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Pebble Beach Auctions Generate Serious Sales Despite Sagging Global Economy


1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster - image courtesy of Gooding & Company

1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster - image courtesy of Gooding & Company

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If you read (or watch) the news, doom and gloom over the economy on both sides of the Atlantic is nearly inescapable. While the world may be on the brink of economic ruin, this past weekend’s Pebble Beach auctions show that buyers’ appetites for collector cars aren’t affected.

Gooding & Company saw some $113.7 million in sales at its two-day auction, including the $11.8 million paid for a rare and desirable three-owner 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster. According to Artfix Daily, that set records for both Mercedes-Benz automobiles and prewar cars sold at auction, though it failed to set a single-car auction price record.

Ferraris sold briskly at the Gooding & Company event, too, including the $11.3 million paid for a 1960 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione and the $6.6 million paid for a 1957 prototype version of the car, also bodied by Scaglietti.

Clark Gable’s 1935 Duesenberg Model JN Convertible Coupe was a no-sale at the event. Bids reached $6.4 million, which apparently wasn’t enough to overcome the car’s reserve price according to CNN Money.

At the Bonhams Pebble Beach sale, a 1966 Ford GT40 sold for $2.2 million, but a McLaren F1 GTR “Longtail” failed to meet the reserve price while on the block. GT Spirit reports that a post-auction deal (still attributed to Bonhams) was struck with a buyer for $3.85 million, including fees.

RM Auctions enjoyed success in Monterey as well, getting $11 million for a 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage racer used in the filming of Le Mans and over $8 million each for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder ($8.6 million) and a 1955 Ferrari 410 S Berlinetta ($8.3 million). A 1956 Ferrari 250 GT LWB model came in fourth, selling at $6.7 million.

1968 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car. Photo courtesy RM Auctions.

1968 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car. Photo courtesy RM Auctions.

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This year, RM Auctions saw some 20 cars sell in excess of $1 million each, a significant increase from last year’s count of 14 cars over $1 million.

What’s the takeaway from this year’s auction roundup? Historically significant or desirable cars, like fine artwork, will likely continue to appreciate over time, regardless of global economic trends. If that’s not justification to cash in your 401K and head to the next significant collector car auction, we don’t know what is.
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