Where there is a “winner” there also is a “loser.” Life sometimes works that way.
In this look back at the 2017 classic car auctions, the winners were the sellers. These 17 cars were judged “over the top” in the prices they achieved, which means the buyers overpaid, and—ultimately—lost.
The 17 cars are a diverse group, ranging from a dilapidated, partially restored Ferrari to a show-quality Metropolitan convertible. Transactions ranged from $1,375,000 to $38,500, and condition was also widespread, from concours (#1) to parts car (#4). The average was about 3-plus.
Of note, half of the cars on our list were offered without reserve, and only three of the no-reserve cars were in auctions that were predominantly no reserve. None of the top cars was a headlining, huge-money car; the bidders on those lots generally behaved rationally, even though their definition of rationality may not resonate with buyers who have more modest bank accounts. Finally, while the mix was eclectic, for the most part the vehicles were modestly priced mainstream collector cars (except in their final result).
Without further delay, here are the over-the-top auction sales of 2017:
Body by Touring; S/N AR192802; Grigio Medio, Dark Red hardtop/Black leather; Borrani center-lock wire wheels, Michelin X tires, black vinyl boot cover, Blaupunkt push-button radio, triple Solex carbs. Older restoration, 2+ condition.
Estimate $250,000–$300,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $280,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $308,000.
Notes: Very clean engine bay. Excellent paint and chrome. Very good interior. California black plate car. Restored. Award winner at 2013 Concorso Italiano. Still every bit a show car.
Analysis: A beautiful car in this livery and impressively presented, this is a car the new owner can drive and show proudly, but one that brought an astounding result, more than double any prior 2600 Spider. Were the bidders led on by the estimate range? Did they have no point of reference? This is 2600 Zagato money.
Estimate $30,000–$40,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $67,500 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $74,250.
Notes: Very good paint, chrome and interior. New top fit could be better.
Analysis: This is staggering money even for such a well restored Metropolitan convertible. It would have been generously priced at the high pre-sale estimate. At 69 percent over it, the bidders’ rationality is in question with a price that is 12.5 percent more than the next highest Metropolitan at auction. The newest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, Richard Thaler, maintains that consumers are not rational. This result should be added as an example to his next book (or maybe he bought it with his Nobel Prize money, which he promised to “spend irrationally.”)
S/N 194677S108606; Black, Bright Blue stingray/Bright Blue vinyl, Black top; 427/435 hp, three two-barrels, four-speed, power windows side exhaust, Rally wheels with trim rings and blue line tires, AM-FM. Older restoration, 2 condition.
With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $775,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $852,500.
Notes: Represented as the original engine and gearbox with 35,427 miles from new. Tank sticker documented, Bloomington Gold certified, multiple NCRS Top Flights. Restored better than new and kept that way. Excellent paint, chrome and interior. Reputed to be the only one with this color combination.
Analysis: The uniqueness of the color combination is reinforced by its strangeness. The reported price is nothing short of staggering. Collectors love “unique,” and Corvette collectors are right in there in their passion for a Corvette that stands out, but this is a bizarre transaction for an odd color scheme.
S/N CKR188F125924; White, Woodgrain/Beige vinyl; 400/175 hp, automatic, Michelin tires, 4WD, power steering, power brakes, power windows, air conditioning, roof rack, Motorola AM/FM radio. From the LaQuay collection. Visually maintained, largely original, 2 condition.
No Reserve; Hammered Sold at $43,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $47,300.
Notes: A little bit of oxidation behind the rear bumper. Light scratches and pitting on the front bumper. Very good paint that looks original. Interior is very good other than some scratches on the console. Light road wear, but dry and sound underneath. Engine bay is tidy. Showing 16,742 believable miles. How or why someone would keep a 40-year-old Chevy truck in such great condition is a mystery, but here it is.
Analysis: You’d be hard pressed to find a better ’78 Blazer than this, even a restored one. This one is both loaded and almost totally original as well as in fantastic shape, but even taking that into account it’s still hard to explain the huge result here. This is huge money, but two people in the room must have really, really wanted this old truck and paid a curve-setting price to get it.
Mecum Auctions Kissimmee, Lot # F130.1, January 15
S/N 84299185; White, Orange/White vinyl with Red cloth inserts; 315/204 hp, wood bed, push-button automatic, dual mirrors, wheel covers, whitewalls. From the Jackie and Gary Runyon Collection. Recent restoration, 2+ condition.
Estimate $50,000–$70,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $150,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $165,000.
Notes: Body-off restored. Excellent paint, chrome and interior. Very good restored underbody. Beautiful truck done to slightly better than new. You rarely see these, and this must be one of the best that exists, although they didn't go too over the top.
Analysis: Sold at Mecum Indy in 2012 for $68,900, and blown out of the park here, an unimaginable price three times Mecum's pre-sale low estimate. Two people wanted this show-quality Sweptside very badly.
