the view through the windshield car blog

Monterey Week: 2015

Last week's annual car fest offered the usual mix of spectacular and interesting vehicles on display as well as some wild auto auction results. Monterey Week includes road rallies, races, auctions, displays, seminars, exhibitions, parties and new model introductions by auto manufacturers. And traffic jams, as people try to attend every event and cram in every activity.

It can be exhausting. I know. I traveled there in 1996, when things were far less hectic with fewer people in attendance and not as many venues. (And yes, I still have my Pebble Beach Miracle Hat.) In my lifetime, I've been to hundreds of automotive events and nothing compared to Monterey. I recommend that every car enthusiast do Monterey Week at least once in his/her lifetime. It's Pamplona for those who are interested in powerful, snorting creatures of a mechanical nature. With wheels rather than hooves.

The area's convention bureau expects more than 85,000 visitors will drop more than $50 million on hotel rooms, restaurants and bar tabs this year. The locals whine but they like the trickle-down effect of all that money, so they smile, make nice and mutter under their breath when no one is listening.

At Sunday's Pebble Beach Concours - the pinnacle and conclusion of the Monterey Week experience, Best of Show was awarded to a 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A sport cabriolet, owned by Jim Patterson, from Louisville, Kentucky.

Then there were the auctions.

RM Sothebys gaveled down several high-dollar autos last week, including a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM - red, of course ... Rosso Cina, the Color of Passion - with an extensive racing history that went for $17.6 million. A 1998 McLaren F1 LM-Specification went for $13.75 million. Its claim to fame included being the second-to-last road version of these famous supercars built. Plus, the coupe is only one of two with the LM spec package, which included the 680-horsepower racing version of the V12.

A 2005 Ferrari Enzo sold for $6.05 million; it was the last one ever made. A 1994 Ferrari F40 LM race car fetched $3.3 million and a 1967 275 GTB/4 also crossed the block at $3.3 million.

Southebys sold a 1953 Jaguar C-Type racing car for $13.2 million, well above the estimate, for what is believed to be the highest price ever paid for that English marque at auction. The very first Bugatti Veyron (Chassis No. 001) - a crimson and black 2005 model with less than 800 miles on the odometer - went across the block for $18 million.

At Bonhams, a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Competizione Alloy Berlinetta fetched $8.5 million. A 1971 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider brought $2.64 million and a 1985 288 GTO had the hammer drop at $2.365 million. A 1951 212 Inter Cabriolet with a body by Vignale sold for $2.2 million; it had scored second-in-class at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Bonhams auctioned a 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America for $1,952,500 and a very rare 1949 Veritas Scorpion cabriolet - "obscure car marques for $800, Alex" - for $907,500.

The Veritas Scorpion was a low-volume German-made sports car, powered by a 100 horsepower BMW 328 engine. There ... now you don't have to Google it.

A fetching orange 1967 Lamborghini Miura P400 went under Bonhams' gavel at $1,039,600. Later, Mecum Auctions sold an orange 1969 Miura P400 S for $2.3 million.

I remember the first time I saw a Miura roar by me on the Pennyslvania Turnpike in the early '70s. It was a lime-green headturner. A Miura still turns heads today; designer Marcello Gandini's sleek styling has withstood the test of time.

I watched the Mecum Monterey Auctions on television. I experienced most of it on super fast-forward because ... well ... how many overrestored Camaros, Mustangs, Chevelles and other muscle cars can one bear to watch, anyway?

Here is a sampling of interesting/stunning/unusual vehicles that caught my eye as they crossed the block:

A beautiful red over maroon 1932 Lincoln KB dual-cowl sport phaeton went under the gavel at $230,000.

This particular Brunn-bodied, V12-powered automobile won Best of Show at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance and first in class at the Meadow Brook Concours.

A dark blue 1939 Ford DeLuxe convertible sold for $62,000. These Fords are nice-looking cars, sell for a bit less than the iconic 1940 models and make a nice show or touring car.

In 1939, Ford sold 10,442 of these 85 horsepower V8 DeLuxe droptops at a price of $788 each. Which sounds reasonable until you realize that lots of folks were only making sixteen bucks a week. And had to dress up in suits and wear fedoras, which required the expense of periodic cleaning and blocking.

Aw, shucks, those good old days weren't so great after all.

