Auctions: 2021 Monterey Sales Take in $343 Million

Live auctions return to the peninsula in a huge way

By all accounts, the 2021 Monterey auctions were, collectively, a blow-out, with an estimated sale total of $343M. That was a whopping 37-percent increase over 2019 – yet with 25-percent fewer cars, according to the experts at Hagerty. (There were no live auctions for Pebble Beach in 2020, due to Covid restrictions.) The overall sell rate was 80 percent, versus 59 percent in 2019. Another fun stat from Hagerty’s auction team: 82 cars sold for more than $1M, compared to 45 in 2019. It was a good time to sell a car.

The return of the live auctions likely played a role, as it has been doing since the spring. Though online bidders were part of the Monterey sales, the exciting effect of being surrounded by the cars and competitive bidders cannot be replaced with computers.

The analysts at Hagerty concluded that the main driver of higher sales at Monterey, however, was a better selection of cars. Part of that means cars that have not been circulating through auctions over the past few years.

The $20M McLaren

Let’s go to the biggest news: The weekend’s top sale occurred at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach auction: a 1995 McLaren F1 that brought a stunning $20,465,000. The pre-sale estimate was “in excess of $15M.” The car, one of just 64 McLaren F1 road versions built, is essentially a museum piece, with just 390km (242 miles) on its odometer. It had been delivered new to a customer in Japan but was later purchased, federalized and U.S.-titled by an American collector.

Brown McLaren F1 left front
Gooding & Company had Monterey’s top sale, a 1995 McLaren F1 for $20.465M. (Source: Gooding & Company)

The second-highest sale occurred at RM Sotheby’s sale, a truly magnificent 1959 Ferrari 250 California LWB Competizione Spider that sold for $10.84M. Classic Ferraris accounted for half of Monterey’s top-10 sales this year, repeating a common occurrence at the event.

1959 Red and white Ferrari GT LWB California Spider front left
The second-highest sale occurred at RM Sotheby’s, a 1959 Ferrari California Spider LWB for $10.84M. (Source: RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-WWII cars have been hot this year, and they did not disappoint at Monterey. Gooding & Company sold a 1929 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix Roadster for $5.615M, a record for the model. The top sale at the Bonhams Quail Lodge sale was a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 26/120/180 S-Type Sports Tourer for $5.395M. The dashing Mercedes proved to be a surprise, easily blowing past its $3M-$4M pre-sale estimate.

Not in the top-10 but also noteworthy, was Mecum’s sale of a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Sedan for $2.365m.

Black 1928 Mercedes Tourer
Bonhams’ top sale was also the top pre-WWII sale, a 1928 Mercedes-Benz S-Type Tourer for just under $5.4M. (Source: Bonhams)

No-Sale Surprises

Many collectors had been watching the 1970 Porsche 917K offered by RM Sotheby’s as a potential top sale. Estimated to sell for $15M, this iconic racer instead remains available, with price by request. Another no-sale historic racecar was the 1966 Ford GT40 offered by Gooding & Company, one of two Alan Mann Lightweights built. It was estimated to bring $7M-$9M but remained available with a $7M asking price.

One of Premier’s preview cars, the 1956 Maserati A6G/54 by Frua offered by Gooding & Company, failed to sell and remained available with a $2.5M asking price.

Supercar Surprises

While nothing came close to the McLaren F1, there were some other modern supercar surprises. Mecum’s top sale was a 2014 Ferrari La Ferrari with just 131 miles, which sold for $3.41m.

Red La Ferrari front left
Top sale for the Mecum auction was a La Ferrari with just 131 miles, bringing $3.41M. (Source: Mecum)

Ford GTs showed strength, with several selling for over $400k, including this 2006 model with just 255 miles getting $555,000 and this red, stripe-delete 2005 bringing $478k.

RM Sotheby’s set a new record for a Japanese car with a 2012 LFA Nurburgring Package model, which selling for $1.6M. The car was one of one of 25 U.S. market Nürburgring Package versions. Another LFA, one that had been enjoyed for nearly 4,000 miles, sold at the same auction for $819k, a healthy jump over its $500k price new.

2012 Black Lexus LFA front right
A 2012 Lexus LFA Nurburgring Package set a world record for a Japanese car at $1.6M at the RM Sotheby’s.(Source: RM Sotheby’s)

And, how about a record-setting Porsche 911? Bonhams sold a unique 1997 911 Turbo S for $654k, said to be a record for a 993-series 911. It had been ordered new by noted collector Otis Chandler, who had it highly optioned and painted-to-sample. Chandler’s “sample” was the color scheme of Mark Donahue’s Sunoco-sponsored, Penske run Porsche 917/30 that dominated the 1973 Can-Am season. 

