Insights From Monterey Car Auctions Amidst Million-dollar Ferraris

The Monterey Car Week, a realm usually ablaze with the glittering sales of million-dollar Ferraris and other high-end luxury vehicles, took an unexpected turn this year. The auctions in Monterey faced a challenging terrain as buyers grappled with an abundance of vehicles and logistical complexities. This tumultuous landscape played out against the backdrop of the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Carmel, California.

As the week concluded, the collective sales tally barely breached $400 million across five auction houses, including post-auction sales, in contrast to the $473 million of the previous year. A noticeable decline in the average sell-through rate, standing at 68% for 1,225 vehicles, compared to last year’s healthier 78% for 1,023 vehicles, signaled a turbulent market. A sell-through rate of 80% or higher is generally considered a sign of auction robustness.

The slide extended to average sale prices, which faltered from $591,768 to $477,981. Even prestigious Ferraris faced headwinds, despite their typically resilient market stance. A 1967 Ferrari 412 P from Bonhams, while still a top seller, garnered $30.2 million—disappointingly below the anticipated $40 million. Another example, a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM from RM Sotheby’s, reached a high bid of $17 million but failed to meet its reserve and remained unsold.

“It’s chaotic,” reflects Stephen Serio, an automotive broker with over three decades of experience attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance auctions. He comments on the shifts in the market, expressing uncertainty about the comeback of certain once-celebrated vehicles.

Ferraris Hold Their Ground as Prewar Beauties Shine

The spotlight during the Monterey Car Week was not confined to postwar luxury vehicles. Prewar automobiles, those hailing from the World War II era, provided a ray of hope amid the subdued atmosphere. Notably, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster, once owned by the Shah of Afghanistan, won the highest prize at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The interest in prewar classics is evident as Bentley successfully reaps millions from its prewar continuation series. Additionally, an increasing number of younger enthusiasts are participating in rallies with these vintage vehicles, a phenomenon contributing to their popularity.

Great cars of yesteryears continue to resonate, driven by their craftsmanship, quality, and timeless design. The market is witnessing rising interest in these rolling works of art, as evidenced by the escalating prices.

Prewar treasures had their moment in the sun during the auctions. Notably, Gooding’s top sales featured prewar gems like a 1914 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout ($4.7 million), a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Cabriolet ($4.5 million), and a 1912 Simplex 50 HP Toy-Tonneau ($4 million). RM Sotheby’s also achieved remarkable prices, with a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Tourer by Corsica fetching nearly $5.4 million.

Remarkably, RM Sotheby’s presented a collection of derelict Ferraris in a hurricane-damaged barn setting, known as “barn finds.” These unassuming finds surprised with their robust sales, often surpassing the value of comparable restored counterparts. Notable among them was a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider Series I by Pinin Farina, which fetched almost $1.9 million—close to the value of a similar, better-conditioned model from the previous year. Restoration costs for these barn finds, though substantial, underscore their appeal.

A Porsche Turbulence Amid Ups and Downs

The Monterey auctions revealed a turbulence particularly pronounced within the top-tier Porsche market. Broad Arrow’s sale of a 918 Spyder for $1.8 million stood as a bright spot, despite the auction house’s inability to sell other notable Porsches. RM Sotheby’s managed to sell a 2019 Porsche 935 for $1.45 million and a 1988 Porsche 959 for $1.5 million, yet struggled with models like the 1957 Porsche 356 A.

Gooding faced challenges with its Porsche offerings, withdrawing some from sale, and encountering unsold listings, such as the 1996 911 GT2 and the 1975 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR.

Japanese Market Dynamics and Future Prospects

The market for Japanese domestic market vehicles displayed a mixed landscape. Broad Arrow achieved a record price of $632,000 for a Honda NSX-R. However, Japanese vehicles failed to secure spots among the top 10 sales at any of the auction houses in Monterey. Notably, significant Subaru Impreza 22Bs, including a prototype, remained unsold.

Looking ahead, the 73rd Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is slated for August 18, 2024, accompanied by auctions in the preceding days. The event will highlight Packard and Maserati, promising another chapter in the ever-evolving world of collector car auctions.

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