Auction Preview: Russo and Steele 2016
There are basically two Monterey auctions where most folks can actually dream of bidding. As much as we love Bugattis, let’s be honest… One is Mecum‘s; the other is Russo and Steele’s auction. Their Monterey sale will be held on August 18-20 on the waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf and there are 223 cars on offer, 13 more than last year when they saw $10.2 million in total sales. A number of extremely rare cars will be under the tents at Russo and Steele in 2016, and here are 10 that we’ll be watching.
One of several companies to blend European chassis and style with American V-8 power and reliability, Facel Vega launched the first FV series in the mid-1950s, and the FV1 featured a 200-hp version of Chrysler’s Firedome V-8. Only a little more than two dozen FV1s were built, and this example is believed to be one of just three sold in the United States. It is also believed to have been bought by Oscar-winning Hollywood director Lewis Milestone. It was restored in the mid-1990s and shown at Pebble Beach in 1996.
2004 Ford GT Prototype
Hagerty Price Guide: N/A
The model year on Russo and Steele’s Ford GT may seem a bit odd, and that’s because it’s a pre-production prototype. In fact, it was the last complete car built before the production run officially began. Barrett-Jackson tried to sell an earlier prototype GT just a few months ago in Connecticut, but it failed to sell at a high bid of $539,000. Like the prototype at Barrett-Jackson, the Russo car is a show and display only vehicle that can’t be registered for road use. That’s not such a big deal, though, because most of the car’s value is in its historical significance and since many GTs only have a handful of miles, it’s not like most GT owners actually drive their cars, anyway.
1965-66 GT350s are notable as the first Shelby Mustangs as well as the most performance-focused versions before the car got heavier and Ford exerted more and more influence in its design and construction. They’re therefore rewarding to drive in addition to being the cars that furthered Shelby’s reputation on the track with multiple SCCA B-Production championships to their credit. Russo’s example is one of just 562 first year GT350s and is a restored matching numbers car.
The XJ220 unfortunately lives in the shadow of other ’90s supercars like the McLaren F1 and was viewed by many with disappointment because of its turbocharged V-6 instead of the V-12 of the initial prototype. That’s a shame, because it certainly looked the part of a supercar and with 542 hp and a 217-mph top speed, it was briefly the world’s fastest production car. That said, the XJ220 is still seriously undervalued compared to its million-plus-dollar peers, and Russo’s example has just 871 km on the odometer and is said to be in showroom condition.
In the 1970s, the turbocharger was cutting edge technology and BMW was among the first companies (even before Porsche) to introduce a turbocharged production car. The 2002 was already a capable little performer in its own right, but the KKK turbo brought power up from 130 to 170. Only about 1,600 were built, and very few of them left Europe. BMW is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and is a featured class at Pebble Beach, so don’t be surprised to see rare, significant models like this bringing big results at auction.
The Ghia 450 SS put Giugiaro-penned styling on top of a Plymouth Barracuda chassis and 273 Commando powertrain. They were assembled by hand and just 52 were completed, while a dealership in Beverly Hills sold all of the cars. Russo’s example was restored 10 years ago, and is reportedly one of just 40 of these unusual convertibles accounted for today.
The Apollo was one of several ambitious yet ultimately unsuccessful attempts to build an exclusive European-style performance car in the United States. Apollo operated out of Oakland, California, but the bodies were built by Intermeccanica in Turin. Under the hood was either a 215-ci or 300-ci Buick V-8. Barely over 40 Apollos were built before the company ran short of finances. Russo’s example was reportedly fitted with the smaller engine from new but now has the larger one, and was fitted with the optional automatic transmission. Amazingly, not one but two Apollos are up for grabs in Monterey, but this maintained and lightly restored car looks a lot better than the barn find Apollo over at Mecum.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 was already a brilliant design, but the hand-built 300S was lighter, more powerful and more carefully assembled. As a result, it was much more expensive and reserved for elite buyers. Russo and Steele’s example is one of just 200 300S Cabriolets built and was delivered new to Los Angeles. It’s an older restoration, but any of these cars will get the attention of a serious Mercedes collector.
By the late 1980s, the Countach had grown from four to 5.1 liters and had sprouted an enormous rear wing, extra scoops, fender flares and a bigger front impact bumper. Some considered the styling of the later cars much too fussy. Appropriately, it symbolized the excesses of the ’80s and the LP5000 QV was also one of the best-selling versions of the model, with over 600 built. Supercars from the 1980s have generally seen a huge appreciation over the past couple of years, and the Countach has helped lead the charge, effectively quadrupling in value since early 2014.
Volvo certainly isn’t the first company you recall when discussing sports cars. They have had a few attempts at performance cars, though, and the P1900 was the first, the boldest and the least successful. After observing the sports car craze in the United States during the 1950s, Volvo decided to design an open roadster based on the PV444 passenger car with fiberglass bodywork formed by Glasspar in California.
Early prototypes were fraught with issues, and when Volvo’s boss took a P1900 home for the weekend, he decided that the car didn’t meet Volvo’s build quality standards and was much too expensive to produce, so he killed it. Just 67 production versions were built, and 38 of them sold in Sweden. A car like this might just be too odd and obscure for the usual Russo and Steele bidders, but if there’s a Volvo enthusiast in the room this is a serious buying opportunity that won’t come up again any time soon.