The foundation of the collector-car hobby, Veteran, Brass Era and Prewar Classics continue to fascinate all who experience them today. While the many amazing modern Supercars already covered in advance of the Scottsdale auctions command a growing share of the collector-vehicle market, savvy collectors and enthusiasts still appreciate the early greats.
For the finest examples, market values remain strong and stable. As with their postwar counterparts, historical significance, originality, rarity and body style drive collector interest and market values for early automobiles. They are also quite enjoyable on the road and on classic tours. This is thanks to engineering and materials sciences that advanced as the automobile industry rapidly consolidated and matured during the first few decades of the 20thCentury.
While the various auction houses present in Scottsdale differ in the types and eras of early automobiles they have consigned, all will have a number of very desirable and enjoyable Pre-1941 automobiles on offer, reflecting continued collector demand. The following is a brief discussion of them by auction house.
Soon approaching its landmark 50thanniversary in the collector-car auction business, Scottsdale’s Barrett-Jackson may be best-known for offering modern high-performance vehicles and customs, but the foundation of its business was the great early classics.
Two interesting Prewar cars crossing the auction stage at Scottsdale are both from General Motors. The two vehicles feature renowned styling from Harley Earl’s groundbreaking design studios and consistently excellent engineering. Furthermore, it has the foundation of wise management and financial might that guided the massive corporation through the Great Depression.
Lot 160.1– An early offering scheduled to cross the Barrett-Jackson auction stage on Tuesday, January 14th, this 1930 Oldsmobile Deluxe Coupe is a highly attractive example of GM’s upscale division favored by upwardly mobile buyers.
Offered at No Reserve, it is fully restored and has a rare and desirable “3-Window” body style. Also, it features a roll-down rear window and rumble seat, enhanced by dual side mounted spares, and whitewall tires. It is a period piece of style due to its two-tone color scheme. Powered by a 6-cylinder engine and 3-speed transmission, it will provide stylish, yet economical touring for the new owner.
Lot 540.1– Also offered at No Reserve and crossing the auction block early on Wednesday, January 15th, this 1940 LaSalle Model 52 Special Convertible Coupe is a desirable open-air example of Cadillac’s popular “junior” marque from the last model year.
Renowned for their unique styling and robust 322 CI V-8 power, this restored example is one of only 425. It was produced for 1940 as a mid-year addition to the LaSalle model line. Features include attractive Blue-over-Beige livery and a vacuum power-operated convertible top. It dotes upscale features such as chrome fog lamps, windshield washer, radio and under-seat heaters.
Featuring a characteristically broad auction lineup, Bonhams’ Scottsdale auction has an abundance of top-shelf Prewar classics for 2020. Headlining the sale is a wonderful 16-car group, offered at No Reserve from the collection of noted Californian collector Philip Reed, most of which are early American and European motorcars including such diverse marques as Boyer, Buick, Ford, Stutz, Winton and more.
Another featured attraction is Bonhams’ cover car, an extremely rare 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Cabriolet with coachwork by Joseph Figoni. The following are but two of the many other choice Prewar offerings from Bonhams at Scottsdale.
Lot 48– The 40/50 HP Silver Ghost is the true foundation of the enduring greatness of Rolls-Royce with its strength, durability and ability to carry some of the most opulent custom coachwork ever designed for the company’s supremely wealthy clients. Numbered 342LF, this Piccadilly Roadster-bodied example from 1924 was built for a far more sporting purpose than most Silver Ghosts.
This car was first owned by “Roaring Twenties” business magnate Alphonzo E. Bell, who struck oil in 1917 near East Los Angeles. Subsequent updates were made by Los Angeles coach builder Joseph Reindl. The vehicles’ history is fascinating, also including a Marx Brothers connection and Hollywood movie use.
Lot 47– Under the watchful eye of Harlow Curtice, General Motors’ foundational Buick division went from strength to strength and even delivered a credible challenge in America’s high-end market to Cadillac, its corporate sibling. It is a wide model line ranging from the Special to the Series 90 Limited. Subsequently, They were all powered by versions of Buick’s modern “Valve in Head” 8-cylinder engine design. Of all, the Series 70 Roadmaster line defined the marque.
