Car auctions smash records on way to $475m

DAVID UNDERCOFFLER
Last updated 05:05 20/08/2014
Pebble Beach Conours d'Elegance
Reuters Zoom
Jon Shirley wins the Best of Show at the Concours d'Elegance with his 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe in Pebble Beach, California. The Concours tops a week-long celebration of automobiles and car culture on the Monterey Peninsula.

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The annual auto auctions in Pebble Beach and Carmel roared into the record books with a total of US$400 million (NZ$473.5m) in sales during Monterey car week in California.

From Ferraris to Fords, the four-day total was a 28 per cent increase over last year, according to Hagerty Insurance, which insures and tracks classic car values. The lavish auctions are hosted each year by companies like RM Auctions, Gooding & Co and Bonhams.

The auctions coincide with the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, which draws some of the wealthiest car fans in the world to the Monterey peninsula.

Despite the record sales, a handful of high-profile classics - with their headlines matching their price tags - failed to find new homes.

"There was a great deal of hype heading into the Monterey auctions," said McKeel Hagerty, founder and chief executive of Hagerty. "On the surface it was a record year and several individual record sales were set - including the highest price ever paid for a car at public auction."

That world record was set Friday (NZ time) when Bonhams sold a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO for US$38.1m, including buyers' fees. The sale shattered the previous record set of just less than US$30m in 2013 while a rare 1964 Ferrari GTB/C Speciale sold for US$26.4m making it the fourth highest car auction sale ever.

The GTO's final price was certainly eye-watering, but it was below what many experts expected, given that they have sold recently in private sales for US$50m. And other big-name cars didn't sell or sold for less than expected over the weekend.

They included a 1965 Ford GT40 prototype that sold for millions below its estimate, and a 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta "Tre Posti" and a 1995 McLaren F1 that couldn't hit their eight-figure reserve prices and didn't sell.

"Collectors showed discipline in their bidding and were willing to let some cars pass rather than be drawn into a frenzy," Hagerty said. "The Blue Chip collector is a sophisticated buyer and they proved this this year in Monterey."

The cream of the collecting world remained classic Ferraris, with the prancing horse marque grabbing nine of the top 10 sales. A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 that had actor Steve McQueen as its first owner sold for more than US$10m.

Only the Ford GT40 prototype broke Ferrari's streak, an ironic footnote considering the race cars the prototype established did the same thing to Ferrari's racers in the mid 1960s.

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Ferrari generally has grabbed numerous top 10 sales in previous Pebble Beach weekends, though this year, the brand dominated other high-value marque names, such as Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Duesenberg and Mercedes-Benz.

The middle of the market saw impressive gains over last year's Pebble Beach results. The average sale price was up 29 per cent to US$535,648, while the median sale price rose to US$99,000, according to Hagerty.

The lower end of the market continued to see excitement over Japanese brands, as younger buyers started collecting. Their involvement has forced high-profile auction houses to include more early Mazdas, Toyotas and Nissans in their lineups.

Over the weekend, a 1967 Mazda Cosmo and a 1972 Nissan Skyline each blew past their pre-sale estimates and sold for more than US$200,000 each.

The weekend's final US$400m tally could tick higher if auction houses close private deals today or tomorrow for cars that didn't sell. Most cars are auctioned with undisclosed minimum prices. If a car fails to hit that mark but gets close, the seller may negotiate privately after the auction is over.

-MCT/Los Angeles Times

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