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Collector's Cars

Christie's

2 PM, May 18, 2002

Sale 1070

1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Open Drive Landaulette

Lot 12, 1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Open Drive Landaulette, Chassis No. 1797

By Carter B. Horsley

New cars in 2002 are pretty sad affairs with rare exceptions such as the new Ford Thunderbird and the new Volvo convertible (see The City Review article on car design).

Cars, of course, have a long and glorious design history, at least up until about the late 1950s when the Mercedes Benz 300 SL gull-wing sports car set a stunningly high standard that that company, unfortunately, has never approached again.

A lot of great car history including some magnificent examples of automobile design could be seen May 16 through May 18 at Rockefeller Center where about 50 "classic" cars were on view prior to their auction at Christie's at 20 Rockefeller Plaza at 2PM May 18, 2002.

The auction, whose catalogue provided great detail and the cars and their provenance and condition, surprisingly was not very successful with only 53 percent of the 47 offered lots selling.

The best car, at least in terms of looks and age and height, was Lot 12, shown at the top of this article, a 1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghoast Open drive Landaulette with coachwork by F. R. Wood of New York. The maroon car with black and fawn interior and right-hand drive was chassis No. 1797 and (six cylinder, side valv) Engine No. 93. It had an estimate of $450,000 to $550,000 and failed to sell.

The catalogue provided the following commentary on this lot:

"By 1911, when this car was on test, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost had become widely regarded as the pinnacle of luxury motoring. Through excellent promotion of this superior motor car, the company's list of clients had quickly grown throughout the world from Indian Maharajahs to European Royalty to wealthy Americans. The product itself had evolved progressively over the first four years of production, and standard chassis such as this example now featured a parallel chassis with three speed transmission and a 7.2 litre engine. This same year would see the introduction of the more sporting 'London-Edinburgh' models, but essentially the majority of chassis were supplied for town use, with closed or semi-open coachwork. A cursory glance at the records for these series shows that the Landaulette, with its option of open air or enclosed travel such as the car on offer, was one of the most popular choices of the day and captures the true Edwardian style of this era of motoring.

"The original factory records for chassis 1797 indicate that it was originally a Derby trials car - a note which was later crossed out, and at the top of the main order document the words 'London Open Trials' are also crossed out and replaced with the name of its first owner. This suggests that the car remained at the works for a lengthy period of testing, which is supported by the seven month gap between its chassis test date in October 1911, and its customer delivery date. Although not described on the build sheets, these tests appear to have been completed by March 1912 when the car was despatched to the Rolls-Royce Conduit Street showroom, and then fitted with Torpedo coachwork by Barker. In grey livery with no coachlines, and dark green leather, with nickel fittings throughout and a whole host of accessories including Vinet detachable rim wheels, the car must have looked extremely attractive in the company showroom. It was from there that it was purchased by its first owner R.G. Reid of the Bank of Montreal, who was based in Threadneedle St. in the City of London and St. John's, Newfoundland. He took delivery of the Silver Ghost in early May 1912.

"Just under two years later Mr. Reid had the car re-bodied by Barker, but with a different style of coachwork entirely, a 'Limousine-Landaulet'. Again a comprehensive list on the build sheets details the specification for the lavishly appointed formal coachwork, which was finished in dark blue livery.

"The history, details of use and length of Mr. Reid's ownership are not recorded, however it is known that he ordered a later Silver Ghost care of his Newfoundland address, so he may have been in Britain on secondment and taken this car back to Canada on his return. It was in America that the car was found as a complete rolling chassis in the mid 1970s by Joe Loecy. Loecy had also purchased another Silver Ghost, chassis number 53 MA, from Reid twenty years earlier, so he may have retained both cars from new until this time.

"By 1982 this car had passed to Silver Ghost collector, the late Millard Newman. While in his ownership he was able to source an appropriate period body for 1797 which came from a Thomas Flyer and which is understood to have been built by New York coachbuilder F.R. Wood, effectively returning the car to its 1914 configuration again.

"From Millard Newman the car passed to another renowned collector of the model, Raymond Lutgert, and it was from him that the present owner acquired it in 1988. At the time of purchase there was still a certain amount of work to be completed on the car, and it was for this reason that it was sent to David Hemmings' renowned workshops in the UK. On close inspection by Hemmings, it seemed that the coachwork was not an ideal fit and that the transition from Thomas Flyer to Rolls-Royce chassis had not been entirely successful. Under his recommendations, the owner had the coachwork carefully restored with its proportions adjusted to fit the chassis. Mr. Hemmings also undertook a substantial cosmetic refurbishment of the bodywork and detail fittings. The stunning results of this work can be evidenced by its exquisite condition today.

