8 righteous road cars we’re watching at the 2020 Paris auctions

You can always count on serious high-dollar cars to appear at the Paris auctions, which take place each year alongside the classic-focused Rétromobile show. This year brings a stunning array of vehicles from three auction houses—RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Artcurial. We’ll be covering several significant race cars (there are some amazing ones) in a separate article, but there is a plethora of fabulous road-going vehicles crossing the block en France next month.

Let’s dig into the eight cars that we’ll be watching the closest while we’re on the ground in Paris.

1965 Porsche 904 GTS

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Remi Dargegen / RM Sotheby's

RM Sotheby’s, Lot 146

Estimate: $1.6M–$1.8M (€1.6M–€1.8M)

The 904 (Carrera) GTS was a major step forward for Porsche sports-car racing design, following the brand’s departure from F1 in 1962. Like the 718 RSK it replaced, the 904 GTS was mid-engine, but its ladder chassis and fiberglass body were brand firsts. It was designed to compete in FIA GT racing, and 106 road-going examples were built to satisfy Group 3 homologation requirements. Originally built with a quad-cam, air-cooled flat-four borrowed from the 356 Carrera, the 904 GTS used 906-spec flat-sixes toward the end of production in 1965.

The example headed to RM’s auction in Paris, chassis #061, was first painted Signal Red, fitted with a blue cloth interior, and built with a four-cylinder engine. After having been driven exclusively on the street in the hands of its first two owners, racer Raymond Touroul (its third owner) competed with it at a few events in period, including the 1969 Tour de France. By 2000, and a few owners later, the original four-cylinder engine had suffered damage, so a period-correct 906-spec flat-six was fitted in its place, along with a silver paint finish and black interior. The current owner bought the 904 in 2007 and opted to fully restore the original motor, which is offered alongside the vehicle (complete with the six-cylinder engine).

When it was last purchased in 2007 (and sold by Artcurial in Paris that year), this 904 GTS brought $672,600. Prices for the 904 GTS have come up quite a bit since then, and just two years ago Artcurial sold a 904 GTS (again, at the Paris auction) for €1.87M—right around the current high estimate for #061 this year. Any 904 GTS sale offers a chance to experience a unique taste of Porsche history, and this sale will no doubt draw significant attention.

2015 Lamborghini Veneno Roadster

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Alex Penfold / RM Sotheby's

RM Sotheby’s, Lot 153

Estimate: $4.99M–$6.1M (€4.5M–€5.5M)

An open-top version of one of the most extreme Lamborghinis ever—and that’s saying a lot—the outrageous Veneno first broke cover at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. Packing a 6.5-liter naturally-aspirated V-12, nestled inside a partially exposed carbon-fiber monocoque, the 750-hp Veneno can launch from 0–60 mph in 2.9 seconds. It is everything a ridiculous limited-run Lamborghini, cooked up by the mind of a bored 11-year-old in Civics class, should be. Lamborghini built four hard-top models and nine topless Venenos, the latter of which don’t even offer an option of a roof. Ridiculous and over-the-top, remember?

This example is the second of the nine, and it indicates just 450 km on the odometer. Only one other Veneno has come to public auction—a roadster (#7) that sold at Bonhams last year for $8.26M. That sale made it the most expensive Lamborghini ever sold, and this example in Paris shows 125 fewer km. RM’s estimate is a fair bit lower than the 2019 result from roadster #7, but the results of this sale will better establish what the Veneno is really worth.

2005 Porsche Gemballa Mirage GT

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Kevin Van Campenhout / RM Sotheby's

RM Sotheby’s, Lot 175

Estimate: $860,250–$971,250 (€775,000–€875,000)

The Carrera GT is one of the most impressive supercars ever made, boasting a fearsome V-10 engine with its roots in racing. When Cameroonian football (read: soccer, to those stateside) star Samuel Eto’o bought his GT new, he had it shipped directly to the Porsche aftermarket tuners at Gemballa. One of 25 Carrera GTs morphed into a so-called Mirage GT, complete with a host of performance upgrades, Eto’o’s car is one of three examples finished with Gemballa’s Gold Edition package. Compared to a standard GT, the Mirage gets 58 extra horses (for a total of 670 hp) courtesy of a remapped ECU, a custom ram-air intake, and a freer-flowing exhaust. The suspension was modified with electronically adjustable coilovers, and Gemballa’s bespoke wheels are said to help cool the carbon-ceramic brakes. Gemballa also made the Carrera GT’s famously difficult clutch a bit easier to operate, using special pads to modulate the pedal pressure.

This Mirage shows 6500 km, so it’s been driven but certainly not to an extreme extent. What’s most interesting about this sale is that, as far as we can tell, this will be the first Mirage GT to cross the block at public auction. A Porsche Carrera GT in #1 (Concours) condition averages $985,000, which is just north of RM’s high estimate for this Mirage GT.

2008 Spyker C8 Laviolette

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Tom Gidden / RM Sotheby's

RM Sotheby’s, Lot 179

Estimate: $221,800–$277,300 (€200,000–€250,000)

Another outlandish supercar, the Spyker C8 Laviolette combines Audi 4.2-liter V-8 power with a sculpted exterior and truly exuberant interior. It is the second Spyker model to be introduced, following the original C8 Spyder, and adds an integrated air intake to the fixed-glass roof. Spykers are utterly distinctive—certainly a lot more eye-catching than an Audi R8 or Gallardo. This example is a factory demonstrator, and it has been driven 18,000 km (11,185 miles).

