We decided to book a full-size "luxury" car and I was expecting a Cadillac XTS from Enterprise but instead we got its less-expensive stablemate, a Chevrolet Impala, which was built in the same factory in Oshawa, Ontario, as the Cadillac but did not seem overly luxurious. It was big and very comfortable, with a huge trunk, and as it turned out fuel consumption was very reasonable.
Passing through the hotel, we came to the area where RM Sotheby had set up a marquee for its big auction, with cars on display both on the grounds and indoors. The company, based in Ontario, is noted for its very high-end auctions and strolling around the cars was like going through an open-air museum of automobile icons.
|2018 Chevrolet Impala LT|
It is a long drive to Florida so we set off on March 7 with our goal being Winchester, Virginia for the first night. Of course, our timing could not have been worse as we ran into a massive Nor'wester snowstorm, with damp slush falling from the sky. By the time we crawled through the mountains of Pennsylvania on I-81 our only company on the highway was salt trucks and some 18 wheelers. It did not look like we would make it to Virginia but conditions improved and after a tiring 11 hours behind the wheel (not much more than usual, surprisingly), we arrived at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester and were happy to receive a beautiful upgraded suite.
The next day the weather was fine and our trip south was without incident and we arrived at our historic B&B in Savannah, Georgia, in the early evening. From there it was a short hop to Amelia Island in Florida, where we planned to pick up our tickets for the concours show. With a risk of bad weather, the organizers had decided to compress the usual two days--one for a Cars & Coffee show, the second for the Concours proper, into just a single day, Saturday, March 10. Luckily I had checked on the computer beforehand so we were able to rearrange our plans. Arriving on the 9th meant we could enjoy the ambiance of the Ritz Carlton Hotel grounds and look over the cars that would be offered for auction by RM Sotheby's on the weekend.
|Ritz Carlton Hotel, Amelia Island, Florida|
|2001 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0 SE (left) and 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Coupe (right)|
|1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 31 Vestibule Suburban|
This extremely rare car, one of the few survive Model 31s, features a very formal body with a raised roofline. The Vestibule Suburban style was, as its name implies, meant for ferrying the wealthy between their town homes and country residences; the style was used in contemporary cars for transportation at the White House. This particular automobile spent many years in Colombia before coming to the United States in the 1970s and undergoing a thorough restoration.
|1936 Lincoln Model K Convertible Victoria by Brunn|
|1966 Ferrari 275 GTB by Scaglietti|
|1933 Pierce-Arrow Twelve Convertible Sedan by LeBaron|
|2011 Porsche 911 Speedster (left) and 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet A (right)|
|1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet A|
This example has an interesting history as a couple (who owned two other classic Mercedes-Benzes) were walking their dog in Palm Beach, Florida in 1993 and noticed the car, dirty and neglected, on blocks in an open garage. They arranged its purchase and were amazed to find a shopping bag in the trunk filled with maps from the original owner's 1958 tour of Europe with the car! The new owners had the car shipped to Germany for restoration by a noted Mercedes-Benz specialist shop, a two year project.
|1922 Duesenberg Model A Touring by Millspaugh and Irish|
Although considered the most collectible of all American cars, Duesenbergs were not always so well-regarded. This example was hot-rodded in the 1950s and had its frame and body shortened. Luckily all significant components, including an engine replaced at the factory in 1924, remained and a full restoration was possible.
The RM Sotheby catalogue suggested that this Model A "would be the ideal companion to a Model J in one's distinguished fleet." One likes this idea!
|1935 Studebaker Dictator Regal Roadster|
|1956 AC Ace|
|1922 Duesenberg Model A Touring (left) and 1933 Lincoln Model KB Convertible Roadster by LeBaron (right)|
|1932 Lincoln Model KB Sport Phaeton|
Used at one point to power a sawmill (!), the car underwent a nine year restoration carried out by the owner personally. Given its rarity, attractive appearance, excellent condition, the Murphy connection, and only a single concours appearance in 2016, I was surprised that the car sold for only US$103,000. However, it seems that the market is less interested in Full Classics, as the Classic Car Club of America connotes them, than more recent exotics. The rather gimmicky 2011 Porsche Speedster, shown above with the Mercedes-Benz, was one of 356 made and brought in nearly three times as much money as the Lincoln.
|1931 Auburn Eight Custom Speedster|
|1953 Kurtis K2 500S Roadster Continuation|
With the revival of the Carrera Panamericana in 1991, there was interest in having a Kurtis compete in the race but rules specified that the cars had to be pre-1954. Since only 14 500Ses are known, it was decided to build three new cars using original frame side rails and blueprints supplied by Arlen Kurtis, Frank's son, and body panels were made from original tooling. This example was one of the three built and it qualified for historic events and is street legal, titled as a 1953 Kurtis 500S. Powered by a small block 400 cu. in. Chevrolet V8, the car competed in (and won!) the Carrera Panamericana, beating 112 international entrants.
