Article and images by John Grafman
This isn’t Pebble Beach. Sure, Santa Monica has its share of the well-to-do, and coastal beauty, albeit mixed with contentious and escalating developments and urbanization. It also has a longtime love affair with motorcars and racing. So, the RM Sotheby’s Auction at the Barker Hanger on June 24th seems to be everything Southern Californians could want without the hassle of going up to Monterey. Well, almost everything.
With all the attention that Pebble beach gets at the RM / Sotheby’s and other auctions, Santa Monica just doesn’t get the same assortment of cars to bid on. Barker Hanger features a few lots that are in the seven-figure range, yet most of the 150 or so are affordable for those with modest means.
To the surprise of none, a gleaming, light green colored 1960 Mercedes 300SL Roadster is still a million-dollar car tipping the scales at $1.1M. On the other end of the spectrum are absolute wonderful buys that range from $15-30K!
What a car is worth on any given day is always in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the buyer. Nevertheless, it’s easy to pick up on a stylish set of wheels where the prior owner has done the bulk of the work and expense in making the machine road worthy and eye-catching.
Enticing examples of the offerings are blended in with the other lots. One early car on the block is a hot rod 1929 Ford pick-up truck. The satin black paint is de-emphasizing the bodywork, but the hint of radiant red on the wheels is a simple and effective way to stand out from the crowd. The custom work creates an intriguing buy. The interior and exterior are in better than average condition, but not really show-winning, concours shape. What makes this little Ford pleasing is not only the racing motor, but it also has air conditioning. All of this for a reasonable $15,900! In contrast, what’s available in terms of new cars that offer even a remote sense of coolness for anywhere near this amount of money? Dropping a couple thousand more in refinement could make this an outstanding, smile generating daily driver.
Perhaps the ’29 is a bit small for those looking to bring along family or friends on a drive. Lot 123 is the answer. RM / Sotheby’s presents a massive 1964 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible with a period correct light blue exterior and white interior. This striking offering is a flashback to the 60s, where bigger was better. The silvery blue paint is in itself a trigger to take a trip down memory lane. The hours spent on the care and upkeep of this is immeasurable, all for the benefit of one lucky buyer at just $19,800.
Another charmer is a Preservation Award winning 1946 Packard Custom Super Clipper Limousine. Being just one of 1,291 seven-passenger Packards built in 1946, it’s doubtful you’ll see another example at your local hot spot. The very graceful forms of the fenders balances perfectly with just the right amount of chrome on the grill, bumpers, and trim. The interior does feel a bit dowdy, as with most products of the time. But, this elegance of the design rivals that of the Rolls-Royces of the time, and for the decade that followed. On the flip side, without the advent of modern technology, like backup cameras and sensors, those behind the wheel actually require real skills. At only $29,700, the new owner has a true people mover and something that stands apart from the ordinary.
The assortment of cars and artwork is broad. Yes, those registered can bid on an extremely rare 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8 (sold at $434.5K), or even a captivating 1982 sculpture by Stanley Wanlass entitled New York to Paris (sold at $21,850). This bronze captures the legendary Thomas Flyer and its crew winning the fabled 13,000-mile “Great Race”
Perhaps red is the color of choice? A 1992 Ferrari F40 did indeed win the heart and wallet of one buyer, shelling out $957,000 for the honor.
For the rest of us, something a bit less flashy, but equally arresting is Lot 272, the 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk I. This Sebring Tribute with right-hand drive example with Moto-Lita wood-rimmed steering wheel is brimming with details, like the racing fuel filler cap and leather strap hold-down, which make this by far more attractive than most bug-eyes. And, with a fully rebuilt 1,275 cc engine featuring Weber carburetors, four-speed manual with ribbed case gearbox, and front disc brakes, one could actually use this Sprite without fear of flocking paparazzi or steep driveways.
One point that rings true is, outstanding personality doesn’t require a fortune, but it doesn’t hurt.
In all, nine lots crossed the block and changed hands for more than $200K in Santa Monica. One can only imagine the intensity that Pebble Beach will be bringing this year. Perhaps the question won’t be – what’s in your wallet, but rather – what’s in your garage!
See all the auction results at http://www.rmsothebys.com/ca17/santa-monica/results/