"In essence the Rolls-Royce is a perfect representation of how this car would have looked in 1914, when Mr. Reid had the Landaulette bodywork fitted by Barker. Its handsome formal structure is also enhanced by many period style fittings. In the interior, which is appointed in Bedford cord with red braid trim, these include: speaking tube and front to rear compartment communicator so that the passenger could press a button to command his driver, an umbrella which sits underneath the passenger seat, occasional seats and window blinds. The driving compartment has full dashboard instrumentation, while the exterior has a full complement of nickel headlights, sidelights and carriage lights with acetylene generator, a roof luggage rack and running board tool box. Fittingly it is finished in the 1914 livery of dark blue.

"The quality of restoration has been proven on a number of occasions with concours successes of Best in Class at Pebble Beach in 1993 and also Best in Class at Meadowbrook in 1996. More recently, the car was shown at Amelia Island in 1998.

"This beautifully presented Rolls-Royce would grace any collection, as well as enabling its owner to compete in concours events and the multitude of rallies for these usable long distance cars."

Lot 50, 1933 ROLLS-ROYCE 20/25 SHOOTING BRAKE
Estimate 50,000 - 70,000 U.S. dollars
Price Realized 52,875.00 U.S. dollars
Lot Description 1933 ROLLS-ROYCE 20/25 SHOOTING BRAKE
COACHWORK BY RIPPON BROS
Chassis No. GBA 56

Lot 50, a 1933 Rolls-Royce 20/35 Shooting Brake, demonstrates that "station wagons" can be handsome.

This six-cylinder car with Brewster green bonnet and side panels with wood paneling, a black roof, right hand drive and a brown interior had an estimate of $50,000 to $75,000 and sold for $52,875 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The catalogue provided the following commentary on this station wagon:

"The recession that followed the First World War influenced Rolls-Royce, who subsequently introduced a smaller model (to complement the 40/50 Ghost) which was better suited to the prevailing economic climate. In 1922 the 20 HP model was launched, maintaining the standard of engineering which had made Rolls-Royce world famous but, because of its size, being cheaper and very much an owner-driven motor car. It was a commercial success, and the six cylinder monobloc overhead valve design with detachable cylinder head, in unit with the clutch and gearbox, was to become the basis of all future six cylinder cars until the late 1940s. The 20 HP evolved into the 20/25 in 1929, the engine capacity being increased to 3.6 litres with a resultant brisker performance and greater flexibility in top gear.

"According to the build sheet records, this 20/25 was initially ordered with enclosed limousine coachwork for J. McNair Snadden of Blau Drummond, Stirling, Scotland. Whether Mr. Snadden took delivery of the Rolls-Royce with such coachwork is unknown because by the outbreak of the Second World War, the car was sporting the shooting brake body by Rippon Bros. that it still carries, and was appropriately in service on a Scottish sporting estate. The Royal Army subsequently requisitioned the car and its colorful adventures thereafter included active service in the North African desert. It was here that the car collected some scars of battle and in the 1970s it appeared at Automotive Restorations in Stratford, CT, still in its camouflage livery and sporting several bullet holes...no doubt as a result of action against Rommel and company. The owner at the time commissioned a complete restoration but then seemingly lost interest along the way, so the car sat unfinished until the current owner, twenty years later, came to the rescue when collecting his Bentley from the same restoration shop.

"Thus the restoration continued including stripping the metalwork and repainting in Brewster green and rechroming the brightwork except the radiator shell where the nickel plating was fine. The woodwork had been previously stripped and revarnished so did not need any more attention. The front seats had also been refurbished so only the back bench seat and jump seats required attention. The flooring was recovered in fluted rubber matting. Little mechanical work was needed since the motor ran so well and has always been reliable, although the car was rewired and the starter was rebuilt. The oil pressure is excellent, the car starts first time, runs well and has been completely trouble free in its current ownership. The owner is a true enthusiast and has had the car restored properly, such as the correct varnished wood frame roof tightly covered in rubberized canvas, done in the same way as woodies were originally built. He has even kept the Ace wheel discs, as found, in their desert camo.

"GBA 56 has clearly had a colorful life and we are delighted to be offering it for sale. Rolls-Royce Shooting Brakes are always interesting and we recommend close inspection of this lovely car."

1925 Peugeot 9/10CV Boulanger Normande Utility

Lot 21, 1925 Peugeot 9/10CV Type 177B Boulangere Normande Utility

Lot 21, a 1925 maroon Peugeot 9/10CV Type 177B Boulangere Normande Utility with black fenders and a canvas top had an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $19,975. It was chassis No. 57089 and Engine No. 58999.