This dashing 1941 Buick Series 70 Convertible Phaeton, a “Convertible Sedan” in Buick parlance, is reported by Bonhams to remain original and unrestored, with period movie use, believed by Warner Brothers Studios. In addition to its gently rounded Art Deco-inspired open body, this Roadmaster features Buick’s 165-horsepower, 322 CI “Compound Carburetion” engine and independent front suspension for a very enjoyable driving experience.
With 170 lots crossing the auction stage on Friday, January 17th and Saturday, January 18th, Gooding and Company will offer one of the most diverse and interesting auction lineups among the high-end auction houses at Scottsdale this year. Spanning the Classic Era through today’s exotic Supercars, Gooding’s offerings include relatively affordable and upcoming collectibles, all the way up to some 14 vehicles with estimates in the million-dollar range and beyond.
Epitomizing class and quality with its auction facilities, knowledgeable staff and the engaging and the entertaining interplay between David Gooding and Auctioneer Charlie Ross, the Gooding and Company auctions are on track to deliver quite likely the highest overall sale results at Scottsdale this year.
Lot 116– Featuring incomparable styling, industry-leading engineering and robust V-8 power, the 1941 Cadillac Series 62 models rank firmly among the finest immediate Prewar automobiles. The 1941 Cadillac line looks fast even while at rest, due to a rare combination of elements. Further, this car possesses sporting vigor, timeless elegance and a cohesiveness of design matched by few, if any, of its rivals.
Before heading to auction, it was formerly part of the Palm Springs, California collection of Bob Pond. This 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible Coupe benefits from a recent body-off restoration and features desirable period accessories. Enjoying Full Classic recognition by the CCCA, it is a true Prewar classic automobile that can be shown and enjoyed in a wide array of classic touring events.
Lot 143– One of the crowning achievements of the Classic Era, the Hispano-Suiza J12 exemplifies power, grace and luxury with few peers. The J-12 was Lauded in period road tests for its prodigious power and torque. The vehicle was designed to carry to most opulent custom-ordered coachwork of the time. It debuted at the 1931 Paris Salon, where it created a sensation. Built in 1932, it features dashing open bodywork by the Parisian coachbuilder Henry Binder. This J12 is one of only 114 such cars built in all. Each survivor is sought-after by knowledgeable collectors and all carry fascinating provenance.
Bearing Chassis 13016 is a this exceedingly rare J12. It was formerly owned by legendary racer, sportsman and collector Briggs Cunningham and noted collector Miles C. Collier, under whose care it was featured twice in Automobile Quarterly and in Johnnie Green’s definitive book, The Legendary Hispano-Suiza. It carries a pre-auction estimate of $1,500,000 – $2,000,000. It is a true “blue chip,” worthy of inclusion in the finest automobile collections.
The first cars consigned to Scottsdale by RM Sotheby’s, this seven-car package of beautiful Prewar Cadillac models comes from the noted collection of John D. Groendyke. All offers are without reserve, confirming faith among top American collectors in the health of today’s collector-car market.
Lot 120– Representing Cadillac’s coup de grace to such elite rivals as Marmon, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow, the V-16 debuted to fanfare and critical acclaim for 1930. By 1933, while production of 400 V-16 models was planned, just 125 were produced. However, with the financial strength of Cadillac’s corporate parent General Motors, and the sheer will of top management, the V-16 would continue through 1940. Due to this, it was one of the ultimate technical achievements of the 1930s. The V-16 also featured luxurious coachwork by Fleetwood and other top body builders.
In addition, this example from 1933 was originally delivered to San Francisco with sedan bodywork. The present All-Weather Phaeton body was donated from another 1933 V-16 by a prior owner and following expert attention from Bob Mosier, it was exhibited at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®. A CCCA Senior and Premier Award winner in 2013, this highly rare Full Classic®serves notice that the finest Prewar classics will never go out of style.
Lot 126– For 1931, the V-12 line debuted, making Cadillac the world’s only luxury manufacturer to simultaneously offer V-8, V-12 and V-16 models. Blanketing the market, Cadillac now took the lead over archrivals Lincoln and Packard, forcing both to eventually offer smaller “junior” models to compete with greater production volumes. Based on the Model 370-A V-12 chassis, this sleek and glamorous two-passenger car rides on a long 146-inch wheelbase.
