At auction most cars bring appropriate prices. A little variation for time and place may occur but it’s rare when something sneaks off the auction block at price that could realistically be considered a steal (but not as rare as when a price goes over the top).
In 2017 I called just 22 such transactions “bargains”. That’s not to say there weren’t more but only 2,100 cars out of some 21,593 that crossed the blocks in reported auctions this year were examined in sufficient detail to rate the transaction. For the record, there were 18 transactions rated “over the top” in 2017.
Which brings us to the list of 2017’s bargains. Here are 22 cases when the buyer got a good deal.
Two-door Hardtop; S/N 6332133686; White/Blue vinyl; 426/425 hp Max Wedge, dual quads on short runner cross-ram intake, push-button automatic, radio, heater, bench seat. Competition restoration, #2 condition.
Estimate $60,000–$80,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $47,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $52,250.
Notes: Restored to showroom condition in 2006 and carefully and consistently preserved since then in immaculate condition. The rebuilt engine was 'pickled' after it was finished and will need to be recommissioned and broken in, that's how little use it has received.
Analysis: It looks like Mopar fatigue had set in at the Biltmore as pristine drag racers paced across the block with the result that this otherwise exceptional and powerful example went away cheap, thoroughly in bargain territory. The seller of this Polara Max Wedge had 26 cars in this sale. By the time the Polara went up for bids he’d come out well and truly sufficiently far ahead on the collection to shrug off the result on this car.
Body by Bertone; S/N 404X3000; Engine #100D754; Red/Beige leather; Beige cloth top; Silver steel wheels, hubcaps, Coker Classic tires. Later 100D Bristol engine fitted with three Solex carbs. Fresh repaint, interior and top. Engine compartment is done, clean and orderly but not overdone and preserves many original features and components. Recent restoration, #2 condition.
Estimate $400,000 - $500,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $295,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $324,500.
Notes: The prototype for the series production Arnolt-Bristols reflecting Franco Scaglione's creativity. Hammered out in Grugliasco by the largely self-taught artisans at Bertone to disguise the distorted form factor of the Bristol chassis and tall engine. It is a piece of Italian coachbuilding history.
Analysis: By any reasonable standard it is a superior buy, on the order of a bargain, when production Arnolt-Bristols have brought half a million recently. Not numbers-matching is of little consequence when talking about the first of the series.
Estimate $650,000 - $850,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $320,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $352,000.
Notes: Restored like new a decade ago by Chris Charlton for Bill Ruger, Jr. with very good cosmetics, underbody and engine. Not concours-quality overdone, but nonetheless highly satisfying. Orin Smith Collection.
Analysis: Offered by RM at Monterey in 2001 before the restoration, it brought a high bid of $65,000. With 4200 hours expended on it since then, it is beautifully done to high standards without being overdone, a delicious combination. It is a bargain at this price.
S/N WP0CB2961NS460970; Zermatt Silver Metallic/Dark Blue leather; Dark Blue cloth top; Wide body, factory cassette stereo, power windows, air conditioning, snorkel brake light, cross-drilled rotors. Unrestored original, #2 condition;
With reserve; Hammered Sold at $68,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $74,800.
Notes: Rare America Roadster, essentially a turbo-bodied Carrera Cabriolet with Turbo suspension and brakes. Clear bra on the nose and fenders has kept the original paint fantastic other than a small scratch on the engine cover, which won't stay open. Very good interior with almost no wear. Showing 30,287 miles, but it's been babied.
Analysis: Porsche only made a few hundred America Roadsters, so for such a rare and good example to go for this kind of money means a serious bargain, at least in today's market. It could have brought another 30 grand without being expensive.
No reserve; Hammered Sold at $63,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $69,300.
Notes: From the Monical collection. Tidy but used engine bay. Fairly worn underbody. Sound but slightly dull older paint with a chip above the left headlight and a blister above the fuel injection badge on the driver's side. Two big scratches on the front of the hard top. Very good older restored interior. Represented as matching numbers and a four-owner car. Restored quite a few years ago and no show car, but an attractive driver Fuelie that will still turn heads.
