Wealthy car collectors were spending at RM Auctions' inaugural Sporting Classics of Monaco auction on May 1, smashing two world records
By Jack Martin
RM Auctions' inaugural Sporting Classics of Monaco event held on Saturday leaves little doubt that fine automobiles can be a rapidly appreciating investment. The average price achieved by the 88 cars which crossed the block was in excess of US$500,000 while the highest price fetched was EUR2,800,000 (US$3,799,600) for a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB (pictured top right). Some remarkable cars were sold on the day, including one of the world's most significant pre-war sports racing cars, the 1937 BMW 328 MM 'Buegelfalte' (undisclosed but believed to be in excess of US$6 million), a handmade Rolls Royce which was the most expensive car made in the world in 1933 (US$1,975,792) and a Maserati Tipo 61 'Birdcage' (US$3,343,648).
With 105 pre- and post-war motor cars of the highest calibre on offer, it's not surprising that RM attracted a well-heeled clientele to the Grimaldi Forum on May 1. Registered bidders, 28 percent of whom were new to RM's books, came from 33 different countries and those who couldn't make it to the standing-room-only venue in the world's most upmarket tax haven, were able to bid via telephone or over the Internet - 3,300 people watched the live streaming video coverage of the sale over the Internet.
After 88 of the 105 vehicles were sold, giving an 86 per cent sell-through rate, the Sporting Classics of Monaco event had seen five automobiles fetch prices in excess of EUR2,000,000, two world records and EUR33,235,917 (US$45,101,139) in total sales, matching RM's previous record for the highest dollar single-day collector car auction in history, set in an auction held at the Ferrari factory in Maranello in May 2007.
The sale's cover car, the 1937 BMW 328 MM "Buegelfalte," was passed in and changed hands less than 24 hours later for a confidential sum and was not included in the final sale results. Some indication of the price can be had from the bidding for the Buegelfalte, which reached a high bid of EUR4,300,000 (US$5,835,100) before being passed in. So the final price is most likely in excess of US$6 million and its addition to the final auction results would hence produce the most successful collector auction in history.
Some of the other lots surpassing the two million euro mark include a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta (EUR 2,632,000 — US$3,571,624), the ex-Harrah 1957 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Tour de France (EUR2,352,000 - US$3,191,664) and a beautiful 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder (EUR 2,072,000 - US$2,811,704)
Other notable auction results included a stunning 1938 Delahaye 135 MS Competition Cabriolet (EUR1,792,000 — US$2,431,744), a significant 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II "Special Town Car" by Brewster (EUR1,456,000 — US$1,975,792), a rare alloy-bodied 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Berlinetta (EUR784,000 — US$1,063,888), a fully-restored 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta (EUR767,200 — US$1,041,090), a matching-numbers 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Spider (EUR879,200 — US$1,193,074), a 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra Roadster Le Mans Racing Car EUR744,800 -US$1,010,694), the well-known 'Star of India'1934 Rolls-Royce 40/50 hp Phantom II All Weather Cabriolet (EUR644,000 - US$873,908) and a 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Vantage Saloon which became the subject of a bidding war, pushing it EUR100,000 past its high estimate of EUR175,000 to EUR291,200 (US$395,158).
The 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB
The Superamerica produced a factory indicated 340 bhp, 3,967 cc single overhead camshaft V12 engine with triple dual-throat Weber 40DCZ6 carburettors, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with double wishbones and coil springs, rear suspension with live rear axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and four-wheel disc brakes.
The high performance luxury gran turismo was a new automotive idiom in the prosperous years following World War II. Moving into the 1960s, these fast, luxurious cars continued to be the car of choice for the rich and famous. Most combined powerful engines with a highly competent chassis, were clothed in unique or limited production coachwork from inspired designers, and were equipped to the highest standards and trimmed in the finest materials.
Production of luxury Ferrari GTs began in 1953 with the introduction of the 342 America, which was based on the 340 America and featured an extended chassis to provide additional interior space. Then came the 375 America (built until May 1954), of which only 12 examples were built for Ferrari's wealthiest clientele, selling for prices which sent chills up the spines of even Rolls-Royce owners. It could achieve a top speed of 150 mph while accelerating from zero to sixty in less than seven seconds — very impressive indeed for its day! Carrozzeria Pinin Farina of Turin was tasked with designing and building the bodywork which shared an outward similarity to 250 Europa, but their interiors, wings, bumpers and detailing were all unique.
