|Vehicle:||1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Prototype|
|Original List Price:||Lire 11,000,000 ($18,000 U.S.)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||Front crossmember, behind radiator, and chassis plate|
|Engine Number Location:||In middle of vee on top of engine|
|Club Info:||Lamborghini Club America, PO Box 649, Orinda, CA, 94563|
|Alternatives:||1966-68 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, 1966-68 Bizzarrini 5300GT Strada, 1969-72 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder|
This car, Lot 34, sold for $1,705,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Gooding auction on March 11, 2011, in Amelia Island, FL.
Timing. It’s everything, especially in the world of car collecting: Ask the man who sold his Ferrari 250 GTO for $10,000 in 1970. Or the one who bought this Miura for $178,000 less than a decade ago.
The headline car for David Gooding’s Amelia Island auction, featuring prominently in pre-sale marketing and gracing the catalog cover, this Miura really got “The Full Monty” in terms of buildup. Hats off to David, who did a great job—whatever commission he charged the seller, it was worth every cent.
As always, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Let’s consider the elements in play to understand why this Miura, on this particular day, set a new auction record for the model.
First of all, what is it? The headline description says Miura SV Prototype. By definition that would make it a pre-SV chassis, and its serial number puts it near the end of S production. The S model is far less valuable than the SV, but as most collectors would probably agree, the first and last of anything have special appeal. Catch 22? I called Mr. Miura himself, Bob Wallace, and asked what he remembered about the SV prototype.
“We pulled a new yellow S body shell off the production line and built it up during our spare time,” Wallace said. “The modifications were pretty rudimentary and done by hand before the car went to Bertone to be rationalized for production. It was close to the series version but the rear fender wells, for example, were different.”
What about a 400-plus horsepower engine, I ventured? His reply is unprintable.
To further the intrigue, there are two yellow Miuras in circulation with factory paperwork supporting their claim to SV prototype status. I know this, as I’ve auctioned them both—twice. In a telex dated April 6, 1988, Ferruccio Lamborghini’s right-hand man, Ubaldo Sgarzi, confirmed the other example to be “one of our SV prototypes” (note the plural). That car, serial number 4856, engine number 30780, had a much earlier production number—266—but a later chassis number, a very late SV engine number and wasn’t sold by the factory until 1973….
As you see, early Lamborghini record keeping is somewhat Latin in nature. For the record, 4856 was sold at auction in 1998 for $126,349 (SCM# 5929) and again in 2002 for $157,937 (SCM# 28406).
Over a decade ago, when our feature car last changed hands in public at Brooks’ 2000 Quail Lodge auction for $84,000 (SCM# 10383), the reporter commented: “Of all the Miuras, the SV is the one to have. Is this an SV or really an S with some SV options? Cheap price for an S and a real bargain if it’s an SV.” Given that a late SV (s/n 5038) had sold just 24 lots earlier for $210,000, it appears the auction house didn’t succeed in getting the Prototype point across to buyers.
The successful bidder, a Los Angeles-based dealer, quickly resold s/n 4758 to a speculator from Southern California for an amount believed to be just into six figures. A quick detailing and one advert in FML later, chassis 4758 was now billed as “first owner for many years, a Monte Carlo based Italian opera singer” and available to “serious parties”—price on application, of course.
Ownership history—and minor myths
The auction catalog repeats the previous belief that this was possibly the car which launched the SV at the ’71 Geneva Salon, and implies it was sold a month before the first production SV, but we now have the Bertone build records identifying the chassis number and (different) color of the show SV, photos of the show stand and the sales records of the dealer who sold the show car 29 days before 4758. To put a minor myth to rest, the Italian “opera singer first owner” in Monte Carlo, who I’ve just called, is a financier who bought the car in the late 1980s—he couldn’t afford a bus fare in ’71. And he still can’t sing.
Next stop: Florida, and a genuine private enthusiast who struggled to document its history, before in 2002 the Miura finally found a long term home for $178,000 with a reclusive big hitter on the East Coast, spending the next nine years in climate-controlled luxury.
I asked what attracted him to this particular SV.
“I like firsts,” he said. “I have the first 250 GTO, the first F50 imported to the U.S.A. and so on.” What about the restoration? “Wayne Obry has done six cars for me, each in one year, with the aim of being the best of its kind. This Miura felt very fast, more so than the other SVs I had tested, and a real torque monster compared to the finesse of Ferraris.”
Would he own another? “I had the best. Anything now would be a letdown.”
The value of history, presentation and timing
So bearing in mind all of the above, how do we explain the price? At over $1.7m, it’s 70% more than normal SVs have achieved recently at auction and about half the price of real Miura SVJs we’ve handled privately.
Why? First of all, history. It may not be the only claimant, and three ashtrays will stand out about as much as an alloy block on a 300SL, but one of two prototypes is rarer than one of 150 SVs. It’s telling that a decade ago buyers discounted this car compared to a regular SV, and it’s an encouraging sign that since then they have become more sophisticated in attaching a premium to something with an interesting story.
Second—and significantly—presentation. A car, especially at auction, has to have that “wow” factor to excite bidders, and this one really did. Details like the Italian government paper seal reproduced on the cigar lighter, the factory leather document wallet and guarantee certificate were all assembled or recreated by the seller (who previously owned an automobilia business), but they made the car complete. If that didn’t impress, the folder of restoration invoices certainly did: all $536,496.27 of them (we checked).
Third, provenance. The Pebble Beach award, even if only third in class, means a lot. We’ve handled the Lamborghinis which came first and second that year, and each set a new record. The seller’s status in the collecting community, and the quality of his cars, reinforced the notion that this Miura had already made the grade.
Finally—and perhaps most important of all—timing. If you’re trying to assemble the world’s best Lamborghini collection and want to fill a piece in the puzzle, but when you find yourself up against a young U.S. dealer representing a Middle Eastern buyer and a father and son from Texas who’ve already bought 150 cars, you either have to step up or give up. Tomorrow could be a completely different scenario, but the auction takes place today. So we followed instructions and bought it.