Sharknose Graham

1939 Graham Model 97 Sedan

Offered by Mecum | Kansas City, Missouri | December 5-7, 2019

Photo – Mecum

The “sharknose” Graham was introduced for 1938 and it was a pretty radical design. The design lasted into 1940, and four models were offered in 1939: the Model 96 (which could be had in Special or Custom form) and the Type 97 (which was available in base or Custom form). Both Type 97 models were supercharged.

The 3.6-liter inline-six featured a Graham-designed supercharger that allowed for about 115 horsepower. The auction catalog does not note that this car is supercharged, but if it were a Model 97 from the factory, it would’ve been.

As great as the cars look today, they weren’t strong sellers when new. Graham managed to move only about 3,600 units in 1939. By 1940, they switched to producing the Hollywood, but the company was doomed. You can see more about this car here, and more from this sale here.

Alfa 256 Touring Coupe

1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 Coupe by Touring

Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 16-17, 2019

Photo – Gooding & Company

The Tipo 256 is a very rare pre-war Alfa based on the 6C 2500. It was a racing car that was introduced in 1939. A few things differentiate the 256 from other racing variants of the 6C, one of them being that the Tipo 256 was actually prepared by Scuderia Ferrari in Modena, and not by Alfa themselves.

Power is from a 125 horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-six. Other features include a shortened frame, larger fuel tank, lowered radiator, three Weber carburetors, and a stiffer suspension. This car was originally built as a Spider Siluro and it’s competition history includes:

  • 1940 Mille Miglia – 36th, 7th in class (with Giovanni Maria Cornaggia Medici and B. Gavazzoni)

It competed in a number of other Italian road races in 1939 and 1940, when production of the 256 ceased. In all, it is believed that 20 examples were built. This one, like at least a few others, was re-bodied after its racing career ended. This Touring body you see above was fitted in 1941.

It remained in Italian hands until coming to Washington state in 2012. This marks the first time this chassis has ever been offered for public sale, and it is expected to fetch between $2,750,000-$3,500,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $2,755,000.

The Oldest Porsche

1939 Porsche Type 64

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Monterey, California | August 15-17, 2019

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Ferdinand Porsche’s fingerprints are all over the German automobile industry. He helped engineer the original VW Beetle in the 1930s as well as cars for Wanderer, Auto Union, and Zundapp. In 1937 he designed the Type 64 and it wore his name – and his alone – for the first time.

Three examples were built between 1939 and 1940 – all race cars. They have a speed record car kind of look to them and that’s because they were commissioned by the German government to compete in a race from Berlin to Rome. And partially to celebrate the launch of the Volkswagen.

They shared the VW Type 1’s running gear: a rear-mounted 32 horsepower flat-four. The body was construed by Reutter, who would go on to help build Porsche’s post-war 356. Only one example was built before the war began, and the German government took possession of that car.

The race being canceled due to hostilities didn’t deter Ferry Porsche from building two more cars, the third of which used the same chassis as the first, after it was damaged in an accident. The second car didn’t survive the war, supposedly thanks to some joy-riding American GIs, but that third car was retained by the Porsche family until 1949 when it was purchased by racing driver Otto Mathe, who kept the car until his death in 1995.

This car, which is nicely described in the catalog as the missing link between the VW Beetle and the Porsche 356, is the oldest Porsche automobile in existence and was the third car ever built by Porsche. With Porsches as hot as ever, it is likely to break the bank in Monterey. Stay tuned! Click here for more info and here for more from RM.

Update: Not sold, high bid of $17,000,000.

1939 Imperial

1939 Chrysler Imperial Sedan

Offered by H&H Classics | Duxford, U.K. | March 20, 2019

Photo – H&H Classics

The Imperial is one of Chrysler‘s classic nameplates. Last used on a kind-of-sad Y-body sedan in 1993, the name dates to 1926. Between 1931 and 1933, Imperials were the best product Chrysler had and rivaled the best from Cadillacand Lincoln. And for a little while, Imperial was a brand in its own right.

