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Mid century cars in depth

Abarth 1100 Sports at RM

Abarth was established by Carlo Abarth after Piero Dusio’s Cisitalia went bankrupt, Abarth had been their race team manager and with financial backing took over the firm. Simply rebadging the Cisitalia, Abarth continued to offer wealthy amateurs and professionals cars at a time when post war rationing made them very scarce. Despite being made from Fiat and off the counter parts the Abarth was a true competitor to Ferrari and Maserati through 1950. Abarth supported his racing activities by producing and selling racing parts for Fiats and Lancias and the like and slowly but surely the company became a tuner and builder of Fiat and Simca specials before Fiat officially took over in 1971 and Abarth remains Fiats performance brand today. RM are offering a fascinating unique Abarth 1100 Sport built on the 205 chassis frame, only three of which were ever built, the car was commissioned by a wealthy American who claimed to have fitted it with a V8 although there is no evidence this ever happened. Comparable to a Pegaso or Fiat/ Siata 8V RM have estimated this unique car at $750k – 1 million and that seems eminently reasonable for a space age classic.


Alfa Romeo Tipo 33TT12 at Gooding & co

The late 1960s had seen the demise of Sports Racing with the all conquering GT40 dominant and only Porsche truly competing. The FIA decided to mandate the 3 litre category in Sports racing to match the successful Formula 1 category while also allowing 5 litre cars assuming that only the Fords and Lolas would enter although Porsche and Ferrari developed their all conquering 917 and 512 with the 3 litre cars left well behind. The FIA announced the cancellation of the 5 litre category from 1972 although the cars had finally become competitive on the own regardless, especially on the tighter tracks. Ferrari had already developed their 312P, Alfa the Tipo 33, Matra the MS670 and Porsche the 908 with all expected to be a force, especially the Alfa Romeo, although 1972 would be all Ferrari and 1973 all Matra. By 1974 only Matra was only trying to compete with the Alfa Romeo’s and when the French equipe withdrew in 1975 the Milanese firm finally won the championship without much in the way of competition. Gooding & co are offering a spectacular example of the 33TT12 that was produced in very late 1974 for use in ’75 and raced by Bell, Pescarolo and others to several wins. With only one owner since and superb maintenance and presentation (it even comes with an extensive spares package) this is one of the best examples extant although it needs to be considering they are estimating it at a really strong $2.4 – 2.8 million, perhaps twice what a normal Tipo 33 would go for. Still a fabulous car and well worth a look if you want to play at trackdays, maybe Monterey 2018?

Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone Spider at Gooding & co

Now that David Brown was in charge, Aston Martin had finally entered a period with settled ownership and model range with the variants of the DB2 front and centre. Wacky Arnolt was a Chicago based US entrepreneur best known for his Arnolt-MG and Arnolt-Bristol and he ordered a small series of Aston DB2/4s that would be sent to Italy chassis only for Scaglione/ Bertone bodywork to be fitted before shipping to the USA where they were both very expensive and much in demand. Approximately 2 DHC, 4 Barchetta and a Coupe were produced and all exist. Gooding are offering one of the two DHC that was delivered to the USA in ’54 before returning to the UK in the 1980s and eventually a restoration in Blue over Beige. Presented in excellent condition and extremely rare this car last sold at Bonhams Goodwood in ’11 for $970k and while Gooding managed to sell a Barchetta for $3.08 million a year ago, that was a much sexier car and I think this rather elegant Cabriolet is pretty much on the money at Goodings $1.3 – 1.6 million estimate.

Aston Martin DBR1 at RM

Aston Martin developed the not very successful DB3 and the successful DB3S before they decided they needed to do better and developed the DBR1. With its 250+bhp 3 litre engine, aerodynamic bodywork and dependable chassis the DBR1 took several years of trial and development before they managed to partner the cars raw pace with sufficient reliability and finally managed to win Le Mans in 1959 before they took the World Sportscar Championship too. RM are offering the first of just five DBR1s produced and this example is claimed to be the best, in absolutely correct condition. This example (DBR1/1) was raced from 1956 through 1959 and won the Nurburgring 1000km in 1959 with Moss and Fairman driving. After a long period in storage and a RS Williams restoration the car is pretty much perfect and likely worth the same as the Le Mans winning D-Type RM sold for $21 million last year. While this example may not have won Le Mans it is much rarer than the D-Type and extraordinarily desirable.


