Cars & Bikes

These Are the Cars to Watch for at the Amelia Island Auctions

Look for Porsches, Aston Martins, million-dollar Ferraris and plenty of “modern classics” to do well.

Next week marks the beginning of Amelia Island Concours week, the swanky celebration of vintage and collectible cars on a balmy island off the coast of Florida.

The main event—a prestigious judged car show—happens on Sunday, March 12, but the most exclusive events happen in the days preceding, with hundreds of rare and beautiful cars on sale from the world’s most esteemed auction houses. Prospective buyers have examined catalogs and attended previews and ponied up entrance fees of up to $300 for the right to bid.

In fact, the once-quiet and sunny little car show held mainly at The Golf Club of Amelia Island and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, now sets precedents for the more well-known sales later in the year.

A 1954 Arnolt-Bristol Prototype Roadster.
Photographer: Jeremy Cliff

“In recent years the Amelia Island Auctions have quickly emerged as a significant indicator for the public auctions segment of the classic car market,” said Jonathan Klinger, the spokesman for the vintage auto insurer Hagerty. “It is no longer just Arizona auctions in January and Monterey in August that matter.”

Indeed, last year saw $135 million in cars sold over the course of the weekend. This year is likely to bring similar results, even though 14 percent more cars are on sale this year. According to Hagerty predictions, the final cull will be $135 million to $140 million among all five auction companies that will sell there this year (RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Co., Bonhams, Hollywood Wheels, and Motostalgia).

The highest-priced individual standout cars among the lot include a 1957 Jaguar XKSS Roadster, expected to take $16 million with Gooding & Co.; a 1928 Bentley 4 1/2-Litre Le Mans Roadster, expected to take $6.5 million for RM Sotheby's; and, also for RM Sotheby's, a 1950 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Spider, expected to take $8 million.

On the other end of the price spectrum, analysts expect models from the 1980s and even early 1990s to continue the upward path that started a year ago. The number of classics from 1980 and newer offered this year has increased 50 percent over last year, according to Hagerty. The RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale alone includes 13 vehicles from the ‘80s and ‘90s, plus plenty of modern supercars.

“Modern classics continue to be the hot topic that enthusiasts are talking about, not least because they are exciting new additions to sale catalogs,” said Alain Squindo, the chief operating officer of RM Sotheby’s. “While ‘50s and ‘60s cars once dominated auction offerings, we’re seeing greater diversity and a growing number of vehicles from later eras in catalogs today.”

Those are much more affordable, with prices close to that of a $65,000 1980 Toyota Land Cruiser Series 40 or $30,000 1990 Lotus Esprit. And watch for Porsches and Aston Martins in general—both have seen drastic increases in the amounts sold this year over previous years. The number of Aston Martins on offer this year alone has catapulted 530 percent, from three in 2016 to 19 this year.

In short: Amelia Island has something for everyone. Here are 10 winners to watch for next weekend.

2015 Ferrari LaFerrari

Source: Gooding

Lot: 073
Auction House: Gooding & Co.
Estimate: $3,800,000 - $4,500,000

The LaFerrari is special because it was produced in such limited production numbers (only 500 total, and only 120 of those in the U.S.)—and as a hybrid. The original versions cost $1.5 million at the time of their debut; one sold last year for a record-setting $7 million.  This one has fewer than 130 miles on it and comes in a custom paint job called Giallo Triplo Strato, which is a pearlized yellow tone. But the real thrill is how it drives.

“There is nothing like the feeling of getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari supercar and experiencing the otherworldly power and noise,” said David Brynan, the senior specialist at Gooding & Co. “Each of these Ferraris are limited-production, exclusive offerings that deliver unmatched performance and unique specifications.”  

The car comes with a hybrid 800 hp V12 engine, seven-speed rear-wheel-drive, and a top speed of 217 mph. Zero to 60 mph is less than three seconds.

This LaFerrari came with more than $100,000 worth of options, such as carbon fiber fog lamps, mirrors, the dashboard, upper and lower body portions, the wheel caps, and the unique carbon fiber roof panel.  