|1931 Packard 840 Custom Eight Sport Phaeton|
|1936 Chrysler Imperial Airflow Sedan|
|1932 Stutz DV-32 Convertible Coupe by LeBaron|
This car has a body designed by LeBaron but modified in the 1980s by its owner to incorporate design elements from the New York coachbuilder Rollston, a redesign that apparently existed on paper but was never undertaken when Stutzes were in production. The windshield had already been lowered and raked, giving the car a very sleek appearance.
|1929 Duesenberg Model J "Clear-Vision" Sedan by Murphy|
Once owned by singer Sergio Franchi as part of his vintage car collection, this superb Isotta, known as "The Grey Goddess," is considered one of the very finest examples of the marque. It is one of three surviving cars with the Castagna of Milan "boattail" body. Franchi acquired the car, which had originally been delivered through the Isotta Fraschini dealer in New York and then owned by an enthusiast for four decades, in 1973 and it remained in his collection until 2006. The car subsequently underwent a comprehensive restoration and was shown at Pebble Beach in 2009 and then went on to be voted Best in Show at the Newport Concours d'Elegance. At the Amelia Island auction it brought US$1.27 million.
|1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (left), 1932 Stutz DV-32 (middle), 1930 Duesenberg Model J (right)|
|1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron|
Introduced in 1930 and first deliveries taking place the following year, the spectacular Marmon Sixteen came too late to save the company but set a benchmark for performance and style of cars from the era that could perhaps only be matched by Duesenberg. The car was powered by a 200 hp aluminum-block V16, displacing 500 cu. in. and capable of 100 mph. The car could out-accelerate a Duesenberg but was priced at only one-third as much.
This example is one of 75 Sixteens built remaining from the 400 produced and one of only six in the elegant coupe body style offered by the factory. It was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague Jr., who was working at his father's industrial design company while attending MIT. The body is free of fussy ornamentation, a remarkable fine accomplishment for someone 20 years old!
The car underwent painstaking restoration at a well-known shop in Warsaw, Ontario, in 2002 and was one of the highlights of the Amelia Island auction, selling for US$1.05 million.
In 1931 the ultimate REO car arrived. The Royale was powered by a 125 hp straight eight engine and boasted superb bodywork designed by Amos Northup, Chief Designer of the Murray Body Corporation, with the Royale one of the first cars tested in a wind tunnel. The car, offering hydraulic brakes and a vacuum-operated clutch, was available on a 131 inch or 135 inch wheelbase chassis and prices ranged from $1985 to $2995, with this convertible coupe as the costliest. It was capable of 90 mph, putting it in the performance class of more celebrated marques such as Cadillac and Packard. Only forty-eight of these lovely REO convertibles were built in 1932 and only five are known to survive. The Royale is considered to be a forgotten classic of the era.
|1942 Packard Clipper One Eighty Convertible Victoria by Darrin|
|1931 Bentley 8-Lire Special|
This is an oddity: shown at the Olympia Motor Show in 1930, this Bentley had a Weymann fabric-covered sedan body which was eventually replaced by this light speedster body after the chassis was shortened. As the Bentley 8-Litre six cylinder engine made over 220 hp this car would have been extremely fast and it was raced at various events in the 1960s, such as hill climbs.
Only 100 8-Litre cars were built from 1930-1932 and 78 are known today. Many of the cars with limousine or sedan bodies have been rebodied with replica open coachwork, making originals particularly valued.
|1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Roi des Belges "Silver Fairy" in the style of Barker|
This original purchaser of this car had it rebodied in 1911, not uncommon with luxury cars as design fashions and needs changed, and it was retained by him until 1924, when it went through a succession of owners before coming to the United States in 1958. At that point the new owner had a painstaking reconstruction of the original Roi des Belges bodywork made. The car remained in that family's possession until 2004. It was then sold and the new owners undertook a mechanical and cosmetic refreshing. The car won Best in Class at Pebble Beach in 2007 and was driven regularly by its owners thanks to some modernization including a 12 volt electrical system and an electric starter.
|1930 Duesenberg Model J Imperial Cabriolet by Hibbard &Darrin |
|1934 Packard Eight Coupe Roadster|
|1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Enclosed Limousine Sedanca by Thrupp & Maberly (left)|
and 1934 Packard Eight Coupe Roadster (right)
|1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Enclosed Limousine Sedanca by Thrupp & Maberly|
|1932 Lincoln Model KB Sport Phaeton (left), 1932 Jaguar Mk IV 3 1/2-Litre Drophead Coupe (middle), 1930 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Enclosed Limousine Sedanca (right)|
|1963 Shelby 289 Cobra|
|1928 Hispano-Suiza H6C Transformable Torpedo by Hibbard & Darrin|
Interestingly, the car was showing an estimated value of $475,000-600,000 at Amelia Island but failed to sell at auction. It was subsequently offered again in Scottsdale, Arizona, in February 2019 with an estimate of $375,000-450,000 but still went unsold.