August 25, 2011
Though Car Week's high-stakes hijinks hinge largely on its stunning automobile auctions—this year's bidding battles included a record car sale of a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa for $16.4 million at Gooding & Co.'s blockbuster Pebble event—the transactions don’t always end with a vehicle changing hands. (Scroll down for a look at the top 10 sales of the weekend.)
One couple at the Russo and Steele show came down from Oregon to auction off their yellow 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air—and wound up paying for the privilege not to sell it. Most cars on the auction block have a minimum “reserve” price, below which the auctioneer won’t close a deal. But sellers can cut their commission to the auction house in half by submitting their vehicle without a reserve, though that means they are risking a bid price lower than desired.
That happened Saturday night at Russo & Steele at the Monterey Marriott: Though the Chevrolet Bel Air’s owners hoped it would go for at least $35,000, bidding topped out long before that, so they bought it back themselves for $21,500. With a buyer’s commission to cover as well, it ended up costing the couple around $3,000 to take their own car home with them.
A simpler, less expensive, but more public snafu: This Concorso Italiano moment, when an errant Laguna Seca Golf Course turn arrested this Lamborghini's progress on the edge of a sandtrap.
Nearby, arguably the best outfit of the weekend materialized with this woman's Ferrari knee-high platform moon boots and complementary leather and tutu action.
While the Italiano celebrity sightings included Miley Cyrus and Sir Mix-a-Lot—sadly, one onlooker described the "Baby Got Back" icon's reception as "less than lukewarm"—the celebrity presence took a different shape at the Concours d'LeMons a day later, where Roseanne Barr's camouflage limousine drew a lot of attention.
The LeMons also drew the self-proclaimed “Most Interesting Car in the World,” a race-car with the Dos Equis logo on both sides and “CERVEZA” in all caps across the top of the windshield. On the hood were one-liners; the best was “It is the only German car ever actually made during Oktoberfest.”
At Pebble, this hat drew as many eyes as, say, the 1915 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Maythorn Torpedo.
Jay Leno predictably chipped in with several memorable quips, among them this: "They should have an attractive woman doing this [describing award-winning cars] but that would be sexist."
A day previous, at the packed-to-the-dashboard RM Auctions show at Portola Hotel & Spa in downtown Monterey, a pithy British auctioneer did Leno one better, commanding the room's attention with slick leaps in bidding increments and timely humor.
One of his best bon mots: “It’s only money—there’s plenty of it around. Maybe not in my pocket, but surely in yours.”
Later he had this: “Don’t despair, sir. If it was easy to buy cars like this, we would all be doing it,” and “You don’t want to leave without a car, sir. How are you going to get home? It’s a long way to walk.”
More lofty proceedings took place at a private party in Jacks Peak hosted by Peterson Conway to celebrate Mille Miglia North America, stilt walkers mingled with live cigar rollers...
At least until Conway’s blue parrot...
and high-flying "aerial dancing" took over attention spans.
In other words, there's a lot more awe-inspiring stuff going on than the auctions come Car Week. Not that the sheer volume and sheen of the cash and cars changing hands can't take our collective breath away, as this list of the top 10 sales this year from Monterey Car Week auctions from CNN demonstrates.
Sam Sciolla and Alexei Koseff contributed to this report.