Analysis: Sold at Worldwide Houston in 2011 to Monical post-block at a reported $101,200, after hammering not sold at Kissimmee earlier that year at $85,000. He may have gotten six years of enjoyment out of this attractive Fuelie, but still can't be easy to lose this much money on a car, a result that might have been mitigated by more attention to pre-auction preparation. The new owner made out like a bandit with this no-reserve sale.
S/N 3J57U2M204112; Ivory, Gold, White vinyl roof/Black vinyl; 455/275 hp, automatic, Radial T/A tires, power brakes, power steering, air conditioning, bucket seats, center console, His'n'Hers shifter, W25 air induction hood, tinted glass, dash clock, AM/FM/8-track player, Protect-O-Plate. Visually maintained, largely original, #3 condition.
Estimate $45,000 - $55,000 with reserve; Hammered Sold at $22,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $24,750.
Notes: Original but sound underneath. Lightly pitted bumpers. Tidy maintained engine bay. Older paint is crazing badly on top of the front fenders. Vinyl roof is slightly discolored but sound. Gold stripes are faded. Tiny rips in the driver's seat. Otherwise very good original interior. This car is a 20-footer. It looks great at first glance and really is quite good, but it reveals all its flaws up close.
Analysis: This 4-4-2 was reported sold twice at Barrett-Jackson WestWorld in 2011, on the first day (Lot #72.2) for $31,900 and later (Lot #1533.1) for $24,200. At the Leake fall Dallas auction it sold for $35,200, then at Mecum Houston five weeks ago for $44,000. That proved to be the pinnacle of price but the result here is a bargain basement figure that is difficult to understand even with the restricted 275-hp drivetrain. The new owner would seem to have nowhere to go with it but up.
S/N 124379N565685; Orange, Black stripes and vinyl roof/Black vinyl; 302/290 hp, M22 four-speed, 4.10 Positraction, AM radio, power brakes, cowl induction hood. Recent restoration, #2- condition.
With reserve; Hammered Sold at $41,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $45,650.
Notes: Paint looks very good with a few minor scratches and blemishes. Panel fit could use a little work. Vinyl top looks great. Brightwork has a lot of scratches in it. Engine bay is showing some age with paint flaking from the engine. Underneath is very clean. Interior looks new, although the dash pad doesn't quite fit evenly. Represented as matching numbers. Reportedly bought from the original owner as a barn find in 2007 with a full restoration finished in 2012. It now shows some age, but is still nearly like new.
Analysis: This is a huge value for a matching numbers Z/28. It could have brought $20,000 more and still not been expensive.
S/N 7406635; Light Metallic Green, Wood/Green leather, Tan cloth; Tan cloth top; Fluid Drive transmission, wheel covers, wide whitewalls, dual mirrors, GE spotlight, Town and Country radio, column shift. Cosmetic restoration, #2- condition.
Estimate $100,000 - $140,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $61,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $67,100.
Notes: Good newer top. All of the gaps are a little uneven. The wood is very good aside from a small crack in the driver's door. The paint is very good aside from a few touched up chips on the left edge of the hood and another on the right front fender. Light wrinkling on the leather parts of the seats but otherwise very good restored interior. Original but very tidy underneath. CCCA Full Classic approved and a cosmetic restoration that still looks gorgeous.
Analysis: Sold by Bonhams at Greenwich in 2008 for $150,000 and every bit as good today as it was then and showing only 301 more miles on the odometer, the new owner took home a bargain of major proportions in this transaction. It may not be worth what it sold for nine years ago, but it is worth the low estimate.
S/N ZARBA5643J1062832; Red/Tan vinyl; Black cloth top; Store brand tires, aftermarket Clarion CD stereo, alloy wheels. Unrestored original, #3+ condition.
No Reserve; Hammered Sold at $7,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $7,700.
