Christmas shoppers in Los Angeles on December 8 had a special selection at the Petersen Museum as RM Sotheby’s hosted its last auction of 2018. The RM Sotheby’s staff assembled 68 vehicles and 56 items of memorabilia and nostalgia for the auction.
The automobiles on offer spanned many marques and vintages. This was not a single marque auction but rather an assortment of interesting cars to entice bidders. Nine Porsches were up for sale amidst a gathering of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mercedes-Benz examples, Acura NSX models, a McLaren P1, a 1963 Corvette, a rare 1967 Toyota 2000 GT, Aston Martins, Jaguars, a Batmobile replica (think Adam West era, not Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer or George Clooney) and other assorted goodies.
Nostalgia items featured many artwork pieces from Von Dutch and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, the American hot rod and motorcycle artists who worked in Southern California in the 1950s and 1960s. Other interesting sculpture and memorabilia items filled out the line-up.
The Petersen Museum cleared out part of the first-floor parking garage for most of the auction lots, but several of the higher profile cars were granted more prominent positioning in the Museum lobby. Further inside, the actual auction was situated amidst the stunning collection of Porsches that comprised the Porsche Effect exhibit. What auctions get the benefit of surroundings like a Gulf Porsche 917K, 956, 911GT1, RS Spyder, 919 Hybrid, and others to simply provide additional ambiance?
While the display cars and auction lots were alluring, the star of the show was undoubtedly the red ex-Ferrari works 1956 290 MM race car. In period, the car ran at all of the big races like the Mille Miglia, Sebring, Nürburgring, the Targa Florio and more. It was also driven by many of the most well-known drivers of the day including Peter Collins, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss, Juan Manual Fangio and Dan Gurney. Its ownership history is just as stellar with well-known names such as Luigi Chinetti and John Shirley as custodians and it was fully restored and documented by the factory. One of only four built and three surviving, pre-auction estimates ranged from $22 million to $26 million. A sale is rare – a public auction even more rare.
At the end of the evening, the Ferrari met expectations by selling at just a hair over $22 million (all sales prices include buyer’s premium). Three bidders on the telephone competed for the car. RM Sotheby’s proudly proclaimed that the sale price put the rare car in the top 10 cars ever sold at auction. No other lot at the auction approached the lofty sale price. The closest was a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 which sold at about a tenth of the price (still a robust $2.2 million).
Of the nine Porsches on offer, seven found new homes, all either within the pre-auction estimates or slightly above. Black Porsches seemed to be the theme for the sale. A black 2005 Carrera GT and a black 2015 918 Spyder both sold, providing an interesting opportunity to compare two Porsche supercars made a decade apart. The Carrera GT sold for $775,000 and the 918 sold for $1.54 million.
A 1994 Porsche Speedster originally built to order and owned by Rush drummer, Neil Peart, was striking with black paint, black wheels, black interior and red interior accents. Less than 1000 1994 Speedsters were made and the car only had two owners from new. The car sold at $151,200 meeting expectations.
A very original orange 1975 914 with single ownership and less than 1200 miles from new was quite a specimen. The car was rather a preserved time capsule rather than an abandoned and forgotten barn find. The car had been treated with care and stored at the owner’s garage in Albuquerque. The car was extremely original, down to the paperwork and window sticker and the auction was the first time the car left its garage, or the State of New Mexico, in four decades. When the bidding concluded, the car hammered for sale at $78,400 – just over ten times the original purchase price in 1975.
Another interesting Porsche was a Kremer-modified 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo. Finished in special order Ice Green metallic paint with special order green leather interior, the turbo was apparently owned by a well-known hair stylist in Heidelberg, Germany who had it modified with a 935K package from Kremer Racing. The result was stunning, even earning the car an appearance at the Munich Auto Show. The powerful Kremer Turbo had logged less than 41,000 miles in its life as it bounced through several owners. In line with estimates, the unusual Kremer Porsche sold for $173,600.
A 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster being sold by a long-term second owner after many years in storage crossed the block at $357,000, within the estimated range. Numbers matching engine and gearbox and many original factory features, like a hardtop, made the red beauty unique. An older cosmetic restoration had been done, but long-term storage added additional patina. A red 944 Turbo that could easily have been used for a daily driver sold for $39,200, a bit above the pre-auction estimate.
Two compelling cars failed to meet reserve. In addition to a black 2011 GT2RS (a no sale at $370,000), a black 1987 959 Komfort did not sell. The 959 was well known to the Southern California Porsche scene, as the owner since 2007 took it to many shows, meets and spirited runs through the nearby canyons with other Porsche owners. Despite being in highly original form, a high bid of $870,000 fell a bit short of the reserve and pre-auction sale estimates.
In the end, about 80% of the vehicles ended up selling for a total of just over $39 million. That’s a lot of Christmas shopping! The next RM Sotheby’s auction is scheduled for January 17-18, 2019 in Arizona at the Biltmore Resort near Phoenix.
Written by: Kevin Ehrlich
Images by: Kevin Ehrlich