Four American-powered European Classics at the 2017 Gooding & Co Pebble Beach auction
Back in early years of the Space Age, a number of enterprising boutique European automakers thought it would be useful to combine handsome Continental styling with turgid New World muscle by stuffing Hemis, Clevelands, and small-blocks into French, Italian, and British bodies. The results were peculiar and glorious, if sometimes confusing and terrifying.
At this year’s Monterey Car Week, official Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance auction house Gooding & Company will feature four such cars from a diverse range of automakers. “I think there is more interest in these cars than there ever has been,” says company president David Gooding. “People recognize that European quality and design and flair, mixed with American reliability and cost-effectiveness and power, is a really good combination. And so people are clamoring for that. Especially when the European counterparts—a Ferrari, or a Porsche, or a Maserati, or something that doesn’t have an American power plant—are becoming so much more expensive and out of reach, a lot of people are looking to these cars and realizing that they’re really a tremendous value.”
Gooding will often create a field of vehicles—seven mid-century Ferraris, say, or four 1980s supercars—to garner packageable interest and attention in their auctions, but this quartet is purely incidental. “Oftentimes we have cars that are grouped together for a reason, but these four cars that you selected, they’re from four different homes and three different countries,” Gooding says.
We couldn’t be happier to have plucked these four needles from this year’s Pebble haystack.
1952 Allard K2
Presale estimate: $250,000–$300,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
Sydney Allard may have been one of the progenitors of the Euro-American hybrid. As early as 1945 he began inserting war surplus Ford flathead V-8s into a relatively sophisticated chassis of his own design. The K2 was the second iteration of his conventional sports car, and though it still lacked basic features like roll-up windows or an opening for the trunk, its light weight and robust power made it a strong performer in its day. Carroll Shelby and Zora Arkus-Duntov drove Allards, which likely inspired both men to some degree.
This particular car ended up in Los Angeles in the early ’60s, where it was owned by TV actor Jeff Cooper. He had the car modified by two of the most famous California hot rodders of the era: Custom bodywork was done by George Barris, and the kooky bumblebee livery was applied by pinstriper and customizer Von Dutch. A 300-horsepower Windsor 302 replaces the 96-horsepower original.
According to our valuation specialists, Allard K2s are one of the few vehicles to decline in value over the past three years, with average Condition 3 models dropping nearly 15 percent, from about $120,000 to $104,000. But Condition 1 examples like this have gone up 1–2 percent, to $178,000. Gooding has this special example estimated higher, and presumably someone will find the Barris and Von Dutch heritage worth the extra coin.
French engineer Jean Daninos worked at Panhard and Simca but found his calling serving as head of special vehicles for Citroën in the pre-WWII era. At this skunkworks, he developed his passion for crazy projects, and eventually founded his own acronymic car company, Forges et Atéliers de Construction d’Eure-et-Loire: FACEL. His mission was to create hand-built European grand tourers in a modern classic idiom and couple them with Chrysler Hemi motivation. By the time the HK500 was released, these motors were pumping out 360 horsepower, making this car the fastest four-seater of its era (0–60 mph in 8.5 seconds,) and one of the top performers overall.
This Brunswick Blue HK has been in the U.S. since new, spending nearly its entire life in southern California. It has been treated to a recent full restoration, which included fitment of a contemporary but subtly integrated in-dash air conditioning system. And, of course, it includes a set of color-matched custom luggage. How else is one supposed to travel?
This HK is from the most desirable, last year of the model, with dual carburetors, a Nardi wood steering wheel, and of the signature trompe l’oeil metal dashboard painted to look like burled woodgrain. The craftsmanship on these cars slays. But values remain somewhat flat, with Condition 3 vehicles selling for an average of $139,000, almost exactly where they were three years ago. This prime example might nearly match a Condition 1 price of $300,000.
The Cobra needs little introduction, existing as the epitome of this field of Euromerican cars. Combining a lightweight, pseudo-Italian body from British manufacturer AC with the flat-out power of a variety of Ford V-8s—and the snake-oil salesman imprimatur of hot-rodder Carroll Shelby—the Cobra was impossibly good looking, quick, and seductive. Shelbys had more guts than most anything out there.
Almost as soon as its first owner received it in Alabama, this car was built out as an independent racer with upgraded motor, suspension, and fuel delivery. With four Weber downdraft carbs, it produces around 420 horsepower. This was more than enough to give it a successful career in SCCA events in the 1960s.
Cobras are blue-chip cars, and examples like this one, with lovingly restored original and period-correct components, exist among the upper echelon of seven-figure vehicles. Condition 1 289 Cobras are up nearly 10 percent over the past three years, now trading in the $1.25 million range. With its documented provenance, high-output motor, and race history, this one fits right into that category.
1968 De Tomaso Vallelunga
Presale estimate: $300,000–$350,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
Though you may never have heard of it, the Vallelunga was Argentine-Italian Alejandro De Tomaso’s first road car. It set the template for the better-known Pantera that would follow: swoopy Ghia styling, mid-mounted Ford powerplant, and “handcrafted” interior. Though the Pantera would upgrade all of these to insane levels, sometimes a driver craves a bit more elegance. If the Pantera is De Tomaso’s Countach, this is its 350 GT.
This Vallelunga is one of only 53 ever made, is finished in a period-correct banana yellow, and benefits from an up-powered Ford engine that produces a somewhat measly 125 horsepower. But it has impeccable ownership history, a costly and expert restoration, and a second-in-class medal from the prestigious Villa d’Este concours.
Prices for top, Condition 1 Vallelungas have increased by nearly two-thirds in the past three years—following a similar trend for other cars from the marque—topping out around $275,000. Gooding believes this may be the best extant example of this model and is giving it an estimate to match.