13 cars to watch at the 2019 Arizona auctions


After several months of quietude following the insanity that is Monterey Car Week, the Arizona auctions set the tone for the auction market right in the beginning of the year. A healthy mix of elite-level, middling, and lower-tier cars make it to the various auctions, meaning if you’re in the Scottsdale area you can experience tons of different cars and atmospheres in the same week. But with more cars than we can count crossing the block, we did the hard work for you and narrowed down the insanity to this select list of the cars we’re especially keeping an eye on.

1994 Mercedes-Benz E500

1994 Mercedes-Benz E500
1994 Mercedes-Benz E500 Bonhams

Lot 51 (Bonhams)

Estimate: $70,000–$90,000

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): $80,800

Developed in tandem with Porsche, the Mercedes 500E (later called the E500) was the king of 1990s German luxury sedans. Mercedes, while it was busy working on the next generation S-Class, solicited help from Porsche to tweak the existing W124 E-Class sedan to accommodate the SL’s 322-hp, 5.0-liter V-8, transmission, brakes, and wheels. The 500E was hand-assembled at Porsche’s factory in Zuffenhausen and painted at Mercedes’ factory in Sindelflingen from 1990–94 and sold in the U.S. for model years 1992–94. The 1994 models (called E500) got even larger brakes.

This badass Benz is notable for a few reasons, but the cross-brand cooperation, low production numbers, and unique manufacturing history make it a desirable ’90s luxury hot rod. Bonhams’ offering at Scottsdale this year is well cared-for and exhibits 22,500 miles, which is good, but the car is unlikely to eclipse the 15,000-mile 500E that went crazy at the Quail last summer and ended at $100,800.

2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe

2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe
2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe Bonhams

Lot 34 (Bonhams)

Estimate: $50,000–$70,000

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

The so-called “clown shoe” might be the most recognizable BMW of its time. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no getting around the fact that these little hot rods have been on collectors’ radar for a while. Still, M Coupe’s don’t usually change hands at high-profile auctions like this, so it’ll be interesting to see what the market says. It’s not uncommon to see low-mileage, perfect-condition cars in rare colors sell in the low $60,000 range, so this car should have no trouble meeting its low estimate.

The M Coupe was a labor of love for a cadre of BMW’s most enthusiastic gearheads, led by engineer Burkhard Goeschel. This 2002 example is from the last model year of the M Coupe, which means it uses the later S54-code 3.2-liter straight-six, rather than the earlier S52-code six. It’s the same motor used in the much-loved E46 M3, and 315 hp in a tiny car with a short wheelbase and a semi-trailing rear suspension is an absolute riot when you’ve got it on the boil.

1964 Porsche 904 GTS

1964 Porsche 904 GTS
1964 Porsche 904 GTS Bonhams

Lot 30 (Bonhams)

Estimate: $1.4M–$1.6M

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

Developed for road use in order to homologate the 904 for racing, Porsche built 120 examples of the mid-engine GT racer for the public. It is the last of Porsche’s four-cylinder race cars, using the 2.0-liter four-cam engine from the 356 Carrera 2. The 904’s steel chassis and fiberglass body made for a strong, balanced, and lightweight platform that saw much racing success in its brief use.

It’s not often that Porsche 904s come up for sale, and race cars from the marque historically perform very well. This car claims some celebrity ownership, including Robert Redford and racing driver Steve Earle, which counts for something. Even better, it retains its original bodywork, chassis, and five-speed transaxle, although the original four-cylinder engine was upgraded in period to a flat-six from an early 911.

1957 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale by Pinin Farina

1957 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale
1957 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale RM Sotheby's

Lot 273 (RM Sotheby’s)

Estimate: $11M–$13M

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

Expected to be the single most expensive car sold in Arizona during auction week, the 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Speciale is truly a one-of-a-kind beauty. It bears custom bodywork by Pinin Farina, commissioned for Lilian, the Princess of Réthy from Belgian. The unique styling combines elements of Ferrari racing design, history, contemporary cars, and future design direction. It was last restored in 1997 and it looks extremely well kept more than 20 years later. This car is an absolute show-stopper.

