RM Sotheby’s annual Villa Erba auction is held on the picturesque shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy, a well-known spot for summer vacationers, just down the shore from the Concorzo d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este. This year, the auction house raked in $22,006,506 in total sales, supported by a roster of high-end European classics, a handful with designs by Italian coachbuilder Zagato. That said, rainy weather likely helped contribute to a somewhat dour atmosphere, which kept the all-important sell-through rate down to 57 percent. Just 31 of 54 total cars met reserve, with several highly publicized cars failing to sell. The day’s top seller? A 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider at $4,153,220.
1955 Maserati A6G/2000 Zagato
Not Sold: $3,105,398
One of the prettiest postwar sports cars ever produced (in this writer’s humble opinion), this Maserati had lovely Zagato-penned panels, a jewel of a 2.0-liter straight-six engine (with triple Weber carburetors) and provenance that included being driven by the legendary duo of Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson during practice for the 1956 Mille Miglia (a race the two won the year before in a Mercedes 300 SLR). The car went on to run the ’56 Mille in the hands of an Italian team, but finished far back in the pack. A lack of period motorsports success, along with an extensive re-body in more recent years likely kept interest down on this example.
1955 Fiat 8V Zagato
Nearly $2 million for a Fiat? You betcha. The Fiat 8V was a groundbreaking car when it launched in 1952, powered by a 2.0-liter V-8 engine. Several coachbuilders provided bodies for the 8V range and just 26 were styled by Zagato like the one you see here. Despite the 8V being well-known for its huge racing success even after its last year of production in 1955, this example was kept away from the track until the 1970s when it was vintage raced for a time. Despite that, the car lived a fairly easy life which is partly to thank for the car’s outstanding condition today.
1991 Ferrari 348 TB Zagato Elaborazione
By the 1990s, Zagato had largely moved away from the elegant lines that defined many of its ’50s and ’60s designs and into what could be described as a more avant-garde design period. The Ferrari 348 TB Zagato Elaborazione is a perfect example of this, with its triple circular taillights, added side scoops and GTO-style rear fender vents, and, er, interesting front valance. Beauty is the eye of the beholder, and this car had just one beholder from new, covering some 12,000 miles in that time. Surprisingly, for not being a pinnacle of either Ferrari or Zagato’s potential, this 348 sold at the upper end of its estimate, helped along by its status as the 1991 Geneva show car.
2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss
Not Sold: $1,675,705
Just 75 examples of the SLR Stirling Moss were ever built and it’s not difficult to see why. While the retro design harks back to the 300 SLR that Moss and navigator Jenkinson drove in the ’55 Mille Miglia, the diminutive windscreen and near-total lack of creature comforts relegate these road racers to use under sunny skies and clear roads. Never offered in the U.S., this car was delivered new to Europe where the previous two owners managed to put some 5,000 miles on it before it ended up on RM’s auction block. We’ve seen cars with fewer miles ask as much as $3 million, but this one couldn’t find a home under rainy skies at half that amount. A standard 2008 SLR Roadster also failed to sell at $279,254.
1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider
The event’s top seller was this Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider, a very pretty sports racer that is one of just five built with this “covered headlight” style bodywork from Pinin Farina (then two words). Mondials were four-cylinder Ferrari race cars (engine designer Aurelio Lampredi would go on to design the famous Fiat four-cylinder twin-cam engine later in life) and this one was raced extensively from new in Southern California. More recently, the car received a cosmetic restoration from Ferrari’s Classiche department, along with ‘Red Book’ certification of authenticity from the brand. A classic Ferrari from a classic era, this is surely one of the better Mondials in existence and it sold like it.
1952 Lancia Aurelia B52 Coupe Vignale
Not sold: $312,808
Produced in the same year that the Boeing B52 bomber had its debut flight, this Lancia B52 is one of 98 made and one of seven to be bodied by Italian firm Vignale. Vignale’s designs tended to be more elegant than many of its contemporaries’ sportier shapes, and this car has the oval-shaped “egg crate” grille that it used on several other models—it was common for a design house’s style themes to be carried across automakers. Recently, this car has been shown at a variety of events following a restoration 15 years ago and has won several Best of Show awards. This one was fairly bought for a unique and achingly gorgeous car that can be used for many vintage events.
1965 Shelby 427 Cobra
Not sold: $726,161
Cobras are having a tough time of it lately, having largely failed to sell at several recent auctions, so don’t think this 427’s no-sale is just a victim of being an American car in Italy. Cobras are one of the few American racers to really have a following around the world, with the car’s presence and success in period 1960s European road racing having endeared it to those across the pond. In fact, this car was previously owned by the president of the Cobra Club of Switzerland and is documented to be a very early version of the uprated 427 model. Though built as a street version and lacking any racing pedigree, this car did have a big crash on the road in the mid-1970s and was rebuilt from the ground up, likely limiting its desirability among astute Cobra collectors. It should still make an excellent car to own and drive at the right price, but apparently the seller thought the high bid was the wrong price. An excellent, no-stories street 427 Cobra is a million-plus-dollar car today.
Top 10 Sales
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