Notes: The engine bay is a little grimy but maintained. Small touch up on the hood but otherwise good, probably original paint. Very good replacement top. Very good, lightly worn interior. No rust to be found underneath. Certainly a used car and showing 70,751 miles, but better than the majority of Alfa Spiders that are still on the road.
Analysis: The Graduate model came with steel wheels and vinyl top, but this one has gotten alloys and a cloth top, which are welcome additions. It was bought at a bargain price, too. This could have easily been a five-figure car (which it was at Kissimmee in January where it sold for $14,300). The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex doesn't tend to attract a ton of Italian car enthusiasts.
No reserve; Hammered Sold at $5,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $5,500.
Notes: Good older respray and bumper chrome. Good seats, but the rest of the interior is pretty tired. Unrestored but sound underneath. Dull brightwork. Usable as is and looks pretty good from a short distance, but would benefit from more significant restoration work.
Analysis: A basic car that should command a basic price, but it sold for project car money. It is a better and more desirable car than the final price it brought an hour into the sale on Thursday.
1940 BMW 328 Roadster
Worldwide Auctioneers Pacific Grove, Lot #44, August 17
Body by After Touring; S/N 85133; Silver/Black leather; Dry-sump BMW engine, centerlock alloy wheels, Excelsior tires, sling seats, full width windscreen, skirts. Rebodied or re-created, #1 condition.
Estimate $1,500,000 - $2,000,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $550,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $605,000.
Notes: Represented as one of the original Touring bodies in this style known as 'Torpedino Brescia' on AAV and Alfa Romeo chassis, built for BMW for the canceled 1939 Mille Miglia. Restored on this chassis by Fran Roxas to unusually high standards. Carefully dulled paint, good interior and chrome. Underbody and chassis are like new.
Analysis: Is this the reunited chassis and body intended for the '39 Mille Miglia? That's the question and the fact it can't be answered definitively is reflected in this price but by any standard it is a huge value in this transaction, if only for the spectacular Fran Roxas restoration.
Body by Pinin Farina; S/N 149506373; Engine #131532565; White/Orange vinyl; Black cloth top; four-speed, silver steel wheels, hubcaps, Vredestein tires, radio delete.; Recent restoration, #2 condition.
Estimate $125,000 - $150,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $71,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $78,100.
Notes: Excellent new paint, chrome and interior. Underbody and chassis are like new, as is the engine compartment. The rear deck stands a bit proud at the rear, as does the hood at the front. The 40DCOE3 Webers have black tags. A fresh, thorough restoration.
Analysis: The result brought by this nice little Veloce was modest at barely half of what Worldwide got for their similar car later in the year.
S/N 876540; Engine #R34968; Old English White/Red; Black cloth top; Chrome centerlock wire wheels, Pirelli tires, push-button radio, wood rim steering wheel, flat floor. Older restoration, #3+ condition.
Estimate $175,000 - $225,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $135,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $148,500.
Notes: Flat floor car. Represented as matching numbers. Heritage certificate. Dirt and dust behind the headlight covers. Some light scratches on the tip of the nose but otherwise very good paint. The bonnet doesn't fit flush. The interior is older and showing wear. Bought new by the father of Jeff Carlisi of .38 Special. Carlisi commissioned a restoration in 1983. Now showing age, but still a very attractive example.
Analysis: Sold for $203,500 at Gooding Amelia Island in 2016, which was itself a pretty low number for a matching numbers flat floor car. This price is a downright bargain.
1930 Cadillac Series 452 V-16 Coupe
Mecum Auctions Monterey, Lot #S104, August 19
Body by Fleetwood; S/N 702089; Engine #702089; Maroon, Red sweep panel, Maroon leather roof/Dark Red leather; Red wire wheels, wide whitewalls, metal luggage trunk, dual enclosed sidemounts with mirrors, rumble seat, body color landau bars, Pilot-Rays, Madame X vee windshield. Older restoration, #1- condition.