1977 Lotus Esprit Series 1

1977 Lotus Esprit Series 1
1977 Lotus Esprit Series 1 RM Sotheby's

Lot 274 (RM Sotheby’s)

Estimate: $80,000–$100,000

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): $65,000

The Esprit first arrived in 1976, aiming to shake up Lotus’ aging lineup with something exotic and fresh. One look at this Giugiaro wedge is enough to tell you it got the job done. It was equally fantastic to drive and corner with, but rough build quality didn’t win it many fans. Nevertheless it’s a pure expression of the ‘70s mid-engine wedge, before Lotus made it additionally complex (albeit more powerful). Fortunately, this car is fresh from a big mechanical workup.

If this one goes big, it’s a clear indicator that Series 1 Lotus Esprits may be on the rise. Last year in Monterey a lower-mileage Esprit went big for $106,400, so we’ll soon find out if that was a fluke or if these cars are actually commanding that much cash.

1958 BMW 507

1958 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
1958 BMW 507 Roadster Series II RM Sotheby's

Lot 246 (RM Sotheby’s)

Estimate: $2.5M–$3M

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): $2.4M

The 507 never became the big-production hit that American importer Max Hoffman had envisioned when he pitched the idea to BMW, but due to its gorgeous design and association with stars like Elvis, its place in history was cemented at the top. They’re rare—just 252 were built largely due to their astronomical cost to build and therefore buy—and their 3.2-liter aluminum V-8 engines have a lovely grunt for such small car. This example comes with the optional factory hardtop, as well.

Considered the most beautiful and iconic BMW roadster of all time, the 507 is a staple of the collector car market. Prices have fluctuated up and down over the last three years, but a recent $4.8M sale of a 507 owned by Formula 1 driver John Surtees just might pull up prices a bit for this Scottsdale sale. The low estimate of $2.5M is north of our #1-condition price of $2.4M.

1952 Willys M38 Korean War Jeep

1952 Willys M38 Korean War Jeep
1952 Willys M38 Korean War Jeep RM Sotheby's

Lot 110 (RM Sotheby’s)

Estimate: $40,000–$50,000

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): $24,400 (for civilian-spec)

Military-era Jeeps, even ones that saw deployment, aren’t all that rare, and this one is a veteran of the Korean War. But this is probably the most over-restored example our valuation team can remember seeing, which likely accounts for its high estimate.

Based on the civilian CJ-3A, the M38 benefited from Marine-spec water-fording capability, one-piece windshield, bigger headlights, and a stronger rear axle, among other upgrades for military use. Also, ’52 marked the final year of production. History buffs will appreciate the full restoration as well as gobs of military goodies that include an M2 .50-caliber machine gun, two M1 Garand training rifles, machetes, helmets, Jerry cans, a tool bag, footlocker, and much more. It even bears a real bullet hole, as well as an original Korean flag that was found under the rear seat and dated 1953.

1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider

1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider
1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider RM Sotheby's

Lot 146 (RM Sotheby’s)

Estimate: $2.2M–$2.6M

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): $2.5M

The final year of the Daytona, this Spider is immaculate. It’s one of 121 topless 365s made, and it’s a U.S.-spec model, which means it comes fitted with pop-up headlights rather than the original covered beams that were no longer compliant here starting in 1971. The Daytonas are particularly attractive as Spiders, and the 352-hp V-12 up front gets it from 0–60 in the low 5-second range—brutally quick for a 45-year-old car. And the yellow-on-black color combination is timelessly badass.

This estimate is right in line with current values, which have leveled off after a dip between May 2016 and September 2017. The car bears 34,302 miles, and just 4500 in the last 26 years. No doubt this Daytona Spider has been well loved and meticulously cared for. Deep down in my soul, I very much want to drive this car across Europe with a case of Chianti for company.

