17th August 2003 Christie's at Pebble Beach - Preview

Christie’s Pebble Beach catalogue, (a work of art in its own right), shows a mouth-watering selection of exotic cars for Auction on Sunday 17th August. The stellar line-up includes an opportunity to buy the first customer 2005 Ford GT in the world, a 23,500kms only 1967 Ferrari 365 Spyder California and the highlight, fittingly the last lot of the sale, the 1960 ex-Moss/Gurney Maserati Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’ – at an estimate of $1,500,000 – 2,000,000.

Pebble Beach being what it is, the annual concentration of the world’s wealthiest car collectors, it usually generates the finest auction entries and dipping into Christie’s entry list proves it is no exception to the rule. For example the 1960 Maserati Birdcage is probably one of the most significant examples of this rarest and most desirable of sports-racing cars. Chassis 2461 was part of ‘Lucky’ Casner’s Camoradi Racing Team and it won the 1960 Nurburgring 1000 kms for Stirling Moss again, this time paired with the highly skilled American driver Dan Gurney. Re-bodied for Le Mans that year as the extraordinary streamliner, the car was then sold at season’s end to an American privateer and then after time in a museum started circulating in the burgeoning Historic Racing movement of the Seventies and Eighties. Race-preparation and accident damage over the years have inevitably meant the car carries many non-1961 parts – but Christie’s description of ‘its continual traceable heritage’ means it is going to be worth a big-ticket price.

The sale features many cars of a uniquely ‘American’ nature, that is to say models built in the USA, specifically designed for the market or in particular vogue nowadays. Examples of the first category would include the 1931 Packard Model 840 Roadster, $135,000 – 165,000 and 1931 Cadillac Series 355 – A Roadster, $70,000 – 90,000 while specific US-spec cars would have to include three Jaguar E-types and a couple of Austin-Healeys as well as two very significant Ferraris – a 1967 Ferrari 365 Spyder California and a 1964 Ferrari Superfast Series I - ironically neither originally registered in the US. .

The earlier Ferrari, $280,000 – 320,000, was the 1964 Turin Motor Show car. One of twenty-five Series I cars, it has the truncated tail and generously proportioned look of its type and is the epitome of a long-distance gentleman’s carriage. Finished in Blue Chiaro with Black leather interior the car just oozes quality. In a similar colour scheme (Azzuro metallizato this time), the second car is described as being ‘so rare, Ferrari never actually printed a separate brochure for it.’ In the same Italian family for decades the car was flown to the US in 2001 having been the subject of extraordinarily tangled negotiations with its original owners. The estimate of $500,000 – 700,000 reflects its rarity, total originality and, from the catalogue pictures at least, superb condition.

In particular vogue nowadays, in the States at least, are American muscle cars and Christie’s have a fine example in the shape of a 1970 Shelby GT500 Convertible. In Grabber Blue with a white sidestripe and matt black stripes on the ‘hood’ the car is in ‘show’ condition having been restored in the late 80s. Estimate $80,000 – 120,000.

The Ford GT sale is held on behalf of the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance designated charities and gives someone the chance to take delivery of the first customer production car in the 2005 model year – which means next year (2004) to non car-industry folk. Built to the bidder’s specification, much has been written about these re-takes on 1960’s originals; and the example your author saw at the Goodwood Festival looked every inch the Ferrari 360 beater Ford envisage. Ford has yet to announce the retail price of the car but the $150,000 – 180,000 estimated will be around the mark. It will also beat the waiting list and contribute to charity – no bad thing.

Commencing at 18.00 pm on 17th August at The Pebble Beach Equestrian Centre, the sale starts with a short sale of automobilia, Christie’s are then offering 60 cars in all – only a full study of the catalogue, or a visit to www.christies.com can do justice to them all.

For a full lot listing, see the Provisional Auction Entry

Christie's next European sale is on 31st August at the Concours d'Elégance Paleis Het Loo, Holland. To see the complete entry of cars, with photographs, in the Classic Driver Cars for Sale Database please CLICK HERE .

Text - Steve Wakefield