A handsome 1941 Cadillac Series 60 Special, styled by GM's legendary Bill Mitchell, sold for $30,000. This was a really good buy for an elegant silver over charcoal four-door sedan.

The conservative colors make it look like a banker's car. Until you see the red wheels and realize it was probably owned by a cigar-chomping, persuasive stockbroker who encouraged his customers to buy on margin.

A gorgeous canary-yellow 1941 Cadillac Series 62 sedan with a tan leather interior fetched $33,000. That also seemed like a bargain.

This yellow one wasn't a banker's car either, methinks. It may have been originally owned by a still-saucy ex-flapper who married well. Or a prosperous madam with a small chain of brothels. Love those dual spotlights and rear skirts, honey.

A cream-colored 1946 Ford Sportsman convertible 'woody' sold for $150,000. Last year at Monterey, a dark green 1947 Ford Sportsman woody convertible sold for $240,000, so - in comparison - this baby was a relative bargain. A total of 1,209 Sportsmen convertibles were made in 1946. Priced new at $1,982, they cost about 75% more than a '46 Ford DeLuxe coupe. Plus you had to buy a lot of marine varnish for the wood.

A black, bulbous 1948 Packard wood station wagon went under the hammer at $50,000. In 2013, Barrett-Jackson sold a professionally-restored dark green 1948 Packard Bathtub Woody wagon for $85,000.

Like single-malt scotch and female amputees, Bathtub Packards are an acquired taste ... and not for everyone.

A red 1949 Crosley Hotshot roadster, not unlike the one Henry N. Manney III used to race back in the day, sold for $21,000.

A 1949 Willys Jeepster, painted yellow, just like the one my high school classmate Rick G. used to own, fetched $26,500. I drove Rick's Jeepster once. Nice, low-speed cruiser but it didn't like being driven at speed - it was quite the wanderer - and was underpowered as well. In 1949, you could buy a new Jeepster for as little as $1,495; 2,960 were produced.

A maroon 1949 Mercury woody station wagon was gaveled down for $70,000. My uncle, who was an executive at a Philadelphia area food company, had one of these but I think it was an almost identical-looking 1950 model. His was light green.

Mercury sold over 8,000 of these woodies in 1949 with prices starting at just over $2,700.

A 1955 turquoise Ford Thunderbird was sold for $50,000. A few minutes later, a 1956 Barbie-pink Thunderbird found a buyer for $70,000. The little two-seater 'Birds have never lost their charm, have they?

A 1956 white and gold DeSoto Fireflite 'Pacesetter' Indy pace car replica convertible sold for $75,000. I was surprised because, three years ago, a 1956 Fireflite convertible brought $368,500 at auction. On the other hand, a black and gold 1959 DeSoto Adventurer convertible (one of 97 produced that year and originally stickered at $4,749) sold for a whopping $220,000 the next day.

No one wanted DeSotos when Chrysler made 'em; now they're a pretty-hot auction item.

A black 1957 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertible with a red and white interior sold for $65,000. Ford made 77,726 of these convertibles and sold every one of them to willing buyers at prices of $2,505 and up.

In early 1957, times were good, the sun was shining and everyone felt rich. Then the recession hit and things didn't look quite so sunny anymore. Sales of the '58 Sunliner fell by 55%. Ouch.

A brown and white 1957 Ford Fairlane Sunliner was briefly driven by James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) during his 2002 visit to Cuba in the film, 'Die Another Day'. The figure in the car is a very generic version of Mr. Brosnan. This model is part of a licensed James Bond series of 1:43 scale offerings, manufactured in China. I own one - at $13, it was a lot cheaper than a full-size model. Plus, you never have to change the oil.

A 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz done in lipstick red with a red and white leather interior found a buyer at $120,000. The Eldorado Biarritz was the Cadillac's top-of-the-line convertible. Priced at a hefty $7,286, Cadillac sold 1,800 of 'em in '57. I believe both Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley owned '57 Eldos.

An odd little green and white 1957 Willys Jeep Forward-Control COE-style stake-bed truck went under the hammer at $28,000.

The were powered by Willys small (134 cubic-inch) Hurricane engine, which would probably struggle to pull a hobo off a can of Sterno.

In '57, these were a rare sight, although I was surprised to learn that 9,738 Forward-Control trucks were sold that year.

