2 September 2010

Monterey 2010 recap: A collective sigh of relief

It’s been a rough few years for the collector car hobby, as the economic downturn has impacted sales at the major auction houses. This year, hobbyists held their collective breath to see if protracted recession would still make a dent in sales in Monterey. You could almost hear the sigh of relief by August 15; the market showed an impressive rebound with $172 million in sales for the week.

“There were a lot of old collectors who realized that this was their last chance to buy cars they’d always wanted,” one longtime observer said. “They’re in their 70s and 80s, and it won’t come around again.”

They stepped up. In all, bidders came from more than 30 countries to what is recognized as the premier sales venue on the globe.

The slump was initially broken in startling fashion by RM auctions in Monaco in June with a $44 million total, but many analysts were chalking that up to the collapse of the Euro and a desire by collectors to keep their money safe beyond regional economic fluctuations. But the Monterey figures were solid across the board and indicated that money is once again flooding toward America, instead of away from it.

RM brought in $67 million – up $32 million from 2009 – with a 95 percent sell-through rate. 16 cars sold for more than $1 million, led by a 1938 Talbot-Lago T-150 teardrop that brought in $4.62 million. Other big sellers included a 1954 Ferrari 375MM Berlinetta for $4.62 million, an outrageous turquoise Delahaye Type 175 S Roadster by Saoutchik for $3.3 million, and a 1948 Tucker sedan that sold for $1,127,500. The potential top seller of the weekend, however, a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa, fumbled to a stop at $10.7 million due to a misunderstanding of whether it had sold.

Gooding raked in nearly $65 million, with by far the highest average sale price per car: 106 lots went home with new owners for an average $609,000 per car. Gooding’s sales total was up $15 million from last year, with an 80 percent sales rate. The top sale was a world record for a Ferrari LWB California Spider Competizione at $7.26 million. Gooding set another record for an Alfa Romeo; a 1933 8C Monza sold for $6.71 million. In all there were 13 cars that sold for over $1 million.

Bonhams’ total was more than $19 million, led by a surprising $3.6 million for a 1972 Porsche 917, a gigantic 1930 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 at $2.3 million and a 1967 Porsche 910 at $720,000.

Mecum Auctions, in only its second year, bumped its total to $15 million, led by a very tidy 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 at $1.25 million, a superb 1967 Corvette L88 (the first one sold and with a solid competition history) for $1.25 million and a nice 1972 Ferrari GTS/4 for just over $1 million. Other notable sales included a one-owner 1966 Cobra 427 for $650,000 and a very clean 1972 Chevrolet Corvette ZR2 for $440,000.

The company also sold five major wooden speedboat boats from Lake Tahoe for over $1.2M, showing that the wooden boat market has real collector potential, especially for the “Duesenberg class” boats from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.

Russo and Steele rebounded from stormy days in Scottsdale with $6.1 million, led by a 1971 Mark Donohue Trans Am Javelin at $847K, a 1965 Shelby Cobra CSX2461 at $649K and a 1966 Lamborghini 350GT at $440K.

Meanwhile on the show circuit, a surprisingly conservative white 1933 Delage roadster by de Villars won best of show at the Pebble Beach Concours, while 12 of the original 16 Jaguar SS roadsters dazzled audiences, along with a stunning 100 years of Alfa Romeos on display.

And at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, veteran hot-shoes Sir Stirling Moss and John Morton both survived scary crashes, as the newly reorganized reunion races attracted a record number of 627 entrants for two weekends of fiercely competitive racing.

It was a whirlwind week in Monterey, but now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that the collector car market for high-end vehicles has weathered the economic storm of recent years.

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