10 oddball cars at the 2018 Amelia Island auctions
The month of March on the auction calendar brings us to Amelia Island, which is generally more eccentric in its offerings than the huge January muscle car sales. This year is no different, as there are several rare, one-of-a-kind, or just downright weird cars to choose across five auctions. Here are 10 of the strangest, some of which you may have never even heard of.
1957 Inter 175A Berline
Presale estimate: $80,000–$100,000
If you’re into three-wheeled microcars but a Messerschmitt is just too conventional for you, then this French Inter might be just the thing. It has a canopy top that swings open just like a Messerschmitt, as well as a similar aircraft-style steering wheel and tandem seating arrangement. Aside from the Inter being much rarer than a Messerschmitt, with only about 300 built, differences include folding front wheels that make the car narrower, a helicopter-style starter, and its big single headlight.
1935 Studebaker Dictator Roadster
Presale estimate: $65,000–$85,000
Objectively, the Dictator was a pretty conventional car in its day. It was Studebaker’s lowest-priced model even though it had many neat details and looked great, especially in this roadster body style. The really noteworthy thing about it is its name. Any casual student of world history knows that “dictator” was a pretty loaded word in the 1930s and still is today. Studebaker, in fact, sold the Dictator as the “Director” in several foreign markets. After World War II, even though models like the Commander and President returned, Studebaker made the smart decision not reintroduce the Dictator. That would have made about as much sense as trying to sell a car called the Totalitarian. Examples of the Dictator hardly ever come up for sale, so this restored roadster would definitely stand out in a sea of ‘30s Fords.
Presale estimate: $200,000–$250,000
Before the corporate partnerships that led to the famous Austin-Healey and infamous Jensen-Healey, Donald Healey built his own cars independently. They were big, swoopy, sporty cars with shamelessly English-sounding names like Abbott, Elliott, Silverstone, and Westland. The Riley-powered Westland Roadster was one of Healey’s sportier offerings, and one even took a class victory at the Mille Miglia. This one was restored about 10 years ago and could be the car that Healey and his son drove across the United States at the end of the 1940s to set up a dealer network, although the evidence for that is just circumstantial. It last came to market at this sale in 2010, when it sold for $159,500.
1953 Fiat 1100 Coupe by Vignale
Gooding & Company
Presale estimate: $400,000–$500,000
Most Fiat 1100s were humble family cars, but during the 1950s Italy’s countless coachbuilders were putting interesting bodywork on just about anything. This 1100 coupe wears a funky but sophisticated coupe body by Vignale, and apparently only two were built. It was shown in 2016 at Pebble Beach and last year at Amelia Island, where it won its class. Back when it was a newer car, it was actually shown at the Pebble Beach Concours twice during the 1950s.
1949 Nash Airflyte 600 Sedan
Gooding & Company
Presale estimate: $35,000–$45,000
The Nash Airflyte was an early example of postwar streamlining and the influence of aerodynamics on car design, and even though it looks like a giant bathtub, it sold quite well. Designed with input from wind tunnel testing, the Airflyte was very aerodynamic and its ride was smooth, thanks to all-coil spring suspension. Nash gambled on selling distinctive designs in the postwar market to set it apart from the Big Three, and for a short while it worked. These days, however, you hardly see Airflytes in any condition. This one is an all-original three-owner car, which is pretty special.
1947 Delahaye 135MS Coupe by Pinin Farina
Presale estimate: $400,000–$500,000
Delahaye is usually associated with flamboyant bodywork by French coachbuilders like Figoni et Falaschi or Saoutchik. Likewise, Italian coachbuilder Pinin Farina is usually associated with Ferrari. A Pinin Farina-bodied Delahaye is almost unheard of, and this car is a one-off. The styling is pretty conservative by Delahaye standards but still attractive, sort of reminiscent of the Jaguar sedans that came a few years later.
1935-52 Frazer Nash BMW 315/328 LMC
Presale estimate: $250,000–$350,000
Frazer Nash was a British company that built sports cars from the 1920s until the late 1950s, and during the ’30s Frazer Nash also built and sold BMWs under license in the UK, Frazer Nash BMWs. This one isn’t a standard production car but a road racing special. It started out as a standard 1.5-liter car, but after its first hill-climb competitions in 1946, the owner gradually improved it, eventually clothing it in a magnesium body with cycle fenders and swapping the engine for a larger 2.0-liter six. With period competition history at Goodwood and Silverstone, as well as numerous hill-climb events and European road races, it makes for a very usable vintage racer in addition to being totally unique.
1972 Renault Estafette
Presale estimate: $45,000–$75,000
While the presale estimate here seems pretty ambitious for an old front-drive panel van, the Renault Estafette certainly qualifies as unusual, especially in this country. It doesn’t have enough grunt to tow anything, but it would be a cool runabout at the track or as a promo vehicle for your pastry shop or bistro.
Presale estimate: $125,000–$150,000
Allard established the recipe of lightweight British sports car plus the brute force of an American V-8, and although the cycle-fendered J2 is the most famous Allard, the company actually had a full range of models, including the slightly more civilized K3. Allards used all sorts of V-8 engines, including Ford and Mercury flatheads, early Chrysler Hemis, and 331 Cadillacs. This K3, one of just 63 built, is a “Cad-Allard” boasting 230 horsepower. RM sold it back in 2012 for $57,750, and Bonhams sold it in Greenwich three years ago for $88,000.
1959 Kellison J-4R Coupe
Presale estimate: $35,000–$55,000
Kellison was one of the many fiberglass-bodied American road racing specials that popped up during the 1950s, but it was one of the most popular, if not exactly the most graceful. It followed the usual formula of lightweight fiberglass two-seater bodywork over a big Chevy V-8, and although this one is street legal, it also has the appropriate equipment for vintage racing and a small-block enlarged to 406 cubic inches, making nearly 500 hp.