A 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, offered for sale for the first time in 50 years, was the most valuable lot at Bonhams Amelia Island Auction last week, achieving $4,185,000. It hammered sold following a tense bidding battle in the Florida saleroom. It was the crowning glory of the $15m sale, which featured a 95% sell-through rate.
A seminal model for Porsche, the 1500cc 550 Spyder was the manufacturer’s first genuine racing car, earning the “giant killer” reputation for its victories over larger-engined rivals in the most challenging of races.
This particular car had its own racing pedigree, having been campaigned extensively in Europe, including at the Nürburgring, by its first owner, German racing driver Theo Helfrich. The Porsche was acquired in 1959 by an American military man stationed in Germany, who brought back to the US, where it was purchased by the vendor in 1972.
Cherished for 50 years, including a factory-correct five-year restoration, the car had been under wraps since the early 2000s. Its first public outing in 20 years earned applause from the saleroom before the sale even started. The Porsche was finally sold to a telephone bidder after a tense bidding battle, earning a second ovation.
“We were immensely honored to be entrusted with the sale of this spectacular 550 Spyder direct from half a century of ownership and are very pleased with the result,” said Jakob Greisen, Bonhams Vice President – Head of US Motoring. “We look forward to seeing this highly genuine example of an iconic Porsche at the finest international Concours and driving events around the globe.”
A 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Victoria also brought seven figures at Bonhams, achieving $1,066,500. With coachwork by respected coachbuilder Rollston, this car had been the subject of an extensive restoration which had been well-preserved over recent years.
A fellow American legend set an auction world record at the Fernandina Beach venue. Believed to be the oldest surviving Ford Model T, the 1908 Touring variant, extensively restored some 20 years ago, achieved $246,400, making it the highest value example sold to date.
The best of British motoring was represented by two unique examples. The first was a 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE Coupé, the only XK120 bodied by the Italian Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, which realised $940,000. From its introduction as the 1955 Geneva Motor Show car, the Jaguar was found in a sorry state in a field in 1972 but was returned to its former glory by the vendor with a nut-and-bolt restoration.
Lining up with the Jaguar was the very first Rolls-Royce-built Derby Bentley, the pivotal link between the W.O. Bentley and Derby eras. Originally used extensively as a promotional model, this historic 1933 Bentley 3½ Liter Sports Tourer, chassis number B1AE, was driven in period by some of the greatest racing drivers including Sir Malcolm Campbell and Woolf Barnato. Offered from 60 years’ ownership, the matching numbers Bentley changed hands after six decades for $428,500.
“Bonhams was delighted to offer such a strong line-up at our eighth Amelia Island Auction,” said Rupert Banner, Bonhams Group Motoring Director and Amelia Island auctioneer. “Among the lots were truly unique collectors’ cars such as the Porsche 550 Spyder and the Derby Bentley. We were privileged to present both of these to the public after so many years and look forward to seeing them at events in years to come
“The auction was well-received by bidders. We had a busy saleroom complemented by activity on the telephones and internet, with the participation of many international bidders.”
Other highlights of the Bonhams Amelia Island Auction included:
A “white glove” result for the Charles Jacob single-owner collection of 46 motorcycles and eight cars. The 100% sold collection of largely British golden age motorcycles and American automobiles of the classic era had been amassed over several decades by the late long-time Jacksonville, FL resident.
1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Open Two-Seater, sold above estimate for $335,000. One of the most unusual and striking Phantom IIs, this automobile’s one-off coachwork was designed by a former owner and built by renowned Rolls-Royce coachbuilder Hooper of London in the 1950s.
The Bonhams Motoring Team will present their next auction at the Goodwood Members Meeting sale on April 10 — the first of this year’s sales to be staged on the West Sussex country estate.