The 1937-1939 Imperial was produced in fairly limited numbers and in two distinct series. This five-passenger sedan model has an unknown production total, as sedan production between the Imperial, Saratoga, and New Yorker combined to total 10,536 units. It’s a C-23 series Imperial (the Custom Imperial C-24 cars were even more expensive and much rarer).

The 5.3-liter inline-six was good for 130 horsepower and a 95 mph top speed. This particular car was assembled as a knock-down kit in England and is said to be one of 16 right-hand drive examples built – and the only one remaining. It’s a big European version of a pre-war American sedan. It is being sold at no reserve. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $14,861.

Citroen Traction Avant 11BL Cabriolet

1939 Citroen Traction Avant 11BL Cabriolet by Clabot

Offered by Artcurial | Paris, France | February 8, 2019

Photo – Artcurial

The Traction Avant was one of a few cars produced worldwide that saw a pre-war introduction and continued post-war success. Part of that probably had to do with the financial state of France after WWII and the associated engineering costs for developing a new vehicle. It’s kind of crazy that a car designed for 1934 was still being sold in a Western country in 1957.

There were a number of variants and also a number of coachbuilt models. The 11CV model went on sale in 1934 and can be further divided into two sub-models. This is an example of the 11BL, which meant that it is powered by the 11CV 1.9-liter inline-four but rides on the 7CV chassis.

This car is one of three Cabriolets bodied by Robert Clabot, and if the design looks vaugely Saoutchik-like, that’s because Clabot was once employed by Jacques Saoutchik. This flamboyant example of a common French car should bring between $285,000-$400,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta

1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta

Offered by Artcurial | Paris, France | February 8, 2019

Photo – Artcurial

Now here is something special. First, a quick recap of the Alfa 8C: it was introduced in 1931 in 2300 guise. 1933 brought the 2600, followed by the 2900 in 1935. There were also race cars sprinkled in there for good measure. The 2900B started production in 1937 and these were as grand as cars got before WWII. There are only 32 examples of the 2900B, and we featured the drop-top version of this car back in 2016.

Two wheelbases of the 2900B were offered: Corto (short) and Lungo (long). I believe this is a long-wheelbase car, but the auction catalog is frustratingly unclear on that point. Only five Berlinetta versions were built by Touring, and this is number two.

The engine is a supercharged 2.9-liter straight-eight making 180 horsepower. They were sporty in their day. No one is sure who owned the car first, but it was exported to the UK in 1939 and was purchased by the current owner in 1976. It has never been restored. The Lungo Spider sold for just under $20 million… the estimate on this car is $18,000,000-$25,000,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $18,997,883.

Horch 830 BL

1939 Horch 830 BL Convertible

Offered by Bonhams | Padua, Italy | October 27, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

Horch really hit their stride in the 1930s. The last cars they built were sold in 1940 and some of them were quite extravagant. The 830 BL, and 930V sister car, were sold between 1937 and 1940. The 830 BL was the long-wheelbase model.

While the grand 853 cars were powered by a straight-eight engine, the 830 BL was offered with a pair of V8s, with this later car carrying the larger 3.8-liter V8 that made 92 horsepower.

This example was sold new in Sweden and has known ownership history from new. The car was rebuilt over a 24 year period and it is considered to be largely original. This big convertible – seriously, look at that parachute-like folded soft top – is one of approximately 6,400 830 models produced by Horch in the 1930s. It should bring between $350,000-$460,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams.

Update: Not sold.

Update: Not sold, Bonhams Retromobile 2019.

Bugatti Type 57 Galibier

1939 Bugatti Type 57 Galibier Sedan

Offered by Osenat | Strasboug, France | May 1, 2018

Photo – Osenat

The Type 57 was the last hurrah for the original Bugatti company. Designed by Ettore’s son Jean, they first went on sale in 1934 and were built up through the outbreak of WWII. There were many variants, including the much sought-after 57S and 57SC.

This is a standard Type 57, meaning it uses a 3.3-liter straight-eight engine borrowed from the Type 59 Grand Prix cars. Power is a healthy 135 horsepower. The aluminium body is the factory-offered Galibier four-door sedan – the only factory four-door for the Type 57.

