Market and auctions

Pebble Beach auction analysis. I’ll buy what I’ve always dreamed of

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Broad Arrow Auctions, Bonhams, Gooding, Mecum, RM Sotheby’s

After the analysis of the prices of Italian cars at Pebble Beach, we now repeat that exercise with the Germans, where Porsche and Mercedes positively sparkled. Once again, two constants emerge: the average price ranges guarantee greater elasticity and this, for interesting vehicles, excites the room to the point where unexpected records are set. However, this is less and less the case for cars in the region of or above 10 million dollars. A good example is the 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster, the second-best price of the week which, at $9,905,000, was perfectly aligned with the prices of the model over the last 10 years.

The second reason for the success of certain models, and Porsche has largely benefited from this, is the law of memory: I dreamed of it in the past, now I can buy it! This is precisely what has been happening with certain, more accessible Ferrari models of late. As was the case with some of Maranello’s more historic models, stainless steel models such as the Mercedes 300 SL, didn’t do so well. Indeed, the Gullwing unexpectedly fared better than the Roadster.

Let’s take a closer look:

The famous RUF modified Porsches were white hot at this edition of Pebble Beach.

2016 RUF Turbo Florio sold for $709,000 (€710,950)

All six RUFs offered by RM, Gooding and Broad Arrow Auction were sold. The 2016 RUF Turbo Florido offered by Broad Arrow deserves particular attention: under the body of a 991 Targa, the engine of the GT3 and, if the horsepower of that engine weren’t enough, RUF added a hundred more for good measure, bringing the total power output to 645. Almost identical to the 911 Turbo S but with €28,000 worth of accessories and just 10,000 miles to its credit, it was estimated at $375,000-$450,000. But in the hall at least two people wanted her at all costs, and the inevitable bidding war broke out: in the end, it was sold for $709,000. Incredible!

2004 RUF R Turbo sold for $445,000 (€446,225)

From Gooding, on the other hand, a RUF R Turbo was the queen of the ball. This is the equivalent of the 996 (post-restyling) with a 3.6 twin-turbo engine tuned to produce 550 bhp. The exterior is very similar. This example had two previous owners and covered 25,360 miles in their company. The estimate of $250,000-$325,000 was burned like a set of rear tires at the traffic lights and it changed hands for $445,000.

2006 RUF RT 12 sold for $533,000 (€534,465)

The higher up you go with the estimates, the less the increases are. The 2006 RT12 (a 997 with a 650 bhp engine) estimated at $500,000-$600,000 was sold by Gooding for $533,000 while RM was more conservative with the other RT12: the $400,000-$600,000 estimate was spot on: sold for $467,000.

1985 RUF BTR II sold for $490,000 (€491,345)

At the very top of the tree we find the only RUF that was not sold in the room (excluding Mecum), one of the 25 BTR II Coupés from 1985 – a real hardcore weapon with the appearance of a 930 Turbo but powered by a 440 bhp engine (50% more than the standard version). The estimate of $600,000-$800,000 proved too optimistic, but it sold after the show for $490,000.

The more common Porsches didn’t do too badly either.

1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 sold for $1,072,500 (€1,075,450)

Let’s begin with the 911 2.7 Carrera RS Touring, a car I had set my eyes on before the auction. Yellow from 1973, it was offered by Gooding with an estimate of $1m-$1.2m. The car changed hands for $1,072,520 beating the previous record by almost $200.000 ($891,000), and above all showing a rise in prices after an abundant dose of “tiredness”.

1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Lightweight sold for $2,425,000 (€2,431,670)

The 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS Lightweight restored by the specialist Nate Cantwell did even better. The current record for this model was $1,402,500 (set in 2014) but Gooding’s estimate of $1.75m-$2.250m gave a good idea of its intentions. In fact, after a close battle, it was sold for $2,425,000.

Even more recent Porsches kept the upward trend moving.

1987 Porsche 959 Komfort sold for $1,875,000 (€1,880,155)

The only 959 (a Komfort version) on offer was by Broad Arrow. Red, 31,000 km from 1987. The estimate was $1.4m-$1.6m, perfectly in line with the latest sales. It changed hands for $1,875,000, setting a new record with a rise of more than 17% since the beginning of the year.

