Each year since 1996, Amelia Island, Fla., has hosted some of the rarest and most desirable classic cars for a show, their Concours d’Elegance, in March. And the auctions that have sprung up around the event continue gaining importance for the very top of the collector car market. But aside from the seven- or eight-figure Ferraris and seemingly endless stream of rare Porsche 911s, plenty of quirky, unique or just plain interesting cars are also offered. This year was no exception.
Of the hundreds of cars offered, following are the five weirdest.
1938 Graham 97 Supercharged Cabriolet
Sold for $770,000
In 1938, a struggling Graham-Paige introduced its new model with “Spirit of Motion” as its design philosophy. To that end, several of the car’s styling cues, like the front fenders and grille, suggest forward motion. Coachbuilder Saoutchik of Paris further modified several of these “sharknose” Grahams with special cabriolet bodywork. This Graham’s most distinctive features are its folding windshield and amazing “cantilvered” doors that pop out and away from the body and slide backwards, not unlike a modern minivan’s. This particular car has an interesting story, too. After display at the 1938 Paris Salon, it was sold to a French army officer in Algeria and later served as an army staff car before eventually making its way to the Harrah’s collection in the 1960s. It was fully restored in 2013.
1957 Fiat-Stanguellini 1200 Spider America
Sold for $275,000
It has side coves like a first-generation Corvette, tail fins like a Cadillac and a face like a goldfish. Yet, somehow this all-Italian one-off remains surprisingly graceful. It was built on a Fiat 1100 TV platform and further modified by racing car builder Stanguellini. A Jet Age body penned by Bertone’s Franco Scaglione was then added and it was shown on Bertone’s stand at the Turin Auto Salon in 1957 before being shipped to Argentina for further display. This car was easy to miss among the many towering Bentleys and Rolls-Royces at RM Sotheby’s, but it was impossible to ignore once spotted. Selling for just shy of its $300,000 low estimate, it’s a lot of exclusivity for the money.
1948 Vauxhall-Zimmerli 18-6 Roadster
Sold for $71,500
Vauxhall is not usually associated with anything other than bland British commuter cars. The Swiss don’t exactly have a reputation for sporty automobiles, either. That’s why this car so surprising. The idea for this one-off came from a Swiss Chevrolet and Vauxhall dealer called the Zimmerli Brothers who aimed to capitalize on the demand for new cars in postwar Europe as well as the sports cars’ popularity. The convertible is fitted with a Vauxhall straight-six engine and transmission as well as Vauxhall suspension, but the Zimmerlis built their own chassis and aluminum body. Nothing really came of the project, but the car remained in good shape and it was restored in the early 2000s. That it’s built with Vauxhall bits and lacks a connection to famous names or coachbuilders explains the relatively modest five-figure price. But this is decent value for a unique, hand-built, postwar European sports car.
1935 Godsal Sports Tourer
Sold for $214,500
Another totally unique sports car offered in Amelia this year was the Godsal. Powered by a Ford Flathead V-8 like an early Allard and fitted with a Bentley rear axle, it was built in London and fitted with this swoopy bodywork by coachbuilder Corsica. A fully functional prototype intended for production, it just cost too much to build and this was the only example ever produced.
1955 Daimler Conquest Century Roadster
Sold for $35,200
Typically, Daimlers were distinctive but not exactly pretty cars. Often fitted with extra details and appendages that left them looking like caricatures of similar Rolls-Royces or Jaguars. Their two-seaters were odd too, with the catfish-like 1959-64 SP250 being the most well-known here in the U.S. More obscure in this country is the Conquest, which could be bought as a sedan but was also available as either a drophead coupe (convertible) or a roadster. Only 65 roadsters were built, and they have the same odd surfacing and details you’d expect from any Daimler of this period. For example, the signature scalloped radiator shell looks far too formal for a sports car as compared to a saloon (sedan). The Conquest roadster does have a certain charm to it, but no two people were smitten enough at the Bonhams sale to even approach the $60,000 low estimate, making it an easy buy for the new owner.