Auction Report

Prewar, Original Restorations Highpoint for RM Sotheby's

1930 Duesenberg Model J Leads the Pack in Hershey

Posted: October 17, 2016 9:00 am
by Andy Reid

The RM Sotheby’s 2016 Hershey auction took place Oct. 6-7 in conjunction with the weeklong Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Eastern Regional Fall Meet in Hershey, Pa.

To quote Kai Ryssdal of NPR, let’s do the numbers to start off. RM Sotheby’s 2016 Hershey auction in Hershey, Pa. saw $11,581,367 in total sales, with 113 of 126 car lots sold. The sale attracted bidders from 18 countries. Those numbers alone should tell you the sale was successful.

That is not to say there were not any bargains at the Hershey auction, because there were, but by and large cars sold at their appropriate market value, and many exceeded that value by quite a bit.

Let’s start with a few cars I feel were sold for exactly what they should have cost.

The first is the 1930 Duesenberg Model J Dual-Cowl Phaeton J-347. This car was the star of the sale and a well-deserved one at that, being one of three original Murphy Dual-Cowl Phaetons in the world and coming from an owner who had the car for 54 years. Bidding in the room and on the phone was intense, eventually leading up to a final sale price of US $2,090,000. That might sound like a lot of money, but this car was well worth that price.

The next star of the sale, and my second-favorite Hershey car, was the 1935 Auburn Eight Supercharged speedster. This dove gray car was simply magnificent and likely the first example I have ever laid eyes on. In fact, it was awarded a perfect 100-point score two times by the AACA. I honestly felt that this car was a great buy at US $880,000, and I hope the new owner is thrilled with his new car.

Another high-priced car was a 1957 Porsche 356 A 1600 speedster “garage find.” The car was said to be a single-family-owned car since 1967. It is nice to find a car like this, but this speedster was in no way an all-original survivor. This Porsche had been mucked with over the years, and, to my eye, needed an immediate full restoration. Considering the price to restore this particular car could easily cost more than US $150,000, the final price of US $341,000 makes this looks like the sale of the century, especially to the buyer.

And what was my favorite car at the Hershey auction? It was the unsold 1927 Duesenberg Model A/Y Phaeton Prototype, formerly Duesenberg’s personal car, that was somehow unable to reach its US $450,000 preauction estimate, only climbing as high as a US $340,000 bid. This unrestored and well-preserved car was the essence of a preservation car, and I was stunned to see it passed by. Of all the cars at the auction, it was to me the most important one on offer, representing the opportunity to own a legitimate original piece of Duesenberg history. 

On the other side of the coin was my pick for the best buy at the auction. That award goes to the 1938 MG TA “Tickford” Drophead coupe. This car was another example of a no-expense-spared restoration, and though the car’s original TA MPJG engine had been replaced with an era-correct MG VA engine, the original engine did come with the car. The lucky buyer of this stunning car was able to get it for a final price of US $77,000, which would not begin to cover the expense of restoring this fine prewar MG.

A 1932 Lincoln Model KB Boattail speedster, designed by General Motors stylist David Holls, who nicknamed the car the “David Holls Speedster.” This was a car that was never in peril built, but some clever owner decided that it should be built and did so. This speedster had a preauction estimate of US $200,000 to US $275,000, which is unusual for a rebody car, and a final sale price of US $605,000. I feel the car was stunning and deserving of the price, but it marked a definite home run for RM Sotheby’s.

As far as bargains are concerned, there were a few, such as the 1963 Sunbeam Rapier Series IIA convertible. This was a well-cared-for car that presented nicely and even featured a rare factory hardtop. The car sold for a very fair US $8,250, a terrific buy.

Another bargain standout was the 1937 Studebaker Dictator Business coupe. This car featured an updated higher-output Studebaker six-cylinder engine from a 1953 model and air conditioning. Other than this, the car was restored as original and was in amazing condition. Selling for only US $29,700, this was another well-bought car.

If the RM Sotheby’s Hershey auction showed us anything, it is that good cars are still selling for strong money, and that the best cars will still rise to the top, making for a stable classic car market.

Next up for RM Sotheby's is its Duemila Ruote auction in Milan, Italy from Nov. 25-27.

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