'35 Duesenberg convertible topped RM auction

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — It was spring on Amelia Island in March, as owners of vehicles invited to the popular concours gathered to launch another season of elegant shows.

In anticipation of a heightened interest in beautiful collectibles, RM Auctions staked out the pristine grounds of the local Ritz-Carlton to display 88 vehicles for sale March 9.

Among them was a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Convertible with supercharged V-8, a 1970 Porsche 908/3 and a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing that had been owned by the same family throughout its history.

The Duesenberg brought a hammer price of $4,510,000, making it the top seller of the 81 that changed hands. Total selling price for vehicles sold was $26,854,600, according to Ontario-based RM Auctions.

Duesenbergs shared the weekend limelight with a number of Italian exotics, Stutzes, Mercedes Gullwings, Porsches and Cords.

A 1966 Shelby Cobra brought $836,000; a 1911 Lozier Model 51 seven-passenger Touring went for $1.1 million, doubling its pre-sale estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It had been offered at no reserve.

A plain-looking but important Marmon — a rare and historically significant 1932 HCM V-12 two-door prototype with overhead-valve aluminum V-12 — sold at auction for $407,000.

A 1970 Porsche 908/3 race car, restored in 2005 and authenticated by the Porsche factory, raised the bidding to $1.3 million but did not sell. A 1955 Mercedes-Benz SL Gullwing suffered the same fate, its owner eschewing a final bid of $910,000. This Gullwing had been in the same family since purchased new close to 60 years ago.

Another no-sale was a 1939 Alfa Romeo with a pre-auction estimated value of $1.5 to $1.75 million. The high reached $900,000 before bidder lost interest — or courage. This sleek 1930s-styled Superleggera coupe, one of only 13 built and featuring a 95-horsepower inline six, had right-hand drive. aluminum coachwork and a 118-inch wheelbase. The Alfa had a complete restoration commencing in 1994. Co-owner Malcolm Harris reportedly was involved in the project, investing some 1,500 hours in the dismantling and re-assembling of the fender-skirted Alfa, which won an award at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours.

Looking somewhat out of place, the ’32 Ford-based hot rod known as Chromezilla shared a display room inside the Ritz-Carlton with vehicles like the $4.5-million 1935 Duesenberg SJ cabrio. Its backgrounder said that Steve and Sheri Tracy of Advance Plating in Tennessee commissioned Greening Automotive of Coleman, Ala. to handle the project. Raising the bar more than a little, Greening added custom-fabricated tubular cross-members to the boxed and reinforced Deuce-style frame, had over 900 bolts and fasteners hand-fabricated and supervised the chrome plating of 2,500 components. When completed, Chromezilla began winning major awards, starting with the 2005 Autorama in Detroit. It sold in March on Amelia Island for $176,000.