1990 Ferrari F40

Source: Gooding

Lot: 029
Auction House: Gooding & Co.
Estimate: $1,300,000 - $1,600,000

The Ferrari F40 is special because it was one of the last projects overseen by Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari. It’s a 478 bhp V8 that will hit 200 mph in a matter of seconds on the five-speed manual transmission—and it’s considered Ferrari’s best-designed vintage supercar. And this one is one of very few to come to the U.S. at all.

“This particular car is desirable as it is an extremely original U.S.-specification car (one of 213 built) with just 1,600 miles from new,” Brynan said. “Given their extreme performance, it is rare to find an F40 in such pristine, original condition.”

It comes in official “Ferrari Classiche Red” and is accompanied by the original wallet, books, tool kit, and accessories.   


1955 Pegaso Tipo Z-102B

Source: Gooding

Lot: 46
Auction House: Gooding & Co.
Estimate: $600,000 - $800,000

This model was a sports car made by the obscure Spanish car company in the middle of the last century. It was made for only seven years and competed directly with Alfa Romeo and Ferrari with its 170 hp V8 engine and five-speed manual transmission.

The one on sale in Amelia Island is one of only seven that had their coachwork done by the elusive Saoutchik house, a very old French company. It’s also worth noting it has been shown both at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Amelia Island Concours.

“Not only is the Pegaso Z-102B a true rarity, with just seven examples built, it combines state-of-the-art engineering with elaborate, high-quality coachwork by legendary French coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik,” Brynan said. “The car is an absolute aesthetic and mechanical marvel, and remarkable, as one of the finest Spanish-built automobiles. These qualities have made the Pegaso highly collectible, and this car has been a fixture in many prominent museum collections, including the famed Harrah Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada.”


1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

Photographer: Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sothebys/Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sothebys

Lot: 258
Auction House: RM Sotheby's
Estimate: $1,200,000 - $1,400,000

The Sotheby’s catalog says it best: “Few sports cars in the history of the automobile have attained the iconic status of Mercedes-Benz’s celebrated 300 SL coupe, which combined peerless racing heritage with truly innovative design and engineering.”

Everyone knows this car. It made its debut in 1952 as the W194 sports racer and earned acclaim for its crazy frame and doors, plus the large inline six-cylinder engine with more than 200 hp. It has a four-speed manual rear-wheel drive. This is one of only 167 built during its production run, and it comes with a matching fitted luggage set, a hammer, and sales literature from when it was new.


1952 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon by H.J. Mulliner

Photographer: Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sothebys/Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sothebys

Lot: 152
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: $1,250,000 - $1,500,000

Here is a truly handsome car: The first of its kind to be built with left-hand drive, this 1952 Bentley R-Type has a 178 bhp six-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission. At the time of its birth, it was the fastest and most expensive four-seat production car in the world, according to the RM Sotheby’s auction notes.

“It is gorgeous in every way, correct, perfectly restored, and flawless,” said Diane Brandon, who inspected the car before the auction. It also comes with the framed original factory guarantee and Bill of Sale, a complete and authentic tool set, and the copy of its original Bentley R-Type Continental register.

If it looks big, that’s because it is—more than 10 feet long, with a massive back seat for two. The dashboard looks like pure burled wood, with perfect round dials and knobs set inside it.


1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.0

Photographer: Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sothebys/Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sothebys

Lot: 262
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: $900,000 - $1,100,000

Porsche is on the rise. This year there are 33-percent more Porsches offered during the Amelia auctions than last year. “Porsches have historically done very well at Amelia Island,” Klinger said.

This 1974 Carrera is one of the best: It is a 230 bhp five-speed manual on a six-cylinder engine with a zero-to-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.

It’s special because it is one of only 55 (it’s a homologation, which means it has been approved to race in a given league or series) and has been in a private collection for years, with a perfect maintenance record. And uniquely, it was the factory demonstration car—the one the folks in Porsche Stuttgart used to sell the model to potential customers.