2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach Package sold for $1,930,000 (€1,935,305)

The newer 918 also went up but made a smaller leap. Once again from Broad Arrow, one with the Weissach package and 1,042 miles to its credit from 2015, was estimated $1.45m-$1.65m. It changed hands for $1,930,000. For comparison with Pebble Beach 2021, one with almost identical characteristics changed hands for $1,682,500.: +15% in twelve months.

2005 Porsche Carrera GT sold for $1,765,000 (€1,769,855)

Only the Carrera GT struggled slightly: a red example from 2005 with 3,500 miles on the clock and estimated $1.7m-$2m, was sold for $1,765,000. Worth keeping an eye on: one sold for $1,210,000 last year, but then again another went for $2,000,000 at the beginning of the year.

1995 Porsche 993 GT2 sold for $1,545,000 (€1,549,250)

Other cars that stood out include the single-owner 1995 Porsche 993 GT2 with 5,000 miles on the clock, sold for $1,545,000, setting a new record, as did a 2011 911 GT3 RS 4.0, sold for more than its $885,000 estimate.

2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 sold for $885,000 (€887,435)

Finally the classic 356 Speedster with all 5 cars sold, 3 above their maximum estimates.

A final focus on the Porsche 928 offered by RM. 45 years from its original presentation, a 1995 GTS manual gearbox, only 75 produced including 26 with the manual gearbox. 16,650 miles to its credit and really desirable on the market, albeit with a truly aggressive estimate: $225,000-$275,000 drove the bidders wild and it ended up changing hands for $406,500.

1995 Porsche 928 GTS sold for $406,500 (€407,615)

An entirely different scenario for Mercedes: the second most expensive car sold at Pebble Beach was a Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster from 1937 (interesting to note that the third and fourth most expensive cars were also pre-war), long tail, high door and covered spare wheel, estimated by RM at $9m-$12m, it changed hands for $9,905,000. But let’s look at the story: in 2011, one with the same specifications changed hands for $9,680,000, in 2012 the ex-Baroness Gisela von Krieger one sold for $11,770,000 and in 2016 the last RT12 was sold for $9,900,000. Conclusion: “dead calm”?

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster sold for $9,905,000 (€9,932,235)

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and Roadster are also experiencing a similarly flat period. These market barometers could be found for budgets ranging from $1,039,000 to $2,095,000 (the Roadsters) and $1,627,500 and $2,040,000 for the Gullwings, essentially the same prices we’re used to seeing over the past 12 months.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing sold for $5,010,000 (€5,023,775)

But there is one exception: the only aluminium 300SL Gullwing changed hands for $5,010,000 (against an estimate of $5m-$7m), down sharply from the one sold in January for $6,825,000. But it is not a significant fact because the condition and history of the two examples were decidedly different.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,039,000 (€1,041,855)

A moment of attention for the Iannelli collection – not many cars on offer but beautiful enough to reposition the models for sale much higher than before. The 1971 280SL Pagoda, beautifully restored by Mercedes-Benz Classic between 2014 and 2016, was sold despite its unattractive colour and automatic transmission, for $324,000 against an estimate of $200,000-$250,000. 

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL “Pagoda” sold for $324,000 (€324,890)

In addition, two 280 SEs made a splash or two: a 1971 3.5 Coupe, complete with sunroof and a magnificent restoration, again carried out by the parent company, reached $379,000 and more than doubled the previous record for the model of $145,600. Not only that, a 3.5 Convertible from the same year with the same outstanding restoration and the same elegant colour scheme, burned the previous record: from $434,000 to $676,000. The owners of these models are truly grateful.

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet sold for $676,000 (€677,850)

Finally a little curiosity: Broad Arrow Group set the new record for a normal Volkswagen Beetle: 1963, just 6,870 miles from new, and never restored. Yours for $106,400.

1963 Volkswagen Beetle sold for $106,400 (€106,690)