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However the stock markets surf upon U.S. President Donald Trump’s balmy promises, America’s wealthiest car collectors responded by sitting on their bank accounts at last week’s six Arizona auctions.

The highest price paid, $7.37-million (all figures U.S.) for a 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight race car, missed Bonhams pre-auction estimate of $7.5-million to $9-million by $130,000.

Pawel Litwinski/ Bonhams

Second in the hard-hit parade, a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster sold for $6.6-million – $800,000 less than the low end of RM Sotheby’s anticipated $7.4-million to $8.4-million.

RM Auctions

Third, a 1952 Ferrari 340 factory race car fared the worst, the gavel falling $1.12-million below Bonhams’ $7.5-million to $9-million estimate.

Pawel Litwinski/Bonhams

As the high rollers retreated from the final major auction Saturday, leaving Gooding & Company’s two-day total at $33.3-million, down from $43-million in 2016, one conclusion might be that 99 per cent of America’s 1 per cent had made staying clear of bidding wars their vow for 2017.

As expected, every firm identified success stories to counter the gloom. RM Sotheby’s, for instance, topped the other two catalogue sales – so-called because all cars are featured in expensive glossy publications in advance of the auctions – with $53.7-million in total sales, albeit down from $62.8-million a year earlier.

The Blenheim, Ont.-based firm singled out the 1969 Ferrari 365 GTS that commanded $3.6-million – triple the record for this model sold at earlier auctions, and a standout here as one of only two cars to exceed its estimate among the 10 highest-dollar sellers.

RM Sotheby's

As well, RM Sotheby’s claimed the best sell-through rate at 89 per cent, even as the average price of its cars slipped to $378,248 from $497,994 in 2016.

Gooding’s two-day total eroded from $43-million to $33.3-million, its average shrinking from $443,390 to $317,492.

Bonhams, the British auction house founded in 1793, fared best year-to-year, totaling $36.3-million in its one-day sale against $18.2-million in 2016. Bonhams sold fewer cars than its rivals, 86, but its standard was such that it averaged $422,736, highest of the Arizona auctions and more than double its $190,198 in 2016.

But a 1960 Ferrari 250 SWB Spider, predicted to be a potential $10-million sale by Hagerty went unsold.

Good news? The chambers of commerce of Scottsdale, Phoenix and environs can trumpet total sales of $259-million topping last year’s $250.8-million. Collectors in the sub-$250,000 estimate range were bidding like America was great again.

More cars sold, even as the auctioneers’ hammers often fell short of estimates. Overall, 2,900 of 3,486 lots sold as the six auction houses averaged $89,601 – compared to 2,330 of 3,104 averaging $115,729 last year, according to Hagerty, the classics insurance specialist that monitors prices.

Domestic brands were 30 per cent more likely to exceed market values than imports, Hagerty said. Pickup trucks and SUVs had momentum: A 1948 Dodge Power Wagon Barrett-Jackson scored $99,000 at Barrett-Jackson, a 1951 Chevy 3100, $44,000. Bonhams moved a 1976 Ford Bronco Ranger for $55,000.

Top price paid at Barrett-Jackson, by far the largest sale, was $1.485-million for an Aston-Martin DB5.


While the 1960 CERV 1, a Chevrolet research vehicle, was its only other $1-million sale, at $1.32-million. The biggest show in town averaged $59,323, down from $69,619 in 2016.

Barrett-Jackson claimed that the $434,500 paid for Justin Bieber’s 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia was a record for the model, even if concert tickets may have been a factor.


Also a record: $302,500 for an immaculately restored 1965 Volkswagen 21-window bus.

Also noteworthy, a 1989 Nissan Skyline GT-R sold for $60,500, within its estimate.

RM Sotheby's

And while RM Sotheby’s sold its Ferrari 365 GTS Spider for $3.6-million, it also sold a 1988 328 GTS and a 1998 F355 F1 Spider for $88,000 apiece.

Mopar muscle cars were in demand: RM sold a 1966 Dodge Coronet 500 Hemi hardtop coupe for $51,700, a 1965 Dodge Coronet Super Stock Hemi lightweight coupe for $110,000. As for fuel misers, Bonhams sold a 1977 Honda Civic CVCC for $15,400, RM Sotheby’s a 1962 DAF, the Dutch pioneer of CVT automatic transmissions that have become ubiquitous, for $8,800.

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