Offered with a copy of the factory build sheet, it was first delivered to Cleveland, Ohio. In Ohio, it was quite possibly purchased new by industrialist and philanthropist Francis Fleury Prentiss. This V-12 was formerly part of the noted collection of Cadillac dealer LaRue Thomas until 1993. Provenance includes a limited succession of other knowledgeable collectors. The restoration was completed in in the late 2000s and most recently, the grand Cadillac earned the Chairman’s Choice Award at the 2019 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.
Now celebrating its landmark 20th anniversary, Scottsdale’s Russo and Steele will offer some 800 collector vehicles at a new location in its home city. Russo and Steele feature a unique experience which funnels the bidders to the auction stage. They bring a unique level of interaction and involvement for everyone in attendance.
The energy of Russo and Steele’s Drew Alcazar is second to none as he describes the highlights of each vehicle being offered, ranging from affordable sports and classic cars, all the way up to today’s most collectible classic Ferrari models and ultra-performance models. While unmodified Prewar offerings are few, they are always well worth taking the time to locate and bid on them.
Consignment 5222 Lot F507– Deep within the large auction docket from Russo and Steele, mostly populated by sports, muscle and custom cars, is this striking 1940 Oldsmobile Custom 8 Convertible. Officially designated the “Series 90 Custom Cruiser Convertible Coupe,” it features 8-cylinder power. Moreover, it boasts a synchromesh 3-speed transmission, rich leather upholstery, fog lamps and a radio. It also has Art Deco accents and a decidedly upscale overall presence. Offered on behalf of a private collection, it also retains a 1943 Ohio registration sticker on the windshield.
Auburn, Indiana’s Worldwide Auctioneers are the “go-to” house for many collectors of Prewar American automobiles, usually offering several strong examples at its various auction events. This year’s Scottsdale auction will be at a new venue, Singh Meadows. It is in nearby Tempe on Wednesday, January 15thstarting at 5:00 p.m.
Lot 29– One of the pinnacles of Classic Era beauty, the gorgeous 1936 Auburn 852 SC also marks the end of an era as the swan song of the Auburn marque. Further, this beautiful Auburn is from the Chuck Morgan Estate Collection. This vehicle is a wonderful example is 1 of fewer than 10 examples from 1936 with ACD (Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg) Club certification. A documented, concours-quality restoration also helped it garner the CCCA Senior Award with a perfect 100-point score in judging.
A supercharged “SC” model with Columbia 2-speed rear axle, it enjoys recognition by the CCCA as a Full Classic®automobile, eligible for a veritable multitude of shows and touring events.
Lot 29– Superlative in every respect, the Duesenberg Model J was the original inspiration for the popular expression, “It’s a Duesy,” meaning “the best”. It is ultimate automotive creation by famed racers and constructors Fred and Augie Duesenberg. The duo captured the first French Grand Prix in 1921, and the Model J was commissioned by E.L. Cord as the crown jewel in his vast automotive portfolio.
Featuring specifications that sound quite current today, the mighty Model J’s performance remains legendary. Duesenberg historian J.L. Elbert once remarked, “The owner of a Duesenberg…was passed only when he was willing to be passed”. Carrying known history, this Willoughby-bodied Model J Berline is number J-350. A CCCA Senior Award winner, it comes from the Chuck Morgan Estate Collection and is certified by the ACD Club. Worldwide also states it is one of the lowest-mileage examples.
Early Motorcars Enjoying Robust Demand
Usually distinguished by time period, early automobiles can be reasonably grouped into the following broad classifications and timeframes: Veteran (Pre-1905), Brass Era (Pre-1920) and Prewar (1920s-1941). In addition, the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) assigns Full Classic status to motorcars built during 1915 through 1948. They are all cars that have been approved and deemed to be particularly significant. Shows, classic tours and publications ensure members are active and connected.
Similarly, the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) enjoys many opportunities to show and tour the early greats. This includes well-established events such as the famous Fall Meet held annually in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Support from clubs, parts suppliers and specialist restorers is very strong for early automobiles. This ensures they will continue to captivate and educate new generations for many years to come.
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Written by David Neyens, Classic Auction News