With ever-more-strict legislation worldwide defining the possible shapes and forms of modern automobiles, not to mention the ever-present laws of aerodynamics, there is little wonder why all modern cars tend to look the same. Viewing a sea of late-model crossovers will make anyone yearn for the past, a time when handbuilt quality and attention to detail were valued in the extreme. This year, the world's premier auction company for premium motorcars returns to the Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey, bringing with a record offering.
As the total number of automobiles and automobilia adds up this year to more than 190 lots, including four distinctive collections, the team at RM Sotheby's decided to compile a "Spotter's Guide" to help filter through all the exceptional offerings. Also useful as a scavenger's hunt, after appreciating the details of these unrepeatable offerings, you may want to take one home:
1964 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso by Scaglietti | Estimate: $1,750,000 – $2,250,000 USD
We begin with a Ferrari that is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful grand touring cars ever made. Typically described as elegant and perfectly proportioned, the key to the 250 GT/L Berlinetta's design is that no one detail overwhelms the viewer. Ever after known as simply "Lusso" (Italian for "luxury") for its balance of sporting abilities and comfortable ride, this prancing horse has inspired the look of many subsequent Ferrari models. The detail that made it so exceptional in-period—even more than its chromed "egg crate" grille—are these subtle bumperettes, which integrate the front turn signals. The envy of many sixties (and seventies) sports cars.
1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Cabriolet by Saoutchik | Estimate: $1,750,000 – $2,250,000 USD
Offered from Masterworks of Design
Befitting their status as hand-made classics, a great number of the cars on our list have had their bodies custom-built by coachbuilding houses. A tradition that extends to this day, coachbuilding houses offered their clients essentially free reign in terms of interior and exterior appointments. While some coachbuilders were known for their conservative approaches, the French firm started by Jacques Saoutchik produced wonderfully over-the-top designs that were wholly original and shaped as much by the wind as the wishes of their clients. A side-mounted spare tire cover is the detail to notice on this example, one of only two Saoutchik designs completed on a Mercedes-Benz 500 K chassis.
1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Cabriolet A by Sindelfingen | Estimate: $1,750,000 – $2,500,000 USD
Offered from Masterworks of Design
Because of their impressive, supercharged engines and elite status atop the pre-war Mercedes-Benz model line, the 540 K variants proved to be an exceptional canvas on which period coachbuilders could add their signature touch. With a body handcrafted by Mercedes-Benz's favored firm Sindelfingen, this split-window example features nearly every prestige accessory possible for a pre-war cabriolet. The three-pointed star brand so valued the abilities of Sindelfingen that the two companies merged in 1926; one noteworthy (yet not completely definitive) sign that any vehicle is from the Sindelfingen factory is the telltale "notch" added to the running boards. Intended for two passengers, the Special Cabriolet A was the most sporting variant of the legendary 540 K. From its dual, side-mounted spare tires to its subtle, two-tone exterior, this supercharged cabriolet offers many details for car spotters. As RM Sotheby's will offer several examples of fine Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Monterey, find this one by its slatted stone radiator guard.
1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic by Ghia | Estimate: $1,700,000 – $2,000,000 USD
Moving from pre-war Mercedes-Benz into the jet-set era, this aerodynamic Italian icon shows off the influence of aerospace design on post-war sports cars. Appropriately titled "Supersonic," this Giovanni Savonuzzi design, executed by Carrozzeria Ghia of Torinio, was executed in extremely limited quantities, with only 15 built in total. With eye-opening details abounding throughout this uncommon example (the interior is unlike any other car), the detail to note is the turbine-like fenders, best seen from the rear. Tail fins never looked so purposeful.
1965 Ferrari 275 GTS by Pininfarina | Estimate: $1,700,000 – $1,900,000 USD
While many of the performance-oriented features of this 275 GTS, including its numbers-matching V-12 engine, rear transaxle, four-wheel independent suspension, and weight-saving aluminum doors, hood, and trunk lid are all tough to discern with the naked eye, one exceptional accessory is readily visible to all involved. Made in limited quantities by Manhattan, NY-based Chinetti Motors, the same famous Ferrari distributor who imported this open-top prancing horse to the USA, the "horizontal streaked" hardtop on this example makes it all the more distinguished.