2021 Monterey Auction Top-10 Sales

1. 1995 McLaren F1 Coupe sold for $20,465,000 (Gooding & Company)

2. 1959 Ferrari 250 California LWB Competizione Spider sold for $10.84M (Gooding & Company)

3. 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Coupe sold for $9.52M (RM Sotheby’s)

4. 1962 Ferrari 268 SP Spider sold for $7.705M (RM Sotheby’s)

4. (tie) 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy Coupe sold for $7.705M (RM Sotheby’s)

6. 1958 Ferrari 250 GT TdF Coupe sold for $6M (RM Sotheby’s)

7. 1929 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix Roadster sold for $5.615M (Gooding & Company)

8. 1928 Mercedes-Benz 26/120/180 S Type Sports Tourer sold for $5.395M (Bonhams)

9. 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series I sold for $4.405M (Gooding & Company)

10. 1963 Shelby Cobra 289 Works racer: sold for $4.13M (RM Sotheby’s)

PFS Preview Cars

We selected four cars for deep-dive previews before the auctions. How did they do?

The 1956 Maserati A6G/54 “barn find” did not sell.

The 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder offered by RM Sotheby’s, estimated to bring $3.8M-$4.2M, did not sell and was available with a price by request.

A 2019 Aston Martin Vanquish Shooting Brake, one of 99 made and essentially a new car with just 60 miles, sold for $577k at Bonhams. That was just below the low end of its $600k-$800k estimate.

A 1977 Ferrari 308 GTB with just over 12,000 miles and looking brand-new brought $159,500 at the Mecum sale.

Premier Financial Services “Cars to Watch.”

For major auctions, we ask staffers to select cars they believe will do well. How did they do?

Cars to Watch: Bonhams

Keith Neelans, Premier’s Northeast Sales Manager, was drawn to the 1960 Aston Martin DB4 Sports Saloon. It sold for $340,500.

Michelle Yancey, Premier Financial Services’ Southwest Sales Manager, and who has a soft spot for Ford-powered fastbacks, had her eye on a sleek and sophisticated 1971 AC 428 Fastback. It sold for $173,600.

Silver AC 428 profile
A rare 1971 AC 428, one of Premier’s Cars to Watch, sold at Bonhams for $173,600 (Source: Bonhams)

Chris Warren, Southeast Sales Manager, was watching a beautiful 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America. It did not sell.

Southwest Sales Manager, Juan Garcia, and Midwest Sales Manager Ross Dressel were watching a 1998 Lamborghini Diablo. It sold for$280k.

The staff members at Premier’s corporate headquarters in Woodbury, CT chose a 2001 Ferrari 456M GT. It was one of the Ferrari bargains of Monterey, selling for $106,400.

Cars to Watch: Gooding & Company

Southwest Sales Manager, Michelle Yancey, chose a 1984 Lamborghini Countach LP5000S. The stunning Lambo, which had been displayed at the 1985 New York International Auto Show, sold for $720k.

White 1984  Lamborghini Countach front right
This 1984 Lamborghini Countach 5000S, a New York Auto Show display car, sold for $720k. (Source: Gooding & Company)

Ross Dressel, Midwest Region Sales Manager, selected a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS. A solid choice, it brought $412k, just a bit over the high end of its estimate.

Juan Garcia, Premier’s West Coast Region Sales Manager, chose an example of the perennially collectible 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” Coupe. It sold for $1.325M, right in the middle of its pre-sale estimate range.

Chris Warren, Premier’s Southeast Sales Manager, chose a captivating 1928 Bentley 4.5-liter, one of the adventurous icons from the marque’s early years. It remained available with an asking price of $1.15M.

Northeast Sales Manager Keith Neelans selected a charismatic 1964 Porsche 356C Carrera 2 Cabriolet, one of just 30 built with the famous Ernst Fuhrman-designed four-cam Carrera engine. The $1.039M sale price blasted past the $650k-$850k estimate.

Silver 1964 Porsche 356 left rear
Premier’s pick from the Gooding auction, this ’64 Porsche 356C Carrera sold for $1.039M (Source: Gooding & Company)

The Rush fans in Premier’s Woodbury, CT office couldn’t resist the 1973 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 SS from late drummer Neil Peart’s “Silver Surfer” collection. One of 425 built, it sold for $274,400.

Cars to Watch: RM Sotheby’s

Premier’s Midwest Sales Manager, Ross Dressel, chose the 1962 Aston Martin DB4GT, one of the 19 models built and also just one of six left-hand drive versions. It was RM Sotheby’s top sale, bringing $9.62M.

1962 Silver Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato studio photo
Third-highest sale was a 1962 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, sold at RM Sotheby’s for $9.52M. (Source: RM Sotheby’s)

Southwest Sales Manager, Michelle Yancey, picked an iconic 1955 Jaguar D-Type Sports Racer. It remained available, with price upon request.

Premier’s Southeast Sales Manager, Chris Warren, had his eyes on a gorgeous 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT, one of the  “Sanction II” continuation cars. It went home with a new owner for $2.755M.

2003 Lamborghini Murciélago, one of 424 made that year, was selected by Keith Neelans, Premier’s Northeast Sales Manager. It brought $445k.

The home office team in Connecticut chose the iconic 1966 Shelby GT350H, one of the famous Hertz “rent a racers.” This one was extra special, being one of the 85 built with the four-speed manual. It sold for $280k.

Jim Koscs
Written by Jim Koscs, Audamotive Communications