For James Bond-style automotive thrills, visit Sotheby’s vintage car auction, where a few million could get you one of the sexy spy’s own sleek getaway cars (well, a replica, at least). Harry “007” Hurt III went undercover for us on the bidding floor; here’s his report.
I stride into the 10th-floor showroom for the Art of the Automobile auction at Sotheby’s in a bespoke double-breasted blue suit and custom-made shoes—my 007 persona. Displayed before me is a dazzling array of 31 vintage cars, two vintage motorcycles and seven pieces of vintage memorabilia worth more than $62 million, all part of the first-ever autos-in-house sale staged by Sotheby’s in partnership with RM Auctions, the international purveyor of motorized masterpieces.
“The name’s Bond, James Bond,” I advise the similarly blue-suited RM car specialist Jonathan Sierakowski in an awkwardly affected British accent. “My next assignment requires something rather fast, and preferably sleek enough to be seen around Monte Carlo.”
Jonathan replies with a sly wink reminiscent of the films’ tech wizard Q and leads me directly to a cream-colored 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 MK II “Supersonic” with sensuous curves and a bidding range of $1.8 to $2.4 million. “This is a one-off,” he informs me. “It’s the only Aston Martin in the world with coachwork by [Italian automobile design and coachbuilding firm] Carrozzeria Ghia.”
Before I can stop drooling, Jonathan ushers me to a silver 1959 Ferrari GT SWB “Competition” Berlinetta Speciale with a bidding range of $6.5 to $8.5 million. It features specially designed dials turned in to face the driver. “You’ll need to keep an eye on the speedometer, 007—the top speed is 180 mph,” he warns, quickly adding, “but I can offer you something a bit faster, if you like.”
Nodding deliriously, I follow Jonathan to a 1964 Chevrolet CERV II, a gunmetal gray open-wheel test vehicle designed by Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Corvette. Priced in the $1.4 to $1.8 million range, it’s a midengined rocket with 550 horsepower and chrome exhaust pipes that can go from zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 212 mph.
Finally, Jonathan shows me the coup de grâce of the auction, a red 1964 Ferrari 250 LM priced at $12 to $15 million. The last Ferrari to win the grueling 24-hour race at Le Mans (in 1965), it’s a purebred competition car crouched just 44 inches high. I allow that the racer would be perfect for dodging bullet fire from pursuing villains. Jonathan rolls his eyes with Q-like exasperation. “Try to bring it back in one piece this time, 007.”
The ensuing auction on the seventh floor is a stunningly spendthrift affair attended by an estimated 1,000 people. Under the auspices of a hammer-wielding auctioneer who speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish, collectors in the house raise numbered paddles while rivals from all over the world enter competing bids via a phone bank. They snap up the Aston Martin for $2 million; the Ferrari Berlinetta for $7 million; the CERV for $1.1 million; and the Ferrari LM for a whopping $14.3 million.
When I get back, I plan to tell M that Her Majesty’s Secret Service needs a bigger budget.