Aston Martin DB4GT at Bonhams

Aston realised the DB2/4 was at the end of its tenure and developed the DB4 with Touring Superleggera bodywork and a new Tadek Marek designed 240bhp 3.7 litre straight 6. Quickly realising the car could have competition potential they decided to develop the short wheelbase DB4GT in early 1959 with a 300bhp version of the roadcars engine. RM are offering the prototype (DP199/1) that was raced by Stirling Moss at Silverstone in ’59 and he won the race before it failed at Le Mans and was later converted to road spec before passing through noted British collections. Finally restored in the UK this is a unique opportunity to buy a car that is directly comparable to the best Ferrari Tour de France and Short Wheelbase at half the price. As a car with unlimited potential for use and enjoyment this particular example transcends the DB4GT bracket and is truly worth the $6 – 8 million estimate.



Briggs Cuningham was a wealthy US heiress who like the Colliers wanted to go racing and spent the best part of 15 years racing everything from Cadillacs to Maserati s at Le Mans and elsewhere. Le Mans ruled that to be eligible for entry in 1952 they would need to have produce 25 examples of the racer and to meet that extent they standardised the racer into C-3 form. The C-3 was built around a simple tubular spaceframe chassis that was fitted with a Chrysler V8 and commissioned Michellotti designed, Vignale built bodywork in either Coupe or Spider form. The car on offer at RM (5233) was built for Briggs Cunningham himself and retained by his family until 2014 and has both 10,097 miles and two owners from new. Remaining both totally original and well worth purchase either as a driver or a potential restoration candidate this car is well worth the $750 – 950k estimate and is being sold with no reserve. One of the best cars available across the peninsular with plenty of upside. Make sure you check it out.

Fiat 8V at Gooding & co

Fiat had moved from producing the grandest of all luxury cars through producing cars for the masses and the 1950s began with them creating the super popular 500 Topolino. The firm was very much still the preserve of the Agnelli family when they decided to develop a 2 litre v8 for the newly popular class in 1952 although Ford owned the rights to the V8 copyright so they called it the 8V instead. These cars offered 110bhp and a very advanced chassis which was produced with either Zagato Coupe bodywork or chassis only for the customers own bodywork. After 114 were made another 35 were built by Siata using their own chassis and bodywork, all examples are to be taken as individuals as they carry bodywork from the best of the Italian carrozzerie. Gooding & co are offering an example of the Zagato Elaborata Coupe that were available in 1952 & 53 (106*000106), this an excellent car that that was sold new in Italy, later went to France and finally the USA where it was restored by Tillack & co and again by Paul Russell and others. Noted to be in excellent condition, this particular example was offered at Bonhams Scottsdale in 2016 where it failed to sell at $1.6 million although Gooding is offering it at $1.4 – 1.8. Other examples of the model have struggled to get to this price point, even the Supersonic Coupes have struggled to top $1.6 million. At the lower estimate this would be a reasonable buy but the top estimate is a step too far.

Ford V8 Woody at Gooding & co

Fords production in the post war period centered around V8s that ranged from the dull to the very interesting. Like many other American car companies, Ford offer cars to second tier producers of Woodies and these were beloved by Californian surfers among others. Gooding are offering an wonderful example of the type, a Marmon-Herrington Super Deluxe Station Wagon, a very rare Woody produced by the Marmon-Herrington concern, the company that was formed when the Indy winning Marmon company merged with the British Engineer Arthur Herrington. Based on a Ford four wheel drive truck chassis and the 100bhp 239cui V8 engine this was effectively the forerunner of todays SUV. This example was from the Nick Alexander collection and has been restored to perfection. It was last offered at Gooding & co’s Scottsdale ’15 auction and failed at $400k, this time it is offered at $275 – 350k and likely a good buy for what is a super rare car.