1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype

1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype front 3/4
1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype Gooding & Company/Brian Henniker

Lot 143 (Gooding & Company)

Estimate: $6M–$8M

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): $2.1M (series production cars)

This is not your average Ferrari 275. Not only is it the first prototype and Ferrari development test car for the 275, chassis number 06003 would later become a competition rally car that competed at Monte Carlo in 1966. This car looks unbelievably cool, has a period racing pedigree (despite not finishing Monte Carlo following driveline failure), and a documented history as the first-ever Ferrari 275. When it comes to front-engine V-12 Ferraris, this just might be one to steal your heart.

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z 432

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z 432
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z 432 Gooding & Company

Lot 029 (Gooding & Company)

Estimate: $125,000–$175,000

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

If you love the Datsun 240Z but thought it needed a bit more motor, you might wish you were born in Japan after seeing this very special JDM Z car. One of 420 factory hot-rod Fairlady Zs, the Z 432 cribbed the legendary Hakosuka Skyline GT-R’s 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine, complete with its triple sidedraft carbs and four valves per cylinder. When it was new it cost about double what a standard 240Z cost, and today it’s estimated to go for more than double what a pristine-condition 1970 Datsun 240Z costs. Fitting.

It was restored in Japan with the intention of being used as a driver, so this is a car you can buy, hit the road with, and not feel an ounce of anxiety. Just be prepared for a long reach at toll booths and drive-thru windows.

1965 Ford Mustang

1965 Ford Mustang Preproduction
1965 Ford Mustang Preproduction Barrett-Jackson

Lot 1365 (Barrett-Jackson)

Estimate: N/A

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

Apparently the first pre-production Mustang hardtop, coming from the Ford Pilot Plant, this pony car is one of three such examples built. It’s had a full numbers-matching restoration, complete with its 170-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine. The car includes piles of documentation, including a letter from Ford that confirms its history, and it was used in shoots for the upcoming Ford vs. Ferrari feature film with Matt Damon and Christian Bale. If you want a real gem of Mustang history that might soon be a movie star, look no further. We’ll be watching to see what the market has to say about this one.

2003 BMW 540i M Sport

2003 BMW 540i M-Sport Sedan
2003 BMW 540i M-Sport Sedan Worldwide Auctioneers

Lot 39 (Worldwide-Auctioneers)

Estimate: $50,000–$75,000

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

The E39-generation BMW M5 is really taking off lately, but if you want a sporty and luxurious 5 Series without the cost and headache of an M car, the 540i M Sport is a great alternative. Even better is that this one is a rare factory six-speed example, and with just 2135 miles, to boot. The M Sport package added a body kit, M suspension, unique wheels, more prominent exhaust tips, and some sportier-looking interior bits. And befitting of a German sport sedan, it’s black-on-black.

This is a pretty high estimate, and it’ll be a good barometer of just how much the quickly-appreciating M5 is stretching the E39 market.

First 2020 Toyota Supra

2020 Toyota Supra
2020 Toyota Supra Barrett-Jackson

Lot 3010 (Barrett-Jackson)

Estimate: N/A

Average value in #1-condition (Concours): N/A

The much-awaited 2020 Toyota Supra will be revealed next week at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. First dibs on Supra 001 goes to the highest bidder, with the proceeds benefiting the American Heart Association and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. This first production example will be a one-of-one factory color scheme of matte gray paint with red mirror caps, matte black wheels, and a red interior. The engine cover will be signed by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda—a major gearhead and driving enthusiast that can also call the Lexus LFA his brainchild.

It’s widely known that the Supra shares its platform with the new BMW Z4, although Toyota’s version will be offered only as a coupe and the Bimmer is roadster-only. The Supra will make well north of 300 hp, given the BMW Z4 M40i makes a healthy 382 hp from what is almost certainly the same turbocharged inline-six. As for the MSRP, something in the mid-$60,000 range is likely.

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