The catalogue provided the following commentary on this four-cylinder, left-hand drive car:

"Peugeot S.A., or PSA Peugeot Citroën as they are now known, actually date back to the late 1800s when the Peugeot brothers, steelmakers by trade, turned their attention to cycle manufacture and subsequently to cars. This was a time of great invention and the Les Fils des Peugeot Frères were dynamic in this area, making a steam carriage for show at the Paris Exposition in 1889. They quickly progressed using Daimler engines and soon entered into local competitions, a novel idea at the time, but the concept of using competition to promote one's product has since become commonplace. They were successful and the firm prospered, introducing the enormously successful Bébé model in 1903. More racing success followed in the gladiatorial voiturette events of the period, although this was all sidelined when the Great War broke out. After Armand Peugeot passed away, cousin Robert took over the helm and with the introduction of the Quadrilette, motoring was within financial reach of virtually all Frenchmen.

"This 1925 Utility is an example of one of Peugeot's commercial variants from the mid-twenties and is based on the Type 177B model. Variously called a Boulangere Normande Utility or Camionette, it is in fact a bread delivery wagon that would have been used for deliveries to the establishments serviced by route vendors up and down France. Once a common enough sight, few of these service vehicles have survived intact and this one was on display in the Musée D'Automobiles du Fores in Sury-le-Comtal during the seventies. Substantially original, it has stood both the test of time and probably a hard working life, and has only seen some minor restoration as needed. Powered by a lively 1400cc engine, it is reported to start easily and runs remarkably well.

"Perfect for period events, fun outings or maybe even shopping trips, the Boulangere is offered with several pieces of correspondence and literature."

1922 Packard Twin Six Model 3-35 Special Runabout

Lot 24, 1922 Packard Twin Six Model 3-35 Special Runabout

Lot 24, a 1922 dark red Packard Model 3-35 Special Runabout with black fenders, black leather interior and beige canvas top, had an estimate of $55,000 to $75,000 and failed to sell.

The catalogue provided the following commentary on this lot.:

"One of the greatest contributors to the long and storied history of the Packard Motor Car Company is undoubtedly Colonel Jesse Vincent. Vincent's relentless pursuit of the twelve cylinder engine proved to be one of the most astute, cunning and profitable ventures the company ever undertook. His presentations to top executives on the revolutionary engine are reported to have begun as early as 1914. It was not that the V-8 engine configuration was a bad idea, Vincent just knew that the balance of two pairs of six vee-opposed cylinders would be the formula for motoring success. Only a short time after introducing and essentially selling the idea to the top brass at Packard, an experimental version was ready for testing and in fact far exceeded the expectations of nearly everyone. Vincent was obviously very proud of his new engine. Made up of two banks of L-head six cylinders, the engine had become slightly narrower as bore and stroke had been decreased enough to allow the larger capacity engine to fit snugly within the chassis rails. Overall, horsepower on the first year production cars of 1916 was rated at about 88. Performance was quite impressive and the now very agile cars proved themselves to be a supremely executed balance between weight, horsepower and torque. Packard had swiftly become a very successful automotive empire as the company was employing over 10,000 people nationwide. Their continual success bolstered this figure as the popularity of the new Twin Six line showed steady and continued increases in sales in the years following the new twelve cylinder car's introduction.

"This third series Twin Six Packard has benefited from an older restoration that has stood the test of time well. Now slightly mellowed with polishing marks in the paintwork and some faded brightwork, the car is offered in running condition, although it has not been used for some time. The black interior is presentable, the dashboard and instrument cluster appear correct and the floorboards are original. The Packard is currently fitted with old Firestone non-skid tires. The car was formerly owned by Burton A.Yale, and it was during his ownership that it was featured in Beverly Rae Kimes' book, Packard, A History of the Motor Car and the Company.

1922 Packard Special Runabout

"Though this example may require some minor attention prior to regular use, it is a significant example of the strong willed and sporty Twin Six motor cars and is fitted with its original, well- proportioned and extremely rare Special Runabout body."

1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible

Lot 20, 1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan with coachwork by Franay

Lot 20, a 1931 black Duesenberg Model J convertible sedan with red leather interior that was first owned by Her Majesty Queen Marie of Yugoslavia had an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000 and sold for $854,000.