Body by Pininfarina; S/N 3783GT; Primer, Primer hardtop/Black vinyl; frame only top; new chrome spoke Borrani wire wheels and Michelin XWX tires, overdrive, factory hardtop, tool roll, owner's books, many boxes of parts both NOS and reproductions. Incomplete restoration, 4 condition.
Estimate $800,000–$1,000,000; With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $1,250,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $1,375,000.
Notes: A “loosely assembled” restoration project that has been in progress for over 20 years. The chassis and engine are partially done, dash and gauges are pretty good. The whole car needs to be rewired. The body is a mess. Driver’s door overlaps the rear fender by an eighth of an inch, with no forward gap to work with. A daunting project.
Analysis: Just about everything done to this Ferrari over the past two decades will need to be done again or the finished product will be compromised and sketchy. The price it brought is a gift, a reflection of bidders’ dreams of what they can do (with a nearly bottomless bank account) with this incomplete canvas. It is nothing if not irrationally expensive.
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, Lot #0400.5, January 22
S/N 1FACP44E2LF159132; Deep Emerald Green/White leather; White top; 302/225 hp, automatic, aluminum wheels, limited-slip, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning, power seats, cruise control. Unrestored original, 2 condition.
No Reserve; Hammered Sold at $75,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $82,500.
Notes: Original paint with no damage or scratches. Interior is still covered in factory plastic. Showroom fresh engine bay. Showing 16 miles. Basically a new car.
Analysis: There were some insane prices paid for Fox-body Mustangs in Arizona this year, but this one takes the cake. This car was less than $15,000 when new 27 years ago, and at Westworld it sold for about what would buy a brand-new Z06 Corvette or make a healthy down payment on the new Ford GT.
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, Lot #0400.3, January 22
S/N 1FABP41E1KF233770; Cabernet Red/Scarlet Red cloth; 302/225 hp, five-speed, painted aluminum wheels, limited-slip, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning, power seats, cruise control. Unrestored original, 2 condition.
No Reserve; Hammered Sold at $65,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $71,500.
Notes: Showing 638 represented original miles. Original factory paint with no damage or scratches. Interior still has factory plastic covering. Engine bay is original and unrestored, with all original factory markings. No wear to speak of and pretty much like it came off the showroom floor.
Analysis: Quite frankly, this is crazy money and over five times what this car would have cost new. It’s more than a new Shelby GT350R. The numerous low-mileage Fox-body cars did very well in Scottsdale this year, and this is one wasn't even the most expensive.
Bonhams & Butterfields Fernandina Beach, Lot #168, March 9
Body by Marazzi; S/N 6318; Silver/Tobacco Brown leather; Audioline cassette stereo, two-spoke wood-rim steering wheel, centerlock alloy wheels, Bridgestone tires. Visually maintained, largely original, 3 condition.
Estimate $250,000–$300,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $225,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $247,500.
Notes: Clear-coat repaint with a large crack and separating area at the base of the right windshield post. Good major chrome but badly pitted door handles. Sound but surface cracked and creased older upholstery. Original undercoat in the wheel wells. A sound driver with a potentially serious paint issue that needs to be dealt with.
Analysis: Never “restored” and only intermittently serviced, the new owner had better have a good relationship with a nearby Lamborghini specialist because this long-neglected car will need plenty of attention, especially having just paid all the money for a quality automobile. Is this a “barn find” price? It could well be.
S/N ZA9LU45A2LLA12186; Black/Black leather; Black leatherette bed and spare tire cover, tubular bed rails, chrome tubular bumperettes, Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, Alpine stereo. Recent restoration, 2 condition.
Estimate $400,000–$500,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $420,000 plus commission of 11.19 percent; Final Price $467,000.
Notes: One of a reported 48 built to U.S. specs. Fresh, thick repaint lifting in body creases behind the right rear door and above the fender flares. Chassis and engine are restored like new. Very good interior. Freshly done but flawed.
Analysis: This is a stupendous price for an LM002, $100,000 more than any comparable example. The repaint is sufficiently flawed in detail to call into question the quality of the workmanship in general and the new owner paid dearly for it.
S/N GHN3U133548G; Mineral Blue/Black leather piped in Blue; Black vinyl top; painted wire wheels, Dunlop tires, Blaupunkt AM/FM radio. Concours restoration, 1- condition.
Estimate $30,000–$40,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $35,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $38,500.
Notes: Seats are incorrect but better than factory, and the restored interior looks fantastic, other than some worn original switchgear. Lots of oil spit out onto the front bumper. Excellent paint and chrome. Very clean underneath. Excellent newer top. Restored by a trained BL mechanic. Not perfect, but done to a much higher standard than usually seen on an MGB.
Analysis: This is crazy money for a B. There’s no other way to put it. It would have been expensive even if it had brought 10 grand less.
S/N 242379B176476; Orange/Black vinyl; 455/370 hp Ram Air IV, four-speed, Hurst T-handle shifter, 3.90 Safe-T-Track, push-button radio, painted rim Rally II wheels, red line tires, bench seat with headrests, power steering, gauges, no power brakes. Recent restoration, 2+ condition.
