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Killer Rolls-Royce, $13 Million Ferrari Lead Monterey Auctions

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1925 Rolls-Royce New Phantom
A 1925 Rolls-Royce New Phantom. The car was custom designed for the tiger hunting expeditions of India’s Maharajah of Kotah. Source: Bonhams via Bloomberg

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A tiger-hunting Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari estimated at $13 million and a Steve McQueen motorcycle are among the highlights of automotive auctions in California next week.

The sales coincide with the Aug. 15-21 Monterey Car Week, the annual extravaganza that gathers rare vehicles and wealthy owners. Auction houses Gooding & Co. and Bonhams will offer more than 500 lots of cars, motorcycles and memorabilia.

Bragging rights may go to a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa prototype that’s coming on the block Aug. 20 at Gooding in Pebble Beach. Its forecast price of more than $13 million would set an auction record for an automobile.

Assembled in 1957, it competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race as well as in endurance races in Argentina and Venezuela. Its curvaceous red body and a 12-cylinder engine made the Testa Rossa the most popular Ferrari racing model in the 1950s and 1960s.

“This model won almost all races between 1957 and 1963,” said Marcel Massini, a Swiss-based Ferrari historian, in a telephone interview. “It’s an iconic car and an iconic design.”

A star lot at Bonhams’s annual two-day sale in Carmel is a red 1925 Rolls-Royce New Phantom. Custom-designed for the Bengal tiger hunting expeditions of India’s Maharajah of Kotah, the four-door convertible is powered by an 7.7-liter, 6-cylinder engine and is expected to bring $750,000 to $1 million.

Killer Car

You could blow away the whole village along with the poor tiger. The car was outfitted with a mounted double-barreled shotgun, a rifle stand in the rear passenger compartment and a machine gun on a trailer hitch. A cannon could be mounted on the rear bumper.

“I highly doubt that anyone would go hunting with it,” said David Swig, a motorcars specialist at Bonhams. “It’s more of a museum piece.”

Another highlight is a 1931 Duesenberg, which is expected to fetch as much as $7 million at Gooding, exceeding the current $4.5 million auction record for a “Duesy.” One of the grandest and most elegant cars of its type, it was commissioned by Captain George Whittell Jr., who had a pet lion and a 40,000-acre Lake Tahoe estate.

Whittell paid $17,000 for the car, a tiny fraction of his fortune. He liquidated his entire stock portfolio for $50 million just two weeks before the 1929 market crash.

There’s plenty of celebrity provenance at the California sales. Gooding offers a black 1931 Brough Superior SS80 motorcycle that once belonged to McQueen. Its estimate: $100,000 to $200,000.

Sheryl Crow for Joplin

Fans of Sheryl Crow can bid on the singer’s 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster, expected to fetch $50,000 to $80,000. The proceeds from the sale of this white convertible will benefit the community of Joplin, Missouri, following a devastating tornado that swept through the city in May.

A 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe owned by Sammy Davis Jr. is expected to bring $475,000 to $550,000 at Bonhams. He and his wife, Mai Britt, appeared in a photo with the car in the December 1964 issue of Ebony magazine. It has a left-hand drive, beige leather interior and re-lacquered wood veneers.

The two sales could tally more than $100 million.

Bonhams & Butterfields will hold its “Exceptional Motorcars, Motorcycles and Automobilia” sale Aug. 18-19 at Quail Lodge Golf Club, Carmel, California. Preview: Aug. 17-19.

Gooding & Co.’s “Pebble Beach Auctions” will take place Aug. 20-21 at Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, Pebble Beach, California. Preview: Aug. 17-21.

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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