2016 Amelia Island preview
Events like Amelia Island gather all kinds of classics that are beautiful, historically significant, fast and often all three. This of course applies not just to the concours but to the auctions as well, where many of the cars on offer are not only gorgeous and valuable but also extremely rare. Strolling the auction previews in Amelia Island is a unique experience, whether you’re shopping or just dreaming, because there are cars on offer there that you might just never see again unless you’re the winning bidder. This year is no exception, and there are 10 in particular that are definitely not the kind of thing to come up for sale every day.
1964 Sabra GT Coupe
Presale estimate: $80,000 - $100,000
When you think of great car-building nations, Israel probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet, an Israeli company called Autocars did build cars for over twenty years, and called their little sports car the Sabra. Having nothing to do with the delicious hummus we know and love today, the word Sabra means cactus and is also slang for someone born in Israel. The UK’s Reliant was actually responsible for much of the Sabra’s design and construction, while the engine was a 1.7-liter four out of the Ford Consul. 379 were built during the 1960s, with 144 of them coming to the United States. Apparently, the Sabra was particularly popular in Belgium, where over 80 Sabras were sold, and the example offered by Bonhams originally belonged to the wife of the Belgian Israeli Consulate General.
1964 Peel P50
Presale estimate: $75,000 - $100,000
The Isle of Man is another place not normally associated with car manufacturing, but a Manx company called Peel Engineering was actually responsible for the world’s smallest production automobile. Designed as a city car that could carry one person (and not much else), the Peel P50 had a 4.5-hp two-stroke engine and a top speed of 37, but it could get up to 100 mpg and you could park it pretty much anywhere. Despite the P50’s appeal, particularly to European urbanites, microcars were falling out of fashion by the 1960s and just 50 were built. According to RM Sotheby’s, only 26 are thought to still exist, although production of new built-to-order P50s started again in 2010.
1958 Porsche 597 Jagdwagen
Gooding & Company
Presale estimate: $350,000 - $425,000
People who know a thing or two about Porsche’s early history might remember that they built diesel tractors, but a much more obscure vehicle is the ill-fated Type 597 Jagdwagen, which basically translates to “hunter’s car”. When the German military was seeking a capable light duty vehicle, Porsche threw their hat into the ring against Borgward and Auto Union for a contract. The four-wheel drive, amphibious Jagdwagen featured Porsche/VW suspension and a single carb, air-cooled flat-four that was basically a detuned 356 motor. It was a capable little thing that could climb a steep 60 percent grade, but the German government went with a simpler, cheaper design from DKW instead. Porsche sold a few dozen to the public and moved on. 71 were built and, according to Gooding & Company, only about 15 still exist today. The example on offer at Amelia Island is one of the 16 Jerry Seinfeld cars, and while it’s certainly not the prettiest, most significant or fastest, it’s still one of the most interesting and rare Porsches that will be auctioned this coming weekend.
1932 Ruxton Model C
Presale estimate: $375,000 - $450,000
Along with the Cord L-29, the Ruxton was America’s first front-wheel drive production car. Ruxton was a featured class at Pebble Beach in 2014 and 16 of them were present on the lawn. At first glance, then, it might have seemed that Ruxtons aren’t all that rare, but those were 16 of the approximately 19 Ruxtons surviving today and 96 total that were originally constructed. By comparison, Cord made over 4,000 L-29s. Front-wheel drive allowed the Ruxton to sit considerably lower than other cars of the period, and several examples (including this one) were given a “rainbow” paint scheme by Joseph Urban that made the car appear even lower and longer than it already was.
1973 Porsche 917/30
Gooding & Company
Presale estimate: $5,000,000 - $7,000,000
After they won overall at Le Mans in 1970 and 1971 with the 12-cylinder 917K, Porsche decided to campaign the car in North America’s Can-Am championship. In order to make it competitive with the then-dominant McLarens, though, Porsche turbocharged the flat-12 and fitted spider bodywork. The resulting 917/10 dominated Can-Am in the 1972 season. For 1973, Porsche further tweaked the design with the 917/30, and in qualifying trim the 917/30 could make over 1,500 hp. With Mark Donohue at the wheel, Porsche again dominated in 1973 and at the time Donohue called it the perfect racecar. The one on offer in Amelia Island, one of six built, was sold new in Australia and never raced in anger, but it is nevertheless one of the top cars from the Seinfeld collection.
1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Sports Tourer by Vanden Plas
Presale estimate: N/A
Any Bugatti Type 57 is rare, but even rarer is a supercharged example with one-off coachwork, a car that can truly be considered unique. The Bugatti offered by Bonhams wears coachwork by Vanden Plas, an English coachbuilder that spawned from the Brussels-based firm Van den Plas. The 57SC was one of the fastest cars in the world in its day and made a full 200 hp from its blown eight-cylinder motor. This one is fully documented and has long been owned by sympathetic collectors. Such collectors tend to keep cars like this for a long time, so chances of seeing this car come up again any time soon aren’t high.
1935 MG PA Airline Coupe by Carbodies
Presale estimate: $120,000 - $150,000
At first glance, this car might look like a T-Series with a roof stuck on it, but it’s actually a prewar PA with an aerodynamic coupe body by Carbodies. Just over 50 MG Airline Coupes were built, mostly on PA and PB chassis. According to Bonhams, 28 of them were PAs like this one, and only about a dozen of those survive today. While it lacks the open, wind in your hair feeling of an MG roadster, this car does at least have a sunroof and it would be a star at any MG gathering.
1959 OSCA Tipo S-273
Gooding & Company
Presale estimate: $650,000 - $800,000
Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili (OSCA) was established in the postwar years by the Maserati brothers. They had sold their shares in Maserati, so they weren’t allowed to start another company using their own name. OSCAs were highly competitive in the small displacement classes and sometimes overall wins during the 1950s, and the car offered by Gooding & Company was sold to the famed Cunningham race team. It was driven by Denise McCluggage at Sebring in 1960 but unfortunately retired with cooling issues. It was then sold again and enjoyed considerable regional success in the early 1960s. Exceedingly rare, the car has since been restored and is race-ready.
1935 Riley MPH
Presale estimate: $600,000 - $750,000
Riley is one of the oldest names in sports cars, with roots going back to 1896. They made some of the more memorable British cars of the 1930s, and one of the more notable of those was the MPH, of which just 16 were built with many of those raced to considerable success. The one offered by Bonhams was sold new in Switzerland and raced by its first owner, who kept it until he died in the 1940s. It stayed in the family’s garage and it was actually bought in 1963 by a young Bob Lutz, who kept it for almost 50 years.
1962 Kurtis Aguila
Presale estimate: $450,000 - $600,000
Frank Kurtis is largely known for building Indy and dirt track cars, but there were Kurtises that won in road racing too, during the 1950s. By the early 1960s, however, Kurtis designs’ best days were over and this car offered by RM Sotheby’s was one of his last. The idea was to take an Indy car and convert it into a sports car for road racing, but also make the fenders easily removable so it could race in open wheel competition as well. Powered by a 327 cubic inch Chevy V-8 with triple Stromberg carburetors, the car showed promise and was featured in a 1963 issue of Road & Track, but it simply couldn’t compete with the quicker mid-engined sports cars that were starting to arrive on the racing scene. Today, though, it makes a tempting vintage racer, especially since you can race it as an open wheel machine as well as a sports car.