The catalogue provided the following commentary about this classic car:

"The heart of the Model J Duesenberg was the massive powerhouse of an engine complex sporting twin overhead camshafts that controlled four inclined valves, two inlet and two exhaust per cylinder, displacing 420 ci (6,882 cc). The great five bearing crankshaft alone was reputed to weigh 150 lb. Even with the modest 5.2:1 compression ratio of the standard engine, the surge of power was awesome, thrusting a Phaeton, very completely equipped and no lightweight, from 10-80 mph in top gear in 22 seconds and providing a maximum of 116 mph. Matched to the engine was a very capable chassis, double dropped for a low center of gravity and provided with six sturdy cross-members. Endless care was lavished on the details. In addition to the 150 mph speedometer, the combined clock and stop-watch altimeter, barometer and brake pressure dials, there was the famous engine-driven timing box of planetary gears controlling lights to warn the driver to change the engine oil every 700 miles and check the battery water every 1,400 miles, together with other functions.

"However, it was on the Continent where Duesenberg's new concept of magnificent motoring had special appeal for the sportsman and the nobility. Among this group, whose sybaritic desire for living existed at the highest level, there numbered some of the greatest motor car connoisseurs of all time. The world's showroom was in Paris and it was here that the majority of the European Duesenbergs were to be sold. Motor Deluxe, headed by E.Z. Sadovich with showrooms at 12, rue de Berri in Paris, was the leading overseas outlet for Duesenberg, both in point of sales and in promotional activity. In attracting Europe's motoring nobility to the new Duesenberg, Mr. Sadovich recalled in particular his success at the 1931 Paris Salon when he sold fourteen Duesenbergs between October and January! At this same exhibition the President of the French Republic made a special visit to the Duesenberg stand to examine the two J models on display, both of which carried Franay bodies. Mr. Sadovich's publicity presented the J as 'the fastest, most beautiful, most powerful, and most expensive car in the world.'

"Chassis J-446, the car on offer here, was one of these two J models with Franay coachwork on display at the 1931 Paris Salon, and was built on the 153" long wheelbase chassis. The fabulous Deusenberg was in fact purchased by Her Majesty Queen Marie of Yugoslavia and she later commanded her Lady of Honor to express her entire satisfaction with the "absolute security" of her Duesenberg at high speed, its "grand comfort, remarkable suppleness, and supreme elegance." Clearly she was extremely impressed with her new purchase.

"Subsequently, and it is not known exactly when, the car was purchased by Antonio Chopitea of Lima, Peru, who, with his two brothers, owned several other Duesenbergs ranging from a Speedster to a Sport-Formal Sedan. He kept the car in Paris and it then passed to a Parisian brewer before being shipped to Mr. G.L.William Guilbert in Troy, New York. He subsequently sold it to E. Romerez in New York city. By 1941 the car was with a Mr. Warriner from Maryland. During his ownership the fenders were changed from the original long flowing factory type to the Pontoon type that it still wears today. The next recorded owner is W.E. Howell of Oklahoma followed by a Mr. Schreiber in New Jersey and then Earl Clarke of Pennsylvania. In May 1977 the car passed to Charles Goodman who kept it until 1995.

"After an extensive restoration completed in 1996 it won the Pre War Touring Class award at the inaugural Louis Vuitton Classic at Rockefeller Center that September and then a First in Class at the 1997 CCCA Annual Experience at Hickory Corners. At the 1997 Meadowbrook Concours it won the Meadowbrook Memorial Trophy. This superb quality Franay bodied Convertible Sedan represents a fine opportunity to purchase one of only a handful of French bodied Duesenbergs known to exist today. An original long wheelbase Model J with history, J-446 is a sporting open Duesenberg of the highest caliber."

1031 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B Viggo jensen Cabriolet d'Orsay

Lot 39, 1931 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B Viggo Jensen Cabriolet d'Orsay with coachwork by Dansk Karosseri-Farbik

The star of the auction was Lot 39, a maroon 1931 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B Viggo Jensen Cabriolet d'Orsay with maroon leather and ostrich skin upholstery and maroon soft top that appeared in the movie "Sunset Boulevard" and had been the 1995 Pebble Beach Best of Show winnter. The right-hand-drive car, which was chassis No. 869 and engine No. 821, had an estimate on request and sold to an American private collector for $1,382,500, the highest price of the sale.