The following year, Enzo Ferrari displayed the polished chassis #0423 SA at the Paris Salon. The completed version of the 410 Superamerica, also crafted by Pinin Farina, was on view at Brussels in January 1956. The 410 SA was given a larger engine and bigger brakes. Coil spring suspensions were used in the front. As was Ferrari practice, many variations of this model were built by several coachbuilders, including Boano, Ghia and Scaglietti.
In 1959, Ferrari ceased production of the Lampredi engine. Instead, an enlarged version of the Colombo-designed "short block" V12 engine would provide the power for the next iteration of Ferrari Luxury GTs, beginning with the 400 Superamerica, the outstanding successor to the 410SA.
The 400 Superamerica was introduced at Brussels in 1960 when chassis 1611 SA, a two place cabriolet, was first exhibited. It is considered one of Pininfarina's great designs — an artful expression of Ferrari performance with stylistic elegance, minimizing the car's apparent size while conveying its aggressive potential. Befitting their stature as the "top-of-the-range" and also the most powerful road going Ferraris of the time, the 400 SAs were superbly finished with the finest materials and, often with distinction, to the owner's specification.
Once again, their dizzying price tags ensured that the client base would be restricted to princes, potentates, captains of industry and the stars of Hollywood and Rome's Cinecitta. The first series 400 SAs were built on a 2,420 mm short wheelbase (SWB) chassis, after which a second series was produced with an extended wheelbase of 2,600 mm (LWB). More common to both series are the Coupe Aerodynamica versions, while a smaller number of cabriolets were produced. With their elegant lines and notably more aggressive stance, the SWB cabriolets are considered the most desirable of all the 400 SAs.
The extraordinary example offered here, s/n 3309 SA, is the last created of only six SWB 400 SA cabriolets bodied by Pininfarina (as the company was now known). As such, it was built as Ferrari's star car for the Geneva Salon and New York Auto Show of 1962 and included many special features. For example, it is the only one of the six which displays the covered headlights so coveted on California Spyders. Extra brightwork is also abundant, including an attractive wide stainless steel panel along the sills, a chrome trim line across the side of the car, and chromed wheel arch and bonnet scoop accents completing the show detailing. There is further brightwork noticeable in the door openings and under the bonnet.
3309 SA is also equipped with its optional factory hardtop. An extravagant yet handsome design, it ensures the car remains as attractive in coupe form as it is with its top down (plus, the permanently installed soft top is neatly folded behind the seats).
3309 SA was sold to Phoenix, Arizona Ferrari dealer J.A. Stallings off the show stand in New York by Luigi Chinetti Motors. Wasting no time before enjoying its sparkling performance, Mr. Stallings used the car for hillclimbs before taking it to the Bonneville Speed Trials in 1962, where he was officially recorded reaching speeds over 145 mph, as featured in the November 1962 issue of Road & Track documenting the event. (An album with numerous photographic prints from Bonneville, along with copies of the original timing sheets, is included with the sale.)
In 1964, 3309 SA was acquired by well known GT racer Bob Grossman (a colour photocopy of a print of him with the car, believed to be from Virginia International Raceway, is included in the file), after which he traded it back to Chinetti in 1967. It was subsequently sold to well known Ferrariste Norman Silver of High Point, North Carolina. Mr. Silver kept the car until 1973, whereupon it was sold with the assistance of Tom Meade to Charles Robert of Nogent-sur-Marne and Paris, France.
Following his acquisition, and with further assistance from Mr. Meade, Mr. Robert had the car restored by Carrozzeria Fantuzzi in Modena. It was repainted a more stately maroon and fitted with a tan interior, altering the original colour scheme of Rosso Metallizzato Speciale (metallic red) with Avorio (ivory) upholstery.
Mr. Robert owned the car for the next 30 years, during which he showed the car occasionally at Ferrari club events and at a special Ferrari exhibit at Retromobile 2000, in Paris.
