Amelia Island auction preview 2017

Over the last five years or so, the Amelia Island auctions have become more important to the catalog auction houses (Gooding and Company, RM Sotheby’s and to a lesser extent Bonhams), than Scottsdale Auction Week. This year’s mix appears different, though. Yes, there are a few notable eight-figure cars the likes of which were missing from Scottsdale. But with a nod to the currently blazing hot entry-level market, there are far more affordable cars offered at Amelia than there have been in the last few years. The following are five consignments in several price ranges that have piqued our interest:

1957 Jaguar XKSS
Presale estimate: $16,000,000 – $18,000,000
Hagerty Price Guide: $6,300,000 – $13,500,000
Gooding and Company Lot 61
WHAT IS IT? What is it? Seriously, just look at it. In addition to the history (which is wicked cool), this is quite possibly the sexiest car on the planet. The XKSS was a thinly-disguised, road-going version of the Le Mans conquering D-type. Certainly Road & Track wasn’t fooled when they tested one in 1957: “The XKSS is essentially an all-out racing D-type with a windshield and a top added.” Performance testing it was essentially a “battle of wits and skill against wheel spin” With no limited-slip differential and skinny tires, the car still did 0-60 in just 5.2 seconds. Quick even by today’s standards. A fire at the Jaguar factory (that was not, amazingly, electrical in origin), ended production at just 16 of a planned 25 cars.

WHY WE’RE WATCHING IT- Fresh on the heels of a record-breaking Jaguar sale in Monterey, (a Le Mans winning D-type) at over $21 million, if this car sells at or over its high estimate of $18 million, this street car will come perilously close to the price realized for a one-of-one piece of British competition history. Unless it flops, this sale will cement the XKSS as collector car royalty, one of the most desirable cars anywhere.

1986 Porsche 944 Turbo
Presale estimate: $30,000 – $40,000
Hagerty Price Guide: $6,100 – $41,400
RM/Sotheby’s Lot 286
WHAT IS IT? The 944 Turbo signalled Porsche’s serious intent regarding water-cooled, front-engine performance. It was the first transaxle car that seriously challenged the 911’s supremacy. Known internally as the 951, the 944 Turbo sported a new, smoother and prettier front fascia as well as a rear under-bumper diffuser. 944 Turbos retain the superb balance that the naturally aspirated car is known for, with a turbo’s added kick. They make ideal track day weapons, a point not lost on many enthusiasts.

WHY WE’RE WATCHING IT- Tons of these cars were chewed up and spit out when they were dirt cheap. Nicer ones are getting tough to find and they’re appreciating. In fact, 944s of any flavor are seeing a rise in interest and price. There are three 944s (from the same collection) in this auction, two turbos and an naturally aspirated car. On the heels of a $22,000 sale for a 944S at Bonhams in January, we’re curious how long the trend of escalating prices and interest will continue. If this 22,000 mile sweetie sells for anywhere near its $40,000 high estimate, we may have our answer.

1989 Mazda Miata
Presale estimate: $15,000 – $20,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
Bonhams Lot 119
WHAT IS IT? Virtually everyone knows this story: Mazda saved the cheap, lightweight roadster back in 1989. It was a Lotus Elan for Gen-Xers that delivered 85 percent of that car’s thrills, but in a package with cold A/C and a drivetrain that could last for 300,000 miles. Unfairly maligned as a “chick car,” it is quite simply, one of the greatest driver’s cars of all-time.

WHY WE’RE WATCHING IT- This is probably the first time that a Miata of any flavor has shown up in a major catalog sale. NA (first-gen) Miata prices have remained flat. They’re still criminally cheap with low-mileage garage queens struggling to bring $7,500. This after-market supercharged, freakishly low mileage example has a hefty $15,000-$20,000 pre-sale estimate. Anywhere in that range might signal some long-overdue interest in the NA Miata.

1968 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Racer
Presale estimate: $300,000 – $400,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
Bonhams Lot 127
WHAT IS IT? Possibly one of the most historic Pontiac road racing cars, it was a class-winner at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1969 and driven in the SCCA Trans Am series by the legendary Jerry Titus. Strangely, this car started life as a Camaro before being converted to the car’s F-body twin, the Firebird. The Trans Am series would eventually lend its name to the top Firebird trim-level all the way through the car’s ultimate demise in 2002.

WHY WE’RE WATCHING IT- American road-racing cars of this caliber rarely come to market. Even at the pre-sale estimate of $300,000-$400,000 it strikes us as a bargain for a car that’s welcome at nearly any vintage race event and sure to thrill the crowd.

1950 Ferrari 166MM Barchetta
Presale estimate: $8,000,000 – $10,000,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
RM/Sotheby’s Lot 278
WHAT IS IT? Ferrari began hitting its stride as a manufacturer of dual-purpose sports/racing cars with the 166 Barchetta. Everything was now in place from a powerful, competition-ready V-12 engine to lovely styling. In this case, the shape was courtesy of Touring which used its trademark Superleggera construction process consisting of multiple lightweight tubes supporting the alloy coachwork. This particular car competed in the Mille Miglia in 1951 and ‘53. It’s eligible for essentially every vintage car event of note on any continent (with the possible exception of Antarctica) because as Hagerty Price Guide publisher Dave Kinney is fond of saying, “penguins don’t drive cars.”

WHY WE’RE WATCHING IT- The wealthiest enthusiasts, while not as active as they were in say 2014, have continued proving that they’ll respond to unrepeatable opportunities. That trend should continue with this car. If either this or the Jaguar are no-sales, some re-evaluation and hand-wringing might be in order.

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