Interestingly, these vehicles were styled by noted auto designer Brooks Stevens.

A black 1959 Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop fetched $34,000. When new, these carried sticker prices starting at $3,346. Ford made 12,915 Skyliners in '59 - the final year the retractable was offered. I think the '59 models are the best-looking retractables because of the squared-off design of the 1959 Ford and the relatively high and flat back deck.

A 1959 red and while, 15.5 horsepower, four-seat BMW Isetta 600 sold for $23,500. In '59, you could have bought the Deluxe model for $1,487.

A white 1959 Morris Minor deluxe convertible found a new buyer for $16,000. It was originally priced new at $1,745. Morris, the Oxford, England manufacturer, was part of the dreaded British Motor Corporation - the monster that pretty much destroyed Britain's domestic car industry.

The Minor was powered by a 4-cylinder overhead-valve engine which made 34 horsepower and was hooked to a four-speed manual tranny. VW Beetles of the period had 36 horsepower engines, so the Morris was in the right ballpark powerwise.

Over 200,000 imported cars were sold in the U.S. in 1959. Most were Volkswagens. The Morris hardly made a dent. Not even a Minor one.

A 1960 Chrysler New Yorker convertible, finished in silver-blue, sold for $125,000. In 1960, Chrysler made 556 of these top-of-the-line drop-tops and these finned icons with the fake spare tire cover on the back deck carried sticker prices starting at $4,875.

In 1960, fins were nearing the end of their faddishness, soon to be tossed into the Dustbin of Style. The spare tire cover was so flat that it looked like a oversize, garish toilet seat lid.

Did you know that car companies packed away all the clay from their finned styling models, stored it for 35 years and then used it to make bulked-up SUV styling models?

A 1960 Porsche 356B roadster, done up in red with a tan interior, sold for $170,000. The 356 models were truly the embodiment of P.J. O'Rourke's "ass-engined Nazi slot car" description. They handled badly at limit and were quite prone to sudden oversteer. There was a lot of Volkswagen DNA in these early Porsches yet they cost 2-3 times as much as a Beetle.

I've always thought the best bet was to buy a VW Karmann Ghia, slap a Judson supercharger on it, put an aftermarket transverse leaf in the rear to limit oversteer and create a Porsche-beating sleeper. Take the money you saved, put it in a good mutual fund and, ten years later, cash it out and then trade the K-G in for a really nice car.

A black 1961 Chrysler 300G hardtop with red interior went under the hammer at $61,000. These were showroom-priced at $5,400 in '61 and only 1,280 hardtops were produced. Convertibles are much rarer though; Chrysler only made 337 of them.

Later, a metallic green 1962 Chrysler 300 H convertible with green interior found a buyer at $80,000.

A red 1963 Corvette split-window coupe sold for $165,000.

The '63 Vette was the first American-made production sports car which could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Europe's best. Independent rear suspension made it handle; the bulletproof 327 Chevy V8 made it roar; a four-speed Muncie tranny made it go and the striking styling was GM at its best and made the Corvette zoom out of the showroom. It was the embodiment of the same 'can-do' American spirit that put men on the moon. (The Corvette was the preferred ride of astronauts, by the way.)

A navy-blue 1963 Shelby Cobra roadster with the 289 cubic-ench Ford powerplant sold for $1,000,000. These original cars have now become too valuable to drive; that's why so many people purchase Cobra replicas which they can enjoy on the road.

A rare red Toyota 2000GT sports coupe gaveled down at $925,000. Only 351 were made, mostly in right-hand drive. About 60 were imported to America. The 2000GT was priced higher than a Porsche 911, $1,3300 more than an E-Type Jaguar and almost 45% more than a new Corvette. No wonder sales were miniscule.

A triple-black 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible was sold by Mecum Auctions for $2,250,000. It's one of just 14 produced for the 1970 model year, and one of nine to be fitted with an automatic gearbox. This car was the personal company lease of John Herlitz, who is one of the main men responsible for this very car's styling. I wish I could get that kind of money for my old Plymouth. I mean, it's one-of-a-kind as well. Sigh.

Incidentally, a new 1970 fully-equipped Cuda convertible could be had new for about $3,800. So, as an investment, this car has returned more than 15% per year over 45 years. And you thought cars were supposed to depreciate.

