A 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, offered for sale for the first time in 50 years, was the most valuable lot at Bonhams Amelia Island Auction , achieving $4,185,000, following a tense bidding battle in the Florida saleroom. It was the crowning glory of a successful sale which realised a total of $15 million, with an impressive 95% sell-through rate.
A seminal model for Porsche, the 1500cc 550 Spyder was the manufacturer’s first genuine racing car, earning the ‘giant killer’ soubriquet for its victories over larger-engined rivals in the most challenging races such as the Le Mans 24 Hours.
This particular car had its own racing pedigree, having been campaigned extensively in Europe, including at the Nürburgring, by its first owner, German racing driver Theo Helfrich. The Porsche was acquired in 1959 by an American military man stationed in Germany, who brought back to the US, where it was purchased by the vendor in 1972.
Cherished for 50 years, including a factory-correct five-year restoration, the car had been under wraps since the early 2000s. Its first public outing in 20 years earned applause from the saleroom before the sale even started. The Porsche was finally sold to a telephone bidder after a tense bidding battle, earning a second ovation.
1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, sold for $4,185,000
Jakob Greisen, Bonhams Vice President – Head of US Motoring, said: “We were immensely honored to be entrusted with the sale of this spectacular 550 Spyder direct from half a century of ownership and are very pleased with the result. We look forward to seeing this highly genuine example of an iconic Porsche at the finest international Concours and driving events around the globe.”
Another seven-figure result was achieved by a real ‘doozy’ – a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Victoria which achieved $1,066,500. With coachwork by respected coachbuilder Rollston this car, arguably one of the finest American automobiles of the Classic Era, had been the subject of an extensive restoration which had been well-preserved over recent years.
A fellow American legend set an auction world record at the Fernandina Beach venue. Believed to be the oldest surviving Ford Model T, the 1908 Touring variant, extensively restored some 20 years ago, achieved $246,400, becoming the highest value example sold to date.
The best of British motoring was represented by two unique examples. The first was a 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE Coupé, the only XK120 bodied by the Italian Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, which realised $940,000. From its introduction as the 1955 Geneva Motor Show car, the Jaguar was found in a sorry state in a field in 1972 but was returned to its former glory by the vendor with a nut and bolt restoration.
1933 Bentley 3½ Liter Sports Tourer, sold for $428,500
Lining up with the Jaguar was the very first Rolls-Royce-built Derby Bentley, the pivotal link between the WO Bentley and Derby eras. Originally used extensively as a promotional model, this historic 1933 Bentley 3½ Liter Sports Tourer, chassis number B1AE, was driven in period by some of the greatest racing drivers including Sir Malcolm Campbell and Woolf Barnato. Offered from 60 years’ ownership, the matching numbers Bentley changed hands after six decades for $428,500.
Rupert Banner, Bonhams Group Motoring Director, who acted as auctioneer at the sale, commented: “Bonhams was delighted to offer such a strong line-up at our eighth Amelia Island Auction, among which were truly unique collectors’ cars such as the Porsche 550 Spyder and the Derby Bentley. We were privileged to present both of these to the public after so many years and look forward to seeing them at events in years to come”
“The auction was well-received by bidders. We had a busy saleroom complemented by activity on the telephones and internet, with the participation of many international bidders.”
Other highlights of the Bonhams Amelia Island Auction included:
A ‘white glove’ result for the Charles Jacob single-owner collection of 46 motorcycles and eight cars. The 100% sold collection of largely British ‘golden age’ motorcycles and American automobiles of the classic era had been amassed over several decades by the late long-time Jacksonville, FL resident.
1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Open Two-Seater, sold above estimate for $335,000. One of the most unusual and striking Phantom IIs, this automobile’s one-off coachwork was designed by a former owner and built by renowned Rolls-Royce coachbuilder Hooper of London in the 1950s.
The Bonhams Motoring Team will be crossing the Atlantic for their next auction, the Goodwood Members Meeting sale on April 10, the first of this year’s sales to be staged on the West Sussex country estate.
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