The multi-million-dollar orange eye candy in the window at Sotheby's in New York is as shiny as a Jeff Koons sculpture.
A 1998 McLaren F1 sports car attracted gawkers – men in Italian suits, leather jackets and doctors' robes from a nearby hospital – from the moment it appeared in the company's Upper East Side headquarters on June 3.
The McLaren, estimated at more than $12-million (all figures U.S.), is part of a private collection of 30 automobiles that includes at least nine Ferraris, two Lamborghinis and two Bugattis that will be auctioned by RM Sotheby's on Aug. 13. The seller is an unidentified collector based in Florida.
The sale will take place during a six-day annual classic car extravaganza at California's coastal towns of Carmel and Monterey and at the Pebble Beach golf course. Last year, sales at Bonhams, Gooding & Co., and RM Auctions reached almost $400-million, a record tally boosted by escalating prices for high– end collectibles.
"The market has remained very strong," said Ian Kelleher, managing director of RM Sotheby's, a partnership formed when Sotheby's took a 25 per cent ownership interest in RM Auctions in February. "People are not sitting on their hands. There are new buyers entering the market and younger collectors whose taste is evolving."
In May, RM Sotheby's tallied $54-million from the sale of a single-owner collection of about 75 automobiles and memorabilia, Kelleher said. Bonhams set the record last year for a single collection sale at $65.9-million. The August sale in California, estimated at more than $65-million, is set to smash this record.
The 1998 McLaren F1 for sale in August may establish a new auction record for the model. The record – for a 1997 version – is $8.5-million, set at Gooding in 2013.
The McLaren F1 is known as a supercar – the fastest road version of a race car, which aren't allowed to be driven on regular streets. The version for sale in California is a hybrid between the street McLaren F1 and the McLaren F1 GTR that raced at Le Mans.
The company produced 64 standard road F1 versions, upgrading two of them – including the one for sale – with a higher horsepower engine. Such supercars originally sold for $1-million each, Kelleher said.
The unusual design features three seats in the front, with the driving seat flanked by two passenger seats and doors that open upwards like wings. The seats are snug and deep, making it difficult to exit gracefully.
"It's not designed for hefty men," Kelleher said. "It's for someone who likes to go fast, someone who likes the sound of the engine. Comfort is secondary."
Those who own the F1 model include fashion designer Ralph Lauren and comedian Jay Leno, Kelleher said.
"It's one of the smallest clubs you can be in," Kelleher said.
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