Gooding's classic car auction includes some gossip

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — For those who might contemplate attending a classic car auction run by California-based Gooding & Company, a few words of advice: Bring money. . .lots of it.

And your reading glasses.

The auction house provides a sale catalog for each event which is jam-packed with interesting information on and color photos of all vehicles set to cross the auction block. A quick synopsis of powertrain specifications, of designers and coachworks, of awards won and the car’s place in history is followed by a narrative detailing ownerships, restorations and some gossip.

The 70-plus vehicles offered at Gooding’s sale here in March comprised rare, unique, powerful, perfect, elegant cars built between 1928 — a Bentley — and 2006 — a Bugatti.

Sales exceeded $28.1 million and included a 10 percent buyer fee.

The ’28 Bentley, a 4 1/2 Litre $2,750,000 Semi-LeMans Tourer, was the top seller in the Gooding sale here on chilly-but-beautiful Amelia Island. Valued at up to $2.5 million prior to the auction, the athletic Semi-Le Mans Sports Tourer merited 12 pages of text and tempting photos in the sale catalog.

A 1934 American Austin Coupe represented the low end: it sold at no reserve for $17,600, below its pre-sale potential of $25,000 to $40,000.

Offering his cherry-red 1959 Alfa Giulietta at no reserve was making owner Ed Koch of Flemington, N.J. a little nervous. Koch, who describes himself as an “eclectic car collector,” said he bought the roadster in 2009 and invested two years in its restoration. With a unique three-piece bumper, Pinin Farina coachwork and with its original engine block, the Giulietta changed hands for $140,250.

Koch need not have worried. It’s pre-sale estimated value from the experts was $90,000 to $120,000.

Like Koch, Martin Stickley of Winter Park, Fla. was staying close to his car: a race-ready 1951 Allard J2, a vehicle he had owned since 2008. Stickley wasted little time in having the Allard restored: “Eighty-hour weeks over a period of six months,” Stickley said.

“It needed lots of work,” he explained. Its restoration won awards.

The topless Allard J2 was powered by a 289 Shelby Cobra engine. Stickley had the racing lap belts carefully crossed on the seats and period goggles hanging from a knob on the dash.

Barbara Hutton’s 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC, with custom Lipstick Coral exterior, tan suede interior and coral carpeting and likely the only of its 1969 peers to be the most original and carrying the lowest mileage, sold for $1,072,500. The heiress of Woolworth and Hutton fortunes, Ms. Hutton bought this Ferrari in 1969 for delivery to her palatial residence in Tangier, Morocco. She brought it, with only a few thousand kilometers on its 320-horsepower V-12, to the U.S. in 1974 and sold it to a dealership specializing in exotics in Connecticut.

One could be happy to escape the chore of washing the 21 windows on the 1965 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus, with its spotless interior and 1,600-cc 40-horsepower four with four-speed transaxle transmission. It had a pre-sale estimated value of $60,000 to $80,000 and sold, at no reserve, for $99,000. It attracted many admiring and smiling visitors at the sale preview.

And what irony. Parked near the VW nine-passenger buy was a handsome 1949 white Cadillac Series II convertible with buttery leather upholstery. This nostalgic soft-top went for less than two-thirds of the VW: $60,500.

Another brand anomaly: a 1968 Lamborghini Islero with Marazzi coachwork valued at up to $150,000 sold for $137,500; a 1973 Firebird Trans Am SD 455 went for $165,000.

Perfectly preserved in original, unrestored condition with just 11,000 miles, a 1960 Chrysler 300 F GT Special with 400-horsepower 413 and rare Pont-A-Mousson four-speed manual, sold for $236,500. It was one of only six in the Chrysler Gran Turismo Project, modified to compete on the sands of Daytona Beach.

In spite of its body-builder physique, the 300 F GT featured creature comforts including four contoured seats with the famous swivel-out front seats, dashboard lighting that glowed and a console that extended from the instrument panel into the rear seating area. There is at least one Chrysler story about an executive’s wife who on exiting a car slipped from her swivel seat — and negatively impacted its future.