The DB7 led directly to the current top-notch Astons, and it's a huge amount of swagger and eyeball for $50,000
Finding an affordable classic in Monterey seems about as likely as grabbing the "early-bird special" at Alain Ducasse's newest restaurant. This is after all Monterey, and for five days in August, even the meanest Econo Lodge becomes the $300/night "Hotel Costa Plenté."
Nevertheless, there were some interesting $50,000-and-under cars sold during the weekend and even a few under the $20,000 mark. These are some of the highlights:
1972 Triumph TR6
Sold at RM for $19,250, lot 403
British car values have been relatively stagnant, with Big Healey prices retreating and the best E-types holding steady for several years in the $125,000-$140,000 range. The expected rapid run-up of TR6 prices in the wake of the Healey stampede never occurred, nor is it likely to any time in the near future, as the market concentrates on excellent examples of rare cars. With over 90,000 made, the TR6 is anything but rare.
This is all good news for collectors on a budget, and the TR6 represents probably the best bang for the buck in a traditional British sports car. With a smooth straight-6 and abundant torque, plus styling that, if you squint, could be called "sort of cute," the TR6 is a car that should always appeal to an array of buyers.
This Laurel Green car appeared to be a very well-restored example of an early TR6, which is distinguished by a lack of rubber bumper overriders and a prettier dash. It may have been one of the better buys of the weekend.
1953 MG TD
Sold at Russo and Steele for $17,050, lot F403
T-series MGs are really an acquired taste. None of them really had adequate power, and the TD finds itself as kind of the odd one out. Although a vast improvement in the suspension department over the TC, it had lost the delicate good looks of the earlier car. TDs didn't even come with wire wheels from the factory.
With around 50 hp and minimal weather protection, they're not good for much more than getting ice cream with one of your kids. TD prices have also been relatively flat, as the people who remember them new are getting on in years. If a prewar-style sports car appeals to you, you're probably far better off with a prettier and quicker TF 1500 or a Morgan Plus Four, both of which probably have better appreciation potential.
Nevertheless, if no rust or woodwork issues present themselves, this anvil-tough TD should give its new owner years of inexpensive fun and appreciate at the rate of a good certificate of deposit.
1986 Renault R5 Turbo 2
Sold at Bonhams & Butterfields for $43,875, lot 309
An interesting oddity, the R5, or Le Car, was a front-engine, front-wheel-drive econobox. The Turbo 2 shared about as much with the Le Car as a NASCAR racer does with a stock Taurus. While it had the same profile as the Le Car, the Turbo 2 was actually a mid-engine Group 4 rally homologation special. Its 160-hp 1,397- cc Cléon turbocharged engine put out nearly twice the horsepower of a 1,300-cc Alfa Giulietta unit. Turbo 2s were often described as grenade-like.
Still, these were cars that rally fans of the 1980s lusted for, and even after the advent of all-wheel-drive cars like the Audi Quattro, the little Renaults were still the fastest thing on tarmac.
At first glance, it appears this blue car was very well sold. The next highest Turbo 2 sale in the SCM Platinum Database is a car that sold on eBay in June 2007 for $32,600. Still, it's about a third of what you would expect to pay for an Alpine A110 these days. Just hope you're not the owner when the motor decides to frag you.
1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV
Sold at Gooding for $44,000, lot 41
While lower on the pecking order than Publisher Martin's beloved step-nose Giulias, the quad-headlamp 1750 GTV is nonetheless admired a bit more than the later 2000 GTV for its slightly revvier nature and more attractive seats and dash.
All 105-series Alfa coupes have seen significant appreciation in the last several years; after all, they're comfortable, attractive and very usable. At $44,000, however, this very pretty silver over red car may have set a world record for a production GTV. The next highest public sale was a 2000 GTV that sold on eBay in 2005 for $33,000.
This was a very nice example in great colors, with copious records and receipts from a well-known marque specialist. It may not have been absolutely fresh (some touched-up chips were obvious), but it's the way you want to buy one to enjoy immediately.
1997 Aston Martin DB7 Volante
Sold at Gooding for $50,600, lot 60
Oprah provenance aside, this is just a still-depreciating used car. Supporters will tout it as a vast improvement in engineering and quality control over the bulky Virage; cynics will dismiss it as a very expensive Jaguar XK8.
Wherever you come down, this car led directly to the top-notch wares Aston is now hawking, and it's a huge amount of swagger and eyeball for $50,000. And there wasn't much of a premium paid here for the celebrity ownership. It will likely cost a fair bit to keep up, and it probably still has a way to go before bottoming out, but the new owner got a very pretty car with an interesting history, the proceeds of which directly benefited a worthwhile charity. The definition of well bought and well sold.