Bristol 404

1954 Bristol 404 Coupe

Offered by Bonhams | Chichester, U.K. | September 8, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

A 404 error is what you get when a server can’t find what you’ve asked it for. The Bristol 404 was not an error, but it’s pretty hard to find when you go looking for one: between 1953 and 1958 the company only built 52 examples.

The 404 and 405 were two models manufactured side by side. The 404 was a two-door coupe with a very short wheelbase, whereas the 405 was a longer wheelbase four-door sedan that could also be had as a two-door convertible. These were the first Bristol cars to completely break away styling-wise from their predecessor’s BMW lineage.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter straight-six that could be had in 105 or 125 horsepower versions. This car was restored some years ago and is being sold out of a collection of Bristol road cars. It’s a nice example of one of the rarer models from one of Britain’s rarest automobile manufacturers. It should bring between $100,000-$130,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

375 America

1954 Ferrari 375 America Coupe by Vignale

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Monterey, California | August 24-25, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The first America model from Ferrari went on sale in 1950. Ferrari stuffed their largest V-12 engines into these big (for the day) GT cars. Many of them were coachbuilt. And very few were built. The third model in this line was the 375 America, built in 1953 and 1954 only.

A 4.5-liter V-12 provided power. Rated at 296 horsepower, it could propel the car to 160 mph. This particular car was bodied by Vignale and is finished in burgundy with a silver greenhouse, the original colors it came with.

It was purchased new by an American and spent many years in the U.S., making up part of the Blackhawk Collection at one point. It found itself in the Netherlands for a while, again coming stateside in 2009 before being refinished in its original paint scheme. Only 12 examples of the 375 America were built and this is the first up to come up for sale since 2011. It’s a big money Ferrari and you can find out more about it here. Click here for more from RM Sotheby’s.

Update: Not sold.

1954 Kaiser Special Club Sedan

1954 Kaiser Special Club Sedan

Offered by Barrett-Jackson | Palm Beach, Florida | April 12-15, 2018

Photo – Barrett-Jackson

The name of the entry-level Kaiser automobile seemed to change every year. In 1953 it was the Deluxe. In 1954 it was the Special (it was different in ’52 and ’55 too). And some of those 1954 Specials were just rebadged 1953 Deluxes that were left over (they also had some styling tweaks applied as well). The Special could be had as a four-door sedan or a two-door Club Sedan.

The Special is powered by a 3.7-liter straight-six making 118 horsepower. This car is one of the 1953 carry-over cars. It still sports the “jet airscoop” front grille that marked all 1954 Kaisers (which was added by the factory before sale) but you can tell it is a “first series” car because the rear glass is a single piece that does not wrap around to the sides.

About 3,500 1953 Kaisers were carried over and sold as 1954 Specials. The number of actual 1954 cars is much, much lower. But the Club Sedan is definitely the rarer of the two body styles. This car has had a cosmetic restoration and an engine rebuild, but the interior is original. These Kaisers are beautiful and rare cars that will stand out at any cruise-in you attend. Click here for more info and here for the rest of Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach lineup.

Update: Sold $44,000.

Lotus Mk VI

1954 Lotus Mk VI

Offered by Bonhams | Amelia Island, Florida | March 8, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

The Mk VI was the first production car built by Colin Chapman’s Lotus. That’s right – there were five cars before this one that never made it to production, including this one (though to be fair, the Mk V was never actually built).

Introduced in 1952, the Mk VI was available through 1957 when it was replaced by the legendary Lotus Seven. It’s powered by a 1.3-liter straight-four from an MG TA that makes 50 horsepower (though other engines with similar outputs were also used). Top speed was about 93 mph.

These were mostly sold as kits (which explains the engine differences) and made for great track cars, though anything requiring a pit stop was probably out as those rear wheels are pretty much covered up. Only about 110 of these were sold and this one should bring between $50,000-$70,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams.

Update: Sold $30,240.

Kurtis 500S

1954 Kurtis 500S

Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | March 9, 2018

Photo – Gooding & Company

This is a Kurtis road car. But not just any Kurtis road car. This is Frank Kurtis’ Kurtis road car. Frank Kurtis built some of Indianapolis’ best race cars in the 1940s and 1950s and he also built some great sports cars. The 500S was based on his Indy Roadsters and kind of resembles an Allard J2X – which had a similar purpose.

