The Official Auction of Pebble Beach

With less than six weeks to go until the annual collector car extravaganza that is Pebble Beach week, there is little doubt that the myriad details of accommodations, itineraries and vehicle transport logistics are being honed as fastidiously as the richly detailed paint jobs of the superlative historic cars that will take the 18th hole of Pebble’s golf course during the 60th annual Concours d’Elegance.  And because many visiting collectors also attend the week’s events with the intention of buying as much as exhibiting, a majority of the major auction houses have a multi-day sale scheduled.  While Russo & Steele has cultivated a reputation for American muscle cars and street machines, and RM Auctions can claim the largest volume of worldwide operations, it is the relative upstart Gooding & Company that holds the title of host of the officially endorsed auction of the Pebble Beach Concours.

Held at Pebble’s nearby Equestrian Center on the Saturday night before the Concours and the succeeding Sunday night, the Gooding sale typically offers the finest available selection of preserved antiques and expertly restored classics.  Indeed, Gooding’s “Quality is our style” tagline has grown to be much more than just a casual claim, as most of the collector car world has come to acknowledge the discerning selection and authenticity of the lots offered by the company.  This year’s selection of cars promises to be characteristically desirable, and will surely feature a number of multi-million dollar sales, including:

This 1927 Mercedes-Benz S Boattail Speedster is one of very few Benzes to feature coachwork by Murphy, the Pasadena-based designer who is far better known for his bodywork on American makes like Duesenberg and Packard.  In addition to appearing in 1935’s Sylvia Scarlet with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, the car was owned by the Marx Brothers and was once a participant in a parlor bet between Zeppo Marx and Phil Berg, a Hollywood manager who handled Clark Gable and Gary Cooper among others.  Berg claimed his Duesenberg Model J could best the Mercedes in a sprint, and the resulting Muroc Match Race held in the dry lakes of East Los Angeles went on to become another legend of Hollywood’s Golden Era.  Gooding estimates the car will garner over $4 million.

Of course no such auction would be complete without a fabulous Ferrari, so Gooding plans to offer at least three such exceptional examples of Maranello’s genius.  The 1961 250 GT SWB SEFAC hot rod above is one of only 20 so constructed, and was originally sold to Count Volpi, a European aristocrat known in auto racing circles for his successful Scuderia Serenissima racing team.  Claiming significant racing provenance that includes a 3rd place finish at the Tour de France, this car also features a certified Ferrari Factory restoration.

Gooding will also offer a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione that offers some rarified distinctions, even among the lofty realm of California Spiders.  Such cars have been earning big numbers over the last few years, most notably when a black example once owned by actor James Coburn set a collector car auction record in May 2008 of over $10 million.  This particular Cal Spider is fitted with a number of components that were intended to improve its performance in racing competition, most notably a 100% alloy body, covered headlights, and a Tipo 168 engine, the most powerful motor ever installed in a Cal Spider.  Both Ferraris are expected to fetch in excess of $6 million.

A quick survey of some of the slightly more pedestrian offerings at this year’s Gooding & Company sale:

1931 Bentley 8-Litre

1951 Ferrari 340 America

1955 Maserati A6G/54 Berlinetta, Coachwork by Zagato

1971 Lamborghini Miura S

1954 Fiat 8V

All photos by Pawel Litwinski, except the 1931 Bentley 8-Litre and the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB SEFAC, photos by Simon Clay.  All images courtesy of Gooding & Company.