Iso Lele at Russo & Steele

Iso were founded by the Rivolta family in the 1930s and found fame as the producer of the Isetta Bubble cars in the 1950s although they chose to go upmarket in the 1960s when they began to produce the Guigaro designed, Bizzarini engineered IR300 and latter A3C. A falling out saw Bizzarini leave to form his eponymous car company although they continued to produce fascinating limited edition exotics. The Lele was a grand Coupe built on the same basic platform as the rest of the Iso range and fitted with Gandini/ Bertone designed bodywork. A maximum of 125 of these cars were built with the 350hp Chev V8 and an example is on offer at Russo & Steele that was restored many years ago and well maintained since. While no estimate is given this is a fabulously cool car and the potential to be purchased for as little as a $100k makes it a real find with plenty of upside.


Jaguar E-Type at Bonhams

Jaguar debuted the new E-Type at the Salon de Geneve in 1961 and electrified the automobile world. It was fast, easy to use and relatively affordable as well as beautiful. Jaguar realised the ability of the E-Type by racing barely modified examples and Malcolm Sayer soon developed a low drag coupe with a slippery version of the standard bodywork. The modifications to the E-Type were built into the lightweight for which 18 examples were proposed to be built in late 1962, early 63. Bonhams are offering perhaps the best example of the model (S850664) extant, an ex Cunningham team car that was raced at Le Mans by Hansgen/ Pabst in ’63 before a successful race career in the USA. Later passing through various UK and US ownerships, this example has been restored yet remains in excellent original condition and is a worthy competitor to the best Ferrari and Astons of the period. Bonhams sold a lesser example in average condition for $7.4 million at Scottsdale early in 2017 and this car is much better. Its difficult to assess just how much better but a comparable DB4 Zagato would top $20 million and the SEFAC hotrod 250GT would be $25 million so this car at $10 – 15 million would be a bargain.

Lamborghini Countach at RM

Gandini and Wallace developed the Lamborghini Countach on the the standard tubular frame as seen in the Miura and fitted it with the 4 litre engine from the earlier car. The air scoop and mirror combination fitted meant it was termed the Periscopio and the pure original design showed off Gandinis work at its best. One of just 86 examples (1120172) is on offer at RM Monterey with a $900k – 1.2 million estimate and is noted for being restored to incredible condition in Blu Tahiti over Tobacco. As a rare example these are highly collectable and just a year or so ago they were more $1.5 – 1.8 million so they are comparatively good value. The Countach may have dropped in value over the past 18 months but it should still be a good long term bet.




Lister Knobbly at Mecum

Lister were founded by Brian Lister and they had a great history of building excellent cars with MG, Bristol, Chevrolet and Jaguar engines before they launched their ultimate model, the Knobbly in 1958. Cunningham was a purchaser of these cars for use in the US SCCA series and they became an iconic sight with much success. 1 of the 2 Cunningham team cars is offered at Mecum Monterey and this car was raced with a Jaguar D-Type engine when new by Chuck Daigh to win the 1958 SCCA National Championship. Post racing it passed through a series of ownerships before a 1984 restoration and later still to Colin Comer from whose collection it is offered in fabulous condition. Genuine Listers have been stuck in the $1 – 2 million range depending on provenance and race history and while this is one of the best its hard to see it being worth more than $2.5 million. While this may seem expensive for what it is, remember the equivalent Aston or Ferrari is a $20 million plus proposition and you have the same chance of event participation so its comparatively good value.


Lotus 34 at Bonhams

Cooper were the first to realise that while a win at Indy may not be as important as the Formula 1 championships it was certainly worth a lot of money. Lotus soon followed with their 29 and 34 series Indy cars featuring the Ford 260 cui V8 that were stepping stones to the Indy 1965 winning 38. Bonhams are offering a rare example of the Lotus 34 (34/2) that was raced by AJ Foyt in ’64 and ’65 before being stored in his collection until 1992 ensuring its extreme originality. Restored to perfection, entirely authentic and likely a unique chance to purchase a car like this, Bonhams have given it an estimate of $1.8 – 2.5 million. This is either a remarkable chance to purchase a piece of US racing history and will sell very well indeed or it will fail.