In 2005, the Ferrari returned to the U.S., whereupon its current keeper embarked on a meticulously researched, no-expense-spared total concours restoration by marque specialists. Patrick Ottis of Berkeley, California managed the project and restored all the mechanicals, including digging deeply into his trove of NOS parts for this favoured client. The striking and flawless body, black paint and trim were lovingly attended to by Brian Hoyt of Perfect Reflections. Finally, the luscious red leather interior was done by Ken Nemanic. Each of these restorers is an award-winning artisan of his respective craft.
In its first show outing at the XVIII Cavallino Classic in 2009, 3309 SA was awarded Platinum Status by Ferrari Club of America judges and featured in the April/May 2009 issue of Cavallino magazine.
Later, in August, 2009 — after further preparation by the restoration team — the Ferrari was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it earned a respectable Third in Class and was awarded 98 points. (Four half-points were deducted for minor issues, three of which have subsequently been addressed. The fourth — for exhibiting "too shiny paint" — has been left as shown!). The car was then again featured in Cavallino, October/November 2009.
Fresh, correct and superb, 3309 SA includes its full complement of books, complete tool roll, jack and restoration documents including dyno testing results. Although it is presented both cosmetically and mechanically in 'as new' condition, its road miles have been limited mostly to the 50-mile Pebble Beach Road Tour, where it performed flawlessly.
More powerful and much more exclusive than the vaunted 250 GT California Spyder SWB, this 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB represents the 'connoisseur's choice' for a top-shelf open Ferrari. With its remarkable show car origins, notable racing exploits, bulletproof ownership history, extraordinary restoration and stunning presence, it has to be considered a worthy value in today's market in addition to its unmatched desirability.
The BMW Bügelfalte with coachwork by Milbertshofen
BMW was actively involved in sports racing in the pre-war years, enjoying considerable successes with its advanced high performance 328. The 328's success in competition and in the public's perception established BMW's reputation for high performance lightweight sporting automobiles. In fact, it made its debut not at an auto show but at the Nürburgring in the Eifelrennen, where in the hands of Ernst Henne it won on its first outing on 14th June 1936.
A series of racing successes followed for BMW in the hands of factory drivers, privateers and team drivers supported by the British importer Frazer Nash.
The 328 MM (Chassis 85032) for sale in Monaco enjoyed a successful career in racing before its extraordinary transformation in BMW's factory racing department even began. Built in May 1937 as a specially-developed 328 for Rudolf Schleicher's experimental department, it participated in the Le Mans 24-hour race with Anthony F.P. Fane behind the wheel, before going on to compete in the 1937 Donington Tourist Trophy.
The following year it participated in the last pre-war open road Mille Miglia with Fane and co-driver William James. The pair finished the race eighth overall and first in the two-litre unsupercharged sports class. In fact, BMWs finished in the top four spots of that class. Chassis 85032 then secured overall victory in the 1,672 km four-day Alpenfahrt in the hands of Fritz Roth and "Blasi" Huber. In 1939, Roth and Huber won the same race outright, in the very same car!
In autumn 1939, the car was dismantled at the BMW factory's racing division in Milbertshofen before being extensively re-engineered and used as the basis for even more streamlined bodywork in preparation for the 1940 season and the Mille Miglia in particular. To that end, BMW built both an aerodynamic coupé and this lightweight open roadster.
Extensive modifications to 85032 included lowering the engine and driveline in the chassis to reduce the body's frontal area and lower the centre of gravity to improve handling. Its design is credited to Wilhelm Kaiser, a very experienced member of BMW's new design department, headed by chief stylist Wilhelm Meyerhuber. A 1:10 scale model was tested in the wind tunnel of pioneering aerodynamicist Prof. Dr.-Ing. Wunibald Kamm, with a long, tapered tail that took advantage of the lowered engine and profile.
The stunning bodywork was hand-formed by "Blasi" Huber in Ernst Loof's racing department and made from a lightweight aluminium-magnesium alloy (Al MG 3-4) frequently used in high performance aircraft construction. Aside from its low silhouette and flowing fenders, the prototype roadster's fenders had a pronounced ridge along their tops. It resembled the crease in a pair of ironed trousers and gave the unique car the name it still carries today, Bügelfalte or "ironing crease."
