Previewing the RM Auction at Monterey: Part 1
Every summer, thousands of car collectors, buyers, and spectators descend upon the oceanside town of Monterey, California, to attend the world famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In addition to the Concours, where owners bring their pristine vintage automobiles to compete for awards, the event is also well-known for the cars that change hands in the auction area, which netted $260 million last year alone. The Gooding & Co. auction is a part of the official festivities and will be previewed in a future article. Today, we are examining a few of the incredible lots offered during the RM Auction, which accounted for more than 1/3 of last year’s take. Narrowing down the list of significant vehicles for sale is nearly impossible, so visit the website for all lots crossing the block.
Before we get into the rare European offerings from builders that many have never heard of, we’ll start with a coupe that car lovers all over the world are familiar with: the classic Mercedes 300SL “Gullwing.” Based on the identically named and doored race car driven to win at Le Mans, the 300SL has been crowned with a near-mythical status in the modern age, especially since the debut of the car’s spiritual successor, the SLS AMG. Compared to the 300SL sold at Barrett-Jackson this year, this particular example was not owned by Clark Gable, so that car’s $2 million price tag is not likely to be repeated. What will count to interested buyers is the Gullwing’s unrestored yet nearly perfect condition. Although the engine has been upgraded to the SL’s most potent 240hp form, the interior has not been touched at all. Look for this one to sell well due to its nearly total originality and pristine state.
Really, would a Pebble Beach auction be complete without an obscenely rare Duesenberg changing ownership for a similarly ridiculous sum? Consider the RM auction another success, because a Model “SJ” will be crossing the block at Pebble Beach for the first time since 2009, when one was purchased for $3.33 million. RM sold another for $4.5 million at Amelia Island earlier this year, but it won’t prove difficult to peg which end of the spectrum this SJ will fall; the Duesenberg sold here is not a true SJ, as the supercharger was fitted to the car sometime in the 1970s. As such, it is not one of the 26 SJs that command premium prices in the marketplace. “Premium”, of course, is purely relative here, as it is still a Model J; RM expects the car to exceed $2 million
The Model J is a monumental achievement in automotive history. It was by far the most expensive car sold in America at the time. The second generation Ford Model A began at $400-500, and fully built Model Js sold for the princely sum of $15,000. While the base model developed a healthy 265hp from the straight-8, the supercharged SJ increased power output to 320hp. The supercharger in this “SJ” was added decades after purchase, but everything was added as if the car was optioned that way straight from the factory.
Perhaps not a household name to much of the world, Hispano-Suiza enjoys a substantial presence at every Pebble Beach Concours, and this K6 Cabriolet in particular has seen its share of the central California coastline. It earned two Second in Class awards at various competitions at Pebble Beach in addition to two of the prestigious Alec Ullman award, given to the best Hispano-Suiza showing. 125hp made the K6 an incredibly quick grand tourer in the 1930s, and the covered rear wheels and swooping fenders remind us of the gorgeous art deco-inspired car designs that give prewar cars such high prices at auction today. The engine has undergone a complete rebuild, so the K6 should remain running strong well into its 100th birthday.