Maserati A6G/54 at Gooding & co

Maserati spent the 1950s developing the various A6Gs and ended up with the A6G/54 derivative with its 160bhp engine and light, nimble chassis that was built with various bodywork, most notably Frua and Zagato. Examples of both are on offer at Monterey, Gooding is offering one of just 21 Zagato Berlinetta (2186) that was sold to the USA and passed through the usual process of having a V8 fitted, this time a Buick, before rediscovery and restoration by a later German owner. Restored around a correct replacement engine (2175) the car has gone on to concours success and offers a gorgeous alternative to a Ferrari at $4 – 5 million and for the money this is what I would have. The other example is the first of the 9th Frua Spiders, a super rare gorgeous car delivered to Venezuela where it resided before later export to the USA where it had a Ford V8 fitted before it was restored in Italy by the best shops with replacement engine #2146 and an OEM transmission. Another concours winner this car is estimated at $3.2 – 4 million and like the example at Gooding & co ownership will gain access to the best events anywhere.

Maserati 300s at Bonhams

Maserati had already developed the 250F from the A6G and took the next step in 1954 when they developed a 3 litre engine and more modern bodywork on a mildly altered A6G chassis. The resulting 300S was a race winner with examples winning FIA championship events and but for Maserati hubris they could have developed it into a Testa Rossa beater although they squandered resources on the two 350S variants and the 450S beast, fabulous cars that they were. Bonhams are offering a 300S (3069) with my favourite style of bodywork featuring a long nose that was likely raced by Fangio to a win at the 1957 Portuguese GP before export to South America where Fangio again won various events. Later raced into the 1970s in Temporada events the car was little more than a frame when it was rediscovered by British car sleuth Colin Crabbe in the late 1970s. Restored in 1983 the car was raced by French and UK owners before the current vendor purchased it and had DL George and Paul Lanzante restore it with engine 3058 fitted. While not in the top league of 300S due to the replacement bodywork and engine this actually allows the freedom to use the car without fear of damaging either and the $6 – 7 million estimate is cheap, especially compared to the equivalent Ferrari. For all its faults this is a fabulous racing car and well worth a look.

Maserati 5000GT at RM

Maserati developed the 5000GT as their answer to the Ferrari 400SA in the early 1960s and these very expensive luxury cars were produced in very limited quantities with unique bodywork by the best Italian carrozzeria. RM are offering an example that was fitted with Michelotti Coupe bodywork for Briggs Cunningham and retained by him for many years. Later passing to Alfredo Brener this car wears an older restoration and may require further work although its noted to be a good driver. Certainly unique (AM103*016) is estimated at $1.1 – 1.4 million or roughly a third of the Ferrari rival and for me there is no question which is the better car. One of my favorite cars at Monterey.



Little needs to be said about the Mercedes-Benz 300SL but these cars are the bread and butter of the market and with Ferrari F40s offer the closest thing to a tradible commodity. Four Gullwings and four Roadsters are on offer across the auctions and without going in to too much detail they are as follows;


198.040.5500080 @ Gooding Pebble ~ estimate $1 – 1.3 million – Green over Natural. One US family owner and unique colours, just 16,300 miles from new. Unique.

198.040.5500512 @ Gooding Pebble ~ estimate $1.25 – 1.5 million – Silver over Red. Restored and authentic.

198.040.5500771 @ Bonhams Quail ~ estimate $900k – $1.1 million – Red over Black. US example, replacement alloy engine fitted, older repaint otherwise well maintained.

198.040.7500069 @ RM Monterey ~ estimate $1.25 – 1.5 million – Black over Red. Restored by Steve Babinsky, $695k in receipts. Pebble Beach quality.


198.042.7500180 @ Gooding Pebble ~ estimate $800k – 1 million. Light blue over Grey. One US family owner, 38,000 miles from new. Original and Unique.

198.042.7500211 @ Gooding Pebble ~ estimate $1.2 – 1.5 million. Silver over Red. Rudge wheels. Restored by Classic MB pre ’95 and well maintained since.

198.042.7500299 @ Bonhams Quail ~ estimate $1 – 1.2 million – Silver over Red. Replacement alloy engine fitted. Restored pre 1991, engine rebuilt since.

