AZ Auctions Total $251 Mil, Prices Flat With Winds of Change

Scottsdale, AZ — The collector car hobby converged here last week to partake in seven auto auctions that took in a collective $250.9 million across 2,660 vehicles that sold, of 3,294 cars on offer for an 81% sell-through rate. Results were flat to just slightly up compared to the 2018 auctions, which rang up $247.8 million for 2,666 lots sold (84% sell-through) at an average sale price of $92,952. This year’s average sale price was up just 1.4% to $94,952.
Gooding & Co.’s top-selling Ferrari 250GT SWB.

While the lower and middle rungs of the marketplace (i.e. cars priced at $10K-$50K and $75K-$250K) were moving, at the high end of the market the catalog sale bidders were sitting on their hands for any number of the top-echelon offerings. Change seems to be in the wind, as resto-mods, be they ‘60s muscle cars or 1950s-70s pickups and Broncos, were making strong numbers as younger buyers under 50 or greyhairs with hip and knee replacements capitulating to the lure of air conditioning and paddle shifters raised their paddles, notably at the volume houses of Barrett-Jackson and Russo and Steele.Recent-model supercars were also strong, with Barrett-Jackson’s top non-charity seller a 2019 McLaren Senna sold at $1.457 million, as well as a 2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring sold for a world record $918,500.

As usual, competition and dual-purpose sports cars (road and race) were among the top sellers of the week, and frankly, among the top disappointments as well. Gooding & Co.had the top three sales of the week (now it’s actually 10 days), all of them vintage Enzo-era Ferraris: a 1963 250 GT SWB coupe at $7.595 million, a 1958 250 GT TdF coupe for $5.89 million, and the 1953 250MM Spider for $5.395 million. All three can run at virtually any rally or race you’d care to enter. Yet the 1964 275 GTB prototype of the Ferrari icon bid to $4.75 million, short of its $6 million-$8 million estimate. Also puzzling was the $1.45 million no-sale of the weapons-grade racer of the week at Bonhams, the 1959 Lister Jaguar that Stirling Moss raced (DQ’d) at Sebring and with which Briggs Cunningham’s team won that year’s SCCA championship.
Also a Bonhams no-go was the 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series I Spider at $4 million, a million under the low estimate. At the other end of the spectrum, a 1961 Elva Courier was one of the week’s best race car buys at $18,480. Bought and raced by marque expert Butch Gilbert from 1966, we’d term it a best buy.
RM Sotheby’s was one of three auctions (along with Barrett-Jackson and Worldwide) to boost its sales over last year, but the high-dollar car of the week, its one-off Pininfarina-bodied 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale built for a Belgian princess, moved off the block at $7.5 million, short of its $11 million-$13 million estimate. Yet RM set a North American auction record for a 2900-mile 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO at $3.36 million, as cars from the ‘80s to the 2000’s resonate further with presumably younger buyers.
Worldwide Auctioneers won the most improved award vs. last year’s results, its cherry assortment of pre-WWII classics and ‘50s and ‘60s sports and GT cars taking $9.1 million, 49% above last year’s $6.1 million tally. With a 74% sale rate, its average sale price jumped 37.5% to $168,260. Top sales were a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster at $990,000 and a pair of 1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedsters bringing $687,500 and $632,500.
The C2 Corvette (1963-67) market along with air-cooled Porsches appears to be stabilized, and 1979-93 Fox-body Mustangs sold above valuation according to Hagerty Insurance, which tallied daily results from the major collector car auctions. Hagerty’s report includes a new term, the “youngtimer” classics, citing as an example a 2001 BMW 750iL which sold at Russo and Steele at a record $24,200.
Total sales of $250.9 million were the fourth highest AZ total to date, and the total number of lots ranked second for the Arizona auctions to date. According to Hagerty, the sell-through rate for lots bid from $500,000 to $1 million improved to 60% from last year’s 56%; however, the sale rate for lots bid above $1 million plunged to 48% from
68% in 2018.
Charity was a big beneficiary of the auction houses, with Barrett-Jackson raising a whopping $9.6 million via charity vehicles. Russo and Steele’s 2012 Lexus LFA’s $375,000 proceeds went to Plexus Charities and Feeding America. Russo also raised a hefty $58,000 for a twice-donated ’57 Chevy-styled Club Car golf cart, with proceeds going to the family of officer Clayton Townsend, who was killed the week before by a texting driver on the adjoining 101 Freeway.
Look for further analysis and summaries in the “Racing Across The Block” feature in the March/April 2019 issue of Vintage Motorsport, on sale Feb. 22.
–Thanks to Mike Silverman for this report.