More than a week has passed since the final car crossed the block in Monterey, California. Even as a few post-auction sales trickle in over the week, 2021 has shaped up to be a triumphant comeback for the Car Week auctions compared to 2019. Digging deeper into the data, these strong results are due in part to a multitude of potential breakout sales. Such sales concentrate on vehicles that sell above expectation and are more than statistical outliers; they signal a genuine shift in the market. Out of many high-dollar sales, here are five which we believe reveal emerging trends.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Sold for $1,710,000 (Bonhams)
#1 condition (Concours) value: $1,500,000
Perhaps one of the most recognizable collector cars in existence, the gullwing-door 300SL is a must-have car for any serious collection. We’ve long watched the 300SL market for signals of how the overall collector car market is performing. If this 300SL sale is any indication, things may be looking up. This example was finished in a very attractive combination of black over red, and even though it wasn’t equipped with optional extras such as Rudge wheels or fitted luggage, it still sold well above Bonhams’ high estimate of $1,500,000.
This was not the only example of a 300SL exceeding expectations at Monterey. A 1957 Roadster sold for $1,655,000 against a $1,600,000 high estimate. Other examples either sold on or above their Hagerty Price Guide values. While this sale did not surpass our expectations by as large of a margin as some other cars did, a strong 300SL sale does teach us something very important: The upper end of the market is strong, even for traditionally collectible cars. Strength in the 300SL market could well be a trustworthy indicator of the strength of the collector car market in general.
2012 Lexus LFA Nurburgring
Sold for $1,600,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
#1 condition (Concours) value: $930,000
This isn’t the first time we’ve highlighted an LFA exceeding our expectations, but this time our forecasts were blown away by this scarce LFA Nürburgring edition. One of just 64 produced in total, and one of only 25 delivered to the U.S., this is a highly sought-after example of Lexus’ supercar. Setting the Nürburgring apart from the standard LFA are an improved aero kit, magnesium wheels sourced from BBS, lowered ride height, and an extra 10 hp teased out of the howling V-10.
Over the past few months, LFA prices have taken off. Standard models that previously sold within the $400,000 range have nearly doubled in value since spring. Due to its rarity, however, no public sales of a Nürburgring LFA have occurred for some time. Expectations for a big sale were high going into Monterey, but this 930-mile example offered by RM Sotheby’s blew past even the auction house’s high estimate of $1,100,000. Compared to the standard models, this eye-watering result proves that the Nürburgring edition has appreciated at about the same rate as the regular LFA. While the LFA may not have the crazy styling of a Lamborghini or the cachet of a Ferrari, it has taken its rightful place as one of the most desirable supercars money can buy.
1986 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62
Sold for $134,400 (Gooding & Company)
#1 condition (Concours) value: $68,600
High-grade SUVs are not a new sight on prestigious auction blocks such as Gooding & Company’s. What is a new sight is one restored to such a high quality as the one offered by Gooding during this year’s Monterey Car Week. Regardless of venue, most trucks that reach auction are not restored to the same meticulous level as cars are, though condition rarely prevents them from selling well. This Land Cruiser is a clear exception, one of two Land Cruisers offered for sale in Monterey wearing a stellar restoration completed by The FJ Company.
Along with first-generation Broncos, Toyota Land Cruisers have been value leaders in the SUV market. This sale teaches us a couple lessons. First, it proves that 60 Series Land Cruisers are solidly popular collector trucks. It also demonstrates that there is an enormous appetite for trucks restored to like-new or better condition, not simply the high-level cosmetic restorations we typically see. Whether or not the Land Cruiser continues to post consistent six-figure sales remains to be seen, but this August sale does tell us that the vintage SUV market is as hot as ever.
2004 Porsche Carrera GT
Sold for $1,210,000 (Mecum Auctions)
#1 condition (Concours) value: $1,050,000
Anyone paying close attention to the Monterey sales this year noticed that analog supercars were on a hot streak. Ferrari F40s, Mercedes SLRs, and a Bugatti EB110 SS all sold above their respective Hagerty Price Guide estimates. One example that stands out is the Carrera GT offered by Mecum, which brought $1,210,000. These V-10 powered monsters have been holding steady for quite some time, so the fact that the market is showing activity again is quite notable. The Mecum car was no garage queen, either, and showed 3570 miles—still low, but by no means consistent with a car bought as an investment piece. This makes the fact that this car cleared its HPG estimate all the more noteworthy.
Sales like this one prove that that there is an ever-increasing interest in supercars devoid of the electronic wizardry embedded in modern exotics. While the sheer power output of 2000s supercars may not match that of contemporary machines, the trend reveals that today’s buyers are increasingly interested in a distilled, analog driving experience.
1988 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Sold for $71,500 (Mecum Auctions)
#1 condition (Concours) value: $56,500
Back when the SUV market heated up, Jeep Grand Wagoneers were among the early leaders. They had since stabilized as Broncos kept rising. This sale at Mecum could signal a change in that trend. This Grand Wagoneer was a 55,000 mile example with sympathetic restoration work to its interior and an upgrade to fuel injection under the hood. Nevertheless, a sale of $71,500 on a Grand Wagoneer that is neither perfectly preserved nor barely driven raises some eyebrows. It could very well mean that the Grand Wagoneer market is on the move again and that the model is gaining ground against Blazers, Broncos, and Scouts. Time can only tell, but the future does look bright for Grand Wagoneer owners at the moment.