American classics on the block at pre-Concours auction

BLENHEIM, Ontario — Vehicles slated for the RM Sotheby’s Motor City classic car auction in Plymouth this Saturday are carefully chosen to attract the kinds of buyers likely to attend the sale, in person or on the phone.

RM Sotheby’s spokesman Gord Duff said the Packards, Cadillacs, Buicks, Mercurys and Pierce-Arrows set to cross the auction block at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth represent the types of vehicles popular in this venue.

Even the star performer – a 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Dual-Cowl Phaeton valued at up to $1.1 million – is just right for the 21st annual sale in metropolitan Detroit, held the day before the longer-running Concours d’Elegance of America, at the same venue.

“Our Motor City sale is great for American Classics,” Duff said.

>> Browse a photo gallery of cars for sale at the Motor City auction

There are serious Duesenberg collectors in the region, Duff said. After all, these luxury classics were built in Indianapolis and have Midwest roots.

Detroit was the assembly site for the 1930 Packard Deluxe Eight Sport Phaeton Dual-Cowl and the 1954 Packard Convertible, plus the Cadillacs on the Motor City sale roster.

The RM Sotheby’s sale catalog points out that while it was fashionable for upscale buyers to have outside companies provide special and often unique bodies for their vehicles, Packard was known for excellent body craftsmanship like that on the 1930 Deluxe Eight Sport Phaeton in the auction.

Duff said the selection process for each of RM’s auctions involves reviewing vehicles sellers would like to register to create a pool of cars that are in good condition, of various makes from different model years and of likely interest to buyers.

Eighty lots are offered at the Motor City auction. That’s a four-hour sale, which Duff said is long enough for most buyers without dampening enthusiasm or bidding. Anything purchased at Sat-urday’s auction will be too late for an invitation to the Concours d’Elegance the following day. But maybe next year.

RM Sotheby’s annual August sale in Monterey, Calif. tends to feature more imports and very high-price exotics and will, over a day and a half, auction 120 cars. Some 15 of those cars were in the RM Auto Restoration area of its headquarters in Blenheim, Ontario, being prepared for the West Coast auction. Duff said there are also 10 cars on site that will be shown at the Pebble Beach (Calif.) concours on Aug. 16.

1958 Mercury Montclair Hardtop Coupe

A challenge for parallel parking with its 122-inch wheelbase and continental tire overhang, this 1958 Mercury Montclair Hardtop Coupe features tinted glass, multiple chrome details and period wrap-around windshield and rear window. It is powered by a 400 horsepower 430-inch V-8 Marauder engine with three-speed Merc-O-Matic transmission. It will be offered at no reserve.

If a car doesn’t sell at the Inn at St. John’s, the auction house may still be able to bring buyer and seller together if either expresses an interest. Perhaps the seller is willing to lower the reserve enough to entice the reluctant buyer.

“Our auction sell-through rate is 80 to 90 percent,” Duff said. “If a car does not sell at the Motor City auction, for example, we might recommend that the seller wait a year. We don’t like to re-offer it at another sale right away.”

Duff said it’s not unusual for collectors to decide to sell off most of their cars only to turn around, start buying and get back into the fray. He said 12 of the cars at the 2015 Motor City sale are from Detroiter Richard Kughn’s current stable.

RM Sotheby’s classic car auction
What: The official auction of the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 25
Where: The Inn at St. John’s, 44045 Five Mile Rd., Plymouth
Preview: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, open to the public
Bidder registration: $200. Register online at