Auction Preview: Bonhams Quail Lodge 2016


Held at the lavish Quail Lodge in the Carmel Valley, Bonhams is one of the three big catalogue sales during Monterey Car Week this year, and it will be held on August 19. Bonhams famously sold the $38 million Ferrari 250 GTO back at Quail Lodge back in 2014 as well as a number of other significant Ferraris that year for $108 million in total sales. It was a tough act to follow. The auction house only managed $45.7 million at last year’s Quail Lodge auction, selling 96 cars of the 109 offered. This year, 115 vehicles will cross the block, and in typical Bonhams fashion everything from early veteran motorcars to an essentially new Ferrari LaFerrari is available. These are the 10 that we’ll be keeping an eye on.

1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix Car
Presale estimate:
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

Bonhams often consigns the best prewar cars, and this Bugatti Type 51 is a phenomenal one. The Type 51 came about thanks to the successful Miller speedway racers in the United States. Ettore Bugatti saw two Miller 91s racing in Europe, and traded the owner three Type 43 Bugattis for the cars in order to study Miller’s twin overhead camshaft design. Bugatti then utilized the technology in its Grand Prix cars. While not dominant like its predecessor the Type 35, the 51 was a regular sight on the European racing scene in the 1930s, and Bonhams’ example was driven in period by Piero Taruffi and Tazio Nuvolari, and it raced at Monaco an incredible four times. Its owner was Francis Curzon, 5th Earl Howe, a British member of parliament and one of Britain’s more famous racing drivers through the ‘30s. As is often the case with significant Bugattis, it has been with the current owner for 30 years.

1951 Allard J2
Presale estimate:
$325,000 – $375,000
Hagerty Price Guide:  $175,000 – $363,000

In the early 1950s, there weren’t many cars that could outrun an Allard. The car pioneered the winning concept of a lightweight British chassis with the brute force of an American V-8, a concept later employed to great success by Carroll Shelby with the Cobra. Powered by Ford, Cadillac or Chrysler engines, the Allard was one of the cars to beat in early postwar road racing on both sides of the Atlantic. The small London-based company built several models around the same basic concept, but the quintessential Allard is the J2. 

While Bonhams’ example, one of less than 200 J2 and J2X models built, was fitted with a modified Mercury flathead V-8 from new, it has something entirely different under the hood today. During a light restoration in the 1960s, the owner fitted a Hi-Po Ford 289 and a close ratio gearbox out of the then-new Shelby Cobra. Since this car in part inspired the Cobra, the decision wasn’t entirely inappropriate, and the much more potent engine, which has almost double the horsepower of the original Mercury unit, gives the J2 a similar power to weight ratio as the Cobra. How that engine swap affects value will be determined by bidders.

1984 Peugeot 205 T16
Presale estimate:
$200,000 – $300,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

Peugeot won the 1985 and 1986 Constructors’ and Drivers’ titles in the World Rally Championship during the highly competitive Group B era with the 205 T16 (T for Turbo, 16 for 16 valves), and actually racked up more wins than the Audi Quattro. The 205 T16 had very little in common with the standard car. Its engine was mounted behind the driver rather than up front, it had four-wheel drive, and it shared few parts overall. In order to homologate the car for competition, Peugeot needed to build 200 examples, and they built no more than they needed to. It’s therefore a much rarer car than the other French mid-engine Group B hot hatch of the era, the Renault 5 Turbo, of which a few thousand were built. Bonhams’ Peugeot T16 is the 189th car built and has 45,000 km on it. The Presale estimate might seem excessive for a 1980s Peugeot hatchback, but given the T16’s rarity, greater interest in 1980s performance cars in general and strong recent auction results for other road-going Group B machines like the Ford RS200 and the Audi Sport Quattro, it’s an entirely realistic number.

1967 Iso Grifo GL
Presale estimate:
$375,000 – $450,000
Hagerty Price Guide: $305,000 – $440,000

The Iso Grifo wore one of Bertone’s most elegant designs. It also featured all you’d expect from a large 1960s Italian GT car – that is, until you looked under the hood. There, you’ll typically find a 327 cubic inch Chevy V-8. Only 135 Iso Grifo GLs were produced, and Bonhams’ example was owned for years by Peter Monteverdi, the Swiss carmaker who had built his own Euro-American performance GTs in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the car features a modern Tremec 5-speed in place of the original ZF unit, but is otherwise all correct and represents a chance to own drop-dead gorgeous Italian looks and Ferrari performance for a fraction of the price.

