Our top 10 picks from RM Sotheby’s Scottsdale catalogue

| 4 Jan 2018

We’ve only just said goodbye to 2017 and already the classic calendar is packed with mouthwatering events, from indoor shows such as Rétromobile and the Bremen Classic through to outdoor gatherings such as Bicester Heritage’s brilliant Sunday Scramble. It’s a busy time for auctions, too, with the eyes of collectors and dealers turning on Scottsdale, Arizona, where several top auction houses will be holding sales in January.

RM Sotheby’s offering is particularly strong, covering multi-million dollar 1950s race cars to modern classic supercars, and everything inbetween. Even for those with pockets too shallow to fly to the event  (let alone place a bid!), there’s plenty of fun to be had pressing your nose to the glass. With that in mind, we’ve picked our top 10 lots from the 18-19 January sale. 

10. 1977 International Scout II Traveler Custom – $70,000-90,000

It’s a left field choice, but there’s something about this modified International Scout II that just screams ‘good fun’. The car was built in 1977 – the same year in which Jerry Boone stormed to victory in the Baja 1000, also behind the wheel of a Scout – and it seems to have been built in that car’s image.

The Scout’s list of improvements is impressive, topped by a 6-litre GM engine mated to a 4L60E transmission and Dana 300 transfer case. There’s also plenty to improve its off-road performance, notably a set of heavy-duty tyres, a winch, and a useful swing-out tyre carrier in the rear compartment. Not one for the purists, but a fine restoration and a very usable classic – particularly if you enjoy the odd green lane.

9. 1959 Mercedes-Benz O 319 – $175,000-200,000

Perhaps a slightly more unlikely candidate for modification is this stunning 1959 Mercedes O 319 bus, which as well as being fully restored to a high standard has been subtly upgraded and converted for use as a campervan. While the modern leather interior seems a bit jarring at first glance, the rest of the mods are more successful – and harder to spot.

Beneath the engine cover you’ll find a modern, fuel-injected Mercedes-Benz petrol engine mated to an automatic transmission, while under the vehicle propane and water tanks have been neatly hidden along the chassis rails. The conventional suspension system has been thrown out in favour of a modern air ride setup and the entire bus has been professionally wired for electricity, with neat lights illuminating each cubby and storage area and a bespoke cabinet housing the sink and cooker.

8. 1990 Riva Ferrari 32 – $125,000-175,000

Two of Italy’s most revered brands came together in 1990 in a collaboration that led to the Riva Ferrari 32 – a twin V8-powered yacht bursting with character. Just 40 examples were built, and the Ferrari link is clear thanks to its striking red livery and Testarossa-style air intakes along its flanks.

This boat is the 28th built and has been run for less than 80 hours since new, as well as benefitting from a recent detail and an engine-out service, which was completed in 2015. The same boat sold at auction in Monaco for just under $100,000 in 2016, so there’s a good chance of picking up a bargain, if you’re in the market.

7. 1965 Shelby GT350R – $1,000,000-1,200,000

More than a million dollars may seem like a lot of money to pay for a Mustang, but this is unlike any other you’re likely to find. When new, the car took part in the ‘Cobra Caravan’ – a 1965 PR exercise laid on by Ford to showcase its latest and greatest models. The GT350R toured 12 cities of the United States before eventually being sold and exported to Peru, where it was campaigned extensively, including at the first running of the Caminos del Inca.

The GT350R finally returned to the United States in 1984 in the bowels of a military cargo plane, only to be sold in Miami for $75,000, the proceeds of which were immediately squandered in the casinos of Las Vegas. The car was restored once before being trusted to John Brown of Thoroughbred Restorations, after which it picked up a string of top concours wins.

6. 1950 Delahaye 135M Cabriolet Atlas by Guilloré – $275,000-325,000

It may not be the most valuable vehicle in RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale, but it’s undeniably one of the most beautiful. The car is one of just five Cabriolet Atlases built, and is thought to be the only one to have survived.

The Delahaye was discovered in France in the 1990s by French Club Delahaye member Francois-Michel Faucher, and it could hardly have fallen into better hands. The enthusiast carried out a sensitive restoration of the engine and running gear before selling the car to club founder Philippe Looten, who in turn sold it to Hugo Modderman. Modderman had the Atlas repainted in its original shade of blue before using the car extensively, including the 1500-mile Pebble Beach Motoring Challenge in 2012.