This car is powered by a 5.7-liter Chevrolet V-8 making an estimated 400 horsepower. The body is aluminium. This chassis was sold to Frank Kurtis (and his son, Arlen) in the early 1980s as a disassembled car for the father and son team to restore.

The running gear they used was new (thus the huge horsepower rating from the Chevy crate motor) but it was an original 500S chassis. The Kurtis family sold the car in 2003 and the current owner bought it in 2014. Only about 26 500S road cars were built and this one has a pretty good story. It should bring between $125,000-$175,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $112,750.

Arnolt-Bristol

1954 Arnolt-Bristol Bolide Roadster

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 10, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Stanley Arnolt was a Chicagoan who decided in the 1950s that he wanted to import some cars from Europe. The first was called the Arnolt-MG and it was an Italian-bodied car based on an MG. After this followed brief flings with Aston Martin and Bentley before he arrived at Bristol Cars in England.

The body for the Arnolt-Bristol was designed by Bertone and the chassis and engine were supplied by Bristol. The cars were then shipped to Indiana for any final finishing needed before being sold. The engine is a 2.0-liter straight-six making 130 horsepower. Three models were offered: the stripper Competition, the mid-range Bolide racer with a folding windscreen and the better-appointed Deluxe road car.

This race car was kept by Arnolt and raced by the factory at the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring where it finished 29th (4th in class) with 49-year-old racing legend René Dreyfus (and co-driver Robert Grier) behind the wheel. It was sold to a privateer in 1963 who kept the car active in the racing scene in Canada. It’s since been restored and looks very nice. Only 142 of these were built and only 85 are known to exist. These are really cool American-European hybrid race cars and their prices has been pretty strong for years. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $401,000.

OSCA 2000 S

1954 OSCA 2000 S by Morelli

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Paris, France | February 7, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Here’s a somewhat beefy-looking Italian sports car from the 1950s. Built by the Maserati brothers, this car features what is perhaps the largest engine stuffed into any OSCA automobile: a 2.0-liter straight-six making 165 horsepower.

While it might look like a small, Italian sports car from the 1950s, this particular car has some serious race cred. It’s first owner won the 1954 12 Hours of Messina race with this chassis before selling it to an Argentinian. It raced in South America at the 1000km of Buenos Aires and remained on that continent until it was discovered in the 1980s.

The original engine was never located, but a comparable six-cylinder lifted from a Maserati was installed and the restoration was completed in 2003. Only five 2.0-liter OSCAs (four of this model) were built and this is one of three carrying open bodywork by Morelli. It should bring between $1,050,000-$1,175,000. Click here for more info and here for more from RM in Paris.

Update: Sold $970,994.

Three Late Ferraris

1952 Ferrari 342 America Cabriolet by Vignale

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Monterey, California | August 18, 2017

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

RM Sotheby’s really packed their Monterey catalog this year, so much so in fact that I thought they were finished adding cars to it so I mapped out which cars to feature over the three weeks prior to the Pebble Beach Weekend. And then they added these three rare Ferraris. Time is tight, so they are being combined into one post. Enjoy the Ferrari overflow!

The 342 America was the second car in the Ferrari America line, produced in 1952 only. It’s powered by a 4.1-liter V-12 making 200 horsepower. This particular car is the only 342 America bodied by Vignale and it totally has that early-1950s Ferrari appeal.

The amazing thing about the 342 America is that Ferrari only built six examples (with this being the first). Six! That’s it. It’s one of the rarest road-going Ferraris ever made. Only three of them were drop tops and this car was delivered new to Switzerland. The current owners acquired it in 2007 and had it restored to the spec you see here. The estimate on this car is $2,250,000-$3,000,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $2,255,000.


1954 Ferrari 500/735 Mondial Spider by Pinin Farina

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Monterey, California | August 19, 2017

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The car in this photograph definitely has the look of a child’s car. But it is not, as it is a true Ferrari race car. It started life as a 500 Mondial, the third car in Ferrari’s Monza line of sports racers. Bodied by Pinin Farina, it doesn’t quite resemble other 500 Mondial Spiders by the same coachbuilder.

