For Charlie Kemp, 77, selling the old Ford that’s been sitting his Mississippi garage for decades now is like selling a little slice of his soul. But it’s time, says the racing legend, who in his prime went wheel to wheel with the likes of Mario Andretti and Stirling Moss. “A million dollars can buy you a lot of adventures,” he says with an infectious laugh tinged with a southern drawl.
Kemp’s baby — a snarling 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 R — is among a variety of automotive standouts going under the hammer March 7-9 during the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance outside Jacksonville, Fla. The Shelby (estimated to sell for between $900,000 to $1.1 million) will be featured at RM Auctions’ event on March 8, while Gooding & Co.’s March 7 auction puts a spotlight on a similar-age racer of a different stripe, a fetching 1968 Porsche 907 Longtail ($3.5 to $5 million).
Both cars offer well-heeled buyers the opportunity to instantly add machine-made history to their garages. The factory-built racing Mustang is considered to be the winningest Shelby in existence, with 17 straight SCCA chequered flags in 1968 and 1969, all with Kemp at the wheel. He bought the car used in 1967 for $4,600, and got with it a bunch of spare parts and one human: an irascible genius race mechanic named Pete Hood.
“Pete was amazing, a real innovator,” says Kemp, who says Hood took a fast car and made it unbeatable by tweaking the suspension and engine. One night, the duo even decided to park themselves under the car and “took every every little piece of extra metal off the car that wasn’t needed, I’m guessing we got 20 or 30 pounds off her.”
Those efforts no doubt were integral to this 350 R hitting an astonishing 184 mph at Daytona in 1969. “Carroll (Shelby) said it was the fastest (350) he’d ever seen,” says Kemp. “He said he didn’t understand how it went 184, but it did.”
Painted in white with classic blue racing stripes and accented by an arresting red-orange front end, the 350 R packs a tweaked V8 delivering an estimated 450 hp. While it would likely fare well in a historic race, Kemp says the next owner would do well to pop it in a museum.
“It has only a few scrapes after 54 races and it’d be nice to keep it that way,” says Kemp, whose precision driving spills over into his passion for flying vintage aircraft, which at one point found a P-51 Mustang in his hanger. “But things could get bad fast is someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing gets in this car. She’s that fast.”
Gooding’s sleek Porsche 907 also claims impressive racing bragging rights. Porsche has long been associated with winning endurance races ranging from 24-hour races or the Paris-Dakar Rally, where mechanical impregnability is more important than sheer top speed. This very 907 kicked off those winning ways in the modern era when it won the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans, leading a Porsche 1-2-3 sweep. A five-times Le Mans entrant, the car also took first in class in 1971, and over the years was driven by the likes of Jo Siffert and Vic Elford.
“This is a fantastically important car, when you think of it being the first Porsche Le Mans winner,” says company founder David Gooding. “The 917 Porsche may be that company’s most famous endurance racer, but this one kicked it all off. Besides, the sheer beauty of the car is breathtaking. It’s among the most sensuous racing machines ever made. It’s both small and compact and just impossibly long. You can’t take your eyes of it.”
Gooding says the car spent recent years in the collection of a European enthusiast who “drove it very gently,” and is selling mainly to accommodate a pricey addition to his fleet.Other highlights of Gooding’s lots include more than a dozen vintage BMWs from the collection of Colorado-based dealer who’d long been enamoured of the Munich marque. These include familiar BMW stars such as the wedge-like 1980 M1 ($325,000-$375,000), a rare 1971 3.0 CSL ($125,000 to $175,000) and even a modestly priced modern classic, 1988 M6 ($20,000 to $30,000). But the more off-beat fare includes a number of micro-car Isettas (around $40,000), a 1964 700 Luxus LS ($25,000 to $35,000) and an elegant 1957 503 Coupe ($225,000 to $275,000). “I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone with a BMW collection, or someone wanting to start a collection fast, snapping up more than one of these at once,” says Gooding.
Also of note in the Gooding lineup are a variety of Porsche 911s that exemplify the steady growth in the value of early editions of these iconic cars from Zuffenhausen. Cases in point include a 1969 911 E that’s estimated to fetch between $100,000 and $125,000, and a 1967 911 Soft-Window Targa that Gooding feels confident will go for between $200,000 and $250,000.
“Yes, there are a lot of 911s out there, but there also aren’t a lot that are great examples since many were run hard and put away wet,” says Gooding, who is also selling pricier examples of the brand, including a 1973 RS Lightweight ($900,000 to $1.1 million) and a rare shark-nosed 1959 718 RSK ($3.25 million to $3.75 million). “Many experts actually think most good Porsches are still undervalued.”
Circling back to RM’s cars, two stand out from around 16 that belonged to the late Connecticut auto dealer Malcolm Pray, whose family is giving the proceeds to the Pray Achievement Center, which mentors and motivates young people.
One is a 1937 Delahaye Competition Court Torpedo Roadster by Figoni and Falaschi (estimated to go for between $5 and $6 million) and the other a 1961 Ferrari GT 250 Series II Cabriolet ($1.5 to $1.8 million). What’s remarkable is where he picked up both: under the Highbridge, a turn of the 20th-century aqueduct stretching over Jerome Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York. In the ‘60s, this is where car dealers came to buy and sell cars that didn’t quite fit into their normal fare. In 1964, Pray picked up the Delahaye, a car that had fascinated him since childhood, and five years later the same improbable setting yielded his Ferrari for $2,920.
“Malcolm adored these cars, and kept them, which is partly what makes them so valuable today,” says RM specialist Jonathan Sierakowski, who worked with the Pray family to select these from the roughly 60 cars in the family collection. Pray passed away last summer at age 84. “His wife said it best, ‘He loved a lot of cars but the Delahaye was his French mistress.’”
No disrespect to the French lass, but a German grande dame did compete for Pray’s attention. Also up for sale at Amelia is the dealer’s prized 1958 BMW 507 Series II Roadster ($1.4 to $1.8 million), a forest green over red gem that Pray bought from its original owner in 1972. Although the car’s original engine had gone missing, it was recently recovered and restored by RM and will be part of the 507’s lot. “It’s got the factory hardtop and rare Rudge knock-off wheels and about 18,000 kilometers on the clock,” says Sierakowski. “Besides being in great shape, it’s a rare opportunity for someone to be only the third owner of a 56-year-old classic car.”