RM Sotheby’s auctions can be divided into two big families: those with million-dollar cars (Monterey, Phoenix, Amelia Island, Monaco) and the more national-popular ones which back in the day went under the hammer at Auctions America (before the two companies merged). Palm Beach, which was conducted online this year with offers open until expiration, has always belonged to the second category, in fact of the 176 cars sold, 139 (79%) did not exceed the $100,000 mark. With all these reasonably priced opportunities, how could I resist pointing out some good deals? Here are five (and I was about to buy the fifth!).
The first one was a 1967 Maserati Ghibli. The car came with some of the least desirable specifications: a 4.7-litre engine (original, but it was not the 4.9 of the SS), a truly awful three-speed automatic transmission and it was a dull white colour, without even considering the fact that it required a fairly extensive restoration, not of the “destroy the car but keep the plates” kind but one that takes time. It had been owned by a single family since new and the price was just $84,700. I have seen Ghiblis in much worse condition go for higher numbers and, given that a restoration is on the cards, one could perhaps draw on the colour palette of the time to find a more 70s hue.
Speaking of bad automatic transmissions… in actual fact they are not as bad as many would have them. It’s just that they’re not suitable for Italian thoroughbreds because they are soft but slow. So with the arrival of summer (lock-down permitting) why not buy a nice 50’s convertible? My choice would have been a 1958 Chevrolet Impala Convertible for $63,800. Why this particular model? Well, first of all it is not the usual European car with skimpy rear seats so even your chubby friends can sit behind you without feeling “squeezed” in the cockpit. Then for the beautiful Canyon Coral colour, which, yes, is just so 50s. Another reason is the continental kit (the vertical rear-mounted spare wheel) and the whitewall tires. I can already see myself: hood down, cruising at 50 km/h listening to a song by Elvis (or the Rat Pack) and off to enjoy a sun-drenched drive along the lake…
You are not the cabriolet type, but you like to wear plaid shirts and fish in a mountain lake? Well we have something for you. Although you may already be happy to but a Nissan Patrol 4×4 for $18,150, as we have a budget of $100,000 we are going to aim a little higher. With $50,600 you could have bought yourself a 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45. This is not the usual FJ40, but a rare FJ45, also known as “Troopy”. Used as a troop carrier in various armies, it can take you and nine other friends on an intrepid search for trout. I have said it several times and I will repeat it again. The Toyota Land Cruiser is very expensive to restore (for a complete one we are talking about over $100,000) but from 2015 until 2018 many examples were worth more than this and therefore they were restored to the very highest standards. Now that the prices have come down, pay the restoration and they’ll give you the car. This is one of the cases, in fact the restoration was completed just two months ago.
For the same amount as the Troopy, you could have put another extremely interesting car in your garage: a 1948 Allard K1. One of the first “Anglo-American hybrids” this example was fitted with an American motor, in this case a Mercury V8, wrapped in an English bodywork ( the excellent relations between the two nations were exploited after the War) and won hands down across the various circuits on both sides of the Atlantic immediately after the Second World War. This one, for example, raced at Silverstone, Donnington, Thruxton and – listen up – the Le Mans Classic. Then she flew to America where she participated in the Monterey Historics (and numerous other races) before being awarded the “Best Historical Race Car Still Actively Raced” directly on Amelia Island. For $50,600 what more could you ask for?
This time I fell in love with a car so much that I risked buying it. A Lamborghini Diablo from 1991, one of the 900 first series models, red with wing, and once belonged to Mario Andretti. How does $68,200 sound? Sure it required a complete overhaul after standing still for a long time however it was the perfect project to take on in these lock-down times. Besides, aren’t we all stuck at home?
To conclude: with $317,900, less than the Ferrari 458 Speciale on its own (sold for $324,500), you could have created a “Swiss knife collection” that ranged from fabulous supercars and sublime convertibles, to racing cars and jeeps.