Cars break record prices at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction

MONTEREY, California — Three special cars set sales records at RM Sotheby’s August 19-20 auction at the Portola Hotel and Spa in this popular resort city.

The top seller this year was the 1955 Jaguar D-Type, winner of the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans, which sold for  $21,780,000 — an auction record for a British automobile, the auction house.

An elegant 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider drew a price of $19,800,000 and made the record books as the most valuable pre-war automobile sold at auction, the auction house said.

>> Browse a photo gallery of the August 2016 RM Sotheby’s auction in Monterey 

The first Shelby Cobra ever produced — a 1962 260 Shelby Cobra CSX 2000  — sold for $13,750,000, an auction benchmark for an American car, according to RM Sotheby’s.

Construction barriers this year at the Portola Hotel scotched the informal preview once available to the general public of several of the historic and/or exotic cars soon to cross the 2016 auction block.

It had an even greater impact on the RM Sotheby’s sales results. A year earlier the company posted Monterey sales of $172.9 million; this year it rang up $117.9 million. Of those cars on the block, 82 percent sold.

1939 Alfa Romeo

An ultimate Italian sports car of its generation and one of some 12 existing Spiders, this 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider with 180-horsepower eight under the hood and a 118-inch wheelbase sold at auction for $19,800,000. (Jenny King/Special to The Detroit News)

“Because of construction at the Portola Hotel we reduced the number of cars for sale from 150 to 100,” said RM spokeswoman Amy Christie. “And last year our sale stretched over three days.”

Getting to the hotel wasn’t easy. Who needs to register for a costly corso or fancy road rally when all you need for a true driving challenge is to wedge your car into the packed avenues and narrow, car-clogged and often hilly side streets of this popular resort city?

Once they found a parking spot, curious visitors could still visit the hotel lobby area and several of the adjoining meeting rooms where some of the most valuable cars were on display. They included that breathtaking 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider with its pre-sale estimated value of up to $25 million.

In recent years it was Ferraris that topped the sales charts for RM-Sotheby’s. This time around the best-selling Ferrari was a 1956 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione that brought $5,720,000. A 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider with an estimated value of $12-$14 million did not sell.

California Spider 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB

This California Spider 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB has power to match its looks: 222.5-horsepower 2,950-cc Colombo V-12 with triple Weber Carburetors and four-speed manual transmission. With an estimated value of up to $14 million, the Ferrari failed to sell at the Monterey auction. (Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

On the lighter side, a 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet completely covered with flowers and butterflies by artist Hiro Yamagata gave a new meaning to transportation. For over two decades Yamagata has restored and decorated some three dozen Mercedes 220 Cabriolets. Each features a unique design from the man who says, “I’m just painting from nature.”

Accompanied by a note indicating its matching luggage would arrive later, a red 1962 Ghia L 6.4 Coupe similar to Ghias owned and reportedly esteemed by entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Peter Lawford was offered for sale in Monterey. It was the product of a limited  line begun by Detroit businessman Eugene Casaroll, who took a Chrysler concept car from the 1950s and for a few years produced sought-after convertibles.

The 1962 Ghia L 6.4 Coupe, hand-built in Italy and exported to the U.S., sold for $577,500. Apparently the matching luggage is included in that price and will be forwarded to the buyer.

More than one auction guest was surprised to see a boxy 1986 Dodge Shelby Omni GLHS keeping company on the outdoor lot with classic tourers and race cars with papers. But this wasn’t just any GLHS. Carroll Shelby owned this Goes Like Hell S’More for several years and it reportedly had fewer than 8,000 miles on it. The car sold for $27,500.