Auction insider: Andy Reid

Will the gold-plated Healey be a surprise star of RM Sotheby's Icons auction? We ask if the sale will be as strong as previous years' New York events

Auction insider: Andy Reid

RM Sotheby’s is known as one of the top tier collector car auction companies in the business, bringing together expert specialists, important cars, and serious buyers to each one of their collector car auction events. The company seems always to be looking for ways to improve the collector car auction experience, working to bridge the gap of treating important and significant collector cars as not mere methods of transportation but as the fine art that many are.

In this drive towards positioning cars as an art form they decided to hold a New York sale in 2013 in Sotheby’s New York showroom, which presented their collector car offerings as you would an art gallery exhibition. The sale, titled 'The Art of the Automobile', was a success and saw record prices for the cars offered with sales of just 61 of the total 64 cars on offer totalling more than $62 million.

They followed up this sale in December of 2015 with another NY sale at the Sotheby’s showroom, which they named 'Driven By Disruption'. This took the presentation of cars as art to the next level, with many of the cars surrounded by photography and artefacts significant to each collector car's life. This sale was also a great success with 21 of the 31 cars selling for a mind-boggling $72,534,000.

Now two years later we have the next RM Sotheby’s sale entitled “Icons” happening on Wednesday 6 December.

The first two sales in New York offered some of the most desirable collector cars on the planet, with everything from a Ferrari 250LM, Janis Joplin’s personal 356 Cabriolet, and an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato on offer. This year, there have been some grumblings from collectors that the cars on offer are not at the same level as the past New York sales have been.

While there are no DB4GT Zagatos or music legend Porsche cars up for grabs, the offering is in now way weak. Many of the cars at past New York RM Sotheby’s sales have been true one of a kind items and there are only so many of those on the market at any one time. This year’s event has quite a few one-off cars on offer and also mixes it with a number of other cars that exemplify the title of the event.

Some of these very special offerings include the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, the 1952 Phil Hill-driven Jaguar C-type, a DB5 Volante, a 1952 Chrysler D'Elegance by Ghia, and a 1948 Cadillac Series 62 by Saoutchik. All of these are extremely significant cars and are likely to sell for record prices.

The other cars offered at the sale for the most part represent iconic cars of their eras, but there are a few outliers that I would consider Icons but not quite as significant as cars in past RM Sotheby's New York sales. These include the Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione, the Dino 246 GTS with chairs and flares, the 1973 DeTomaso Pantera L, the 1966 Porsche 911, the 1989 Ferrari Testarossa, and the Steve Jobs-owned BMW Z8.

Sure these are Iconic cars and in the case of the Z8, a car owned by an iconic person, but the estimates are quite high for each, which could make for quite a few no sales. The worst offenders are probably the Dino, with a pre-sale estimate of $500,000 to $600,000, and the Testarossa, with a pre-sale estimate of $250,000 to $300,000.

The Testarossa is a no reserve car so it will sell, and it does have less than 600 miles on it, but the pre-sale estimate seemed a bit optimistic. The estimate on the 1966 Porsche also seemed to be reaching a bit, at $250,000 to $300,000. If it was a first year car I would consider it very significant but a 1966 Porsche 911 is just an early short-wheelbase car and pretty pedestrian.

One of the more interesting cars that might be overlooked despite its gold-plated brightwork is the 1956 Austin-Healey 100/6 that was used as a display during the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show and later as a Daily Express contest car. The car is one of the most well-known Big Healeys and has to be the most valuable 100-6 that exists.

The issue though is that the car is likely more valuable than most Austin-Healey enthusiasts can afford. The pre-show estimate of $350,000 to $550,000 is a fair and reasonable estimate, but this no-reserve car could end up being seen by those not in the know as just a custom Healey 100/6. I do hope that a true Healey enthusiast ends up with the car and sharing it with the rest of the Healey community at shows and concours events.

What will not be either a surprise or a deal is the 1960 Volkswagen Deluxe 23 window Microbus. These cars always seem to be the darlings of high profile sales and this one could well reach, or even exceed, it’s high estimate of $200,000.

In a few days' time we will know what happens at the Icons auction. If there are two things about the New York sale that seem to always hold true is that first, anything can happen (think the $1.76 million paid for the Janis Joplin 356), and second is that this sale is sure to be exciting.

View all the lots on the RM Sotheby's website.