Estimate $350,000 - $450,000, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $180,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $198,000.
Notes: Very good older concours restoration with a few flaws and chips but otherwise hardly used.
Analysis: Sold by Dan Kruse at Dick Burdick's auction in 2012 for $418,000 in essentially the same condition in which it was offered here, its reception at Mecum Monterey might be understated as a disappointment. It's a gorgeous older restored classic Cadillac V-16 and this is a bargain price for an example that has been maintained in concours condition befitting its underlying quality and rarity.
1997 Porsche 911 Cup 3.8 RSR Coupe
RM Sotheby’s Monterey, Lot #164, August 19
S/N WP0ZZZ99ZVS398063; Engine #62P85703; Guards Red/Black; BBS wheels, fire system, offered from the second owner, 13,126 miles. Visually maintained, largely original, #2 condition.
Estimate $500,000 - $600,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $325,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $357,500.
Notes: Excellent paint and body. The mechanicals are very clean and the interior shows minimal use. One of 45 of these RSR-spec cars. Competed in PCA and other club races but now presents like an essentially new track car after a thorough cosmetic and mechanical refurb by Kelly-Moss.
Analysis: Not sold at Gooding Amelia Island this year at a $520,000 high bid. It is a bargain here, as long as the new owner can climb in and out over the roll cage side crossbars.
S/N 9309800573; Engine #6890411; Cashmere Beige/Cork leatherette; 3.3 liter/265 hp 930, four-speed, black Fuchs wheels, Potenza tires, rear window wiper, radio delete, power windows, air conditioning. Unrestored original, #2 condition.
Estimate $200,000 - $240,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $110,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $121,000.
Notes: Featured in the Garry Shandling episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and in Panorama magazine. A chip on the right mirror and the drip rail as well as a few on the rear fenders, but otherwise fantastic original paint. Exterior plastic is in great shape. Very good original interior. Clean wheels. Showing 35,922 believable miles. Remarkably well kept even by Porsche standards, and finished in a rare and delightfully 1970s color.
Analysis: Maybe the bidders didn't think the color was quite so delightful, or maybe this car just flew under the radar a bit in an auction that was very heavy on Porsches. Either way, this was a bargain price for such a well-kept unrestored 930, which is a model that in general did not do that well in Monterey this year.
S/N 22799379; Red/Red vinyl with Tan cloth inserts; Tan cloth top; 356/165 hp Custom Eight engine, three-speed with overdrive, hubcaps and trim rings, whitewalls, fender skirts, cormorant hood ornament, dual mirrors, power windows, power top, power seat, working factory radio.Visually maintained, largely original, #3- condition.
No reserve; Hammered Sold at $30,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $33,000.
Notes: Dull original chrome and brightwork with light pitting on the grille. Sound but unrestored engine bay. Dull old repaint with numerous scratches and touch ups. Good newer top. Light pitting on the hub caps. The whitewalls are beginning to yellow but there is a lot of tread left. Sound original interior with newer upholstery. Fresh paint and chrome on the outside as well as a mechanical sorting will go a long way and while they won't be cheap, this car doesn't need a more expensive full restoration.
Analysis: Sold by Barrett-Jackson at Palm Beach a dozen years ago for $42,120 with the odometer today showing 1,357 more miles than it did then. It is a distinctive luxury car with the power and overdrive to keep up with modern traffic and the restoration, while showing its age and some use, is holding up well. It's a lot of car for the money and is a bargain at this price.
S/N F7FH347632; Starmist Blue/Two tone Blue vinyl; Dark Blue cloth top; 312/300 hp supercharged, three-speed, overdrive, Town & Country radio, wheel covers, wide whitewalls, skirts, power seat, power windows, Dial-a-Matic power seat. Older restoration, #1- condition.
Estimate $175,000 - $200,000, no Reserve; Hammered Sold at $135,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $148,500.
