In many ways, the big collector car auctions mirror the international auto show schedule. While automakers debut their latest at Los Angeles, Geneva, New York, Frankfurt, and Detroit throughout the year, auction houses sell their all-time classics at Monterey, Paris, Scottsdale, and Monaco. It isn’t everyday that a high-profile auto auction makes its way to New York City, so when RM Sotheby’s decided to hold its year-ending Driven by Disruption auction in the Big Apple, we had to get a closer look.
Though the lots were on display for only a few days, the presentation on the 10th floor at Sotheby’s New York headquarters easily rivaled any of the best car museums in the world. There was so much iconic and instantly-recognizable metal on that floor that it hit you all at once – as did the number of well-heeled potential buyers who didn’t seem to be phased by any of it. This auction highlighted cars that in some way or another disrupted the status quo, be it by design, customization, or sheer performance. And in a sign of the times, the focus was as heavy on post-1975 cars as it was on prewar and midcentury classics. A 1981 Lamborghini Countach in a refreshing metallic green sat next to a like-new black on black 1991 Ferrari Testarossa. Just a room away, a Ford RS200 sat on a podium above a 1975 Porsche 911 Turbo.
Despite New York not usually being on the front lines when it comes to blue-chip auctions, Driven by Disruption is expected to be full of record-breaking sales. We’ll report on those once the final gavel drops. For now, here are our five favorite lots from RM Sotheby’s latest.
1. 1986 Ford RS 200
Despite always considering ourselves more of a midcentury classics fan, our inner Millennial pulled us right over to this RS200, the first we’ve seen in person. Yes, it’s an appliance white subcompact Ford from the ’80s with Escort interior bits, but it’s also an all-wheel drive, 250 horsepower (550 in racing spec) mid-engined, kevlar/carbon fiber-bodied rally fighter that was so insane it helped hasten the demise of Group B rally racing after the 1986 season. After the FIA ended competition prematurely (for being extremely dangerous), Ford of England had a terrible time unloading these £50,000 (about $165,000 today) monsters on the British public. This car was the last one sold new from Ford – and it sat on a lot until 1994. With just 1,960 kilometers on the clock, it’s expected to fetch anywhere between $475,000 and $600,000.
2. 1962 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato
There’s British Racing Green, and then there’s the deep, pearlescent green on this DB4GT, which we never knew we liked better until we saw it in person. One of just 19 aluminum Zagato-bodied DB4s, it was originally delivered to Australia (in white over red) where it successfully campaigned in races throughout the early ’60s. In the early 2000s, the car was brought back to England and restored with help from Zagato, where it gained its current green on green color combination. Remember Jaguar D-Type Works competition car we reported on last month? RM Sotheby’s tells us it expects the Aston to shatter the Jag’s $5 million estimate and become the most expensive British car ever sold at auction. Pre-sale estimate is $15-17 million.
3. 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial
There’s the Mondial, the most reviled Ferrari in the company’s history, and then there’s the 500 Mondial, the legendary inline-four cylinder racers of the 1950s. Known for their lightweight and torquey engines, Mondials dominated Formula Two racing while Formula One was on hiatus during the 1952 and ’53 seasons. This Scaglietti-bodied car was sold originally to a French buyer (hence the Tour de France blue), who sent it back to Ferrari for repairs after racing it, only to abandon it after not paying the repair bills. Ferrari painted it red and stuck it in its museum, where it sat until 1975. In 2007, a new owner decided to carefully strip the red paint off, revealing the worn aluminum bodywork and original blue paint, giving the car an incredible warn-in look. While it’s expected to fetch between $5-7 million, Sotheby’s star of the show is a 1956 Ferrari 290 MM that was competed by Juan Manuel Fangio, estimated price $28-32 million. On a purely aesthetic level, we like the Mondial better.
4. 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
Outside of collectors and the Concours set, Pierce-Arrow is largely lost to history, and that’s a shame because between 1901 and 1938, it rivaled Rolls-Royce and Mercedes as one of the finest automakers in the world. This Silver Arrow is just the third of five produced, and it was displayed alongside the House of the Future at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, along with advertising copy that declared, “Suddenly it’s 1940!” The Buffalo, N.Y.-based company wasn’t far off; with its integrated headlights and fastback profile, it predicted some major styling trends by about 15 years. Sadly, the company wouldn’t survive to see it – launching a V12-powered flagship during the worst year of the Depression for $10,000 (about $184,000 today) was the beginning of the end, and refusing to move downmarket, it closed its doors before the decade was out. In person, the Silver Arrow is beautifully detailed, as big as a locomotive, and with its gun-turret rear window, unlike anything else from an American automaker in the ’30s. RM Sotheby’s expects it to fetch $2.5 to 3 million at auction.
5. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
Back in August, RM Sotheby’s sold the 1956 Tour de France-winning Ferrari 250GT for $13.2 million. Proving that winners don’t always get all the glory, the auction house is now selling the second-place car from that race, a competition 1955 300SL that was piloted by the legendary Sterling Moss. finished in German Racing Silver with a red tartan cloth interior, this steel-bodied 300SL came back from mechanical issues to take second in the ’56 TdF race and has been in private hands since 1966. Like the Aston, it’s expected to become the most expensive gull-wing ever sold with an estimated price of $5 to $7 million.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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