This particular chassis was built near the end of the production run and was the second-to-last sedan assembled (this was June of 1939). Originally black, it was delivered new to Nantes, France. It has a known chain of owners and events since then.

Bugatti built 710 examples of the Type 57 (including all sub models). This restored “base model” sedan should bring between $430,000-$675,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $516,615.

Roadmaster Sport Phaeton

1939 Buick Roadmaster Model 80C Sport Phaeton

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Ft. Lauderdale, Florida | April 7, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The Roadmaster is one of the most storied models in Buick’s history. First introduced in 1936 as their second-most luxurious offering, the Roadmaster would be produced uninterrupted (except for the war) through 1958. It made a brief reappearance from 1991 through 1996. The second generation of the model was sold in 1938 and 1939 only.

This model of Roadmaster was powered by a 141 horsepower, 5.2-liter Fireball straight-eight. Five body styles were offered and the 80C was the four-door, six-passenger Sport Phaeton. When new, it cost $1,938 – the most expensive Roadmaster. Unfortunately, Buick only found three customers for this car. That’s right, only three were built, making this far and away the rarest 1939 Buick. One of those three was used as the pace car for the 1939 Indianapolis 500.

It’s unclear if this was that car, likely not, as it was restored in the 1990s to look like the car that did lead the field to the green flag in May of 1939. It’s a large and striking automobile that has been shown here and there. This is your chance to acquire one of the rarest Buicks ever built. It should cost between $65,000-$75,000. Click here for more info and here for more from RM in Florida.

Update: Sold $56,100.

Hitler’s Mercedes

1939 Mercedes-Benz 770K Grosser Offener Tourenwagen

Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 17, 2018

Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers

Worldwide Auctioneers is calling this “the most historically significant automobile ever offered for public sale.” And they aren’t likely wrong. Yes, this is the touring limousine ordered by and built for Adolf Hitler. And while that may be an unpopular association to have with any item, let’s keep in mind that this is a piece of history – and one of the finest examples of pre-WWII automotive engineering extant.

The 770 was an extremely rare and expensive car when new. Introduced in 1930, it was built through 1943. In that span of time, only 205 examples left the factory in two different series. This is a Series II car, the series which was available beginning in 1938 and only 88 were built.

The 770K is powered by a 7.7-liter straight-eight engine fitted with a supercharger that, once engaged, produced 230 horsepower. Capable of speeds of 100 mph or more, the 770K was Germany’s answer to big American cars from Packard, Marmon, Cadillac, and Duesenberg as well as some of Europe’s finest from Hispano-Suiza, Bugatti, Horch, Maybach, and Isotta Fraschini. It was the best Mercedes had to offer.

This car sports an Open Tourer body by in-house coachbuilder Sindelfingen. It has bullet-resistant glass and the body is armor-plated. There’s seating for six (at least) and it was used by Hitler in various parades around Europe during the war.

In 1943 it was sent back to Mercedes for maintenance and it saw little use after that. The car was taken by the American military and was used by the military police in France. Because the car was so magnificent, several service members tried to export it back to the U.S. A Belgian owner succeeded in getting it to the U.S. in 1946 to its new owner in North Carolina.

That owner donated it to the local VFW and they used it in parades, too. It was discovered in storage in 1976, purchased, and restored. It was thought at that time to have been Himmler’s car, but research indicated that it was one of Hitler’s four cars. In the 1980s it became part of the Imperial Palace Collection in Las Vegas and, no doubt, became a tourist draw.

In 2004 it found its way back into Europe as part of a massive Mercedes-Benz collection. Only five 770K Offener Tourenwagens still exist and this is one of three in private hands. Add to it the infamy of its original owner and you have what I consider to be the first car truly worthy of the “Estimate Available Upon Request” tag so often seen with big money cars. It’s a real question what it will sell for. As a piece of automotive magnificance and as an historical artifact, its price could be monumental. But will its close association with Hitler and Nazi Germany hold it back? There’s only one way to find out: head to Worldwide’s sale in Scottsdale next month. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers

Update: Not sold, high bid of $7,000,000.