It’s August 2015 on the Monterey Peninsula, and the results are in from the International Whack-A-Mole competition! Apply your knowledge of this zany arcade game to the recent auction scene. Where are the prices going next? What’s going to pop up in value and surprise you and what is going to get walloped and go down and shock you? Here are the rules: Attend a major auction, take whatever knowledge you have as a professional, amateur or swanky European consultant, and then immediately heave all that experience and knowledge out a nearby window. Then see which sales go up, down or all around. It’s a an easy game with very few rules. Even Donald Osborne can play.

Welcome to the game

Months, weeks, days and even hours before Monterey’s seven major auctions, there was no consensus among the so-called professionals as to what was going to happen in 2015. Recapping after the fact, no one great sage was correct and consistent about this scene. A few folks were heard muttering, “It’s beginning to feel like 1989 again, isn’t it?” Indeed it is a bit. Logic in many results was out having a drink. Yesterday was old news…. By Monday, August 17, the auctions were over, and many pros formally agreed that some of the auction estimates were optimistic, there were too many cars to be absorbed in one weekend (167 Porsches, 10 of which were unique. Really?), and some of the offerings were a bit underwhelming in condition and catalog description. “Whack-A-Mole!” was the observation from one of my East Coast Car Mafia Crew while we recapped at dinner late in the week, and it’s a perfect analogy for some of the head-scratching results. On the high side, some results ranged from crazy, higher-than-high-catalog estimate to “Wow, two people must have really wanted that chariot,” to Ray Donovan slam-you-against-a-wall madness. Keep throwing money at it and you’ll get it, Ray. On the other hand, some cars went down their mole holes a bit, flew under the radar and were legit deals. To be fair, there were more deals this year than there were crazy outliers, but the outliers were more bizarre than usual. Let’s pick up our mallets and play.

A very nice MGA

Bonhams Lot 63: A 1960 MGA 1600 Roadster, estimate $45k–$65k. This car sold for $77k. The upshot: This might have been the nicest, most original, honest car of the week. Then again, this was a huge, slack-jawed result for an MGA. This sale fits into “There’s one on the planet, and there are two people in this room who wanted it” category. Compare this sale with Gooding & Company Lot 16: a 1960 MGA Twin-Cam Roadster, one of three Works Sebring Racers, estimate $250k–$350k. Sold for $236,500. One way up, one way down. The astute buyer of the Gooding car has a comp car with some serious history in his collection, and the buyer who wound up with the Bonhams car made some curious history. One Mole whacked, but another Mole lives to pop up another day.

Young, hot blood

Bonhams Lot 18: A 1989 BMW M3, estimate $60k–$75k. This car sold for $96,250. Let’s all agree that the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise and the “Need For Speed” video game generation is tilting the auction world on its head. Younger guys buying the adrenaline-pumping hyper-cars of their generation had serious impact on the weekend. How else does one explain the frenzy surrounding the bidding on a Saleen S7, a handful of Veyrons, Porsche Carrera GTs and a Koenigsegg CCXR? Ferris, life does move pretty fast, and the paradigm shift is here. Ocean Avenue in Carmel could have been the parking lot at Nobu Malibu, as it was filled with squadrons of late-model supercars instead of classics. Could this be why a red, low-mileage 1989 M3 rang the bell? Was it an entry-level, young-timer purchase for an almost-successful, new-gen big M1 aspirer? Upon inspection, the car had some serious wear and tear for such low miles, and I’d question why some body stickers were missing. Maybe it was a rent-a-ride at the Nordschleife and was driven spiritedly; who knows? But $90k-plus! What about BMWCCA, Craigslist, Bring-a-Trailer and The Des Moines Register? Aren’t these cars everywhere for less? WELL SOLD. The Mole wins, and he’s giving you a raspberry. It wasn’t long ago that this was a $30k car.

A great Porsche for a wild price

RM Sotheby’s Lot 110: A 1996 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8. Estimate $350k–$450k. Sold for $550k. It’s no secret that I think this model is one of the best, most-usable, greatest dual-purpose 911s ever made. I own one now, my third in 10 years, proving they’re not that hard to find. I think this was the first example to be offered in the United States at auction, so maybe that explained a little of the result here. But apparently the bidders and the buyer didn’t see the other 16 for sale online for less money. Maybe they figured this car was here now, so time to pay up. Why go through the hassle of importing one with lower miles — and no boy-racer, non-original roll cage and goofy hood pins — but with original paintwork and in a cooler color? Yes, that’s dripping sarcasm. Okay, you have to deal with the feds and their Show-and-Display regulations, and it takes six months to a year to get yours through the system, but this result was a bit of a surprise to the Porsche community. Yeah, a bit. Well sold again. The Moles survive in a big way here — and form a union to prove it.

The Moles team up

Gooding and Company Lot 116: A 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE Series I. Estimate $550k–$650k. Sold for $797,500. The good: great condition, tasteful colors, full history, properly restored, and Ferrari agrees that they made it in period and it still has those parts now because there’s a Classiche book that says so. The bad: four seats, four seats, four seats, uninspiring to drive, less inspiring to look at, and even Enzo stopped driving one back in the day and went to a Fiat. There were far most exciting options — for less money — in Monterey, including almost every Daytona, 330 GTC, 365 GTC, 365 GTC/4, almost every Dino and myriad other Italian cars that were flat or down a bit from last year’s pricing. The Moles formed a team and started hitting YOU with larger hammers on this 250 GTE. The Moles then got universally crushed at most every other 1960s to 1970s Ferrari road-car sale.

Breaking Whack-A-Mole

Gooding Lot 121: 1956 Fiat Eden Roc. Estimate “Upon Request” but believed to be upwards of $350k. Sold for $660k. If you can tilt the Whack-A-Mole game and cause it to break, this was the car that did it. Many described this car as “polarizing” as it sat among more garden-variety offerings. For everyone who loved it — and what it represented in design, fashion, 1950s La Dolce Vita style and coolness — there was someone willing to say it was goofy, an oddity and “I get why they only made two.” I loved this car when I first saw it years ago, and I love it even more now. This lot energized the room like a million-dollar car did 15 years ago. This sale was spirited and electric. It had Gooding Auctioneer Charlie Ross jumping out of his seat. Next to the Ferrari 250 SWB Bertone Sharknose, this was the thing for me. Like the Sharknose, if you wanted one, you had to buy this one. This was the perfect car to buy or sell at auction because it simply couldn’t be replaced, duplicated or compared. No one could value this car accurately before the sale, and that’s the beauty of an auction environment. I think this was very well sold and extremely well bought. Was this an objet d’art or an object of absurdity? I guess that depends on whether you were a fan or not. I think even the Moles sat this one out, as this car summed up the scene for me. It’s going to be harder and harder to predict the next round of results. Up, down, sideways? I gotta go practice my Mole Whacking. ♦

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