The USA, China and the European nations have each all printed over a trillion dollars in the past few years. We are in a cash crisis, with no place for this cash to go,” quipped one of my longtime automotive writer colleagues.

“This has to account for some of the big-dollar cars again being classified as asset allocations within very wealthy collector portfolios,” said another peer.

Theories such as these abounded in Scottsdale 2013 — much like the massive quantities of softball-sized meatballs we were all about to consume at a restaurant near the auction madness.

The Car Guys Dinner each night in Arizona after the head-scratching auctions was always a gathering of no-nonsense, no-BS friends, colleagues, experts and car geeks. With perhaps 200 years of experience at the table, we all came to the conclusion that this market isn’t slowing down when it comes to the best-of-the-best cars.

No one knows where the ceiling is, let alone if and when the potential downturn happens. Collectors are still buying with “fear,” and that fear still breeds some caution.

Get out when the fear stops and your local dentist starts giving you collector-car advice (see 1987). But fear or no fear, Arizona brought many surprises.

I’m not saying that every car enthusiast should be driving or owning something from my ancestral land of gelato, Monica Bellucci and La Dolce Vita, but I suggest that if you have an itch for something like an Alfa Romeo or any Ferrari, you might want to scratch it sooner rather than later — before you scratch through your own arm waiting for that market dip. Life is short, go enjoy it.

Let’s take a look at what happened in Arizona. I will start at the bottom of the price food chain and work upward through the many surprises.

This is now entry level?

A 1969 Fiat 124 Spider, Lot 124, sold for $48,300 at Bonhams, and a 1967 Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto, Lot 39, brought $50,600 at Gooding & Company.

The Fiat price is staggering given what it is — a fairly pedestrian road car with no great merit. It may have been the best one on the planet (see above comment about “best of the best”) but this now represents the bottom of the price food chain? Wow. I was equally shocked to see the Duetto do anything above $25,000, given its average condition.

Sustainable reset? There are two sides of that argument to consider: First, there are too many examples of these cars, and their build quality was fraught with countless maladies from new.

Counterpoint: Why isn’t an Alfa Spider worth half of a 1960s Porsche 356 or 911? Half the car for half the price? Can’t a Fiat Spider give you the same grins as a Jaguar E-type in real-life driving once a month? The best examples of either may be the last cheap place to start scrounging around for a price-conscious buyer.

Dinos go BOOM!

RM Auctions sold a 1973 246 GTS, Lot 170, for $400,000. A 1971 246 GT, Lot 337, brought $181,000 at Bonhams. Gooding sold a 1973 246 GTS, Lot 14, for $506,000 and a 1972 246 GT, Lot 137, for $291,500.

Let’s have a moment of silence for the 2012 Ferrari Dino market and its affordable pricing — with an honorable mention to the passing of the Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale prices.

Gooding’s 246 GTS simply rocked the auction room. It was a multiple Cavallino Platinum winner — and the best one in the desert for sale — but $506,000? Just 90 days ago that kind of money would buy you the best Daytona, 365 GTC/330 GTC or three Porsche 911Ss. These lovely beasts are awarded the “Your Eyes and Heart Have Teamed Up to Beat Your Brain and Wallet into a Coma” award. The Dino’s iconic shape and 6-cylinder howl seem to have transcended anyone’s wildest expectations — on this weekend, anyway.

Can the Dino boom last? I’d rate the RM 246 GTS as a fresh paint/fresh interior auction special and Bonhams’ 246 GT as a driver-quality car. Both prices were equally strong. This trend has peaked, as this has to be the Mount Everest of pricing.

Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 / 330 GTC / 365 GTC ride the tide

Bonhams sold a 1967 330 GT 2+2, Lot 366, for $150,500 and a 1967 365 GTC Speciale, Lot 340, for $885,000. Just across town, RM sold a 1967 330 GT 2+2, Lot 175, for $192,500. Gooding sold a 1966 330 GT 2+2, Lot 15, for $275,000 and a 1966 330 GTC, Lot 23, for $737,000.

We can simply use the illogical logic that, as Dinos are now worth upwards of $500k, this correction in the 330 GT / 330 GTC / 365 GTC market was long overdue. Or, were these cars, especially the GTCs, undervalued given where 275 GTBs are today? I’d argue a Dino is more fun to drive, but the 12-cylinder mafia may have something to say about that.

The Bonhams 365 GTC was a true outlier. Speciale? I think not. It was perhaps a common 330 GTC with a 365 GTC motor and later-style wheels built for a “speciale” customer. The sizzle swallowed the steak here.

Or we could argue that 330 GT 2+2s might have been slightly undervalued when compared with their contemporary Aston Martins, so perhaps this time was coming. The sales price of all three cars reflected their diverse conditions, and all were fully priced. The Gooding 330 GTC may have been lightning in a bottle for a very good car.

Either argument nets strong prices for cars that were once budget entry into the 12-cylinder Ferrari Club. The 330 GT 2+2 prices may be sustainable given their worldwide appeal. The buying forum might dictate otherwise to the GTCs. Future prices will rise, but not to these levels. I think my crystal ball just cracked.

Arizona’s Prom Queens

Welcome to the royalty: 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 S Spider America. RM sold one, Lot 135, for $825,000, while Gooding’s barn find, Lot 147, brought $803,000 (see Etceterini Profile, p. 52). These cars are rare, gorgeous, technically advanced, stunning to drive, always sought after — and they are hardly ever up for sale. All this makes them the 2013 Prom Queens of Arizona. Runner-up Princesses are the four Lamborghini Miuras that all sold and found new boyfriends.

The last time RM’s $825,000 Lancia crossed the block, it sold for a world-record price of $500,000. As an aside, the byproduct of that sale was that a great many long-term Spider owners sold their cars at very robust prices shortly thereafter. That sale was a true market mover.

Gooding’s “Prom Queen” could be this year’s example of “When Dirt and Rust Are Worth More Than Gold.”

Gooding’s offering was “the” car that many of us gravitated to prior to the sale. It was the classic, one-owner, barn-find oddity, and how cool would that car be at Pebble Beach in the preservation class? Or how fantastic would it be to just clean it up mechanically and drive it in that ratty cosmetic condition? Then it sold for $803,000.

Gulp... are we getting pranked here? The think-tank of meatball-eating geniuses figured $500k for this car.

This is the pure case study of originality versus restored. Both cars were bought by two very different mindsets and both can plead their case as to which car is more market-correct.

Good luck to anyone who wanted one prior to this weekend and hoped to still find it at December 2012 prices.

Big Ferraris sell BIG

In the Big Ferrari world, Gooding sold a 1958 250 LWB California Spyder, Lot 30, for $8.25m, and RM sold a 1960 250 SWB Competizione, Lot 164, for $8.1m (see Ferrari Profile, p. 48).

Honorable mention goes to almost anything with a “250” in its designation — no deals there.

A lot of ink flows when these über-expensive Ferraris sell — as well it should. Aforementioned asset allocation billionaires wanting to park one under their Rothko — or just plain successful, bleed-Ferrari-red collectors — know few pricing boundaries here.

Both cars are flawless examples from great collectors and without exception. This market will continue to climb. No more ink needs to be used here. ?

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