Why RM Sotheby’s New York Classics Auction Gives Me Sads

Or, an argument against collecting multimillion-dollar automobiles.

byJonathan Harper|
For Sale photo


I usually associate beautiful old cars with musty warehouses or garages that have a lingering smell of gasoline, the kind of place where work is done and work is completed. RM Sotheby’s has performed the remarkable trick of shaking this association entirely out of my mind.

Upon entering the “Driven by Disruption” showroom at Sotheby’s headquarters in Manhattan, it’s immediately clear from the pristine interiors and spotless engine bays on view that these vehicles are not going for a weekend drive. These are the most royal of garage-queens.

Looking at perfect chrome and leather that appears to have never been sat on is somewhat freakish, like seeing painstakingly jarred organs in some mad scientist’s lab. The specimens here, which will go under the hammer on Dec. 10, likely will never get to stretch their legs, their throttles cracked or clutches dumped. Their mutually assured destiny is some sealed alcove at a country estate, the kind of place where an owner knows his investments are safe, a place where cars can live for years on a battery tender, only to be fired up for the cursory concours appearance.

But driven? Not a chance.

A man with felt gloves opens the hood of a 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa Coupe by Vignale and points at something under the hood. The fellow next to him, head nodding in approval from above a perfectly tied ascot, says, “Yes, the fan hose clamps appear to be original. Very good.” Because this heart-meltingly beautiful coupe would be worthless with aftermarket fan clamps.

A child runs by screaming, “WHERE ARE THE TESLAS?!?” I can’t blame you, kid.

CultureFor Sale