Some of the prettiest, rarest, and most significant cars are auctioned under the banner of RM Sotheby’s each year – one glance through their history proves that’s not hyperbole – and next week they will be sending another group of all-stars across the block, this time among the high-rises of Manhattan. While it may be the last place you’d want to drive any cars of this caliber (though the LM002 would be quite fun to maneuver through the pothole-pocked grid of streets), next week it will certainly the spot to find them.
The sale will take place on Wednesday the 6th of December, and it will mark the third occurrence of the auction, called “Icons.” With the full spread gathering so many pieces of automotive history and future together in on sale, you find yourself looking for common denominators; “iconic” is certainly appropriate here.
And even if the lot catalog is the only relevant item in your price range, top auctions like these are fascinating to follow along with anyway. Besides being a remarkable car show that isn’t even trying to be one, these sales reveal market trends, they uncover barn finds in fairytale fashion (like the aluminum Daytona earlier this year), and among the excitement of bidding wars and motormouth auctioneers one can’t help but be inspired. By the stories embedded in the hand-formed curves and computer-cut carbon fiber alike.
The following four vehicles are some of our favorites from the upcoming sale, and their diversity of origin and era and purpose represents the depth of the full catalog, from artwork to the automobiles themselves.
1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione by Scaglietti
Expected Auction Price: $14,000,000 – $17,000,000
The headliner. The cover car. The centerpiece. Anyone with a passing interest in Ferrari 250s knows this car. It is as much a symbol of its time as it is timeless. It represents the epoch of motorsport when such degrees of beauty and brawn had no right to coexist, let alone with such harmony.
It’s quicksilver curves turn stone-faced men to mush, but it wasn’t – isn’t – just another pretty Italian and nothing more. Competizione needs no translation, I assume, and few cars can claim to have finished third-in-class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and even fewer can add first-in-class awards at Pebble Beach to their C.V.
This car, chassis 1451 GT, is unique among LWB California Spiders seeing as it was built to full racing specification from the factory, and was the one of only eight to be fitted with a lightweight aluminum body. Further elevating its status is the fact that it was the first of these cars to carry Ferrari’s Tipo 128F engine with its outside-plugs, high-lift cams, and triple 40 DCL6 carbs.
It was built to race, and built rather hastily at that, having purportedly been completed at the factory less than a week before it was scheduled to be hurtling down the Mulsanne Straight. Clearly it made the tight schedule work. The Spider was one of three cars entered by the legendary U.S. Ferrari importer and N.A.R.T. bossman Luigi Chinetti for the 1959 race, and though its primary driver Bob Grossman was making his debut on the circuit, it raced competitively and lived up to its purpose with gusto.
1952 Jaguar C-Type
Expected auction price: $5,500,000 – $7,000,000
Speaking of cars built in the 1950s with connections to Le Mans, the Jaguar C-Type must inevitably enter the conversation, and even though this particularly special example – XKC 007 – never set tire on the Circuit de la Sarthe, it can claim its own noteworthy existence across the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the earliest produced from the limited series of 53 cars, it is believed that this C-Type was the very first to come to America, where it was then raced for a time by the legendary Phil Hill. The tube-frame chassis and svelte coachwork of Malcolm Sayer paired with the 3.4-liter inline-six was a formidable pairing from the beginning of these cars’ production, and with Hill at the wheel it became the first C-Type to win a race in the ‘States, the beginning of a string of success for these cars in the country.
On driving XKC 007 in period, Hill remembers, “I was just in awe of the C-Type when I first stepped into it. When I look back on it now, it makes me smile. The steering was light – almost scary light. It was the first car I ever drove that had a really precise feel about it – it really felt like a racing car.”
And the American racing icon did a lot more than just race it – Hill piloted the Jag to two overall wins and another first-in-class finish in just five races in which he drove the car for its owner, Charles Hornburg – he also drove it on public roads to and from the circuits on which he’d just bested the cars now being put away in their haulers. His son Derek recalls one time in particular when his father drove it all the way from Los Angeles, California to Elkhart, Indiana. And back again! They were different, better times in so many ways, and these are the kinds of stories that make us long for the past. It is a history of racing and fueled by charisma and rapid advancement, a history still thriving and very much alive in cars like this one.
