Monterey jacks up prices

A record breaking McLaren and Aston kept the British end up in America


It’s easy to become figure-blind in Monterey. With eight-digit sums being thrust about, you may find yourself describing previously spine-tingling amounts as petty change. After all, this is the venue of the world’s most prestigious Concours d’Élégance and as the entire Monterey Peninsula transforms into the ultimate classic car showroom, monetary sums become a mere sideshow.

As the only auction taking place right by the Concours, Gooding attracted a parade of cars impressive even by Monterey standards, and first to go under the hammer on Friday night was a storied 1970 Porsche 917K. Although it never raced, this Gulf-liveried 5-litre set the fastest lap in the 1970 Le Mans test. It kicked off proceedings with an auction-topping $14,000,000 sale.

Meanwhile, across the peninsula in Portola Hotel, at the western end of Del Monte Beach, several records were about to shatter as lot 148 took to centre stage. The first of five Aston Martin DBR1s was tipped to become the most expensive British car ever sold at auction. It was piloted in the ’50s by Roy Salvadori, Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby.

It was never in doubt. Two bidders counter-punched each other at the RM Sotheby’s auction for almost seven minutes, until the car that helped Aston secure the 1959 WSC title eventually changed hands for more than $22.5 million (£17.5m). Not only did that shatter Aston’s marque record by over $8 million, DBR1/1 also became the seventh-most expensive car ever sold at auction. Monterey had begun with a bang.

Overall RM’s Friday auction netted more than $60 million, courtesy in no small part to two notable Ferraris. First, a Ferrari 121 LM Spider that challenged Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson for victory in the famous 1955 Mille Miglia. A 174mph tyre blow-out removed it from contention, but six decades on it sold for $5.7 million.

The biggest-hitting supercar in the sunshine state was a 1995 McLaren F1, sold by Bonhams for a staggering $15,620,000. That makes it the most expensive F1 ever sold. “We were thrilled to sell the McLaren F1 for a world record-breaking sum making it the most valuable post ’70s motor car ever sold at auction,” said Jakob Greisen, vice president of Bonhams Motoring. “Modern classics proved popular throughout the sale, with our collection of Group B rally cars sparking interest. Both the 1986 Ford RS200 Evo and 1985 Audi Sport Quattro sold for record sums, achieving $550,000 and $484,000 respectively. The market for Ferraris remains strong, with the 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Alloy achieving $3,080,000 and a 1990 Ferrari F40, which is considered a market benchmark for ’90s supercars, selling for $1,457,500. All in all, this was a fantastic way to celebrate our 20th sale at Quail Lodge”.

The Bonhams auction was ultimately one of mixed results. Fangio’s Maserati 300S was expected to sell big, but the highest bid fell short of reserves. Instead it was the more modest cars that stole the limelight, with $80,000 enough to take home a Lotus Elite Series II, rally-spec Austin Mini Cooper S or Ferrari 308 GTB.

Once the final hammer had fallen, Monterey took stock. A new British record, a $15 million McLaren and many fuming bank managers. Monterey had once again thrilled, impressed and drawn gasps of awe and admiration.


Analysis from the president of Gooding & Co – the leading automotive auction house

When a genuine no-excuse car combines all the attributes of rarity, performance, historical significance and provenance, collectors will always be enticed. The 1970 Porsche 917K and the 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C possess all these characteristics, which is why they both established new world auction benchmarks. In this market, we are observing a greater divide between good, better and best and clients are increasingly selective with their purchases. We experienced an increase in attendance and new registered bidders, resulting in 20 new world auction records and selling 22 cars for over $1 million.