Classic California Auction a Success

Classic Cars & Motorcycles

Bonhams & Butterfields celebrated the ninth year of its renowned "Classic California" auction at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Saturday, November 13th.

A large crowd of collectors and motoring aficionados paid more than $1.5 million for automotive collectibles and celebrity-owned vehicles, cars and motorcycles including property from the Collection of famed racer, stuntman and Triumph dealer Bud Ekins and television and business pioneer, Maria Helen Smith, of San Diego, California.

Malcolm Barber, Chief Executive Officer and one of today’s auctioneers, said, "Our annual Classic California sales at the Petersen Museum have consistently brought strong prices and attracted items from private collections as well as celebrities."

He continues, "This year, strength was seen for fresh-to-market property and celebrity-related cars, motorcycles and ephemera from the Estates of Maria Helen Smith and Bud Ekins. The sale drew international interest from Europe, Asia and Canada as well as national attention with 70% of the motorcars sold."

The top lot of the sale was a 1958 Bentley Flying Spur Saloon from the Estate of Maria Helen Smith (est. $70,000-90,000, sold for $130,200).

The model has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction in R-Type form in 1952. The highly sought after vehicle boasted original California black license plates and showed a mere 55,000 miles from new.

According to Mr. Barber, "The car perfectly reflected Smith’s passion for collecting, as well as her distinct style and appreciation of classic European design."

Featured items from the Ekins Collection included cars, motorcycles, personal never-before-seen photographs, trophies, posters, memorabilia, tools and racing jackets, as well as ephemera from best friend and collaborator Steve McQueen. A 1908 Delaunay-Belleville Type H4 Double Phaeton highlighted the offering (est. $30,000-35,000, sold for $128,000).

The French Delaunay-Belleville was an internationally coveted prestige car in the first decade of the 20th century. Produced under the exacting direction of manufacturing magnate Louis Delaunay-Belleville, the marque made its debut at the 1904 Paris Salon.

The chassis, engineered by former Benz designer Marius Barbarou, featured a distinctive round radiator, patterned after the steam boilers the car’s parent firm had long supplied for naval use.

Production of the Type H4, such as offered here, occurred during 1908-1910 at the Delaunay-Belleville works, located near Paris in St Denis sur Seine. A four-passenger design, it is of the type favored at the time by exceedingly well-to-do motorists with sporting inclinations.

Many Delaunay-Belleville chassis were saddled with heavy and conservative formal bodies, making this example’s gracefully intimate bodywork all the more desirable.

The legendary Von Dutch (Kenny Howard), a custom car and bike pin-striper and artist in both metal and paint, repainted the H4 and recreated its pin striping during the period he worked with Bud Ekins at the latter’s North Hollywood shop.

Also of note from the 2010 "Classic California" sale was a 1991 Harley-Davidson Sportster Deco Scoot and 1939 Lincoln Zephyr Sedan Delivery Deco Liner (est. $110,000-150,000), which sold to a private international collector for $117,000.

A virtual Fabergé egg on wheels, the Deco Liner and its matching Deco Scoot comprise a one-of-a-kind combination. Completed in June 2008, the Deco Liner is a one-off custom 1939 Lincoln Zephyr created by artist Frank Nicholas and Terry Cook of Deco Rides of Long Valley, New Jersey.

Influenced by Deco Rides’ "Scrape" Lincoln-Zephyr coupe, the Deco Liner features a chopped top and elongated body to form a sedan delivery, a body style never built by Lincoln. The Deco Scoot custom Harley-Davidson Sportster is a work of sculpture designed by Terry Cook to match the sedan delivery, which is equipped to automatically load and transport it in style.

Additional motoring highlights included: a pristinely restored 1967 Volkswagen Samba 21-window Bus (est. $80,000-90,000, sold for $78,975); 1908 REO Tourer, painted by Von Dutch from the Ekins Collection (est. $15,000-20,000, sold for $54,990); a 1967 Jaguar E-Type 4.2 Series 1 Open Two Seater (est. $50,000-55,000, sold for $52,650) and 1915 Harley-Davidson 11F with sidecar (est. $30,000-40,000, sold for $49,140).

This motorcycle may have also been in the collection of the late actor Steve McQueen who bequeathed much of his motorcycle collection to Ekins.

The memorabilia section of the sale also boasted strong results. Items of note included: Steve McQueen’s original dirtbike toolbox (est. $3,500-4,500, sold for $13,420); a Tete de Paon mascot by Rene Lalique, French 1920-30s (est. $4,500-5,500); a clear La Pintade glass mascot by Rene Lalique, 1920-30s (est. $3,000-4,000, sold for $4,880); two Trophies won by Bud Ekins accompanied by a catalog with a photograph of Ekins and McQueen (est. $200-300, sold for ($4,575) and a five page handwritten letter from McQueen to Ekins, together with an original envelope and presented on Sand Pebbles letterhead (est. $1,000-1,500, sold for $3,050).

Alex Barber, Motoring Department Automobilia Specialist and one of today’s auctioneers, said, "There was great interest in the Bud Ekins Collection. Bidding was competitive for celebrity-related memorabilia as well as early 20th Century mascots."

Having become a must attend event for automotive enthusiasts of all genres, the Bonhams’ sale demonstrated once again why the 217-year-old auction house is a leader in the domain of collector cars, motorcycles, art and antiques.

Motoring auctions will continue on January 6, 2011 during Bonhams inaugural sale motorcycle auction in Las Vegas at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino. The sale will feature nearly 200 lots including a complete and highly sought after 1894/95 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller.

This extraordinary motorcycle follows the record-breaking sale of another Hildebrand & Wolfmüller offered by Bonhams earlier this year in Britain.

That 1894 relic caused considerable excitement across the world resulting in a packed salesroom and an above-estimate selling price of £86,200.

The model being offered in Las Vegas next January is substantially superior and carries a conservative estimate of $130,000-$150,000.