16 July 2015

Auction Preview: RM Sotheby's Motor City Sale 2015

RM Sotheby’s will hold its annual sale in conjunction with the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s on July 25 in Plymouth, Mich. Given the sale’s location, it naturally brings out more American cars than a typical RM auction and is indeed an event to “honor the American automobile and to celebrate Detroit’s rich automotive history.” Almost 80 vehicles, many of them prewar luxury cars with known ownership and collection history, will cross the block, with 27 offered without reserve. Here are five we’ll be keeping an eye on:

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
Presale estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Hagerty Price Guide$64,300 - $156,000

The Eldorado Brougham was so over-accessorized and so over-engineered that it cost more than $13,000 when it came out in 1957 (making it one of the most expensive cars in the world), and Cadillac still lost $10,000 on each one. Only 704 were built over a two-year period, and RM Sotheby’s has the 16th one produced. Finished in Lake Placid Blue with the appropriate brushed stainless steel roof, the car was sold by RM back in 2007 at its Meadowbrook Hall sale for $115,000. For a more-up-to-date reference, RM sold an almost identical example at Amelia Island this year for $148,500, which falls right in the middle of this one’s presale estimate.

1929 Stutz Model M Four-Passenger Speedster
Presale estimate: $275,000 - $325,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

Even though Harry C. Stutz left and the company suffered financial trouble in the early part of the decade, Stutz could still make a fine automobile in the 1920s. The Model M on offer by RM is one of the four-passenger sedans with cut-down front doors and handsome dual-cowl bodywork by LeBaron, and it is powered by Stutz’s solid and powerful single-cam inline-eight. The car was owned by a wealthy Hollywood socialite for many years before becoming a part of the Briggs Cunningham collection in the 1970s. It then became part of William Ruger’s collection in Connecticut in the 1980s and was fully restored. Callaway even reworked the engine with titanium connecting rods, higher compression and aluminum pistons, so it’s a neat and usable ride for vintage tours in addition to being a gorgeous dual-cowl Stutz.

1934 Auburn Twelve Salon Speedster
Presale estimate: $375,000 - $450,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

One of the more beautiful and recognizable prewar American cars, the Auburn Boattail Speedster is also one of the rarest. Most of those you see out and about are replicas; in fact, only four boattail speedsters powered by the Lycoming V-12 are known to exist. This car, though, has a Salon Twelve chassis but was given a Speedster body after it was acquired from the Harrah’s collection in the 1970s. The work was all quality; it was shown at Pebble Beach in 2000 and has been actively shown at Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg events for many years. 

1961 Chrysler 300G Convertible
Presale estimate: $110,000 - $130,000
Hagerty Price Guide$87,500 - $189,000

The last year of Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look” design on the Chrysler 300 letter series was 1961, as the following year’s models featured styling that was significantly more subdued. Performance was as commendable as the looks with the 413-cubic-inch, 375-hp wedge V-8, and the 300G offered exclusivity with only 337 convertibles built. The example offered at the Motor City sale is an auction veteran. It sold at RM’s Monterey sale in 2009 for $96,250, Mecum Indy in 2010 for $111,300 and at the RM John Staluppi sale in 2012 for $137,500. In 2012, it was described as a No. 3+ condition car with a competent older restoration, but it has since received full mechanical servicing. The price it brought in 2012 was quite high and the market hasn’t really moved for letter-series cars, so the current presale estimate is appropriate.

1922 Mercer Series 5 Raceabout
Presale estimate: $325,000 - $375,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

Any collector of performance cars would do well to have a Mercer, as you could argue that they built the first American sports car decades before the Corvette came along. The Series 5 Raceabout was actually the second model to bear that name, and although it is less desirable than the original Raceabout, the Series 5 was still a competent performer with its L-head four in place of the original T-head and, of course, its bare bones motoring experience with no roof or doors. RM’s example spent its early years under the ownership of a Venezuelan general before coming to America and receiving a full restoration in the 1970s. It has received additional restoration work since and has been with its current owner since 1997. It’s American automotive royalty, but that comes at a price. Gooding & Company sold another yellow Series 5 Raceabout, a 1920 example, at Pebble Beach last year for $308,000.

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