Arizona Auction: Week RM

This year’s “Auction Week” in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area of Arizona led to some interesting stats. Look at all 4 auction articles on our site and see what happened.

RM Auctions
Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix, January 19, 2007

Total Sales: $32,063,050

Top Five Cars
1937/40 Duesenberg Model SJ, $2,805,000
1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible, $2,420,000
1967 Shelby 427S/C Cobra, $1,420,000
1936 Delahaye Type 135 Special, $1,320,000
1963 Aston Martin DB4 GT, $1,265,000

While some people have reckoned that Barrett-Jackson is halfway between a rock concert and Ringling Brothers Circus, RM’s sale at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix is more like attending any major event hosted at a country club, be it a golf tournament or a private dinner. The cars are premium and so are most of the bidders. Even the auctioneer sounds as if he’s more accustomed to selling Rembrandts than cattle. This is the auction where the big players come for the big cars.

All of the smallest of the four Phoenix area sales — only 110 cars are offered — is what RM’s Ian Kelleher calls a “boutique sale.” Although there are a few high-end vendors and support services such as auto transporters and Hagerty Insurance, this event is really completely focused around the sales of the cars. Those cars are fine examples of already rare automobiles with names like Bugatti, Duesenberg, Ruxton, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Pierce-Arrow and Rolls-Royce. Many are displayed beneath the ballroom’s chandeliers, while the others wait in the parking garage.

The cars in which RM specializes are the ones you’d see during Pebble Beach week in California. The Rolls-Royce, Ruxton and Duesenberg cars would be welcome on the greens for the Concours, while the Porsches or Shelby might be over at the Quail or on the track at Laguna Seca and the Ferraris or Dino would be more than welcome at Concorso Italiano.

Come auction day, the feature cars are exiled to the garage, while the ballroom is cleared and chairs set for bidders and spectators. Each car rolls onto the stage and is called in the English style before being displayed on a turntable. While not as high-energy as Barrett-Jackson or Russo and Steele, it clearly suits the clients.

It’s easy to think of RM as the hoity-toity sale, but two of the best pieces of American performance iron in Arizona crossed the Biltmore stage. Pat Goff sent his low mileage 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible, because he knew the venue would make the difference for his rare car. Clearly, he made the right choice when the rare blue Hemi went for $2.42 million including commissions. The owner of the first production L-88 also chose, RM, although the car would have been right at home at Barrett-Jackson or Russo and Steele. Although the black roadster was bid to a very competitive $1.55 million, the owner wouldn’t let it go at that price.

RM is the most exclusive of the four competing auctions, and it also offered the most creature comforts. The parking was nearby in a garage, viewing was under cover, there was indoor plumbing, and the ballroom was more comfortable than any auction tent. There’s no question that RM knows how to reach its intended market of the world’s most serious collectors, restorers and curators.

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