6 January sales that smashed the status quo

RM Sotheby's/Darin Schnabel

January is always a critical month for those in the collector car world, with major events in Kissimmee, Florida, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Not only do they come at the start of a new calendar year, but they are also, in terms of dollars and number of cars, the biggest sales, surpassing even California’s Monterey auctions in August. Even by those high standards, the January 2022 auctions were exceptional, tallying $450M—the highest we’ve ever observed for the month. We also observed a number of breakout sales.

What’s a breakout sale? It’s an auction result (or results) that tell us the value on a model is rising. Sometimes it’s for a car that hasn’t been considered collectible up to that point; more often it’s a car that already is collectible but seems to be rising for whatever reason. To be clear, not every higher-than-expected price is a breakout. Sometimes there’s something special or unusual about a car’s condition or specification that drives interest. Sometimes, two bidders just get carried away. But on occasion, an exceptional sale (or two or three) indicates that values for the model are moving.

Here are six breakout sales (from low to high) that smashed the status quo and suggest that there may be something big afoot.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split-Window Coupe

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split-Window Coupe

Sold for $385,000 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale

The second-generation Corvette, or C2, became one of the most iconic Corvettes ever produced. Affectionately known as the split-window, the first-year-only 1963 model may be the only Corvette coupe that was—and is—more popular than its convertible counterpart.

There were 11 split-window coupes at Barrett-Jackson, including some customs, and all sold well, but this one definitely stands out: It’s the most expensive split-window on record with a carbureted, 327-cu-in/340-hp engine. We’d be tempted to think that the result is a fluke, except that Gooding & Company sold one for $335,500 in its Scottsdale online auction. For context, the Hagerty Price Guide value for a 327/340 split-window in concours (#1) condition is $209,000. Indeed, both sales are higher than our #1 value for a fuel-injected, 360-hp Stingray and are more in line with what we’d expect to see for an ultra-rare Z06.

This red-over-black beauty is backed by a four-speed manual transmission. It was sold by the original owner, but he wasn’t its only owner—he let it go when he went into the military and bought it back 20 years later.

2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition

2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition front three-quarter

Sold for $797,500 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale

Sold for $715,000 at Mecum Kissimmee

For most cars, only 242 miles from new would be crazy-low, but low mileage is common for the 2005 through 06 Ford GT Heritage Editions, since more than a handful of the 343 original owners treated their car as a collectible from new. Low-mileage GTs seem to cross the block at a consistent clip, so it seems a little odd to call the Barrett-Jackson car a breakout sale, but it most certainly is that—a record-breaking one, in fact. Following on the heels of a $715,000, 250-mile GT Heritage Edition car at Mecum Kissimmee, the nearly $800K Barrett sale continues an upward trend in which Ford GT prices have been climbing as interest in modern analog exotic cars has grown. We predicted these cars would appreciate when we included the GT in our 2021 Bull Market list, but we can’t say we foresaw such a steep climb.

Ford GT Heritage front three-quarter

Powered by an aluminum 5.4-liter, 550-hp DOHC V-8 engine with a Ricardo six-speed gearbox, the GT has all the expected performance bells and whistles, like a supercharger with intercooler, an electronic ignition system, a dry-sump lubrication system, and a stainless dual exhaust.

Obviously purchased more for investment value than drivability, Ford GT Heritage Editions often come to auction more than once, and that includes the record-setter at Scottsdale. When it sold for $513,000 at Mecum’s 2015 Houston Auction, it had 13 miles on the clock. Eleven miles in seven years may seem like a waste of a supercar, but the guy who just sold it would probably disagree.

2004 Porsche Carrera GT

2004 Porsche Carrera GT front three-quarter

Sold for $1,980,000 at Barrett-Jackson

Back in August 2021, we saw a 2004 Porsche Carrera GT with 2660 miles at Mecum’s Monterey auction. We’d seen it before, way back in 2016, when it sold for $649,000. But in 2021 it brought $1.21M. That made it the most expensive Carrera GT ever sold at auction, breaking the two-year-old $1.193M record price from Monterey 2019. Exactly one month later, another 2004 Carrera GT sold for $1.315M on Bring a Trailer. Surprise, surprise—that record didn’t last long either. One with only 250 miles on the clock sold for $2M on Bring a Trailer, and then came this near-$2M sale at Scottsdale.

The rise in Carrera GT values has been so meteoric, and also so consistent, that it’s impossible to consider the nearly $2M price for the Carrera at Barrett-Jackson to be an anomaly. It’s also notable that there’s nothing extremely, well, notable, about this example, which wears a common color. It had low miles—1547, to be exact—but that is par for the course with the Carrera GT.

Porsche Carrera GT front three-quarter
Bring a Trailer/FinestVehiclesTraded

Of course, every Carrera GT is special. With a liquid-cooled, mid-mounted 5.7-liter quad-cam V-10 engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission driving a limited-slip differential, it represents a pinnacle of analog performance at Porsche. Only 1270 were built. With collectors increasingly prizing supercars of the 1990s and early 2000s, and values for practically every Porsche soaring, it’s no surprise Carrera GTs are on the rise. We have raised #2 values (in the Hagerty Price Guide) by 60 percent over the past two years. With multiple sales above #1 prices just this month, we’ll be raising them significantly again with the next update.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Darin Schnabel

Sold for $2,640,000 at Mecum Kissimmee

Sold for $1,710,000 at RM Sotheby’s Arizona

Gullwings are among the most established and stable of collector cars—what we call “blue chips.” They’ve been traded for years upon years, and their prices are well established. To that end, we have an index of 300SL auction prices going back decades. All to say, the prices of these cars don’t shift dramatically, even when the rest of the market is moving. So, the fact that not one but two Gullwings sold for more than their expected amounts is notable and tells us the market might be so hot that even these venerable classics are being impacted.

The $900K difference between the 300 SL sold at Mecum Kissimmee and the one at RM Arizona likely comes at least partly down to condition, and that difference could be minuscule considering that buyers of these magnificent cars tend to be extraordinarily picky. Plus, the Mecum car had a couple of desirable features, most notably the Rudge wheels.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing front three-quarter

It could also come down to venue. Those who went to Florida at the beginning of the month intending to buy a Gullwing had only two choices, whereas shoppers in Scottsdale had four—not including the $6.825M alloy-bodied Gullwing, which probably overshadowed the standard 300 SLs. Again, it’s hard to quantify the “gotta-have-it” factor that can come into play at in-person auctions.

With that said, all but two of the 300 SLs at this year’s January auctions sold near or above their #1 (Concours) condition values. Two more also sold well on Bring a Trailer—a 1955 Gullwing went for $1.47M and a 1957 Roadster for $1.8M. These recent price jumps have had a notable effect on overall values. Simply put, the money that used to put a #1 (Concours) 300 SL in your collection will now only afford you a #2 (Excellent) version.

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