5. 1964 Ferrari 250GT/L Berlinetta Lusso – $1,800,000-2,200,000

While it may have it topped in terms of exclusivity, even the attractive lines of the Delahaye Cabriolet Atlas can’t compete with the 1964 250GT/L Lusso, and this example looks like a real peach. The car is the 275th of 350 built and boasts a long and well-documented provenance, charting its journey from the Scaglietti works to the United States via Luigi Chinetti.

Along the way the Lusso changed hands a number of times – and changed colour almost as frequently. The most recent repaint took place in the ownership of Steve Wolf, a Boca Raton, Florida collector who undertook an extensive restoration with a view to FCA presentation. The rebuild was carried out by noted Ferrari restorer Rex Nguyen, who sourced authentic upholstery from The Netherlands before finishing the Lusso in Blu Sera. The car was then sold to the current vendor just two months after the restoration was completed, and it promptly scooped a class win at the 2014 Arizona Concours d’Elegance.

4. 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra ‘Semi-Competition’ – $2,000,000-2,400,000

Born out of Carroll Shelby’s competition programme, the 427 Cobra ‘Semi-Competition’ was essentially a roadgoing version of the brutal racer that featured the same oil cooler, bonnet scoop, flared arches and side-exit exhausts, as well as a 42-gallon fuel tank and external fuel filler.

Of the 53 ‘Semi-Competition’ cars produced, ‘CSX 3040’ is arguably one of the very best, thanks in no small part to an easy life in the hands of its early owners. The car had covered just under 9000 miles when it was sold by its second owner in 1973, and had only travelled 3100 miles more when its third owner, Briton Michael Haywood, sold it to Peter Briggs. Briggs displayed the car in his York Motor Museum in Australia, taking it for occasional runs to local events.

The Cobra returned to the US after 20 years in Australia, when the current owner appointed respected marque expert Mike McCluskey to lead the restoration effort. Great care was taken to preserve the car’s originality, and McCluskey reckons CSX 3040 ‘now exhibits about as perfect an example as you can get of all the S/C Cobras in existence today’. High praise indeed.

3. 1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Spider – $900,000-1,100,000

One of the most visually striking classics in the sale is this award-winning 1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Spider, which was fitted with a beautifully proportioned earlier-style 8C 2900 body commissioned by its earliest known owner, Corrado Cupellini.

By 1980 the Alfa Romeo had been sold to Homer Taskis, who entered the car in the 1987 Mille Miglia. It was then passed on to Laurence Frye, who began a restoration that was eventually completed in 1997. It was fitted with the present SS specification 6C 2500 engine at around the same time, and just prior to picking up second in class at Pebble Beach and Best of Show at Concorso Italiano in 1998.

2. 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Coupé – $1,600,000-2,000,000

Ferrari fans the world over will no doubt be intrigued by this fascinating 212 Inter Coupe, which boasts one-of-a-kind Ghia coachwork and took a starring role on the firm’s stand at the 1952 Paris Salon. It was there that the car first caught the eye of Argentine President Juan Peron, who later purchased it via an intermediary in Rome, a process that involved Maranello swapping the chassis number with that of another Ferrari in order to allow Peron to avoid import tax levelled at new vehicles.

Peron was ousted from power in 1955, and the Inter eventually surfaced at a local dealer in the 1970s, and was bought by Conrao Tenina in 1973. Tenina kept the car for 14 years before it returned to Europe in 1987, when it underwent full restoration. By 1999 the Ferrari had been bought by the current vendor. It went on to pick up silverware at several top events, including Pebble Beach.

1. 1954 Jaguar D-type Works – $12,000,000-15,000,000

One of the most exciting cars to be offered during the Scottsdale weekend is also one of the most valuable – and with very good reason. Works D-type ‘OKV 2’ is the third of five factory competition cars built in 1954 and served as the lead D-type of a three-car entry for that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, where it was campaigned by Stirling Moss and Peter Walker. None of the three D-types finished that race and OKV 2 again failed to make the distance at the 12 Hours of Reims a few weeks later, but it had more success at the Tourist Trophy, fitted with a 2.5-litre engine.

The car was then fitted with a 3.4-litre engine for the following year and served as a test bed for that year’s Le Mans programme, and the history file includes fascinating notes made by Norman Dewis. The Jaguar test driver ran the car at the Brighton Speed Trials, and it would go on to be driven by racing luminaries such as Ninian Sanderson and Ron Flockhart.

This is a rare chance to buy one of the most actively raced D-types of all time, and one driven by more racing greats than almost any other.