'57 Ferrari helps Pebble Beach auction set sales

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Gooding & Company, the official auction at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours, proved itself worthy of the title by delivering record sales.

A 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa — the first Testa Rosa built and one driven by motorsports heros — sold at auction for $16,390,000. Well above pre-sale value estimates, it set a tone for the auction in which 15 vehicles sold for over $1 million.

The auction itself was a record for the Pebble Beach venue. Nineteen vehicles were sold for record prices, and 106 of the 127 offered for sale found new homes.

Ferrari, Duesenberg, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Aston-Martin, Rolls-Royce — these were the big names, most with custom bodies of limited production and special engines that served set them apart and to increase values.

Gooding was expecting the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa to do well. Likewise, a stunning 1931 Duesenberg Model J Long-Wheelbase Coupe purchased new by San Francisco tycoon Captain George Whittell Jr. did not disappoint: it sold for $10.34 million.

One of the most interesting cars for sale was the French-built 1912 Gobron-Brillie 12 CV skiff, with its boat-shaped wooden passenger “cabin” complete with two portholes and its double-tire arrangement for the two rear wheels. An auction guide pointed out that one of the front side-mounted spares was a single tire, the other a double tires on a single rim.

In the Gobron-Brillie, the motor links to the double-mounted rear wheels through a four-speed gearbox and two chains. It was designed for speed and brought $225,500 at auction.

Another “unusual” offering was the not-in-running-condition 1939 Steyr 55, an aerodynamic little car created in Austria by Karl Jenschke. It featured unibody construction and a 25-horsepower four-cylinder engine capable of a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. It sold for $27,500, and presumably the buyer has money left over for a much-needed restoration of this period piece.

A 1931 Chrysler CG Imperial Roadster, with two-tone dark and light blue body highlighted by red pin striping, sold for $396,000, far above the pre-sale estimate of $250,000 to $300,000. A Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Coupe from 1956 brought $67,100; a 1909 Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost Roi De Belges changed hands for $825,000.

A sleek, medium-blue 1938 Lincoln V-12 Model K Convertible with curved running boards and understated art deco instrumentation, valued at $300,000 to $350,000, did not sell.

Gooding & Company held previews of its Pebble Beach cars before the weekend sale, but there was an admission fee and the two detailed catalogs had a $100 pricetag.