Before it left the factory, Ferrari installed an engine from the slightly-earlier 735 S race car. That means this 500 Mondial is powered by a 2.9-liter straight-four that puts out 225 horsepower. That’s actually quite an upgrade over the Mondial’s comparatively weak 170 horsepower, 2.0-liter unit. To this day, no one knows why Ferrari built this car this way.

Sold new to a man in California, it spent its early days tearing around tracks on the West Coast in regional sports car races. The current owner has had the car since 1999, meaning it is being offered from relatively long-term ownership. It’s one of only 13 Pinin Farina Spider-bodied 500 Mondials. And possibly the only one with a 735 S engine. It should bring between $4,000,000-$5,500,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $3,850,000.


1955 Ferrari 121 LM Spider by Scaglietti

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Monterey, California | August 18, 2017

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This is one of the more obscure Ferraris. But because it’s a sports racer from the 1950s, that means it’s worth a huge amount of money. Ferrari’s chief competition during the 1955 World Sportscar Championship were cars like the Jaguar D-Type. So Ferrari went head-to-head, developing a monster six-cylinder engine to take down the English.

This car is powered by a 360 horsepower 4.4-liter straight-six. This chassis began life as a 118 LM and was one of two examples of that model to be upgraded by the factory to 121 LM specification. In this new spec the cars were unbelievably fast: capable of over 180 mph! The race history for this car includes:

  • 1955 Mille Miglia – DNF (with Paolo Marzotto as a 118 LM)
  • 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans – DNF (with Maurice Trintignant and Harry Shell as a 121 LM)

After that, Ferrari sold it and it entered service as a privateer car in California road races. Unfortunately, driver Ernie McAfee was killed while racing this car in Northern California. The then-owner rebuilt it and the present owner acquired it in 1997. This is a rare chance to acquire a factory Ferrari Le Mans racer. One of just four 121 LMs built, it should bring between $6,500,000-$7,500,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $5,720,000.

OSCA MT4 1500

1954 OSCA MT4 1500 by Frua

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Paris, France | February 8, 2017

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This pretty little sports car was built by Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili-Fratelli Maserati S.p.A. – or OSCA, for short. You’ll also notice the name “Maserati” in there, as OSCA was founded by three Maserati brothers after leaving the company bearing their name.

The MT4 was OSCA’s first automobile, introduced in 1947 with a 1.1-liter engine. Engine sizes grew with time and the MT4 was available well into the 1950s. This 1954 “1500” example is powered by a 135 horsepower, 1.5-liter straight-four. The very racy body was by Frua – and the racy part was intentional: an MT4 won the 1954 12 Hours of Sebring. The competition history for this particular car includes:

  • 1954 Mille Miglia – 10th (with Giulio Cabianca)
  • 1954 Targa Florio – DNF (with Cabianca)
  • 1954 Carrera Panamericana – DNF (with Roberto Mieres)

This car’s history sort of went cold after 1955 before reappearing in 1987 and the current owners acquired it in 2003. A five-year restoration followed, as did appearances in a few historic races – races it is still eligible for. It is one of just 72 OSCA MT4s ever built and you can read more about it here. Click here to see the rest of RM’s lineup.

Update: Not sold.

Bedford CA Pickup

1954 Bedford CA Pickup

Offered by Brightwells | Leominster, U.K. | March 2, 2016

Photo - Brightwells

Photo – Brightwells

Bedford Vehicles was founded in 1930 and they built light and heavy commercial vehicles their entire existence. Did you know that the company was founded by General Motors as a sort of commercial sibling to Vauxhall? In fact, the first Bedfords were actually a Chevrolet model before becoming its own brand. GM divested itself of the heavy commercial vehicle part in 1987 and shuttered the light commercial vehicle brand name in 1991.

The CA was a light van built between 1952 and 1969. All sorts of vans were offered – high-roof, low-roof, short and long wheelbases – even campervans. It was pug-nosed and a pickup was also available. But this is no ordinary pickup. This is the most spaceship-like pickup truck that has, perhaps, ever been built.

It’s powered by a 1.5-liter straight-four making 52 horsepower. It’s not fast. But the styling is just so… unique. Yes it looks like the engine compartment was bolted on as an afterthought. Yes it has sliding doors like a Dodge Caravan. Yes part of the pickup bed is enclosed like a Chevy Avalanche minus the pass-through part. We. Love. It. It should bring between $8,500-$11,350. Click here for more info and here for more from Brightwells.

Update: $5,975.