5 big-money surprises at the 2017 Monterey Auctions

Money, and lots of it, is an underlying theme to Monterey Car Week. From the rare and desirable vehicles on display and driving around to exorbitant hotel room prices, wealth is in the air. (Our free Hagerty Dawn Patrol hats, ironically, are some of the most exclusive items on the peninsula.) The affluence extends to the auctions as well, where once-in-a-lifetime sales can hit seven- and eight-figure bids. We track these sales, both small and large, to help feed our extensive valuation database. But no amount of data can predict all human behavior, and that means there are always some results higher than we expect.

Sometimes an unexpected figure represents a breakout sale, which sets a new level for that model. Sometimes the exceptional nature of a car warrants a bidding frenzy. And, yes, sometimes pride, ego, or just the cheers from the crowd result in two or more people fighting to win an auction beyond all rational sense. Here are five cars from this year’s auctions that left us a bit shocked.

1951 Porsche 356 1500 Coupe
Auction: RM Sotheby’s, lot 247
Final sale price: $1,017,500
HPG value: $76,800–$256,000

1951 Porsche 356 1500 Coupe
RM Sotheby’s
1951 Porsche 356 1500 Coupe

Our analysis: An absolutely unbelievable amount. This was a very early production car in excellent condition, but not a four-digit serial number and not a flawless example. Nonetheless, two bidders put on an entertaining show in the auction tent on the way to pushing the final amount to nearly 50% above the high estimate.

1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 Coupe
Auction: Mecum, lot F79
Final sale price: $126,500
HPG value: $19,375–$87,250 (including an additional 25% for four-speed)

1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 Coupe
Mecum
1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 Coupe

Our analysis: Avantis have been quietly rising since 2014 and there have been some notable private sales recently, but this amount was absolutely stunning. Condition and spec (factory supercharger and four-speed) were spot on, but this sale blew past both Mecum’s high estimate and Hagerty Price Guide’s #1 value. Is this a breakout sale or some kind of Studebaker fever? A little bit of each. Take note, earlier in the week Mecum sold another R-2 Avanti with four-speed for $99,000.

1975 Porsche 914 1.8 Targa
Auction: RM Sotheby’s, lot 112
Final sale price: $93,500
HPG value: $6,700–$27,900

1975 Porsche 914 1.8 Targa
RM Sotheby’s
1975 Porsche 914 1.8 Targa

Our analysis: World record price for a four-cylinder 914. This example showed 3,192 original miles and was essentially like new. Unicorn-like status always brings a high price, but few people on the Monterey peninsula predicted an amount like this would be offered. And no, your 70,000-mile example is not worth $50,000 now.

2003 BMW Z8 Roadster
Auction: Gooding & Company, lot 164
Final sale price: $440,000
HPG value: $130,000–$270,000

2003 BMW Z8 Roadster
Gooding & Company
2003 BMW Z8 Roadster

Our analysis: Another low-mile stunner—this one with 61 miles recorded. Z8s were often treated like collectibles from new so it’s likely there are a handful of the 5,703 cars produced globally with as many miles or fewer. Given that, $165,000 over high estimate had the audience cheering in bewildered excitement.

1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0
Auction: Worldwide Auctioneers, lot 23
Final sale price: $51,700
HPG value: $4,100–$20,000

1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0
Worldwide Auctioneers
1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0

Our analysis: The 1971–88 Mercedes Benz SL, also known as the R107, has moved up over the last three years, but not this much. This example was a European-market car with the rare World Rally Championship homologation 5.0-liter V-8. The price is well above convertible territory, and this is not the type of sporting car where a fixed roof increases the value.