The catalogue provided the following commentary about this lot:

"If Alfa Romeo was the greatest Italian sports car in the 1930s, then the Isotta-Fraschini was its luxury counterpart. This was the true thoroughbred of Italian motor cars in its day. Established as an automaker in 1902 by Cesare Isotta and the brothers Fraschini (Oreste, Vincenzo and Antonio), from around 1920 to the early 1930s Isottas were more popular in the United States than any other foreign marque except for Rolls-Royce. One of the world's most innovative automakers, IF introduced four wheel brakes in 1909, and the Tipo 8 series, unveiled in August 1912, featured an in-line eight cylinder engine, the first of its type put into series production anywhere in the world. The Tipo 8A series, introduced in 1924, offered 115hp, a redesigned frame and suspension and Isotta's highly regarded three-speed synchromesh transmission. In America, where nearly a third of Isottas were sold, the price of an 8A exceeded even that of a Model J Duesenberg; a chassis alone was priced at $9,750, and coachbuilt models were demanding upwards of $20,000.

"Isottas were owned by the likes of King Faisal, the Queen of Romania, the Agha Khan, Pope Pius XI and William Randolph Hearst among others. The 8A models are often seen with a hooded cobra radiator ornament inspired by a similar mascot fitted to the hood of film star Rudolph Valentino's Isotta-Fraschini 8A Coupe de Ville. The original was given to the actor by friends Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. when Valentino completed the 1925 Paramount film, Cobra. There were other movie connections too; in Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson was driven around by Erich von Stronheim, and in the 1956 epic film Giant, James Dean playing Jet Rink drove an Isotta.

"The Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A had the most powerful production straight eight engine when it was introduced in the mid-1920s. Most models were mounted on a very long 145" wheelbase chassis. There was an original guarantee that these cars would do 90 mph, with the capability of running at both 90mph and 2½ mph in the same gear. About 950 Tipo 8As were built during the 1925-1931 model run.

"By 1931 the company was struggling as the Great Depression in the USA had severely affected sales of expensive vehicles. Thus, in order to boost sales, the company introduced a new model, the Tipo 8B. The changes were not dramatic and largely involved engine and chassis/suspension improvements. The engine refinements included a heavier crankshaft, larger valves, lighter valve gear, H section connecting rods, double separate exhaust manifolds and twin Zenith carburetors that resulted in raising the horsepower to some 160bhp at 3,000 rpm. A new stronger chassis frame was utilized and this came with additional cross members for greater rigidity. At the same time softer elliptic springs and double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers were employed. Smaller wheels were fitted using larger tires (20 x 7 in) and the radiator was made deeper and the shell now carried shutters. It is believed that only around 28 Tipo 8Bs were ever built.

"The company was nearly saved by Henry Ford who was anxious to produce Isottas in Detroit and have his cars built in Italy, but the Italian government blocked this deal. Instead in 1932 the aircraft maker Count Caproni di Talideo, who considered the aero engines as indispensable for his own business, acquired the company. Car production virtually ceased that year and apart from a brief attempt at a rear engined V8 vehicle in the post-war period, Isotta Fraschini disappeared from car manufacture.

"This particular car has an intriguing history and according to the past President of the IF club in Italy, Nunzio Ferrari, this rare 8B model was probably built in January 1931. Owing to the precarious state of the company some creative chassis and engine numbering occurred in order to avoid customs duties and to provide the sales manager with an added bonus! As built, this 8B should have been numbered 1720 for both engine and chassis. Its retail price would have been 125,000 Italian Lire. However, as the price of an 8A was some 75,000 lire, the sales manager sold the car to the Swedish importer/concessionaire at the 8A price and he had the car plated as an 8A and the engine stamped as an 8A using the following numbers: Chassis No. 869 and Engine No. 821. The importer in Sweden pre-sold the car new to Denmark and charged the full 125,000 lire price and split the difference with the sales manager. The export papers had to show an 8A chassis at the 75,000 lire price. It was assumed correctly that customs officials would not have known the difference between an 8A or 8B.

"The Swedish importer's client was the Danish Consul General Mr. Carl Glad and he chose the relatively unknown coachbuilders Dansk-Karosseri-Fabrik of Copenhagen to build the bodywork to a design by Viggo Jensen. Initially a closed Coupe de Ville was constructed, although no pictures of this car have survived. In about 1933 the car was either re-bodied or considerably modified to a full cabriolet when he gave it a folding top over the passenger's (rear) compartment. In the late 1930s the fenders were modified by the addition of skirts. This stunning car was painted pale beige and was used extensively by Mr. Glad for his professional and diplomatic needs, parades, processions and other official ceremonies. The Isotta was also used on many long distance trips including one taken by the diplomat's son, Robert, to the Arctic Circle in 1939. The car returned the day before war broke out. In addition, the car became well known within the Scandinavian Territories and was used for ceremonial parades by King Christian X.

