The January 20-21 auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona, are important because they set the tone for the higher-profile Amelia Island and Pebble Beach auctions that happen in the following months.
The results in Arizona will indicate just how confident the most powerful global collectors are – especially with the spectre of a new president and new economic policies looming large
"[A pending Trump presidency] has seemed to boost confidence," said David Gooding, head of Gooding & Co. auction house. "I think that certainly, our wealthiest clients are feeling like there are maybe tax benefits to them under the new administration. They will have lower taxes and perhaps more discretionary wealth to spend on things they want to buy – i.e., cars."
That's one theory. But oftentimes, it's rampant and generalized uncertainty – rather than a known factor such as a new president – that pushes investors toward hard assets. Either way, Gooding said, the best cars will still find homes.
"A Trump presidency could be good for the car market, although it's not something I would have seen coming," he said. "The bottom line is that many collectors are quite passionate about these cars, and the special cars will do well, no matter what happens."
Which cars might do well? Oh, the usual: blue-chip Ferraris, prewar Bugattis, racing Corvettes, and a growing contingent from the 1980s.
1932 Packard Twin Six 906
This Packard is a surprise newcomer to the Scottsdale auction list – so new it doesn't have a lot number or listing yet. But it's a big one, formerly owned by Al Jolson and itself a two-time Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance winner. When it initially debuted, the car was Packard's flagship model and a beacon of American prestige. It was made to compete with the best V12 and V16 offerings from Duesenberg and Cadillac. This model's V12 engine gets 160 horsepower on a four-speed manual transmission; top speed was more than 161 kilometres per hour.
Coachwork inside is by the iconic company, Dietrich: "Dietrichs are really revered and famous for their beautiful windshield," Gooding said. "That is the focal point of the whole car. It's a very pretty windshield that is set back and angled and which mirrors the radiator at the front of the lights. It carries a beautiful, sweeping dramatic line that accentuates the long and very elegant car design."
Estimate: Upon request.
This is an extremely rare car – only 15 exist today. This is the sole model built and raced that has the Corvette heavy-duty 427ci L88 aluminum-head racing engine option. It has a four-speed manual transmission that has been rebuilt, as was the heavy-duty 4.11 rear axle, but it retains the original chassis and suspension, fibreglass body, and fibreglass and aluminum interior. And yes, it is street-legal, even though it has been used mostly as a racing car. The engine was originally 375hp but has been rebuilt to 425hp.
1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle
Known casually as the CERV, the research car was developed from 1959 to 1960 as a mid-engine, single-seat race car. Engineers used it to develop the Chevrolet body, chassis, and suspension systems; it was also a main precursor to the Chevrolet Corvette. The CERV 1 had a 350hp, small-block V8, a four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and a top speed of 331 kilometres per hour. This one did race, but it was mostly used for testing.
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy
Ferraris remain the most singular blue chip cars to collect this year, and the 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB fits right in the middle of that group. It was designed by Pininfarina and had coachwork by Scaglietti (the two premier collaborating houses of the time), and is super-rare: Only 205 of these were made. Only 80 had a lightweight aluminum body such as the one on sale here. Plus they had power: 280 brake horsepower on a V12 engine and a five-speed manual transaxle.
"The 275s are one of the all-time revered iconic designs on classic Ferraris," Gooding said. "People widely regard them as one of the most beautiful Pininfarina designs. They built far fewer alloy cars than the others; they were lightweight and more expensive to build; and they were faster. They tended to be used for competition purposes. So they were a more exclusive car."
1970 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 Coupe 'Black Stallion'
Oldsmobile claims to have created the first precursor to the muscle car with its V8 Rocket 88 in 1949. This is not that, but it's directly from the same line. It's known as a W-30 Holiday Coupe and is one of only 1032 built in 1970, with a four-speed manual transmission and 370 total horsepower. It can cruise at more than 161 kph. This one comes with the spoiler that was original to the owner, who added it, plus pearl-white bucket seats and a mountain of documentation about its heritage.
1925 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix
This Bugatti was the premier example of its day; American Wallis C. Bird, a Standard Oil heir, bought it in Paris in 1925. Only two people have owned it since – and to good end: This car, in French Racing Blue, is in mint condition, with its original chassis, bodywork, engine, and early production interior trim and details. The model has a 95-horsepower, inline eight-cylinder engine, twin-carburetors, and a four-speed manual gearbox.
"In general, we will see some very strong prices for prewar cars," Gooding said. "The Bugatti, the Packard, British cars from the 1930s. We will see cars like that do well. These are really interesting cars that don't come on the market very often."
2012 Hennessey Venom GT Spyder Owned by Steven Tyler
This very rare car will sell to benefit Janie's Fund, a charity that helps young abused girls. It's the fifth of only 12 Hennessey Venom GTs ever made and was the first of the Spyder variety produced. It's also fast: It hit 435 kph at Kennedy Space Centre in 2014 and has a 0-96 kph sprint speed of 2.7 seconds. (It can do 0-321 in 14.5 seconds). The 7.0-litre V8 engine produces 1244 horsepower, drowned out only by the custom JL Audio stereo system a rock star would have.
Modern cars such as this are becoming increasingly popular with collectors, though buyers are much more specific and picky about what they want. Paint colours must be original; mileage must be super-low. Custom upgrades and the perfect combination of original options must abound.
1968 Corvette L88 Coupe
The Corvette L88 coupe is special because it is what Chevrolet came up with to combat Carroll Shelby's impressive V8 Cobra – and it is widely considered to be one of the most special Corvettes ever made. This was one of only 80 built in 1968; it has the same original matching-numbers engine and drive train but was otherwise restored to mint condition in 1987. The engine is a 540hp V8 with a four-speed manual transmission. Top speed is near 274 kph. In the '60s, similar versions of the car cost just under A$7800, loaded with options.
2006 Ford GT
The Ford GT has experienced quite the renaissance lately, with the best ones selling for just under a half-million dollars. The mid-engine two-seater was produced for two years in 2005-2006, but it was inspired by the Ford GT40 cars from the 1960s. This one from 10 years ago has just 1770 kilometres on it. It has a supercharged, six-speed manual V8 setup. Top speed is 330 kph; it can go 0-96 kph in 3.9 seconds.
Often, Gooding said, collectors who start buying things from more modern eras gradually move back in time to collect models from the 1950s and earlier. "Oftentimes these collectors, that is where they start. So definitely that market (for more current cars) is alive and well."
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet A
This was the choice car for the era's most powerful businessmen and socialites. It had 150hp and a 177 kph top speed, a phenomenal feat for such a large car at the time. The interior also has lavish leather seating, walnut trim, chrome-plated instruments, and black lacquer paint. Even better, the car comes with such modern accoutrements as a Becker radio, sun visors, fog lamps, and sophisticated controls on the dashboard.
Check out the gallery above to see the cars up for auction at 2017's Scottsdale Classic.