Rare Lamborghini, Ferrari star at RM Sotheby's Amelia Island auctions

·Automotive Contributor
Rare Lamborghini, Ferrari star at RM Sotheby's Amelia Island auctions

If you’re not aware that today’s classic car auctions are high-finance blood sports, one glance at RM Auctions’ Amelia Island webpage will set you straight.

Instead of an image of a genteel car front and center, there’s a turbo-charged list of bragging rights from last year’s auction: $35.9 million in sales, with “numerous world records established” including an Amelia Island record of $6.6 million for a 1937 Delahaye Competition Court Torpedo Roadster. And like any growth company, RM expects even better returns this year.

“Our catalog estimate for Amelia now eclipses what we sold in 2014,” says Alain Squindo, vice president at RM Auctions, whose Amelia event — which as always coincides with a weekend of activities that includes a concours d’elegance — unfolds March 14.

1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet, expected to fetch $6 million - $7 million. Click for gallery
1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet, expected to fetch $6 million - $7 million. Click for gallery

Another measure of RM’s success is the recent news that it has taken on a 25 percent partner in Sotheby’s, the iconic 271-year-old London house known for peddling trifles such as the Magna Carta and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (for $119 million). RM was founded in 1991 by Canadian Rob Myers and now includes the sub-house Auctions America. (The other big players in the European-focused space include Gooding and Company and Bonham’s, while outfits such as Mecum and Barrett-Jackson tend to target American iron.)

The logic for these two companies joining forces is simple. As the 1 percent of the 1 percent look for new ways to invest their lucre, Sotheby’s can offer RM’s services in adding investment-grade sheetmetal to perhaps an existing collection of watches, wine or art. And RM in turn gets instant access to an arguably even more exclusive clientele than the one it already counsels.

The Amelia Island auction in northeastern Florida is a fitting first for the partnership, which now officially goes by RM Sotheby’s. “Amelia is huge for us, and is in and of itself becoming one of the top three stops on the classic car auction circuit,” says Squindo. “Pebble Beach (in August) is great, but arguably this event is easier to navigate, the weather’s better, and the cars are the best of the best.”

1971 Lamborghini Miura SV
1971 Lamborghini Miura SV

Squindo is particularly fond of one particular lot, a red 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV, which is distinguished by being the very car Lambo shipped to the U.S. for a series of EPA tests to confirm its importability. “You could argue that this particular Miura is among the most special out there,” says Squindo, perhaps explaining a pre-auction estimate of between $2.25 million and $2.75 million - about a million-dollar-leap from prices just four years ago.

Some finger pointing at Ferrari is in order here. Maranello machines have been tearing up the auction circuit, and the top ten auction sales of 2014 - all Ferraris - accounted for 10% of the year’s total haul of $1.3 billion. In a rising-tide-floats-all-cars scenario, anything Italian is seeing value bumps, from Alfa Romeo Giulia Spiders to once-lowly Ferrari 308 GTBs.

But this Miura arguably deserves a puffed-up price, given its genuine pedigree. The model was born from the pen of 27-year-old designer Marcello Gandini, and when it debuted in Geneva in 1966 its aerodynamic rake seemed to redefine the future of (exotic) transportation. Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis ordered one, and to this day it seems more a vision from the future than the past.

The Miura SV was the last and most capable iteration of the species, which died in 1973 with fewer than 800 built. This particular car was a prototype meant for the government’s prying hands. One the car passed that test, it became the face of the new U.S.-spec Miura in this country, appearing on the car’s brochures when it bowed at the auto show in Boston in 1971. It boasted stateside-only features such as a single-sump oil system, a 200-mph speedometer, air-conditioning and a reinforced steel chassis and passenger compartment. A raucous V-12 punched out nearly 400 hp.

The lucky first owner? One Jack Robinson of tiny Goddard, Kan., population 2,000. Wisely, Robinson made more than one trip west to the Bonneville Salt Flats with with SV, before later selling the car in 1977 to a doctor from Georgia.

When he passed in 2005, the car was purchased at his widow’s insistence by his close friend and renowned Miura scholar, Joe Sackey, who not only opted to have the car restored to its original 1971 state by Bobileff Motorcar Company in San Diego, but also featured the vehicle on the cover of his book, “The Lamborghini Miura Bible.”

If the newly rebranded RM Sotheby’s is looking to impress a truly picky group of collectors, cars such as this rare Miura represent a good way to get off to a roaring start.

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