‘Lost’ Ford for sale

Edsel Ford’s favourite car should break £1m barrier

In these pages we usually try to cover cars that have graced a motor racing circuit, hillclimb or a rally at least once in their life. The general rule is that cars with an illustrious history are more interesting, have a better chance of gaining entry into the various historic motor racing events around the world and consequently demand a higher estimate.

But racing cars aren’t the only things that capture the interest of modern collectors. Far from it, especially when you take into account that there is someone collecting burgers.

Harry Sperl, a German immigrant now living in America, has amassed over 500 hamburgers and 1000 ‘hamburger-related items’. He has since decided to open a museum to exhibit this remarkably useless and bizarre tribute to meat. It seems there really is no accounting for taste…

If someone is willing to spend their life amassing fatty foods, that certainly explains why more useful items receive the interest they do. Rare racing cars regularly achieve record prices at auction, such as the 1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM Testa Rossa that went under the hammer for more than £3 million last year. But many of these cars never see a track again, as they’re too rare to risk someone going for a gap that wasn’t there. If you really want to buy a car that will rationalise the money spent, be driveable day to day and also have a history file thick enough to use as a coffee table, then sometimes a road car is the choice to go for.

For a road car to match the dizzy prices that racing cars reach it either needs to be a one-off or the only remaining example. If the car is a ‘barn find’ and has lain dormant for 40 years, then you have something that will carry an estimate of $1.5-2m (£755,000-1m). Or, in other words, the 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster that is coming up for sale in the RM auction on February 15/17. This car was custom-built for Edsel Ford when he was considering offering a sports car in the Ford range. Shaped by Edsel’s protégé, designer E T Gregorie, at a time when the Ford chief was very enamoured of European styling, it displays astonishingly clean, bold lines, with tight tyre-hugging wheel spats. It was Edsel’s personal vehicle (and apparently his favourite) up until his death in 1943. The car then languished in storage for four decades until its current owner bought it in 1999.

There seems to be a remarkable attraction to ‘barn finds’ – prospective buyers see a bargain in the making and have the pleasure of restoring life into a long-forgotten piece of automotive industry. You would be hard-pushed, however, to find more than a handful of cars that have economically covered themselves after the subsequent ground-up restoration. Barn finds are dangerous territory, as any restorer will verify, but when it comes to a car with such an individual history, the price of restoring the thing is hardly worth worrying about. If you find that the once-red paint is disguising a nightmare of filler and shoddy welding, then you just delay the ‘launch date’.

One only needs to remind oneself of the excitement that the now world-famous ‘unaccounted for’ lightweight E-type created when it was discovered in 1997 after years spent hidden from the classic car world to understand the fuss that RM is making about the Ford.

This is a true one-off, it has the intrigue of having been ‘lost’ for 40 years and the chance to buy it will probably only come up once in a lifetime so, as we said last month, don’t be surprised if the estimate that RM has given the car turns out to be a little pessimistic. If someone thinks that fast food is interesting enough to collect then there could easily be a couple of hundred people who want to own something slightly more useable, and indeed tasteful.

Auction diary
Our pick of the upcoming sales and the items you can’t afford to miss

February 9 Bonhams, Retromobile, Paris, France, Tel: 0207 468 5801

February 11/12 Barons, Classic, Collectors and Historic Motor Cars, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey, Tel: 08454 30 60 60

February 14 The Classic Auction Company, Classic and Prestige Cars, Classic Motorcycles, Automobilia and Transport Collectables. Severn Hall, Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Tel: 01684 562213

February 15/17 RM Auctions, The Florida Collector Car Auction, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Tel: 00 1 519 352 4575

February 18 SHANNONS Summer Classic Auction, Sydney, Australia, Tel: 00 61 2 13 46 46

February 26 BCA, Vintage and Collectors’ Motor Vehicles, Blackbushe, Surrey, Tel: 01252 877317

February 27 H&H, Automobilia, The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse, Tel: 01925 730630

February 28 H&H, Cars, The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse, Tel: 01925 730630

March 3 Coys, Collectors’ Motor Cars, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London, Tel: 0208 614 7888

March 8 RM Auctions, Vintage Motor Cars, Amelia Island, Florida, Tel: 001 519 352 4575

March 13 Bonhams, Collectors’ Motor Cars, Melbourne, Australia, Tel: 0207 468 5801

March 15 Bonhams, Sports, Competition and Collectors’ Motor Cars, Motorcycles, Formula 1 Memorabilia, Automobilia and Models, Race Retro, Stoneleigh Park, Tel: 0207 468 5801

Around the dealers
Competition cars currently for sale here and abroad

Ferrari 340 America 340
Chassis 0196A was specially prepared as a factory team car and was fitted with lightweight Spyder bodywork by Vignale. Piero Taruffi was appointed to drive it in the 1952 Mille Miglia, where he was to act as team pace-maker to the other Ferrari entries. Taruffi, as usual, set a blistering pace which ultimately ensured overall victory for the marque. 0196A was subsequently prepared for the Grand Prix de Berne, and then raced at Le Mans. It has recently undergone a full restoration by leading Ferrari specialists. POA, www.fiskens.co.uk, Tel: 0207 584 3503

1959 Porsche Spyder
The 550 Spyder ‘Durlite’ was rebuilt by the eponymous American aeroplane aerodynamicists following a crash in 1958. Owner Bob Webb understood the importance of airflow and the consequent streamlined nose gave the Spyder a 10-year head start on its contemporaries. 600,000 euros, www.janluehn.com, Tel: +32 (0) 495 571 594

1969 Genie Huffaker
Huffaker Engineering was established in 1960 and through that decade the mid-engined ‘Genie’ models were developed. This ex-Camoradi Mk3 was raced in the US by Lucky Casner and is currently fitted with a V8, 5-litre Chevrolet engine and a Huffaker BMCD four-speed gearbox. POA, www.vdvgrant.be, Tel +32 (0) 277 072 92

Zakspeed Ford Escort
This 1972 example was delivered new to Martino Finotto, who won the 1974 Italian Touring Championship and came third in the Giro d’Italia of the same year. The car is fitted with a Ford Cosworth BDG with fuel injection and has recently had a cosmetic and mechanical refurbishment. POA, www.legendsautomotive.co.uk, Tel: 01451 821 611

Auction results
What happened to cars we’ve featured when they went under the hammer

November 20-21

2007 H&H, Buxton
•Riley 12/4 Falcon Special, 1935, £28,600

December 3 2007 Bonhams, Olympia
•Lotus Cortina. Ex-Jim Clark, £136,000

December 4 2007 Coys, London
•Healey. Ex-works, unsold, now in Coys showroom (£160,000)
•Lotus Cortina. Ex-works, £54,285

December 19 2007 Bonhams, Gstaad
•Siata GT, unsold
•Ferrari 275GTB/2, 1966, £534,533

January 12 2008 Coys, Birmingham
•MGB GT Roadster. To rally spec, £7,600
•Ford Escort Mexico Mk1. Ex-Jack Brabham, £27,000
•Mike Hawthorn’s RAF National Service entrance examination papers and handwritten report, £6700
•Stirling Moss’ 1963-68 passport, £600
•Lola T310 Can-Am. London Motor Show Car, 1972. Sold privately post-auction