Monterey. That place where, at a special time in August, lousy $57-per-night hotel rooms transform themselves, not quite ugly swan style, into lousy $399-per-night hotel rooms. Where 28-year-old bros in Lambos, buds in Bugattis, and pals in Paganis demonstrate how much money Daddy made, and how his skills and good judgment did not in any way affect his progeny.
But I digress.
Monterey is also a place where some of the greatest cars in the world assemble. To be shown, to be driven, and, in the case of auctions, to be sold.
And what a great year 2022 was to be in the auction business in Monterey. There were five auctions set up around the peninsula: Gooding & Company, Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s, Mecum, and newcomer Broad Arrow*. Leading up to the big week, there were concerns that the market had already peaked, that economic uncertainty would register even with the ultra-wealthy, or that maybe there was simply more great stuff on offer than there could possibly be buyers. That all may yet come to pass…but not this week, and not in Monterey. The auctions all did—drumroll, please—spectacularly.
RM Sotheby’s dominated with a three-day event, Gooding & Company’s two-day sale was both strong and decisive. Mecum and Bonhams had the fun stuff mixed in with the serious, and Broad Arrow’s first-ever event established it as a credible force in the industry.
Here are my takeaways, and—I’m happy to say—your results may vary, as digesting this much marketplace just a few days from its occurrence is always a bit tricky.
1. The thousand-foot view is that broad ripples in the overall economy, rising interest rates, war in Ukraine, supply chain issues affecting retailers and new-car production, and anything else you would like to throw into that bucket did not have any noticeable effect on sales. The high end (above $1 million) and the extreme high end (five million to unlimited dollars) seem particularly removed from these concerns, given the rate at which they changed hands last week.
2. The so-called Analog Supercars—including the Bugatti EB110, Porsche 959, Lamborghini Countach LP500, and Ferrari F40 and F50—are the runaway winners here, with prices well exceeding both recent reported sales and expectations. The poster child for Analog Supercars, the McLaren F1, was on hand and sold by RM Sotheby’s, but the sale was conducted “private treaty” style and not by public auction, so all we have at this point is a “whisper number.” And the whisper that I did hear was, well, big.
3. The generational shift we have talked about ad nauseam is finally here. If the above paragraph doesn’t quite tell you that, I will. We boomers are about to be eclipsed by Generation X in the marketplace, and the cars they want are those cars that made the noise (actually, in this case, both figuratively AND literally) in Monterey. But, not the biggest-dollar cars; for those, Boomers still rule.
4. While you kids are getting off of our collective lawn, keep this in mind: The very top sellers were a 1957 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider that brought $22,000,000, a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante for $10,345,000, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster with body by Sindelfingen that changed garages at $9,900,000, and, finally, a 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6C Tulipwood Torpedo by Nieuport-Astra that netted $9,245,000. I don’t think I’d lose any bets by stating that none of the new owners of those top five sellers learned about them while gaming on Gran Turismo or Forza. Burnout Paradise? Yeah, no.
5. JDM cars showed up to play, but the big kids from Italy and other European strongholds held on to both the headlines and the biggest dollars. There are lots of JDM superstars that are going to have a big moment, it’s just that it wasn’t here and wasn’t now.
6. Mecum (again) gets the award for the “most funnest” cars on auction, mixed in with some various very serious stuff. Bonhams has the easiest display to get around with some great buys on tasty treats, while Broad Arrow had some very serious Gen–X Chow mixed in with an entire feedlot of Boomer snacks. Gooding has the serious collector vibe mixed in with their usual selection of high-end barn finds.
But it was clearly RM Sotheby’s that championed the week, with its domineering three nights of auctions. The stunning Fagoni-bodied 2022 Pebble Beach–winning 1932 Duesenberg J Sports tourer, restored at RM’s restoration facility in Canada, was the rather large cherry on top.
7. All the auction companies can leave Monterey with their heads held high, as all of them did a great job. There were no obvious faux pas, no what-the-hell-just-happened moments, and few disappointments.
Fun can cost money, but some fun is free. The Monterey Peninsula is one of the world’s best places to see cars of all types, and you never know what you will see next. A Bugatti with a Thule cargo box on the roof? Check. A late-model Rolls-Royce that “failed to proceed?” In traffic? Yup.
Best place to look at, and bid on, some of the best, wildest, and weirdest cars in the world?
The auctions, streets, and driveways in Monterey.
Dave Kinney is an appraiser and the publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide.
*Hagerty has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Broad Arrow Group. You can read more about it here.