A dusty, torn-seat classic doubles an auction estimate

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In 1956, John Jang spent $3,000 to buy a new Porsche roadster. But just a month later, he was so taken with the new Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America he saw at his favorite foreign car dealership in San Francisco that he traded his Porsche and added in nearly its value in cash.

Jang and his bride enjoyed the car on drives to Los Angeles and through northern California’s wine country (and never across the state line).

In 1963 the Jangs moved to Sacramento, got busy starting a new business and expanding their family. Even if one is an infant, three people don’t fit comfortably in a two-seat roadster, so they parked the Lancia in the garage — 28,000 miles on its odometer — and there it remained until last December, undriven for 49 years, though the Jangs did install new license plates when California switched from yellow plates to black.

So what is a dusty, torn-seat, low-mileage “garage-found” car worth nearly half a century later?

In the case of the Jangs’ Lancia, which was offered for sale at Gooding & Company’s annual classic car auction here, it was worth $803,000, about double what was estimated when the auction catalog was being assembled in the weeks leading up to the sale.

As astounding as they figure may be, such sales are not unusual in the short but sensational history of Gooding & Company, which was founded less than a decade ago by David Gooding, who grew up as the son of the curator of one of the country’s best car museums, then worked at Christies and RM before going out on his own.

Gooding stages only three auctions a year — in Arizona, at Amelia Island in Florida and on the Monterey Peninsula in conjunction with the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance —  and appeals to the top end of the classic car collecting hobby by trying to offer “best-of-category” vehicles.

In two days here in January, Gooding sold 101 vehicles for $52.5 million, including a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT long-wheelbase California Spider for $8.25 million, a record of classic car auctions in the state.

In all, sales totals increased 31 percent compared to Gooding’s 2012 Scottsdale event. A dozen cars sold for a million dollars or more with seven at $2-million plus. Sales prices for 16 vehicles were world auction-sale records for those models, including $3.135 million for a 1959 Porsche 718 RSK, $3.08 million for a 1957 Maserati 150 GT Spider, $2.75 million for a 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K A convertible, but also $74,800 for a 1963 Studebaker Avanti.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.