"The Glad family retained the Isotta until the late 1960s when they sold it to some close family friends and neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Erik Orth. They participated in a few antique car shows in Denmark during the 70s. After that the car was displayed in a Copenhagen museum which then closed, and the car disappeared into storage. In 1986 it was rediscovered in a lamentable condition in the back of a garage and was sold by the daughter of Erik Orth. It was brought shortly after to the Hershey Autojumble where it was spotted and immediately purchased by the current owners.

"After carrying out some research on the history of this vehicle, which in reality had just had two owners from new, and realizing it was a unique and highly imposing car, the decision was made to fully restore the car beginning in 1991. This exhaustive and meticulous restoration, documented by photographs, took nearly five years to complete and the entire vehicle was disassembled down to the last nut and bolt and rebuilt. New front fenders were made as the original ones had been modified and made to look much heavier. No expense was spared for the restoration and when the owner decided he wanted a full set of Grebel headlights to match the driver's spotlight (many Isottas had Grebel lights from new), a set was acquired at a cost of $25,000! When the interior was stripped out a piece of leather was found hidden under the rear seat and his upholsterer identified it as ostrich. Naturally the owner wanted to restore the car to its former glory and therefore the passenger compartment was finished using ostrich skin. Matching this splendid upholstery is beautiful inlaid birdseye maple and mahogany woodwork, art deco grab handles and cut glass decanters and glasses in the rear drinks cabinet. The attention to detail is quite exquisite down to making, from original drawings, a beautiful rear license plate holder. The unusual front bumper is made from solid brass and, like all the brightwork on the car, is finished in polished nickel. Rich maroon paintwork was chosen and complements the coachwork and fixtures and fittings in a remarkable fashion. Proportionally the Isotta Fraschini is a visual delight from the beautiful radiator and mascot through the long hood to the very low and raked front and rear windshields, sweeping fenders, side mounted spare wheels, wooden running boards and tool trays, monogrammed wheel spinners, neat rear roof line with landau irons and a rear mounted trunk.

"This stunning restoration was duly rewarded at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance when the just completed Isotta Fraschini was given top honors, winning the coveted Best of Show award against stiff competition. The following year the car traveled to Europe and was variously shown or displayed at a number of prestigious events including Retromobile in Paris, Techno Classica Essen in Germany, the Louis Vuitton Classic at The Hurlingham Club in London (where it took the Best in Show award), the Cartier Style et Luxe at Goodwood and the Concours Automobiles Classiques et Louis Vuitton au Parc de Bagatelle in Paris (where it won the Prix Automobiles Classiques). More recently the car was again seen at the 2000 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

"This fabulous Isotta Fraschini is still in concours condition and has only been driven some 100 miles since the restoration was completed. The current belief is that there are only three Tipo 8B models left anywhere in the world and this car would be a prized edition to any world class car collection."

1935 Auburn Model 851 Boattail speedster

Lot 10, 1935 Auburn Model 851 "Boattail" Speedster, front view

1935 Auburn Model 851 Boattail speedster, rear view

Lot 10, 1935 Auburn Model 851 "Boattail" Speedster, boattail view

Perhaps the flashiest and most stylish car in the auction was lot 10, a red 1935 Auburn Model 851 "Boattail" speedster, chassis No. 33212 E, with black leather interior and fawn convertible top. It had an estimate of $130,000 to $160,000 and sold for $145,000.

The catalogue provided the following commentary about this lot:

"Frank and Morris Eckhart of Auburn, Indiana started the Auburn Motor Company in 1903. As their business grew, they acquired more dealerships to stay ahead of the competition, but by the mid-twenties size had caught up with them and they were in need of new leadership. In 1925 E.L. Cord became general manager and set out to save the company. Under Cord the new Auburn became a very different company, emphasizing style when others in the industry concentrated on engineering. Body styles were changed every few years to keep sales up.

"By 1931 Auburn was able to sell a very appealing package for far less than the competition. Their fully equipped V12 cars could be purchased for well under $2,000 and the V8s were cheaper still. By 1934 the depression had caught up and sales were falling. As a remedy Auburn returned to the six cylinder model and curtailed production of the V12. In addition, the 1935 Model 851 'Boattail' Speedster with the straight eight motor was an effort to boost sales with a car that offered both style and performance with a younger, sportier image. It is considered by many auto enthusiasts to be among the most beautiful cars of the classic era. With a tapered Speedster tail designed by Gordon Miller Buehrig, the model was available with a new optional supercharger for the eight cylinder engine that boosted output to an unprecedented 150 brake horsepower and powered the car from 0-60 mph in a remarkable 15 seconds. Each of the 146 supercharged Speedsters produced carried a dash plaque indicating the speed at which the car had been tested. To promote their speed A.P.B. Jenkins drove a stock Auburn on the Bonneville Salt Flats, breaking the American class speed record. Auburn won top prizes at the Concours d'Elegance held at the Universal Exposition in Brussels thus promoting their elegant styling. While the Speedster created huge demand, it transpired that the company still lost considerable money on each one.