A 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL in white with a navy blue soft top (no hardtop was included) fetched $81,000. It reminded me of my friend Marty Hayes' old Merc - a sweet ride in its day. Marty was a man of taste ... God rest his soul.

A green 1971 Porsche 911T coupe went under the hammer at $73,000. In 1971, I almost bought a new Porsche 911 (it wouldn't have been green, though). Instead, I saved my money and had a new house built the following year. It wasn't as much fun but I think I made more money on the deal.

A pale yellow 1972 Jaguar E-Type Series III roadster fetched $67,000.

The earlier E-Types typically command more auction money. A red 1966 Series I roadster failed to sell at a $190,000 bid at this very same auction.

A red 1974 DeTomaso Pantera found a buyer at an even $100,000. Which reminded me of a story. I once worked in an office with a designer named Jim. He had a flair for showmanship but could be arrogant and moody at times.

Jim began an affair with a female co-worker. Then he dumped his wife and kids and moved in with the girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, the pair were driving matching Panteras to work. I couldn't figure out how they pulled that off. He made less money than I did as did she, yet my wife and I were driving matching black Volkswagen Beetles at the time. Life's not always fair.

The girlfriend and Jim soon departed from the firm; I heard he was asked to leave. I wonder what ever happened to the couple. And their Panteras.

Incidentally, Elvis owned a DeTomaso Pantera. A yellow one. He shot it one day when it wouldn't start. "Thank yew. Thank yew vurry much." Bang.

A slate gray 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera (aka: 911 Turbo), the last car special-ordered by legendary actor and automotive enthusiast Steve McQueen found a buyer at $1.95 million.

The car was not quite stock; McQueen installed a switch on the dashboard that shut off the rear lights "in case he was being chased on Mulholland Drive" by cops. It's just another reason ol' Steve was known as the King of Cool.

A yellow 1982 Toyota FJ-43 Land Cruiser fetched $42,000. Later, a 1967 big, four-door FJ-45V Land Cruiser, finished in blue and white, found a buyer at $80,000. These vehicles are not my cup of tea but as a wise old car salesman once told me, "There's an ass for every seat."

A red 1987 Porsche 928 S4 found a sucker buyer for $15,000. My Porsche-knowledgeable friend Ray has called these beasts "a Maintenance Nightmare!" I've never heard a good thing about the 928.

Engine rebuilds used to run something like $17,000 - and that was back in the 1980s. The 928 had an retail price around $38,000 when new and was the flagship of the Porsche line. Now it has become the Titanic of the collector car world with values seeming to sink each time one changes hands. The reasons are twofold.

First, Porschephiles simply couldn't stand the notion of a water-cooled, front-engined car from Stuttgart. Kinda like the way the Cadillac Club treats Cimarrons.

Second, parts and service for the 928 are horrendously expensive. One trip to the mechanic for a transmission service or even to have a power window motor replaced and all thoughts that this car was a bargain will vanish. This is another once-mighty, now-fallen supercar that has a very limited future as a collectible. I wish the auction buyer lots of luck - he'll need it.

A red 1989 Ferrari F40 fetched an even $1,000,000. And the very sight of that car reminded me of a story. In the early 1990s, we often dined at the Couch Street Fish House (it closed in 2000) in the questionable neighborhood (aka - seedy, filled with drunks and drifters) of Old Town Portland.

The establishment had a small valet lot and, when we arrived in my Lincoln Mark VII, the car was always buried in obscurity amongst the other vehicular iron. When I purchased my new '92 Twin Turbo Nissan 300ZX and fitted it with chrome wheels, the valets parked it right next to the door, like a piece of automotive jewelry.

One evening, I exited the restaurant and found my Z buried amongst the more plebeian vehicles. It had been dethroned; a low-slung, red Ferrari F40 was parked by the door. Fame - especially car fame - is fleeting.

A red 1990 Lamborghini Countach '25th Anniversary Edition' was sold for $385,000. Someone told me that "Countach!" is an off-color expression of surprise, sort of the Italian version of "Holy Shit!" And ... that's pretty much the reaction you had the first time you saw one of these wild things.

All in all, it was an exciting car-centric week on the peninsula. (posted 8/18/15)

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copyright 2015 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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