1991 Jaguar XJR-15 | Estimate: $1,200,000 – $1,400,000 USD
With its swooping shape and dry-sump, twelve-cylinder engine developed by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, the XJR-15 fulfilled the promise of a motorsport-spec Jaguar supercar in the early 1990s. Befitting its advanced status, the body shell on this example was hewn from a blend of carbon fibre and Kevlar. Though the lightweight weave is not immediately apparent in the exterior of this Jaguar, it is when looking in its interior, visible in spectacular black-and-silver pinstripes. One look inside its cabin will also reveal an accessory not found in many other road cars, a headset allowing easy communication between passenger and driver. A racecar for the road.
1938 Peugeot 402 Darl'mat Special Coupe by Pourtout | Estimate: $1,100,000 – $1,500,000 USD
Winding back in time to the pre-war era, this French racing coupe proves that competition can provide a canvas on which true artistry can be projected. With a streamlined, handbuilt body by Carrosserie Pourtout in northern France on a lightweight 402 "Légère" chassis, this pre-war design by genius stylist Georges Paulin presents Art Deco at its peak. Having finished in an impressive fifth overall at Le Mans in 1938, and also winning the under 2-litre class outright, the special edition Peugeot conceived by speed enthusiast Emile Darl'mat was no mere design study. Perhaps the most eye-catching detail are these unique chrome discs, which decorate the engine bay and help break up air flowing over the front fenders.
1926 Daimler 45 HP Salon Cabriolet "Star of India" by Barker | Estimate: $1,000,000 – $1,500,000 USD
Offered from Masterworks of Design
The undisputed star of today's feature photograph is but one detail taken from this already spectacular pre-war Daimler: A pair of "boa constrictor" shaped horns, flanking its fenders. Coachbuilt expressly for the Maharaja of Rewa in northwest India, Gulab Singh, this British Daimler was made for royalty with no regard for cost. Its reflective appearance is due to the sheets of German silver that compose its one-of-a-kind body. Made for the sport of shikar ("tiger hunting," for those of us in the proletariat), the reflective nature of this "Star of India" Salon Cabriolet, as well as its quiet, sleeve-valve six-cylinder engine, aided its outdoor pursuits. Automotive jewelry at its best.
1932 Stutz DV-32 Super Bearcat by Weymann | Estimate: $1,000,000 – $1,300,000 USD
Offered From The Terence E. Adderley Collection
During the pre-war period, great automotive marques now lost to history were exploring the state-of-the-art using methods unfamiliar to us today. This handsome inline eight-cylinder convertible was built by a brand that occupied the top-tier of the American market, the Stutz Motor Company, and was given an exclusive customization courtesy of the Indiana-based Weymann-American Body Co. Fascinatingly made of layered fabric and synthetic leather stretched over a wooden frame with independent sections formed of high-quality ash. Charles Weymann, the inventor of this patented construction method, was a Haitian-born, French-based fighter pilot for Nieuport during WWI, and boasted that his fabric-bodied creations were 400 lbs. lighter than their steel-bodied peers, but without the creaks and rattles that can plague some wood-framed coachbuilt cars. One of two surviving examples, this Stutz is worth a closer look.
1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Turismo Compressore Series V by Touring | Estimate: $900,000 – $1,200,000 USD
Sometimes, the most extraordinary features of any given automobile remain unseen to outside observers. This supercharged Italian coupe is one of a handful known to be built by Carrozzeria Touring with a stately Coupé Royal body. And yet, sporting advanced technology and engineering for its time (including semi-elliptic springs, adjustable shock absorbers, larger brakes, and axles, and a gearbox derived from Alfa Romeo's top-of-the-line 8C), a Gran Turismo Compressore variant of the 6C won the closed-car production class at the 1932 Mille Miglia outright. Lined with fins to aid cooling, the six-cylinder powerplant in this Alfa Romeo is worth asking an RM Sotheby's specialist to take a closer look.
We hope you've enjoyed discovering some of the details on the unparalleled offerings at RM Sotheby's Monterey 2022 auction. Visit this link for more information about registering for the event and we sincerely hope to see you at the Portola Hotel & Spa from 18 to 20 August.