Monterey week was one of moments, some very big and others almost unnoticeably small.
At Bonham’s preview on Wednesday, an old friend, Jared Zaugg – someone I always trust to point out to me the interesting cars beyond those with a Porsche badge – alerted me to two interesting pieces. One was a tractor. Those of you who know my book background will understand how that struck a note. The other was a relic, stuck in a corner of their tent, backlit and nearly impossible to photograph in any reproducible way. On Friday, the tractor went on to sell for nearly double its high estimate. And the time capsule – a 1921 Stutz Series K Bearcat – something historian and real car-guy Wayne Carini had unearthed during one of his shows – achieved a very appropriate send off. Look for details in our auction coverage.
That evening, Rob Meyer made history. For weeks before the Monterey “week”, rumor mills had buzzed with hints that their lot 114, the 1955 Jaguar D-type that won Le Mans in 1956, was going to set records. An hour before the auction commenced, there was room to spread out, to relax. It almost seemed that tour busses arrived just before the sale began and – from a position in the back with a broad aisle behind it – the jostling for those seated became almost confrontational. Until the bidding started.
It opened at $10,000,000. That figure was attention-getting. But within 45 seconds, bidders had elevated the price to $16,000,000. Offers climbed steadily past $17 million. It became impossible to see anything from the back of the room because the audience had raised their cellphones to record each passing hundred thousand. It went on to $18 million.
Then something happened. RM’s auctioneer, an uninspiring and unengaging character called Bill Ruprecht – who happens also to be Sotheby’s president and CEO – plodded on. But the room fell silent. Eighteen point one, 18.2, 18.3. A British car – with stunning history – was about to sell for an astonishing sum: Eighteen four, 18.5, point 6, point 7, point 8.
At a $19 million dollar bid, the room broke into applause. But neither the bidders nor Ruprecht were finished. And oddly, it seemed as if the standing-room-only crowd kind of lost interest. Conversations began. Ho hum, nineteen million dollars. Where are we eating dinner tonight? The room began to buzz. At $19.4 another round of applause erupted. Then, as if everyone present recognized that figure only was the “hammer price” – RM was going to apply an additional ten percent buyer’s premium on top of that offer – the room fell silent again.
Nineteen point five. (That’s million dollars, for anyone who lost track.) Even from the back of the room it was possible to observe a hand flick up front. Nineteen point six.
Then, out of left field, a new bidder near the big tent’s entry doors called out nineteen point seven. What? Who! Where? All eyes tracked the voice connected to a raised arm as Ruprecht requested his bidder number. Even as he waggled his bidder number card, the mystery man backed into the crowd.
A few seconds later, someone up front advanced the price to $19,800,000. Ruprecht sought out the now-low bidder who had…hmm…disappeared into the crowd. And so it was done. The Jaguar sold to an actual human being who was live, serious, and on sight in the auction. The crowd acknowledged the accomplishment, which Ruprecht emphasized: It was the highest price ever paid for a British automobile anywhere at any time. You can read about this and other sales in our auction coverage.
The weekend was not done. Other things happened. But you can read about them in the rest of our issue as well.
In the meanwhile, I want to point out a new phone app worth looking at.
Those of you fluent in Ferrari history and in endurance-racing legends will recognize Harley Cluxton’s name. Cluxton III owns and operates Grand Touring Cars in Arizona. This is a place that likely engenders as much fantasy and lust as some other sites on the internet might provoke.
Cluxton’s son, Harley E., IV, has developed a phone app that will cut down my air travel and hotel costs. Harley IV, a very quick-witted and quickly-engaging young man, has developed HAMMER PRICE, an application that promises and delivers “auction results in real time.” Cluxton has been beta-testing his invention for more than a year and, sitting near him at Dana Mecum’s Saturday sale, I saw sale results at the same instant I tried to handwrite them in my mini catalog and my notebook.
Cluxton acknowledges the application covers only U.S. auctions so far – remember, this does require a human being on site to enter data as the hammer falls! He’s developing a network of correspondents to cover sales in Europe. In the meanwhile, if you’re an information addict – or a consignor – or bidder – https://www.hammerpricelive.com will become your new obsession.
You subscribe month-to-month, like many other innovations on your phone. And the website is extremely simple, straight forward, and friendly to navigate. If you’re selling or buying or just monitoring trends, this may become your new best secret weapon.
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We have filled this entire September issue with Things Monterey. Our guest commentator, Kevin Watts, weighs in with his perspective on… well, Things Monterey. Regular contributor, Sean Cridland, went without sleep for days to cover the Streets of Carmel, other streets throughout the area, the Porsche Werks Reunion, and other reunions all over town. Our Pebble Peach resident historian Warner Hall and photographer Barbara Hall wrap up their four-part series on the concours and what the things that happened this year may suggest for the next decades.
Finally, we will recap auction results. And because we know some of you are junkies for this kind of information, we’ll inform you of a few future auctions where Porsches hold pride of place. These are sales on which we will report in our October issue. In October as well we will return to our usual mix of features on interesting cars and owners.
Thanks for reading us.
Editor, Road Scholars Magazine