Five million-dollar cars to watch at this year’s Scottsdale auctions
1985 Ferrari 288 GTO
Presale estimate: $2,400,000 – $2,800,000
Hagerty Price Guide: $2,150,000 – $2,600,000
The 288 GTO spawned Ferrari’s line of halo cars that has included the F40, F50, Enzo and now the LaFerrari. Fewer than 300 were built, and though it shared basic styling cues with the entry-level 308, it was much different under the skin, with its 400-hp twin-turbo V-8 and its combination of carbon and aluminum bodywork. It has recently become a hot item among collectors as both the Ferrari market and the demand for rare performance cars of the 1980s and 1990s have seen big growth, and in some cases the 288 GTO commands a higher price than its descendants, partly because it’s rarer than all of them. Gooding & Company will have a complete set of Ferrari halo cars in Scottsdale, including another 288 GTO with a presale estimate of $2,000,000 – $2,400,000. RM Sotheby’s GTO, however, was on the cover of Automobile magazine and featured in Playboy, and carries an estimate that is higher than or equal to its peers at Gooding.
1965 Shelby 427 Competition Cobra
Presale estimate: $2,500,000 – $3,300,000
Hagerty Price Guide: $1,800,000 – $2,750,000
Any genuine Shelby Cobra is a special car, so to stand out from the crowd you need a Cobra with a serious history on the race track, because the track is where the Cobra legend was born. RM Sotheby’s ’65 427 Competition car, one of 23 such Cobras built, certainly fits the bill. Sold new to the son of the then-Governor of South Carolina, the car quickly scared its first owner into selling it two months after he bought it, and it then began a stellar racing career, running in SCCA’s A-Production class and winning the national championship before going on to further success in Eastern Canada. While some consider the less powerful 289 Cobra to be more fun and rewarding to drive than the downright terrifying 427, the bigger car is just plain faster, and that counts for a lot.
1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster
Presale estimate: $10,000,000 – $13,000,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
If it sells, this car will be the top seller in Scottsdale this year and it is the only car at the Arizona auctions with a good chance of breaking eight figures. The 540K has always been one of the most exclusive automobiles in the world, a car that has almost always been very expensive and highly sought after. Long considered one of the most exquisite machines to come out of the golden age of car design that was the 1930s, the 540K has speed thanks to its supercharged straight-eight, stunning looks and serious rarity. In 2012, Gooding & Company sold a similar car for $11,770,000 at Pebble Beach, so for this longtail, high door example to do at least that well won’t be surprising. It is fully documented, has only accumulated a claimed 10,300 miles in almost 80 years, and is one of just six so-equipped cars thought to exist. Cars like this also typically remain in private collections for the long term and rarely come up for sale, so all it will take is two dedicated Mercedes collectors with deep pockets for us to see some serious bidding excitement.
1965 Iso Grifo A3 Competizione
Presale estimate: $1,300,000 – $1,600,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
While not the most valuable car in Scottsdale this year, this Italo-American hybrid is one of the most intriguing and most beautiful. Once ex-Ferrari engineer Giotto Bizzarrini and manufacturer Iso got together to build a sports car, this was the initial result. While Iso and Bertone took care of the production of the more civilized road-going version of the Grifo, Bizzarrini actually undertook production of these competition versions, with Drogo producing the riveted aluminum bodies. After disagreements led to a split between Iso and Bizzarrini, Bizzarrini ventured out on his own and produced the car under his own name, calling it the Bizzarrini 5300 Strada. The Bizzarrini version is a rare car in its own right, but this early Iso is one of just 20 or so with the Drogo-built aluminum body. Underneath that glorious bodywork is a 327 cubic-inch V-8, just like one you’d find in a Corvette, only in the Iso it’s fed by quadruple Weber carburetors and tweaked to give 420 hp. Bonhams’ example was sold new in Germany and featured in an article by renowned auto writer Paul Frére for the prominent German magazine Auto Motor und Sport before eventually being restored by the same coachbuilder who actually took over body production from Drogo in the 1960s and then shown at Pebble Beach in 2013.
1950 Ferrari 166 MM/195S Berlinetta Le Mans
Gooding & Company
Presale estimate: $5,750,000 – $6,500,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
This model was one of the first cars to solidify Ferrari’s reputation as a dominant force in sports car racing, so its prestige is indisputable, even if it isn’t the prettiest thing to wear a Prancing Horse badge.
Sold new to well-known American racer Briggs Cunningham, this car raced at Sebring, Watkins Glen, Buenos Aires and other venues throughout the early 1950s, and it is one of just six closed Berlinetta examples. Although any 166 is an extremely rare car with just a few dozen built, most of them were open Barchettas. With serious history and pretty much guaranteed entry into even the most exclusive vintage car events, this car could easily be the biggest Ferrari sale in Scottsdale this year.
The auctions in Scottsdale are a big deal, to say the least; the Monterey auctions are Scottsdale’s only real peer in terms of quality and volume. Half a dozen different companies draw people from across the world to buy, sell or just gawk at the cars that make up everything from the teeming mass of automobiles at Barrett-Jackson and the carefully selected pieces of rolling sculpture at Gooding & Company. Last year, a total of 2,500 cars hammered sold for a grand total of almost $293 million, with four of them selling for more than $5 million. It was a high-water mark for the Scottsdale sales, and while the 2016 catalogues don’t quite match the overall quality of last year, there are still numerous significant cars worth well into six-figure territory.