Notes: Excellent paint, chrome, top and interior. The engine compartment is like new except for some oil mist on the right frame and a little dust where it's hard to reach. Restored in the 1980's but looks like it was done last year.
Analysis: Sold back in 2004 in the Kruse auction of Woodhead Fords for $165,000, then at Barrett-Jackson in 2007 for an even more impressive $220,000. It comes to market here having been maintained in superb condition since restoration and it’s a cheap T-bird at this price.
No reserve; Hammered Sold at $25,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $28,050.
Notes: Represented with 18,247 actual miles and as an all original car stored for many years. If that's the case, it looks phenomenal with only negligible wear inside and out as well as underneath. The only weak spot is the brightwork, where there is some light pitting. Treated as a collectible from new.
Analysis: Desirable in its own right, this original and well-preserved Eldo convertible could have brought as much as 50 percent more without being unreasonably expensive. On preservation alone it is marvelous; this price is for a well-maintained driver quality car with considerably more miles.
1903 Eldredge 8hp Runabout
Bonhams London, Lot #227, November 2
S/N 71622; Black, Red accent and wood spoke wheels/Black; 1962 AACA National First Prize. Left-hand drive. Single unbranded acetylene headlamp, dual kerosene sidelights, Dietz kerosene taillight. Opposed flat twin, three-speed gearbox, chain drive. Pennsylvania assigned VIN. Not viewed, notes from the catalog #3+ condition.
Estimate $58,802 - $71,869, with reserve; Hammered Sold at $42,136 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $48,456.
Notes: New body, old restoration, cracked paint on wood body panels. Sound upholstery. Recurved leaf springs, platform rear suspension. Automatic intake valve. Brass trim except nickel gear shift, brake levers, and steering wheel column. Rear axle contracting band brake on rear axle. Foot operated external drum brake on drive shaft. One of the first left hand drive, wheel-steered American automobiles, built by the National Sewing Machine Co. in Belvidere, Illinois. Ex-Dr. Sam Scher and Richard C. Paine, Jr.
Analysis: Sold at Bonhams auction of the Paine collection in 2008 in non-running but decent cosmetic condition for $117,000, a good example of what the excitement of a single-owner-collection auction can do. It has been brought back to running, driving condition since and has made several Brighton Runs but at no small cost to the seller in this post-block negotiated transaction. On the other hand, the buyer who waited for it went home with a bargain.
1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 40/50hp Town Car Riviera
RM Sotheby’s New York, Lot #135, December 6
Body by Brewster; S/N 390XH; Engine #21215; Black, Black leather roof/Black leather, Charcoal Grey cloth; RHD. Polished wheel discs, blackwall tires, dual sidemounts, Bausch & Lomb drum headlights and cowl lights, folding windshield, leather-covered trunk, sliding division, inlaid wood, gold plated hardware, vanity, Jacquard design woven into the cloth of the rear seat backs, jump seats, gold coachlines. Visually maintained, largely original, #3 condition.
Estimate $500,000 - $700,000, no reserve; Hammered Sold at $275,000 plus commission of 11.82%; Final Price $307,500.
Notes: Believed to be the only Riviera Town Car bodied by Brewster on the Silver Ghost chassis, the other nine being on Phantom chassis. Built for Augustine Leftwich Humes, later owned by Dr. Erle M Heath, later to golfer Gene Littler. Best in Class at Amelia Island in 2012, displayed at Pebble Beach in 2013. Sound older paint, chrome, and interior but aging everywhere. Cracking leather on the front seatback, new driver's seat cushion. Very good rear compartment upholstery, wood and hardware. Elegant coachwork. Never restored, beautifully maintained and in very good condition.
Analysis: Crossed the Barrett-Jackson block in 2015 where it was reported bid to $605,000. Offered here without reserve, it sold for a surprisingly modest price, barely half the reasonable low estimate, a disappointment for the seller but an extraordinary value for the new owner who is going to look grand descending from the opulent rear compartment, pockets overflowing with wads of greenbacks saved in this transaction.