Ten cars to watch in Scottsdale and why

Scottsdale: pure old car commerce. Yeah, the lovely Arizona Concours the weekend before is a solid success at this point, but without the vintage races, the hangar parties, the motoring celebrations and reunions of Monterey, the focus here remains on sales. Coming as it does at the beginning of the year, it’s a bit of a leading indicator. A bellwether of things to come. Here are 10 cars we’ll be watching with particular interest:

  1. 2005 Ferrari 575 M Superamerica (Russo and Steele): The Superamerica is  one of the hottest Ferraris in the market right now. While prices of Enzo-era cars are stable at the moment, these barely 10-year-old cars remain in demand, and it’s easy to see why. Based on the 550 Maranello, the car that returned Ferrari’s flagship car to the front-engine, V-12 layout of the legendary 365 GTB/4 “Daytona,” it adds the ingenious Revocromico rotating convertible roof. Just 559 were built, and three years ago, they were $200,000 cars. Last year in Arizona, one brought more than $500,000. Can this sort of appreciation continue for a used car that still hasn’t passed the warranty period for a Hyundai? We’ll see.
  2. 1977 Pontiac Trans Am (Barrett-Jackson): Ask an American muscle car dealer what’s hot at the moment and chances are good that he or she will tell you the cars of the “Malaise Era,” the time that followed the golden age of the muscle car, when performance cars compensated for reduced horsepower with over-the-top graphics and appearance packages. Nothing is more emblematic of the era than the black and gold 6.6-liter T/A used by Burt Reynolds in the 1977 Hal Needham classic “Smokey and the Bandit.” This car is an actual promo car used by the studio in perfectly restored condition. Burt Reynolds himself is expected to be on hand when it crosses the block. Minus the movie provenance, this car might make $45,000 to $50,000. We’ll be interested to see what the premium is for the car’s history.
  3. 1983 Lotus Esprit Turbo (Bonhams): Supercars from the 1980s are hot at the moment with Ferrari 308s, Lamborghini Countaches and Porsche Turbos all appreciating. Strangely, the only one of them with a James Bond connection, the Lotus Esprit hasn’t really done much. In turbo form, it was a very serious performance car with looks, handling and acceleration to match most of its Italian and German competition. So, it’s puzzling to us as to why in a private sale, you can still pick one of these plastic Giugiaro-designed missiles up in the mid-twenties. They don’t show up at auctions very often and maybe this 32,000 mile gorgeous silver with red example might just be the “breakout” sale that puts the Esprit on collectors’ radar.
  4. 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB “Vetroresina” (Gooding): The iconic “Magnum P.I.”-era Ferrari 308 was one of the big appreciators in 2015. For collectors, the one to have is the very first of the series, the fiberglass, dry sump-equipped models from 1976. In the U.S., they had the added bonus of not being equipped with catalysts and of course, they were Weber carbureted. Fiberglass 308s seem like they add $100 grand every year, going from $100K to $200K in little more than 12 months. Are these $300K cars at this point, as Gooding’s pre-sale estimate posits? We’ll see.
  5. 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Sportsman (Gooding): Cars from the late 1940s through the late 1950s have been somewhat flat for the last few years. Woodies have always been the exception; they just seem to speak to collectors of any generation. This particular model is one of the rarest and most collectible post-war Fords. Fewer than 4,000 were built. Notoriously tricky and expensive to restore, this particular award-winning car might be one of the best restorations on offer in Scottsdale. Even at $250,000, the low end of the pre-sale estimate, the buyer might be getting a great bargain, a classic example of paying for the restoration and getting the car thrown in for free.
  6. 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera (RM/Sotheby’s): The 911 Turbo, otherwise known as the 930, had a rocket booster attached to it in the marketplace several years ago and there seems to be no end in sight, particularly for the very early cars like the one on offer by RM. As is the case when a car begins to take off, they start showing up in greater numbers at auctions. At the end of the day, air-cooled 911 Turbos aren’t ultra-scarce cars. And while trailing throttle oversteer-induced attrition has thinned their ranks, there still seem to be plenty to go around — there will certainly be no shortage of them in Scottsdale this year. The question for early 2016 will be whether or not we’ve reached peak Porsche Turbo.
  7. 1970 Mazda Cosmo Sport Series II (RM/Sotheby’s): Like the 911 Turbo above, since the Cosmo’s breakout season a few years ago, there seems to be an unwritten rule that one simply can’t have a catalog auction without one. At some point, everyone who wants one of these quirky, rotary-powered sports cars will have purchased one and prices might begin to settle down a bit as they have for the Toyota 2000 GT. With multiple Cosmos up for sale Scottsdale, we’ll see if that time has come.
  8. 1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe (RM/Sotheby’s): In addition to having one of the longest model names to have appeared in an auction catalog, this car certainly represents one of the most desirable pre-war cars this year in Scottsdale. Just 20 years ago, Scottsdale (which at that time was essentially Barrett-Jackson) was dominated by pre-war cars. Now they’re a sideshow. But the best continue to trade to a quiet but enthusiastic market. Even at $3-$3.5 million, this car could be considered well bought.
  9. 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster (Gooding): This lot is essentially a barn-find that hasn’t been on the road for over 30 years. Not to be confused with a preservation class car or a Survivor® it was repainted in a different shade of gray in the 1970s. So, while a somewhat unmolested car, nothing but a high dollar restoration looms in its future. Yet it carries a pre-sale estimate that is within a few hundred thousand dollars off a very pretty older restoration of a similar car also at Gooding. Will the current obsession with barn finds continue? This car’s performance over the block versus the restored car will help tell that story.
  10. 1992 Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo (Silver): The captive import twin of the Mitsubishi GTO (3000), it’s rare to see any variant of this car cross an auction block. Interestingly, the Stealth was set to pace the 1991 Indy 500 but the outcry surrounding the decision to have a Japanese car pace the classic American race resulted in a pre-production Dodge Viper pacing the 500 that year. This five-speed car has just 72,000 miles on it with original paint and interior seemingly in fine shape. If this car goes cheap at Silver, the buyer might just have an interesting modern collectible well worth keeping.
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