With Reserve; Hammered Sold at $130,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $143,000.
Notes: Excellent paint, chrome and interior. Engine compartment and underbody are like new. No engine number stamping on the block. PHS documented.
Analysis: Once in awhile lightning strikes on the block at a Barrett-Jackson auction and this is one of those times. This car sold for $84,800 at Mecum’s 2012 Indianapolis auction, then for $79,200 at Mecum Chicago in 2015, and most recently for $78,100 ($71,000 hammer) at Indy a month prior before bringing double in June. It is a beautiful restoration, but the lack of a block stamping, or of any representation of the engine's originality rather than just saying it was built with an RA IV, is troubling and makes the result at the Spring Classic much more appropriate than the generous price it brought here.
Body by Reutter; S/N 11111; Black/Green leather; Black steel wheels, hubcaps, Dunlop blackwalls, Telefunken radio, Ivory color steering wheel, split-window vee windshield, Kardex and Porsche CofA documented. Recent restoration, 2+ condition.
Estimate $600,000–$700,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $925,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $1,017,500.
Notes: Excellent paint, chrome, upholstery and interior wood. Body panels fit flush with even gaps and are impressively flat, aided by consistent application of filler on the sides. Class winner at Hilton Head, Amelia and Winter Park.
Analysis: This result had jaws wagging and eyeballs popping in Monterey. It is a lovely early Porsche. It also is unbelievably expensive.
Gooding & Company Scottsdale, Lot #062, January 21
Body by Reutter; S/N 84274; Dark Blue, Primer/None; No top; 1582cc/75 hp, rear bumper overrider, no front bumper. Unrestored original, 5+ condition.
Estimate $200,000–$275,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $310,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $341,000.
Notes: Mostly there, in sad, battered condition, but not rotten. Too far gone for anything but restoration. The left side is mostly in primer while the right is badly deteriorated old paint suggesting (along with the ripples) some serious old body damage. Dented and missing trim. The upholstery is mostly missing; what's there is in tatters. Said to be the original numbers matching Super engine.
Analysis: A day after selling this car, Gooding sold a 1600 Normal Speedster—with an unrestored original hardtop and 40-year old repaint, sound and usable with matching numbers engine—for exactly the same price. Later in the day, RM sold a ’57 356A Normal Speedster in better-than-new condition for $330,000. (No, that isn’t a typo—11 grand less). Considering that this rat will inhale six-figure money before it can be driven, 75 horsepower has never been more expensive. But, as Wayne Carini likes to say, “It’s all about the chase.” In this case, it’s the dream of resurrecting a car that more reasonable folks would consider beyond the pale at $100,000.
Auctions America Ft. Lauderdale, Lot #427, April 2
S/N 220281; Meissen Blue/Red vinyl; Bendix Sapphire radio, Silver steel wheels, antique tires, and original keys, tool kit, and sales invoice. Unrestored original, 4- condition.
Estimate $30,000–$45,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $47,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $51,700.
Notes: Rusty in most, but not all, the places Porsches rot. Tattered, taped original interior. Front bumper tied on with rope. A restoration project sold by the family of the original owner.
Analysis: The passion for rotten Porsches continues with this car, which might bring $120,000 fresh from restoration, illustrating the vision. It is fantastically expensive for its condition (or for its configuration) and is unusable as is. Even getting it running will cost dearly. Repairing the rot so it is safe to drive is even more costly.
S/N 67400F4A01016; White, Blue stripes/Black vinyl; four-speed, dual quads, power steering, power brakes, cassette stereo, Rally-Pack gauges under the dash, grille-mounted high beams, 10-spoke wheels, Goodyear Speedway tires, no console, functional rear brake ducts. Older restoration, 2 condition.
Estimate $110,000–$130,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $260,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $286,000.
Notes: Very good paint, chrome, interior, and glass. Engine compartment is clean, orderly, and like new. Restored like new about 10 years ago and has little evidence of any subsequent use, just a little storage dust. Represented to be the original engine and four-speed.
Analysis: Huh? Over a quarter-million real, honest U.S. American dollars for a GT500? The bidders must have seen something in this GT500 that was not apparent to those looking on. This is twice what any rational person would pay for it.
Estimate $35,000–$45,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $55,000 plus commission of 10 percent; Final Price $60,500.
Notes: Generally sound body with rot in the driver's door, the panel below it, and the right rear corner and rear valence. Surface rusted and dull paint, rusty drip rails at the roof rack mounts. Dead original upholstery and body seals. Old replaced engine. A restoration project.
Analysis: This one got everyone's tongues wagging when it absolutely, totally connected for a grand slam home run. A 23-window Microbus with full-length sunroof and roof rack is a wonderful thing, but come on, this is an absurd price to pay for a project that will take years and cost a fortune to restore. Even more amazing, there were at least two people prepared to take it home for this kind of money.