198.042-10-002607 @ RM Monterey ~ estimate $1.25 – 1.5 million – Medium Blue over Beige. Complete with hardtop and restored to concours winning standards.

Mercedes-Benz 300SL at Gooding & co

While different things appeal to different buyers I am wowed by the totally original pair of 300SLs at Gooding & co. I would implore whoever buys them to give them a clean, mechanically service them and enjoy them rather than restore them as just another silver 300SL. Otherwise both RM and Gooding are offering garden variety restored 300SLs if that’s your bag and all are market correct.




Pegaso Z-102 at RM

Pegaso are a major Spanish truck maker that harbored ambitions of making their own sportscar and hired former Alfa engineer Wilf Ricart (the man who caused Enzo Ferrari to go off and form a small car company) and he developed the wild Z-102. A very advanced car they used V8s of between 2.5 and 3.2 litres in size, all with DOHC and state of the art transaxle and suspension. Approximately 100 examples were eventually made and most were bodied by Serra, Touring or Saoutchik. An example of a Coupe by the latter is on offer at RM (0102-153-0161) was a Spanish car that was later exported to the USA where it was restored and won its class at Pebble in ’05. Like the Fiat 8V/ Siata 208S these are not cars for the beginner and take a lot of understanding along with deep pockets should anything go wrong because parts are unobtanium. For all that they are amazing cars and RMs estimate of $725 – 900k is both correct for the model and pretty reasonable compared to anything comparable.


Porsche 908/3 at RM

Porsche had raised the bar with each new model and had first won international success in the late 1950s before becoming a consistent winner with the 907 and 908 in the latter 1960s although domination would await the 917 in the early 1970s. The 908 was a fairly simple, very lightweight tubular chassis fitted with a state of the art 3 litre flat 8 that offered 350hp although the chassis was prone to flex and Porsche generally raced each chassis just the once.  Porsche further developed the 1968 Coupe into the 1969 spider with its lighter bodywork and developed longtail rears for both the Coupe and Spider before launching the 908/03 on a much lighter yet stronger frame in early 1970 and some 11 examples were built over the next two years for use at the twistier tracks such as the Targa Florio and Nurburgring where they were unbeatable. RM are offering an example of the 908/3 that was like so many of its brethren raced once, by Herrmann/ Attwood to 2nd at the Nurburgring in ’70 and later crashed severely at some point. Later rebuilt by Siggi Brunn this car is like so many of the plastic Porsche in that it has no clear provenance and requires some form of acceptance like other relics that reappeared. Anyone taking the leap needs to be brave indeed and its not unfair to expect that a steep discount should be obtained. This is the fourth of the 11 cars to be offered in recent years, all with previous serious crash damage, and every example has failed to sell, mostly at bids much lower than the $3.5 – 4.5 million estimate RM have graced it with. A very cool car but ensure you do your detective work before bidding.

Porsche 917K at Gooding & co

Porsche took the next step to success in 1969 when the studied the rules and realised there was nothing stopping them developing a 5 litre competitor for the Group 5 category and they set to develop the mighty 917. After building the 25 examples needed for homologation they found several problems, not least the extreme chassis flexing (enough to cause the windscreen to pop out) and the appalling aerodynamics which allowed enormous speeds (230+mph) but meant the car wandered across the road. These were all fixed throughout the year by their partners at GWA racing although not without the cost of at least one life and the 917K was unbeatable in 1970 and most of 1971 with wins at both years Le Mans and WSC. Gooding are offering an example of the 917 (917-024) that was supplied to Jo Siffert although only used as a prop in the Steve McQueen movie “Le Mans”. After long periods of storage with its first two owners, the car was restored by Graber Sportsgarage and others to its original movie spec. The first true 917K to be publicly sold since 2003 this will be a true test of the market although Gooding did announce this car for sale back in 2014 before withdrawing it due to doubts over its history although they are now at pains to note it comes with a report from Walter Naher that clears up any doubts. Gulf cars have been offered at $20 – 25 million by Canepa although who knows whether they actually sell at that figure while the last 917k to sell was a car that was converted to a Spider format and that went for $4 million back in 2010. Gooding offer a $13 – 16 million estimate and I would call that about right although the market will speak and we will all know.


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