February may just be the perfect month to buy your dream car, since such timing allows all minor issues to be sorted by the time good weather comes in. RM Sotheby's wants to help and starting on the 13th of February, its upcoming Paris sale will feature 52 lots, including collections like the Gold and the Bowler group of rare high-performance machines. Yet before getting into the details of those highly tempting offers, let me just say that our top five list for this French sale contains 60 percent Italian wonders and 40 percent British rarities, with only brief mentions of Porsches, or even a one-off featuring Porsche 928 headlights.
The Gold fleet includes a 1973 Jensen Interceptor SP, a 1972 Porsche 911 S 2.4 Targa, a 1977 Porsche 911 Turbo, a 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS, and a handsome 1974 Ferrari 365 GT4 BB. Great if you like the seventies. From the more recent era, the Bowler collection comes straight from the garage of now JLR-owned Bowler Motors Limited's former director Richard Hayward, only to please us with short and long-wheelbase Defender hardtops and pickups in various racing tunes. Oh, and don't forget the "one-off" Spectra-spec truck that's the only road-legal example due to not being used in the Bond movie.
We'll get to all of our picks in due time, starting with what might be the most valuable Fiat 600 still around today.
1959 Fiat 600 Rendez Vous by Vignale
Up until now, I wasn't even aware that Vignale rebodied some 20 Fiat 600s to get to this coupé. Certainly classier than the later 850-based two-door specials, this tiny Lancia wannabe is a delightful piece of coachbuilt exclusivity, pretty much an Aurelia B20 with the 600's footprint and performance, also being a classic that has only covered 285 miles since its FIVA-quality restoration.
Easy to maintain, delightful to look at and ready for some easy parking in front of your favorite café, this practically brand new Vignale Rendez Vous is estimated at €80,000 - €120,000; that's $96,153 - $144,230 in American money. Hefty for a Fiat 600, reasonable for a rare Vignale in a fashionable two-tone blue.
2009 Ferrari 599 GTZ Nibbio Spyder Zagato
and others, regular low-volume coachbuilding continues in Milan, as evidenced by this 599 Nibbio Spyder finished just a year ago. Back when new, those wishing to grab a droptop Ferrari 599 either had to snap up one of Pininfarina's SA Apertas or be named Peter Kalikow to get the one-off Superamerica 45. Zagato decided to fill the void with the rather fish-like Nibbio, a custom 599 available in both coupe and convertible form.
With this special completed in January 2020, there are now only six 599 GTZ Nibbio Spyders out there, all finished in different colors. This youngest one is Gunmetal Grey over a black leather interior, with extras such as the challenge-style wheels, red brake calipers, a yellow tachometer and a carbon fiber steering wheel. Officially titled as a 2009 Ferrari showing almost 13,000 miles on its clock, RM Sotheby's suggests this Zagato is still a €1,400,000 - €1,600,000 affair; that's $1,683,710 - $1,924,240 in American money. We shall see how it does next week.
1997 Ascari Ecosse
Now here comes a gem. Designed by legendary British engineer Lee Noble, the Ascari Ecosse is the first road car made by the now-defunct motorsport company, powered by a BMW V8 tuned to various output levels by Hartge. This lightweight mid-engine supercar has everything we like in an analog speed machine from the '90s, including a 400-horsepower engine in the middle of a spaceframe chassis wrapped in fiberglass, a five-speed manual transmission, and a three-spoke Italvolanti steering wheel at the center of the leather-wrapped carbon fiber interior.
As the road version of the 6.0-liter Chevrolet-powered FGT race car concept, Ascari built just 17 of these clearly Noble M400-inspired machines after the 1997 season, the last of which was equipped with a sequential manual. This early Ecosse is a fairly affordable entry into this performance segment, estimated by the auctioneer at €155,000 - €195,000, or $186,410 - $234,516 USD.
2016 Bowler CSP V8 Prototype "P1"
When combined, "Bowler CSP V8 Prototype P1" and "no reserve" results in our full attention. Former Bowler Motors director Richard Hayward is selling a whole fleet of rare Defender-based trucks at Paris, including this pickup powered by Jaguar's supercharged dry-sump 5.0-liter V8, built as a prototype for Bowler's development of the Cross Sector Platform (CSP) chassis first introduced in 2015. Raced by Hayward in the 2019 British Cross Country Championship, this is a truck that will take a punch.
Left-hand drive and sporting the long-distance Rally Raid specification, this über-Land Rover sends 570 horsepower through ZF's eight-speed automatic, only to be kept in line by competition-spec Bilstein shock absorbers and massive Brembo brakes. Add air conditioning, a 79-gallon fuel cell and a currently broken Motec LCD dash to that picture and start dreaming about all the jumps this could take at speeds only a supercharged V8 can provide.
1979 Bizzarrini P538
What better way to challenge destiny than in a V12-powered homemade Boxster kart? How about in the much more luxurious seat of a unique Bizzarrini P538 constructed in the late '70s? Designed by young Giorgetto Giugiaro, the 327-cubic-inch Chevy-powered P538 was built for the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that did not go according to plan for this team of ex-Ferrari employees. After a few more misses, Giotto Bizzarrini's company went bankrupt by 1970. However, since this wild Barchetta continued to qualify for Can-Am and other European championships, a few more P538s were built for privateers.
This 1979 example was commissioned by the later director of the French Iso and Bizzarrini owners club, Jacques Lavost, and made in the workshop of former Bizzarrini associate Salvatore Diomante. Apparently finished nine years after the project began, this late car features larger air intakes, as well as triangular roll bars over the driver and passenger. Still packing the Chevy small-block with four side-draft Weber carburetors and a unique crossflow manifold, it's a hairy-chested road-legal prototype valued at €475,000 - €525,000 ($570,909 - $631,005 USD) by RM. One good look at it should tell you everything else you need to know.
This time around, my plus one for our top five list is not a vehicle, nor a full-size styling concept ready to enhance your living room. Instead, may I turn your attention towards an original McLaren F1 owner's manual?
It's a hardcover book that cost McLaren some $500 to make in 1992 money, filled with pencil drawings by Woking employee number nine, graphic designer Mark Roberts. In fact, these manuals are so rare and precious that Mark Robert's personal copy is the result of a mistake made by Gordon Murray while he filled in the numbers related to the specific car. RM Sotheby's estimates this F1 accessory at €4,000 - €8,000 ($4,807 - $9,615 USD), and having read most of the book, I can see why it can be worth that much to a collector.
Keep in mind that a McLaren F1 with this manual included can cost up to $20 million by now based on the publicly available auction figures, so if you're a fan of literature and graphic design, grabbing solely the book might just be the ticket.
Livestreamed, the online bidding begins in Paris on the 13th of February. There are plenty more lots to pay attention to, so good luck and happy driving!
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