"According to noted Auburn authority, Randy Ema, this original 851 Speedster was first owned by Mr. Chris Savers in Chicago and it is believed to have subsequently spent much of its life in the mid west. At the end of July 1945 the car had passed into the hands of a dealer, John Troker from Illinois. The next known owner was Ron Schirmer from Indianapolis who owned the car according to a copy of an Indiana title in the early 1980s in partnership with J. M. Walden. In February 1982 the Auburn passed into the hands of Gilbert E. Horton from North Dakota. In about 1997 the Speedster joined the well-known collection of Dr. Don Vesley.

"This stylish Speedster is today indicative of a much older restoration that probably dates back to the 1970s. The panelwork appears straight, with presentable paintwork. The interior is presentable, but again would benefit from a retrim as the beading at the edges and fine details are not to the highest of standards. Mechanically the engine runs well, although the supercharger is not currently connected. In addition, the car has had a recent brake service.

"With exquisite style and thrilling performance, these cars are a favorite among discriminating collectors. They are considered full classics by the Classic Car Club of America and are popular for shows and tours. With just 146 supercharged Speedsters originally built, these Auburns are rare and desirable. It is worth bearing in mind that just last summer Christie's achieved over $300,000 for a fully restored example."

1959 Jaguar XK150 S roadster

Lot 17, 1959 Jaguar XK150 S Roadster

 

Lot 17, a mink-colored 1959 Jaguar XK150S roadster may well have been the most beautiful sports car ever made. It had a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000 and sold for $58,750.

The catalogue provided the following commentary on this lot:

"The XK series (with the 150 as the final evolution) came about almost by accident. The 120 was only to have been a limited production run of 200 cars to publicize the new XK engine, designed for saloons. After the 1948 launch at the London Motor Show, where it was undeniably the sensation of the show, the response was so strong that bodywork casts were prepared and twelve thousand XK120s were subsequently sold. The XK140 followed in 1954 and the 150 in 1957. The 150 had various styling developments over the 140 including a wrap-around windscreen and a new 'hip line'. A slightly wider body and slimmer doors provided considerably more interior room. With massive torque from a powerplant tuned to give maximum power at lower revolutions than before, these models offered surging acceleration to beyond 120mph. There was revised rack and pinion steering and, with the new disc brakes and improved headlamps, the XK150 was the most capable Jaguar high-speed grand touring car yet. The Autocar's testers approved the adjustable steering column, upright seat squab and generous seat adjustment and thought that directional stability 'added to the crew's confidence'. Few of its European competitors, not even the exotica, could outperform the XK150 and none could outbrake it. Just as previous XK Jaguars had, this version delivered unbeatable value for money with all that effortless performance.

"According to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust certificate, this Jaguar XK150 S Roadster was dispatched from England on December 1, 1958 destined for the US. It was originally finished with cream paintwork and red upholstery and the first recorded owner was Lt. Col. R. Hey, Jr. of Cherry Point, North Carolina. When new this car was fitted with the famous 3.4 litre (S specification) XK unit which would have produced around 250 bhp. Very late in the production of the XK150, Jaguar produced an even more powerful version with the engine bored out to 3.8 litre specification and just 36 of these models were originally produced in left hand drive form. At some stage during the life of this particular roadster, an owner decided to upgrade the car and fitted a more desirable 3.8 litre engine.

"We believe that at some point this car went from the US to Canada before again returning to the US where a comprehensive three-year restoration was begun, the current owner purchasing the car halfway through the project. The XK was generally quite sound when stripped to the bare metal and only a small amount of sheet metal (sourced from England) was replaced during the work. Naturally the mechanicals were all rebuilt, the car was rewired, instruments were rebuilt and new bows were even made for the convertible top. The chrome was either redone or replaced. The chrome wire wheels are shod with new Dunlop tires. The owner selected a highly distinctive and appealing color scheme of mink (or medium brown metallic) paintwork, while the interior was finished with tan leather upholstery with dark chocolate piping to match the carpets and top. The car is equipped with a wooden Mota Lita steering wheel and its New Jersey license plate is the very apt XK150S. With plenty of performance and styling to match, this XK150 S Roadster is sure to draw a crowd wherever it is taken."

