largely fad-resistant Classic Car market.

Only one of the Ferraris did anything spectacular, and it wasn’t the headline consignment 290MM at $28 million. The Ferrari surprise was the Enzo, which brought $3.3 million, a step up on the order of two times from other recent (non-Papal) Enzo transactions.

Overall, good sense prevailed, setting a sound and rational baseline for the upcoming Arizona auctions.

RM New York City
Cars Offered / Sold
Sale %
Sold < Low Est.
Sold > High Est.
Average Sale
Median Sale
Total Sales
31 / 21
$1,072,000 [31.1%]
35 / 32
$1,265,000 [64.7%]

RM Sotheby’s New York City 2015 – Auction Report

1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Coupe, Body by Pininfarina-Scaglietti
Lot # 201 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Coupe, Body by Pininfarina-Scaglietti; S/N 16951; Engine # B1934; Black/Red leather, Black bars; Estimate $800,000 – $1,000,000; Recent restoration, 2 condition; Hammered Sold at $770,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $847,000. With Reserve. Becker Mexico cassette, air conditioning, power windows, headrests, chrome spoke Borrani wire wheels, Michelin X tires, U.S.-spec popup lights, manuals, tools, jack. – Very good paint, chrome, interior and engine compartment. Restored like new without excess. An 8-time FCA Platinum Award winner including Coppa Bella Machina. Ferrari Classiche certified despite having a later Euro-spec engine – Offered at Rick Cole’s Monterey auction in 1992 where it was bid to $175,000 and was in essentially the same condition as it was today, it was re-restored in 2004 and is still impeccable. Bought realistically for the replacement engine, it represents a sound value for the money.
1972 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Coupe, Body by Bertone
Lot # 202 1972 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Coupe, Body by Bertone; S/N 5014; Engine # 30700; Giallo Miura (Orange), Silver sills/Black leather; Estimate $2,400,000 – $2,800,000; Recent restoration, 2+ condition; Hammered Sold at $2,200,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $2,420,000. With Reserve. Power windows, Pirelli CN12 tires, owner’s handbook, tools, jack, split sump. – Freshly restored to better than new without going too far. Described as all original body panels. Maybe not beyond perfect, but so close as not to be far off. – It’s hard to beat a Miura, especially in its most fully developed SV split sump configuration, and they have been on a roll among discerning collectors later. If this isn’t the best one in the world it’s hard to imagine how another could be better, which for a trophy car is a trophy purchase. It’s never been shown and the new owner should have a great time taking it on a grand tour of concours for the next couple of years then, having taken the edge off, taking out to experience its magnanimous performance. The price is not quite a Miura benchmark, but if anything is a better (and far more fresh) car than the one that by a smidgen holds that honor, RM’s Pinnacle Portfolio s/n 4906 at Monterey in August.
1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante
Lot # 203 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante; S/N 57766; Engine # 57C; Dark Blue, Black/Tan pigskin; Estimate $2,200,000 – $2,500,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Not sold at Hammer bid of $1,700,000. With Reserve. RHD. Chrome wire wheels, Marchal headlights. – Concours restored. – This is a fascinating history in a single car with tales to tell both of configuration and originality. Let’s start with Christie’s Greenwich auction in 2007 where this car, stored for 45 years in the outbuildings of John Straus’s Westchester estate, emerged in as-found condition. It had been displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair with Stelvio Cabriolet coachwork (first owned by Nicholas Embiricos), swapped for this body in the 1940’s when both it and s/n 57733 with this body were owned by Ray Murray. Al Garthwaite then bought and raced it including at Watkins Glen and Bridgehampton in 1948. Garthwaite sold it to Dr. Sam Scher, perhaps the original adherent of ‘Pebble Beach’ restorations, from whom John Straus acquired it. Laden with squirrel nut shells, but all there and complete, at Greenwich it was the ultimate barn find, a complete car with all its parts and completely as-delivered by Bugatti except the body swap. Resuscitated by Scott Sargent so it ran and drove, it did the ‘Preservation’ circuit, then was sold by RM in London in October 2008 for $1,029,015. A complete restoration then followed, also by Scott Sargent, to the present impeccable standards of fit, finish and function. Subsequently displayed at Pebble Beach (2nd in class), it sold for $2,035,000 ($1,850,000 hammer) at Gooding’s Scottsdale auction in 2013. It is a gorgeous car, beautifully presented and with coachwork that is barely surpassed by the few, incredibly expensive, Bugatti Type 57 Atlantics. Yet, from 2007 to 2015, with a meticulous and fabulously expensive restoration in between, it has served its concours-queen purpose and has been reduced to just another Atalante. With today’s ‘barn-find’ fascination what would it be worth, running and driving, preserved largely as-found in John Straus’s Westchester barn? Its below-estimate no-sale bid here is an endorsement of the preservation ethic of Dr. Fred Simeone and Miles Collier. It’s lost its essence and, as beautiful as it is, is just another restored Atalante, a great history subsumed by shiny paint and fastidious attention to details. The tragedy is that it can never be un-done; its vestiges of history are lost forever.
1991 Ferrari Testarossa Coupe
Lot # 204 1991 Ferrari Testarossa Coupe; S/N ZFFSM17A1M0087139; Engine # 24933; Black/Black leather; Estimate $400,000 – $500,000; Unrestored original, 2 condition; Hammered Sold at $290,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $319,000. No Reserve. Air conditioning, no books or tools. – One owner from new, always stored at the selling dealer in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, driven 300km since new, just around the block a few times. Belt serviced in 1999 and 2007, fluids changed and front brakes rebuilt in 2014. A beautifully preserved time capsule. Excellent original paint and interior. Like new. – Cosmetically like new, perhaps, but with so few mile and only intermittent service putting it back on the road is fraught with uncertainty. There is, however, probably no Nero/Nero Testarossa around with so few miles and it brought a healthy premium price even in an accelerating Testarossa market. It may be a quarter under the optimistic low estimate but it is still a benchmark price.