1954 Arnolt-Bristol Prototype Roadster

Photographer: Jeremy Cliff

Lot: 150
Auction House: Bonhams
Estimate: $400,000 - $500,000

This is an original factory prototype from the obscure British/Italian/American hybrid brand, so it’s exceedingly rare. Fewer than 200 finished versions were made, and roughly half of them survive.

This one is special, too, because it has coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone and spent most of its time in the U.S., excepting one trip to England in the early 1950s for testing. It comes in its original red color with tan leather upholstery and a tan canvas for the top and tonneau cover. 

The prototype has a six-cylinder engine with 130 hp and a four-speed manual transmission. Which, with that lithe body, means it’s fast: “In capable hands the car will be most competitive,” the auction notes say. No wonder—these little racers were meant to compete against the likes of MG, BMW, and Alfa Romeo.


1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 “External Bonnet-Latch Roadster”

Source: Bonham's

Lot: 125
Auction House: Bonhams
Estimate: $350,000 - $425,000

The E-Type is possibly the most iconic design in the history of cars. It was derived directly from the racing D-Type Jag, which makes it virtually the last sports car of that era to come directly from a successful racer. It even beat records set by the famous XK Jag, largely because it weighs 500 pounds less and is more streamlined than that predecessor.

The E-Type has an inline six-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission and will get 265 hp at 5,500 rpm. This one is very special because it’s one of the earliest known examples of the model and was one of the first to get left-hand drive and come to the U.S. Plus, it has an ownership history that's fully known, a complete tool kit, the “exceedingly rare” Shelley bottle jack, official Jaguar documentation, and a Jaguar Heritage Trust Certificate, so there are no surprises or mysteries with just how well it has been kept.

Klinger said cars such as this are particularly important to watch at the auction, because during the past year the average sell-through rate for this price range ($250,000-$1 million) at public auction has fallen from 71 percent to just 62 percent. It’s too early to know exactly why it’s happening, he said, but how well this Jaguar does in Florida may help provide a clue.


1980 Toyota Land Cruiser Series 40

Source: Bonham's

Lot: 106
Auction House: Bonhams
Estimate: $65,000 - $85,000  

While it costs far less than the Ferraris and Jaguars on this list, the Toyota Land Cruiser is important to note because it highlights the current obsession among younger drivers with vintage trucks and “modern classics.” You can buy a new-old Bronco, Jeep, or Land Rover—or buy one like this BJ40 at auction.

This one is “Cadet” blue and is special because it comes with the rarer diesel engine. It has 80 hp on a four-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission. It's had a full professional restoration, with saddle-stitched interior leather and diamond-quilted alcantara inside. It has modern upgrades such as LED headlights, power steering, and Bluetooth, so it's exceptionally capable on- and off-road.

“Modern Classics fared incredibly well at our Paris auction last month, and we look forward to continuing the momentum in Florida,” said Alain Squindo, chief operating officer of RM Sotheby's. “We’ve been talking for a while now about the burgeoning generation of young sports car enthusiasts—we can say they’ve definitively arrived.”


1990 Lotus Esprit Turbo SE

Courtesy: Bonham's

Lot: 109
Auction House: Bonhams
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000

This Lotus Esprit is another modern classic car to watch. The original version made its debut in 1972 in Italy, so this particular model comes from the later iterations of the line. (Richard Gere drove a silver 1989 Esprit when he picked up Julia Roberts in the film Pretty Woman.)

This one has had only four owners from new (it was delivered new to the state of Virginia), with fewer than 9,500 original miles, and it comes in the classic British racing green paint job with a golden tan interior, which enhances its truly original personality.  The SE at the end of the name denotes that it is a “special equipment” variation that first appeared in 1989.

What’s more, its turbocharged four-cylinder engine could hit 280 hp using the special overboost function with the five-speed manual transmission. At the time of its debut, the Esprit was one of the fastest cars on the road. The thought here is that if the values of early 1990s cars continue to rise, the Esprit would be an opportunity to get in early on that wave.

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