Spring winds on Amelia Island

  • 09 March 2024
  • 4 min read
  • 11 images
Spring winds on Amelia Island image

Photo credit: Bonhams, Gooding

There was a healthy amount of curiosity before this edition of Amelia Island, a spring event on the 'East Coast' and a springtime highlight in a potential contrast to the famous Pebble Beach events. The beginning of the year did not provide an accurate picture of the classic car market: A few 'top flops' and an overall feeling of a possible slowdown in demand. Looking at Gooding's numbers, however, gives us second thoughts: Sales of $66,078,670 - the second best year ever - even surpassed the estimated $64,155,000 on offer (103%), which is very rare to see.
Gooding, Amelia Island, 29th February
It was more difficult for Bonhams, offering far fewer cars (78 vs. 102), selling only 50 (vs. 80 in 2023), sales halved from $12.8 million to $6,686,750, partly due to the drastic reduction in unreserved cars. A slightly less interesting auction? Perhaps because the lots were less appealing than in 2023. The reason can be found in the fact that Bonhams announced another sale in May specifically in Miami, on the occasion of the Formula 1 GP.
Bonhams, Amelia Island, 29th February
In order to demonstrate just how important individual lots are, we start with Bonhams: Honda NSX-R GT, year 2007, obtained from the factory by Spoon, a famous Japanese tuner who had decided to race it in the 2008 Macau Grand Prix Road Sport Challenge. With 440 hp and a weight reduced to 980 kg, the car finished in third place. There was no trace of further history to follow, but this brilliant start was enough: Estimated at $240,000-280,000 it closed at $368,000, $77,000 over the previous record for a second generation NSX!

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 1 2007 Honda NSX-R GT by "Spoon" sold for $368,000 (€339,250)

The top lot in this edition of the Amelia auctions is Gooding's. 'A diamond among diamonds', a Mercedes-Simplex 60HP in the early 20th century, which could be described as a McLaren F1 or a modern-day Bugatti Chiron: Powerful, built with the latest engineering, a winner... and extremely expensive. A handful were made and only five remain. That alone would have been enough to set a six-figure price tag, but the 1903 example offered by Gooding was very special indeed: Purchased by the editor who founded the Daily Mail, Alfred Harmsworth it was customised with 'Roi Des Belges' bodywork. Used during the 1903 Nice Speed Week, it was then loaned to the Beaulieu Museum for over half a century without ever changing hands! Harmsworth's heirs decided to bring it to auction after 121 years with an estimate 'over $10,000,000' and it did not disappoint: $12,105,000: A record among records for a pre-WWI car (set just last year).

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 2 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP 'Roi Des Belges' sold for $12,105,000 (€11,159,650)

Another of Gooding's high performance Ferrari highlights: A new record for a 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider was set, as green as dollars (one of five produced in this livery), just 7800 miles and valued at $2,000,000-3,000,000. Sold for $3,635,000, almost $300,000 more than the record set in November 2023.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 3 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spider sold for $3,635,000 (€3,351,125)

Then the Dino 246 GTS, equipped with the sought-after Daytona seats but without the enlarged mudguards, so not comparable with the rare 'chairs & flares'. An exceptional example, however, was the certified Ferrari Classiche, never restored with merely 3159 miles. The special condition justified an estimate of $650,000-800,000 but the market mocked the forecasts as it sold for $918,000. Pulverising the record set this January of $688,000.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 4 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS sold for $918,000 (€846,300)

New records were also set for a Ferrari Testarossa with just 208Km sold for $348,750 and for a special Ferrari 612 Scaglietti with a manual gearbox (only 199 units produced), extremely rare Azzurro California colour and 6308 miles. The estimate was $275,000-325,000, the previous record was $324,500. It was ultimately sold for $467,000. Spectacular.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 5 1989 Ferrari Testarossa sold for $348,750 (€321,500)

Also, Bonhams, however, broke records, which is a sign that the 'right' lots do not experience a recession. This was the case with the 1970 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 Sedan, in perfect condition, with just 23,000 miles and a rare set of six suitcases plus tool kit. Normally valued between $25,000 and $80,000 (restoration costs are frightening and condition matters a lot) so that none has ever exceeded $100,000. No longer: Estimated at $100,000-120,000, it was sold for $103,600.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 6 1970 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 Sedan sold for $103,600 (€95,500)

The same goes for the Morgan Plus 4. A $25,000-50,000 British icon that never reached $100,000. Bonhams' car was a 1961 Super Sport with a Triumph TR3 racing engine. Only 104 produced, this one with the number 35, estimated at $100,000-125,000 changed hands for $100,800 breaking the fateful threshold.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 7 1961 Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports sold for $100,800 (€92,900)

We return to Gooding's for a Porsche 918 in Gulf livery. Equipped with the Weissach pack (less weight, more stability), of the 918s, this was one of 28 destined for the Canadian market and, as is often the case with these recent hypercars, had a ridiculous mileage, in this case 376 miles. To get an impression of this particular sale, up until last November the record was less than 2 million. This one had an estimate of $2,500,000-3,000,000. Exaggerated? For those who bought it by bidding $3,525,000 certainly not.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 8 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach sold for $3,525,000 (€3,249,715)

So which cars would be worth taking home? Well, one from each auction.
From Bonhams the rebuild of a 1904 Gordon Bennet Napier L48 nicknamed 'Samson'. It had a 15,000 cc engine, a power output of 240 hp (120 years ago!) and for the first time a person had exceeded 100 mph at Daytona Beach in 1905. So what should someone do with it? Nothing, but after seeing a class dedicated to this vehicles in Chantilly two years ago, we fell in love with these 'dinosaurs' with loud and powerful engines. The $900,000-1,100,000 estimate perhaps barely covered the construction cost. Sold for $742,000.

Amelia Island Auctions - 10 The Reconstructed 1904 Gordon Bennett Napier L48 "Samson" Racing Car sold for $742,000 (€684,000)

At Gooding's, the choice was easy: The 1958 Lancia Aurelia B24S Cabriolet. It is not the prized 'Spider America', but even this model touches the $500,000 mark for best units. Originally light blue, now silver, to be completely restored, mechanics included (it had been out of service since the mid-1970s). The $200,000-250,000 estimate was correct - though more $200,000 than $250,000 - but at $112,000 it was probably the best bargain of the weekend.

Spring winds on Amelia Island - 9 1958 Lancia Aurelia B24S Cabriolet sold for $112,000 (€103,250)