1904 Mercedes-Simplex 38-32HP Five-Seat Rear Entrance Tonneau
Presale estimate:
$2,500,000 – $3,000,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

It’s not often that a 100-plus-year-old car has a fully documented history. This 1904 Mercedes-Simplex was delivered new in England to a wealthy merchant, featured in a five-page report in a popular motoring journal. During World War I, it was donated to the War Department and used in France, later returning to Southwest England and working on a farm. It was subsequently rescued and restored during the 1970s and has since been an active tour car and frequent participant in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The car was sold at a Brooks auction in London back in 1999 for £265,500, but Bonhams is expecting a lot more this time around.

1964 Cheetah GT Coupe
Presale estimate:
$300,000 – $500,000
Hagerty Price Guide:  $430,000 – $685,000

The Cheetah is one of the great “what-ifs” in racing history. If Chevrolet racer Bill Thomas had built enough cars to homologate the Cheetah, it likely would have made the Cobra obsolete. In the end, though, only about a dozen were built and they were forced to compete with mid-engine prototypes to mostly forgettable results. Not the most sophisticated car on racetracks, it was nevertheless a bold design. The small-block Corvette engine was set so far back that the driver practically sat on top of the rear axle and the transmission bolted directly to the differential, eliminating the need for a driveshaft. The Bill Thomas-modified V-8s with Rochester fuel injection made anywhere from 465 to 520 horsepower and the whole car weighed just 1,550 pounds. 

Mid-engine cars outclassed the Cheetah when it came to braking and handling, but its straight-line speed was essentially unchallenged and it was clocked at 215 mph in Daytona. Of the handful of the Cheetahs built before Chevrolet pulled its support for the program, the example offered by Bonhams is one of the more well-known examples. Actively campaigned in North America, the Alan Green car not only road raced but hit the drag strip as well with a quarter mile time in the mid 10-second range. It was converted to street use in the 1970s, but was back on the track vintage-racing in the 1990s.

Lamborghini DL25 Tractor
Presale estimate:
$45,000 – $60,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

Although this is the cheapest and slowest Lamborghini in Monterey this year, it may very well get the most attention. Before making cars, Ferruccio Lamborghini built tractors and other industrial equipment, and Lamborghini Trattori is actually still around today. This example has been restored, and because Lamborghini never actually sold tractors in the U.S., it’s a rare sight. With its two-cylinder diesel engine, even at the low estimate it adds up to $1,800 per hp. If only somebody could bring out a vintage Porsche tractor as well so we could stage the world’s slowest drag race.

1949 Alfa Romeo 6C Platé Special
Presale estimate:
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

Built in 1948 and 1949, this odd racing machine has an Alfa 6C 2300 engine from 1934 fitted into a chassis designed by Italian racer Luigi Platé in which oil flows through the chassis tubes and a dry sump with a rear oil reservoir. It wasn’t raced to any great success, but it’s truly unique and a nifty example of Italian motorsports ingenuity in the postwar years. Since being restored, it has also been displayed at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island and would be eligible for many of the world’s great vintage motorsport events.

1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America
Presale estimate:
$1,200,000 – $1,500,000
Hagerty Price Guide: $935,000 – $1,850,000

The Aurelia was one of the more advanced cars in its day featuring a race-honed V-6 engine (which was actually the world’s first production V-6 engine), inboard brakes, unitary construction and independent suspension front and rear. In Pininfarina-penned Spider America form, the Aurelia was also one of the prettiest. Only 240 Spider Americas were built, so they don’t often come up for sale, and when they do they can bring seven-figure prices. Bonhams’ example was restored in the 1980s but was further refreshed about 10 years ago and has been a concours car since.

1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Cabriolet A
Presale estimate:
$2,200,000 – $2,600,000
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

One of the fastest, prettiest and most advanced designs to emerge from that golden age of car design that was the 1930s is the supercharged 500K/540K Mercedes-Benz. Bonhams’ example was restored at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Germany. Fitted with Cabriolet coachwork from new by Sindelfingen for a German national living in England, it is represented as one of just 33 examples built. After passing through the ownership of several collectors, it was restored over seven years during the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

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