Arguably the finest automobile made in the interwar period, the 540K was the preferred method of transportation among the world's elite. It featured a supercharged V8 and was coachbuilt with an array of bodywork styles. All told, only 419 examples were built, each carrying a price of around 28,000 Reichsmark – equivalent to about $13,000 at contemporary exchange rates, or over $200k in today's money. Consider it, then, the Rolls-Royce Dawn, Bentley Continental GTC, or better yet, Mercedes-AMG S65 Cabriolet of its day.
This particular specimen was an early pre-production example, sold new in the United States to one Reginald Sinclaire – heir to the Corning glass fortune, a WWI flying ace, and noted car collector. It was one of two 540Ks he owned, but unlike its Cabriolet B stablemate, features the highly desirable longtail bodywork with the higher doors sought after by collectors. This is the first time it was offered for sale since its current owner acquired it in 1989.
The $9.9 million for which it sold (from an opening bid of $5 million) falls just shy of its pre-sale estimated value which placed it between $10M and $13M. That's still enough to make it the most valuable car ever sold during Arizona auction week, narrowly beating the '64 Ferrari 250 LM that RM sold at the same event last year for $9.6M. It also ranks among the most expensive pre-war cars and most expensive Mercedes ever sold at auction, trailing another 540K that Gooding & Company sold in 2012 for $11.7M and the $29M paid for Juan Manuel Fangio's W196 Silver Arrow under Bonhams' auspices in 2013.
Among the other lots RM Sotheby's cleared this weekend include a Duesenberg Model J that sold for $3M and a Lamborghini Miura SV for $2M. That trio of Shelby Cobras sold for $2.25M, $1.07M, and $990k, respectively. All told, RM raised a massive $62.8M in sales in Arizona this year.
· RM Sotheby's generates $62.8 million in sales with 85 percent of all lots sold at its 17th annual Arizona Biltmore sale in Phoenix
· Top seller: 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster achieves $9.9 million to set new record as the most valuable automobile ever sold in Arizona auction week history
· 17 lots achieve million-dollar-plus results with numerous auction benchmarks set
· Bidders hail from 20 countries
· RM Sotheby's continues its 2016 calendar in Paris, February 3 during the world-famous Retromobile week
· Complete Arizona sale results and upcoming auction information available at www.rmsothebys.com
PHOENIX, Arizona (January 30, 2016) – RM Sotheby's, the world's largest collector car auction house for investment-quality automobiles, kicked off its 2016 season this week with an impressive $62.8 million* in sales at its 17th annual Arizona Biltmore auction in Phoenix. Attracting bidders from 20 countries, the two-day sale presented 149 blue-chip automobiles before a packed sales room, with 85 percent of all lots sold.
The undisputed star of the event—and this year's Arizona auction week—was a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster, chassis no. 130894, which crossed the stage during Friday's sale session. An original U.S.-delivery car with known history from new, the highly desirable "high door", "longtail", factory left-hand-drive Special Roadster was offered fresh to the market, following 26 years in single ownership. Bidding on the stunning automobile opened at $5 million before quickly climbing to a final $9,900,000. The impressive price ranks the vehicle as the most valuable automobile sold in Arizona auction week history, breaking the previous record set by RM in 2015. The strong result also ranks the Special Roadster as one of the most valuable pre-war automobiles ever sold at auction.
The 540 K led a string of 17 individual million-dollar-plus sales and various new auction benchmarks at this year's RM sale. Among notable record-setting lots, a 1962 Maserati 5000 GT Coupe, widely considered the most significant and glamorous road-going Maserati, commanded a strong $1,540,000 during Thursday's sale session to set a new auction record for the model, while a 1952 Cunningham C3 Coupe, the only Vignale-bodied C3 actively raced in period, sold for an above-estimate $1,210,000 to set a new auction record for the model. Also entering the history books was a 1939 Jaguar SS 100 2 ½ -Litre Roadster, offered from long-term ownership, which established a new record for a Jaguar SS 100 sold at auction at $1,402,500.
"We are thrilled with the sales result from this week's Arizona auction. Though we did not witness significant price increases, we were very encouraged to see the strong sell-through rate, which indicates continued interest in the hobby," says Ian Kelleher, Managing Director, RM Sotheby's West Coast Division. "The auction was anchored by several notable world records, with numerous lots attracting highly competitive bidding from an enthused audience. There remains a healthy appetite for high-quality, fresh-to-market consignments, and with this week's results on par with the strong success of last year's Arizona sale, we expect continued interest, attendance and participation at our upcoming events."
Perennial crowd favorites, a trio of Shelbys also thrilled collectors at this week's RM Arizona event. Leading the charge, a 1965 Shelby 427 Competition Cobra, the only 427 Cobra to win championships in two countries, powered to a final $2,255,000 on Thursday, while an original 1964 Shelby 289 Cobra commanded a final $1,072,500 on Friday. Rounding out the group, a 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra 'Dragonsnake'—the winningest Dragonsnake—was driven onto stage by Bruce Larson, the driver behind much of its success, before selling for a final $990,000.
Reflecting the diversity of RM's 2016 Arizona catalogue, additional notable sales included:
· a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe, one of just six original examples built, for $3,000,000;
· a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, one of five single-sump SVs sold new to the U.S., garnered $2,000,000;
· a 1933 Packard Twelve Convertible Victoria, offered publicly for the first time, surpassed estimate at a final $660,000;
· a freshly restored 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 'Fuel Injected' Convertible achieved $176,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $100,000 - $125,000;
· a superbly restored 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz also exceeded estimate at $390,500;
· a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC 6.0 AMG 'Wide Body' presented in excellent original condition garnered $154,000;
· an ultra-desirable 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder with less than 1,500 miles, sold for an upper-estimate $1,595,000; and,
· the 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk 1 "Think Pink", one of 12 automobiles offered from the esteemed Craig McCaw Collection, and sold to benefit charity, realized $60,500
From the Arizona desert to the City of Light, the RM Sotheby's team heads directly to Paris for its annual sale during the world-famous Retromobile week, February 3. Held at Place Vauban in the city's center, the Paris auction will lift the gavel on 61 of the world's finest motor cars from both pre- and post-war periods. The complete digital Paris catalogue is available here: http://bit.ly/1RcBVSX.
For further information on upcoming RM Sotheby's events, or to view complete results from RM Sotheby's Arizona Biltmore sale, please visit www.rmsothebys.com.
*Results are listed in USD and inclusive of 10 percent buyer's premium for automobiles and 15 percent buyer's premium for nostalgia. Sale totals include post-sale transactions.