The best performance we’ve seen so far from a Spyker was a $220,000 result back in 2017, for a 2010 C8 Spyder. This will be the first public Spyker sale since then, and a solid way to take the temperature of this niche market.

1931 Bugatti Type 55 Two-Seat Supersport

931 Bugatti Type 55 Two-Seat Supersport front three-quarter

Bonhams, Lot 268

Estimate: $4.4M–$7.8M (€4M–€7M)

At Goodwood last September, Bonhams unveiled this Bugatti as its star car for the 2020 Paris auction. Type 55s are known for their supercharged 2.3-liter straight-eight motors, as well as their four-speed transmissions with straight-cut gears. Although it is a road car, it was first built as a Bugatti works entry in the 1932 24 Hours of Le Mans. After the race it was bought by a well-to-do Parisian magazine publisher and rebodied by Carrosserie Figoni. Bugatti enthusiast Geoffrey St. John bought it in 1963, and it’s been in his care since—56 years of ownership. The car survived both World War II and a horrific crash with a drunk teenage driver in 1994, after which it was essentially reborn after 5000 hours of labor.

If it sells, this could be one of the highest results at the Paris auctions. The estimate from Bonhams covers a wide delta, which means the hammer price could end up depending on just how badly a pair of die-hard Bugatti collectors want to add this well-known and beloved pre-war jewel to their collections.

2009/2019 MAT New Stratos Coupé

2009/2019 MAT New Stratos Coupe front three-quarter

Bonhams, Lot 274

Estimate: $780,000–$1.0M (€700,000–€900,000)

Manifattura Automobili Torino (MAT) is planning to build 25 examples of the New Stratos, a boutique supercar based on a specially-commissioned prototype that Pininfarina created for a German businessman in 2010. Like that original, MAT will use customer Ferrari F430 donor cars as a foundation for this mean-looking machine, keeping the glorious V-8 but shortening the wheelbase and trimming flab to 2750 pounds. A revised exhaust system and updated ECU brings output up to 540 hp. The body is made from carbon-fiber composite. It has a roll cage. It looks like an original Lancia Stratos, albeit spliced with 1991 Lotus Elan DNA. Love it, hate it, or think it’s stupid that someone would pay a starting price of $617,000 for a new one (not including the F430)—there’s no question that this car is a special blend of new-age Italian manufacturing and old-school inspiration.

The low estimate on this car is $780,000, compared to the $268,000 #1-condition price of an F430 Scuderia. That’s a huge difference. Still, it’s about what you’d expect, given the cost of a new one, and if you didn’t make the 25-customer shortlist, a large enough check will let you take home the keys. This is the first New Stratos built and also the first presented for auction, so what it might sell for is really anyone’s guess.

1952 Pegaso Z-102 2.8-liter Cabriolet

1952 Pegaso Z-102 2.8-Litre Cabriolet front three-quarter

Bonhams, Lot 280

Estimate: $890,000–$1.3M (€800,000–€1.2M)

Considering that the Z-102 was the country’s first new car since World War II, it’s hard to argue that Spanish marque Pegaso nailed this one. Maybe Pegaso built the prototype Z-102’s wild quad-cam 2.5-liter V-8 for Formula 1 Grand Prix competition, but what’s clear is that the engine was highly advanced and very robust—sodium-filled exhaust valves, forged aluminum pistons, and a dry-sump oiling system churned out 165 hp at 6500 rpm. Larger versions of the engine followed, including 2.8- and 3.2-liter variants, mated to a five-speed manual transaxle. For its chassis, the Z-102 features torsion bar springs, a double-wishbone front suspension, and a De Dion rear axle.

A major appeal of a Pegaso, however, is its sheer novelty and extravagance. “These are just delightfully weird cars,” says Hagerty auction editor Andrew Newton. “You’ve gotta love the suicide doors, the reverse-pattern dogleg five-speed [in 1952!], and the crazy gauges and switchgear.”

We noted four Pegaso sales at auction in recent years, selling from $740,000–$990,000, but each of these examples were coachbuilt (at the hands of either Saoutchik or Touring). The Bonhams car being sold in Paris is a factory body built by state-owned manufacturer ENASA (Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones SA), which could command a premium. “Pegasos are very rare and hardly ever come up for sale,” Newton says. “A Z-102 was one of the fastest, most advanced cars in the world in the early ’50s—not built in America, the UK, or Italy, but from fascist Spain.” 

1929 Mercedes-Benz 710 SS 27/140/200hp Sport Tourer 

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Alex Penfold / Artcurial

Artcurial, Lot 45

Estimate: $6.66M–$8.88M (€6M–€8M)

There will always be a market for big, top-tier pre-war Mercedes-Benzes, and this stunning 1929 Mercedes 710 SS 27/140/200hp Sport Tourer is no exception. Developed just after the merger between Daimler and Benz, the Model S was an evolution of the Model K, albeit with a larger, more powerful engine that was lowered and moved rearward for improved weight distribution and handling. The S’s M06 inline-six engine displaced 6.7 liters and could make 180 hp with the supercharger engaged. For the even more aggressive SS model, Mercedes-Benz increased the displacement to 7.1 liters and total output to a very healthy 200 hp.

The example presented by Articurial in Paris is a coachbuilt example showing a Sport Tourer body that includes prominent wings over the wheels, as well as dual chrome horns protruding from the front grille. Artcurial says in its listing that all indications point to Fernandez & Darrin as the coachbuilders.

Fast, comfortable, and beautiful, the 710 SS is one of 111 examples built and among the select few extant. It is one of the highest-priced cars crossing the block in Paris, and surely the premiere road car on offer.

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