Auctions, races combine diamonds, jewels-in the-rough

Pebble Beach, California — Gooding & Company arguably has the best site for its annual classic car auction here, within walking distance of the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours.

Bonhams is the least accessible — certainly for anyone with a schedule to maintain. The auction’s Quail Lodge headquarters off Carmel Valley Road with its mid-August traffic jam requires driver perseverance and a vehicle with a gas-saving start-stop feature.

Both sales are worth the effort.

>> Browse a photo gallery of the Gooding and Bonhams auctions 

In addition to the exotics selling for eight figures, they were offering “garage finds,” from a patinaed Austin-Healey and dust-covered Ferrari 330 GTC to a 1921 Stutz Bearcat in original condition.

Some knowledge, some imagination and a checkbook were all that was needed.

1956 Austin Healey

Bearing a 1962 Maine license plate and a lot of surface dirt, described in the sale book as “wearing its story on its skin, with an intricate and irreplaceable patina,” this black-and-white 1956 Austin-Healey 100/4 BN2 with red interior sold for $34,100. (Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

The Austin-Healey was a 1956 100/4 BN2, thought to have been storage since 1962, the year of its most recent Maine license plate. It sold at Gooding with no reserve for $34,100 — not even close to the pre-sale value estimate of $50,000-$75,000. Its catalog description suggested it will need “considerable work to be roadworthy.”

So, too, will the 1968 Ferrari 330 GTC that emitted the distinct fragrance of mildew. But it had the advantages of a V-12 engine and five-speed transmission plus the Ferrari name behind it. The dust-covered GTC sold at Gooding for $550,000.

1960 Abarth Monoposto

A 1960 Fiat Abarth 1000 Monoposto Da Record ‘La Principessa’ with a racing history and recorded top speeds of over 200 kilometers an hour was offered for sale (“estimate available upon request”) at the Gooding tent in Pebble Beach but did not sell. (Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

Slightly peeling paint around its canopy top only added to spectator interest at the Gooding auction in the sleek 1960 Abarth Monoposto da Record. Known as “La Principessa,” it was Abarth’s primary 1,000 cc car with a 108-horsepower (@ 8,000 RPM) Bialbero engine based on the Fiat 600 block and a top speed of 220 km/h. Bidding for the single-seater did not meet its reserve and the car went unsold at the Sunday, 6 p.m. auction.

1921 Stutz Series K Bearcat

Presented in stunning original condition, this 1921 Stutz Series l Bearcat with 16-valve four, and perhaps only 10,000 miles from new, crossed the auction area at the Bonhams 2016 Quail Lodge sale August 19 and brought $594,000. (Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

The 1921 Stutz Bearcat was parked inside Bonhams’ business tent. In original condition and a 2 015 Pebble Beach Concours winner, the Series K Bearcat featured a 360-inch 88-horsepower four and a reported 10,000 miles or so on the odometer. Some or all of the above prompted its sale for a respectable $594,000.

In addition to the expected Porsches, Alfa Romeos, Mercedes-Benzes and Ferraris, the mix among the 115 vehicles for sale at the Bonhams auction  included a 1940 Ford five-window coupe, an unusual 1910 Studebaker Garford, a rare 1952 Muntz Jet Convertible, a Riley 12/4 Special and a 1964 Pontiac Tempest wagon.

The Muntz was among the vehicles built by California used-car dealer and businessman Earl “Madman” Muntz. The nicely restored 1952 Jet Convertible, with flathead Lincoln V-8, Hydramatic transmission, independent front suspension and faux-reptile-skin top and interior, was offered without reserve and sold for $165,000.

Studebaker for a few years teamed up with the Garford Company of Elyria, Ohio, Garford producing the chassis and Studebaker completing the cars in South Bend, Ind. A Studebaker Garford G7 40-horsepower Runabout thought to be a 1910 model and featuring a full front seat and single rear seat sold at the Bonham’s auction for $126,500.

Cars of all ages are about more than looks and market values. Tours and races are where many show what they are made of before showering and dressing up for the Monterey-Pebble Beach beauty pageants.

The Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, set in stunning hills a few miles east of Monterey Bay, featured marketing displays and driving competitions that drew hundreds of vintage race car owners hoping to qualify to run and thousands of spectators anxious to cheer them on.

BMW 328

One of three Mille Miglia BMW 328 roadsters built before World War II specially for the Mille Miglia in Italy, this roadster has aluminum alloy coachwork and a 130-horsepower 2.0-liter six. (Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

BMW celebrates its centennial this year and examples of its historic race cars were on display at the raceway.

Among the BMW speedsters was a sleek pre-war 328 roadster that competed in the 1938 Mille Miglia (1,000-mile race) and was victorious in its class.

Other track stars seeking attention included a 1965 McLaren-Elva Mk. 1A with a history of four Can-Am races and a 1991 Mazda RX-7 IMSA GTO with a four-rotor 13J engine capable of 640 horsepower.