1954 Pegaso Z-102 3.2 Berlinetta, Body by Touring
Lot # 205 1954 Pegaso Z-102 3.2 Berlinetta, Body by Touring; S/N 1021500150; Engine # 01020170150; Green/Green, Tan leather; Estimate $800,000 – $1,000,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $675,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $742,500. With Reserve. Chrome wire wheels, Dunlop blackwall tires, luggage, heater, Marchal head and fog lights, original spare tire and tool kit. – Raced in period by its first owner, Spanish Conte de Caralt, upgraded in period to a renumbered 3.2 liter engine. With the present fourth owner since 1981. Indifferent old repaint with many edge chips and stars on and around the deck lid. Weak trim chrome. Sound upholstery and loosely fit carpets. Clean and orderly engine compartment but not restored. Underbody resprayed over old undercoat. Heater has no hoses. A beautiful car in mediocre but largely original and reassuringly honest condition. – In contrast to the Bugatti Type 57C Atalante this is the essence of cherished, preserved (if not original) condition, a four Spanish owner car with [local] racing history, cosmetic attention but never restored in the present sense. The catalog wasted time on the efforts of a ‘totalitarian dictatorship … to further Spain’s reputation by building a world-beating sports car’. In fact this was former Alfa Romeo chief engineer Wilfred Ricart’s masterpiece, a 4-cam V-8 built to Grand Prix standards, slipped into a GP class chassis with independent front suspension and De Dion rear axle with a 5-speed gearbox and seductive alloy coachwork by Touring. The claim of 223hp from its 3.2 liter engine might be questioned, but the Pegaso’s performance and technical specifications put it among a small cadre of seriously sassy Fifties’ models, with performance and style that make BMW 507s pale in contrast. This is choice example with documented 4-owner history, a connoisseur’s collector car that brought a reasonable price for its obscurity but should gratify its new owner with its sophistication, history and style. It is an astute buy in New York where ‘Pegaso’ probably brings to mind Mobil’s flying horse and not Ricart’s masterpiece. There are few better places to spend 3/4 million dollars on a car than this.
1964 Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet, Body by Reutter
Lot # 206 1964 Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet, Body by Reutter; S/N 160371; Engine # 811908; Art/Black vinyl; Black cloth top; Estimate $400,000 – $600,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $1,600,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $1,760,000. With Reserve. Blaupunkt multiband radio, chrome wheels, Michelin XZX tires, luggage rack. – Janis Joplin’s ‘History of the Universe’ Porsche. Re-created exterior paint and new upholstery, original interior panels. Decent unrestored gauges and dashboard. New wheels and tires. Painted assembled with masking errors and rust under the sill chrome strips. Dirty underbody with old undercoat. Displayed for two decades at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A cultural artifact, not a car. Offered by the Joplin family, single family ownership from new. – Bought used by Janis Joplin from Otto Zipper and painted with ‘The History of the Universe” hippie style by Dave Richards using house paint, driven daily. Later restored in the original Dolphin Grey, then re-created in the original ‘History of the Universe’ livery in the 1990’s. Brought back to running and driving condition after display in Cleveland by RM Restorations, featured in a January 2016 episode of ‘Chasing Classic Cars’. It doesn’t get much better than this and the Joplin family’s preservation of Janis’s legacy got a big lift. How could such a small person have such a big voice? The price means nothing about 356 SC Cabs, but everything about cultural history and is a lot less than Ringo Starr’s drums. Full credit to RM Auctions and Andy Reid for bringing it to New York and Sotheby’s. Question is, will it show up again in six weeks in Scottsdale where the bidders are old enough to remember Janis?
1965 Jaguar XKE SI 4.2 Roadster
Lot # 207 1965 Jaguar XKE SI 4.2 Roadster; S/N 1E10804; Engine # 7E3286-9; Opalescent Silver Grey/Red leather; Black leatherette top; Estimate $250,000 – $325,000; Concours restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $270,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $297,000. No Reserve. Chrome wire wheels, Michelin X tires, two tops, tool kit, jack, JDHT certificate. – Done better than new with superb paint, chrome, upholstery and meticulous attention to detail. New floors and sills. Impossible to fault, except for being better than new. – RM hit an out of the park home run here two years ago in their first auction at Sotheby’s New York headquarters, selling a similarly spectacular XKE SI 4.2 for $467,500, but didn’t do so well with this far beyond perfect XKE. Go figure. The New York market can’t be saturated. This car was a good value, even at this price.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Coupe
Lot # 208 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Coupe; S/N 1880145500025; Engine # 1989805500027; Dark Blue/Grey leather; Estimate $600,000 – $800,000; Older restoration, 2 condition; Not sold at Hammer bid of $550,000. With Reserve. Wheel covers, wide whitewalls, US headlights, fog lights, Becker Mexico AM-FM – Restored years ago by Charles Brahms to showroom condition and ageing well with 55,530 miles from new according to the catalog. An outstanding example. – Crammed into a ‘Heavy Classics’ space at Sotheby’s, across the aisle from the 300Sc Cab, this beautiful 300Sc coupe got scant attention, an afterthought, which it does not deserve, but an excellent opportunity for an astute collector to experience a superlative quality automobile’s performance, luxury and presence at a reasonable price. It is surprising that RM|Sotheby’s didn’t make this deal happen if there was money anywhere in the area code.