1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione
Estimated auction price: $175,000 – $225,000
The Jag above bit too sleek and curvy for your taste? This rectangular stack of pissed-off sunshine is decidedly different than the C-Type in every way, barring of course a deep connection to motorsport. The Integrale Evo is one of the most iconic homologation specials of all time, and they allowed the Group A rally-spec Integrales to just plain dominate the WRC after the demise of Group B.
Winning the championship an unheard of six consecutive times from its debut in 1987 to 1992 under the Lancia works team and then with Martini for the final season, the car has duly earned its title as one of the most successful rally cars ever sent sideways through the mud and gravel of the world. The road cars that were built to support them command a similar level of respect, and not simply because of what their siblings could achieve.
Any fan of four-wheel drive turbocharged rally cars and/or right angles is already likely to foam and drool at just about every iteration of the various Delta-based Group A homologation cars, but this example stands above that whole pile of box flares and bellicosity. The Evoluzione was only built as a ’91 and ’92 model year car before it was replaced by the “Evo 2,” and though there are arguments to be made for that car’s supremacy from a technical standpoint, it’s the first Evo that’s the more significant model in our eyes, similar to how we would also prefer a “Periscopio” Countach to the Viced-out versions that followed – it’s closer to the original idea, cleaner, pure.
Recall how we mentioned one of the Delta’s six WRC titles came under the banner of Martini Racing rather than the Lancia works team. That’s because the manufacturer had officially left the series after 1991 (perhaps winning so often became a bit boring). They did continue to support teams like Martini in the years that followed, but ’91 was formally the end of their participation. To celebrate the steamrolling of the competition that had gone on for the previous half-decade, Lanica released a series of commemorative and otherwise special editions of the Delta HF Integrale Evo. One of which, and the most striking for sure, is the Giallo Ferrari (“Ferrari Yellow”) version.
Limited to just 400 units among Evo 1s, it wears the searingly bright hue of Ferrari Fly Yellow as the most defining feature, but what is perhaps even more special about this particular car is its state of preservation. Like the Subarus and Mitsubishis that followed in this the Delta’s footsteps, it is now exceedingly hard to find these Evos without at least some degree of modification. This car is completely stock, and even better, shows just 6,487km on the odometer. It is the definitive WRC champion in road-going guise, and this vibrant special edition is likely one of the finest examples out there.
1990 Lamborghini LM002
Expected auction price: $400,000 – $500,000
If one boxy Italian icon wasn’t enough, here’s a hulking reminder that Lamborghini already made an exceptional SUV long before the Urus, and it was one that embodied the acronym like no other before or since. Sporting activities are not carried out in sat-nav-guided trips to the mall. They require some degree of actual pace to truly live up to their designation, and Countach-V12-powered dune-smashing that could go well into the triple digits certainly fits the bill, don’t you think?
The LM002 is truly an absurd creation – there’s no other way to put it when you equip something with a massive fuel tank and run-flat tires with a supercar engine and tell people they should drive it through the jungle or desert of their choice – and arguably it was the last Lamborghini to embrace the early extravagance of the company. At the very least, it represents the pinnacle of ‘80s excess in a way that we can’t help but be smitten with.
It is the statement-making vehicle (park one next to just about anything else and see what people look at first), but despite the luxury items fitted to the production cars like leather seats and air-conditioning. hi-fi stereos, etc., they can trace their heritage back to a failed attempt at building a vehicle for the U.S. Military, giving a bit more credence to the LM002’s “Rambo-Lambo” nickname.
This example, to be auctioned next Wednesday with the rest of the lots in the sale, is one of only 48 “LM/American” versions brought to the country, and to up its rarity even more it retains the correct and all but unobtainable Pirelli Scorpion tires, as well as the rare optional cargo box in the rear. It has also gone through an comprehensive and very expensive restoration totaling five years and more than $325k in parts and labor to bring it to this immaculate condition.
If you always though the Humvee had a bad case of missing a V12 and not nearly enough wood inside the cabin, here’s your 450-horsepower answer.