1957 Dual-Ghia convertible

Lot 46, 1957 Dual-Ghia convertible

Perhaps the sleekest-looking car and one whose looks have remarkably not been dated whatsoever is Lot 46, a chocolate 1957 Dual-Ghia convertible. It had an estimate of $120,000 to $140,000 and sold for $139,500.

The catalogue provides the following commentary of this beautiful automobile:

"Eugene Casaroll, owner of Automobile Shippers, Inc., a Detroit trucking firm that moved most of Chrysler's cars from the factory to dealers and distributors, was the force behind the Dual-Ghia car. Impressed with one of Chrysler's Italian designed (Carrozzeria Ghia Torino) dream/show cars that Chrysler had commissioned, The Fire Arrow, he acquired the design and production rights from Chrysler. Casaroll hired a then well-known Detroit Italian-born mechanic, stylist, racer and car builder, Paul Farago, to produce with Ghia of Italy a more practical family car using the styling of the original Fire Arrow show cars. He set up an assembly plant in Detroit on Van Dyke Avenue under another corporation he owned, Dual Motor Company.

"A four passenger sport convertible prototype with added leg room, trunk space and other features was introduced on June 28, 1955 at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in Detroit under the name, Firebomb. One year later at the International Automobile Show held in New York, the progressively refined styled car was introduced at $7,646. The new name was Dual-Ghia, combining the names of the manufacturer and coachmaker in traditional European fashion. The all steel, hand formed (over aluminum dies) bodies made in Italy were shipped to Dual Motors for assembly using many Chrysler Corporation drive train parts.

"The attraction of the Dual-Ghia was the successful mating of a superbly styled and executed Ghia body with easily serviced Chrysler running gear. The automotive press lavished it with praise, as did non-automotive magazines of the era such as Time, Life, and Good Housekeeping who reported on the Dual-Ghia as a social phenomenon. It became known as the "car of the stars" owned by such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, musicians Hoagy Carmichael, David Rose, and other such "well knowns" as actress Natalie Trundy and flamboyant tennis star Gussie Moran.

"The car is exceptional in design and engineering with a step down floor and 50/50 weight transfer. An overall height of only 54" yet sufficient head room resulted in the car actually being called a four-passenger sports car by a number of magazines. Detailing of the bodies is extraordinary for the era. All body trim, as well as the grille, windshield molding and other exterior appointments such as inner doorsills are chrome plated solid brass. The engine and truck compartments are edged in polished aluminum molding. Over 1,500 man-hours were said to have been lavished on each car before it left the factory. While production of 150 cars per year was planned over two years (1957-1958), only 99 cars were built. This car is number 78 since the vehicle identification numbering series started with 101.

"This car was originally owned by a gentleman from Reading, Pennsylvania and, following his untimely death, was crated and stored in a large warehouse for a number of years. Noted 1950s hybrid car collector and enthusiast, Dr. Paul Sable, also from Reading, acquired the car in the late 80s. It was then purchased by a California collector, David Laurence Altman, who undertook a complete and full restoration. Today the car is certainly eye-catching and unique, reflecting much of the 50s social and car culture era. According to automotive researcher/author and former owner, "these cars recently are certainly obtaining a following with well-known collectors and have been referred to by some as the Duesenberg of the 50s".

"This car is a complete and prime example of the marque and a true practical exotic that has been fully restored and excellently maintained. Its opulent styling, vibrant color, sumptuous, well appointed leather interior with original power windows and unique engine turned gauge panel set this car apart from its American cousins. The full original wheel discs and the more powerful hemi head engine are extremely rare and enhance the car's looks and power."

"We are thrilled with the exceptional prices achieved for our two top lots at Christie's inaugural sale at Rockefeller Center," remarked Miles Morris, head of Christie's International Motor Cars. "The 1995 Pebble Beach Best of Show Winner, the 1931 Isotta Fraschini, fetched $1,382,400 and the 1931 Duesenberg Model J achieved $854,500. There was also tremendous bidding activity for the two vehicles sold to benefit charity. The proceeds of the last 2002 Chrsyler Prowler will benefit The Multiple Sclerosis Society and the proceeds of the 1963 Bentley, belonging to the late Dudley Moore, will benefit Music for All Seasons and The Dudley Moore Research Fund for PSP. Both Christie's and Rockefeller Center are delighted with the overwhelming response to the hugely successful pre-sale exhibition on the plaza streets of Rockefeller Center. Enthusiasm was expressed by both the public and collectors for the opportunity to view such exceptional automobiles in the heart of Manhattan's cultural center," Mr. Morris said.

While most of the cars were unquestionably beautiful, it is curious that the auction itself did not too better especially since many cars sold for less than today's typical fiberglass piece of automotive junk!

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