Its panels were formed over an armature of small diameter tubing, preceding the similar superleggera system patented by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan years later. Welded to the twin tube frame, the body structure lends substantial rigidity to the Bügelfalte's chassis while weighing just 103 kg. The wheel wells were made of the same lightweight aluminium-magnesium alloy, and the inside panels were partially made of pure magnesium. In fact, the seat frames were pure magnesium as well. This was the absolute cutting edge of racing technology and helped bring the car's curb weight down to just 725 kg. An extraordinary achievement, then and now!
The engine itself was completely upgraded in all respects, now producing 130 hp, a full 50 hp more than the standard engine of a road-going 328. A larger oil pan was fitted, as were an additional side-mounted oil cooler, a 100-litre fuel tank and a special air box that helped draw in air at high speed. This motor received a magnesium valve cover and was mated to a strengthened race-ready Hurth transmission with gearbox housing partially made of magnesium, as was the differential with a 3.44:1 gear ratio.
Magnesium was even used in the braking system, comprised of Alfin drum brakes with a Duplex system front and rear. The 17-inch steel disc wheels have riveted light metal rings, and the tyres were specially made by Continental for the Mille Miglia, so the car could go the entire distance without changing tyres. In true racing fashion, the rear leaf spring suspension was adjustable, controlled with additional stabilizing bars. Even the hubs were super-light special edition units, as was much of the hardware, aluminum nuts, screw heads and the like.
Following its completion at BMW's Milbertshofen works, the Bügelfalte BMW was tested on the autobahns near BMW's Munich headquarters. One can only imagine what contemporary motorists must have thought as this space-age streamliner blasted by at unheard-of speeds!
The coachwork of two more roadsters and a second streamlined coupé was entrusted to Touring in Milan, which had the capacity of finishing them before the 1940 Mille Miglia. It should be noted that these two "second series" Touring-bodied roadsters had their complete mechanics and tubular substructure completed in Munich, before the bodywork was completed in Milan. As such, they did not have the characteristic "trouser crease" fenders.
The 1940 Mille Miglia was held over nine laps of a 165 km circuit between Brescia, Mantua and Cremona on 28th April 1940, in the brief interlude between the declaration of war by France and Britain and the German invasion of France when Italy was still officially neutral, the 1940 Mille Miglia saw competitors from all four nations assemble in an uneasy sporting moment. They included two Delage D611s entered by the British importer Watney, four Alfa Romeo 6C 2500s and two Auto Avio Costruzioni 815s entered by Enzo Ferrari. They were matched against the team of five BMW 328s. The two closed cars were to be entered as works entries by BMW while the three open cars were entered by the Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde (ONS), the German national motorsport governing body.
The Munich-bodied coupé was entrusted to Count Giovanni Lurani/Franco Cortese while its Touring-bodied counterpart was in the capable hands of Count Fritz Huschke von Hanstein/Walter Bäumer. The Touring-bodied roadsters were driven by Adolf Brudes/Ralph Roese and Willi Briem/Uli Richter while the "Bügelfalte" roadster was handled by 1939 Le Mans class-winner Hans Wencher and Rudolf Scholz.
Von Hanstein set a furious pace from the outset with Lurani soon passing Piero Taruffi's Delage and Giuseppe Farina's Alfa Romeo. On the third lap, Von Hanstein averaged 174.102 km/h. Lurani began to have fuel system problems which eventually sidelined him, but the three BMW roadsters were more than capable of matching the speed of the Alfa Romeo coupés. Comfortably in the lead after Taruffi's Delage retired with engine trouble and Comotti's Delage caught fire, Von Hanstein relaxed his pace and cruised to the victory, finishing over 16 minutes ahead of Farina's Alfa.
The BMW roadsters finished third, fifth and sixth with the "Bügelfalte" roadster of Wencher and Scholtz just a minute behind the fifth place car. It was an epic triumph for the Bavarian marque. The BMW team attempted to take part in another race at Kronstadt, but the onset of the shooting war intervened, and the cars were returned to Munich.
During the war, the Bügelfalte roadster on offer at Monaco was given to Albert Speer, the Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition (Armaments and Munitions). Remarkably, it survived five years of world war and was seized by Russia as reparations. The Russians awarded it to Artiom Ivanovich Mikoyan, head of the Mikoyan i Gurevich Design Bureau, creator of the famed MiG fighters. Mikoyan let his son use it, but the boy's escapades eventually exhausted his father's