Auction Report

Day 1 in Monterey: $38.8M in sales and some spectacular Aston Martins

by John Wiley
13 August 2021 2 min read
Photo by Evan Klein

The 2021 Monterey auctions got off to a strong start with money changing hands at Mecum, Russo and Steele, and RM Sotheby’s on Thursday. High-quality consignments powered $38.8M in sales on a 73 percent sell-through rate, compared with $16.9M and 49 percent sell-through the last time we all gathered here, in 2019.  

In normal times, the auctions associated with Monterey car week have the ability to move the classic car market. In these oh-so-not-normal times, they’re even more significant. Although classic cars have continued to sell during the pandemic—extremely well, at that—we’ve had precious few public opportunities to see how the very top vehicles are performing. Several of them showed up tonight at RM Sotheby’s, which was offering vehicles from the estate of late businessman Paul Andrews.  

Most notably, a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato sold for $9,520,000, 13.5 percent below low estimate but right on the Hagerty Price Guide condition value. A 1955 Jaguar D-Type went unsold for 16 percent below low estimate at a $4.2M high bid but also reached its Hagerty Price Guide condition value. The biggest underperformer of the night was a continuation Jaguar E-Type Lightweight, which sold for $1,050,000—30 percent below its low estimate and nearly 40 percent less than this very car brought last October at RM’s Elkhart auction. At the other end of the spectrum, a stunning LHD 1965 Aston Martin DB5 convertible earned $3.195M (and a round of applause from those in the room), beating its high estimate by more than $900,000.  

The sole Ferrari of the day, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso sold for $1,875,000—24 percent above #1 condition value and 50 percent over condition-appropriate value. American classics also performed well, led by a Duesenberg Model J ‘Butterfly’ Dual-Cowl Phaeton that brought $3,305,000. These two sales—a continuation of what we saw earlier this year at Amelia Island—suggest in-person auctions maintain the upper hand in Enzo-era Ferraris and prewar cars, which remain relatively rare on online platforms. 

Overall, bidding was strong, if not exuberant. As we’ve observed at high-end auctions for several years now, buyers of million-dollar vehicles have a strong sense of what things are worth and an unwillingness to venture above that. But more so than 2019, the truly nice cars are here, and people are bidding them to condition-appropriate prices.  

The exuberance in recent months has been primarily focused on more attainable cars. Feverish activity on online platforms like Bring a Trailer has fueled unprecedented appreciation this year for many vehicles in the $50k–$250k range. We’re already seeing that carry over to the live-auction scene here in Monterey. Mecum, for instance, sold a one-owner, 13,000-mile Porsche 914 for $80,850, about 18 percent above Hagerty’s condition #1 value.  

Things will heat up considerably tomorrow, when Bonhams and Gooding & Co join RM Sotheby’s, Mecum, and Russo and Steele. Several cars with eight-figure estimates, including a McLaren F1 and Porsche 917K will cross the block.  

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