1937 Duesenberg Model SJ Cabriolet
4900cc, 320 bhp, four valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshaft, supercharged inline-8, three-speed transmission
Sold for $2,805,000.
Duesenbergs are not ordinary cars, and this is no ordinary Duesenberg either. It is one of 36 factory-supercharged Model Js (hence the SJ nomenclature), never been restored, it’s the longest one ever built and is loaded with history. Oh, it’s also the last Duesey too. This car was ordered by a German abstract artist, Rudolf Bauer during his tour of the US in 1937. But with the Nazis taking a pretty strong stance against the kind of art which the Fuhrer disliked, Bauer came back to the States. The car he ordered, instead of being sent to Germany for coachwork by Erdmann and Rossi, remained in the US. The artist laid down precise instructions on how his ultimate set of wheels would look, and the coachwork by Rollson is as unique as it gets. Now Rollson was known as Rollston earlier, but when the firm when bust, ex-employees came together to restart the venture. When Bauer died, the car went into the hands of a collector, who had the foresight to preserve it in a pristine condition for 45 years. The story of this remarkable car is also the stories of the fascinating people behind it.
1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible
Photo: Dennis Adler
6944cc, 425 hp, V8, four-speed transmission
Sold for $2,420,000
In those heady muscle cars, nobody was as bold as Chrysler. Their 426 Hemi was a rock machine and it was offered as a regular production option too! Of the Plymouth Barracudas, the ultimate was the ‘Cuda, in Street Hemi guise. And Chrysler was pretty unabashed talking about it as well: ‘...our angriest, slipperiest-looking body shell wrapped around ol’ King Kong hisself.’ It required King Kong’s wallet to buy it too. Thankfully, the ‘Cuda’s unit body construction allowed it to swallow that Hemi without harm, what with 425 horses and over 50 kgm of torque rocking the boat. This ultimate expression of American muscle car power seems to have set a new record – no wonder it earns that respect.
1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Cabriolet
Photo: Acme Studios
5401cc, 180 bhp, supercharged inline-8, four-speed transmission
Sold for $1,028,500
With the supercharger singing, this legendary Mercedes-Benz could produce a whopping 180 bhp – in normally aspirated guise, 115 bhp was the norm! The idea and the engineering of the fabled supercharged Mercedes inline-6 was the brainchild of Dr Porsche, but the development of the straight-eights was by Hans Nibel, a worthy successor to the legendary Doctor. The 540K replaced the 500K, which meant not just more power, but an increase in wheelbase too – up by 12". These machines were known for their superb coachbuilding too by the master craftsmen at Sindelfingen. But this particular Benz is pretty unique going by even their standards, considering its specially commissioned styling is almost French in its appearance. 1972 Lancia Stratos HF
2419cc, 240 bhp V6, five-speed transmission
Sold for $137,500
Bertone’s Fulvia-based Stratos concept at the 1970 Turin Motor Show would have remained just that, had not the people from Lancia seen it as an opportunity to revive their flagging fortunes. By the next Turin Show, Bertone’s Stratos was complete and it had the V6 Dino engine and gearbox – already designed and developed for transverse mid-engined placement – in place. The world had not seen a car like that then, and ever since. Not even one meant for rallying. Immensely successful in rallying, Lancia built 492 units to meet FIA’s regulations. This one was originally built as a Stradale, but was later converted to rally specs, including a competition gearbox.
1931 Cord L-29 Front Drive LaGrande Speedster
Photo: www.kimballstock.com/Andrew Yeadon
4883cc, 125 bhp, inline-8, three-speed transmission
Sold for $418,000
Though it was untested, Errett Lobban Cord thought there was place in the market for a mid-price front-wheel driven car. The internal project designation L-29 became famous enough to be tagged to the car that emerged. Front-wheel drive permitted some exceedingly imaginative coachwork to be conferred upon the path-breaking Cord, but the Great Depression had other plans. To revive interest in what was then a risky model, a one-off boat-tail speedster was created for display in motor shows. The gorgeous LaGrande Speedster, as it was called, mysteriously disappeared while touring Europe. But a certain Arnie Addison decided to revive the legend in 1995, when using original L-29 chassis and drivetrain, he recreated the LaGrande Speedster. It took nine years in the making and is perfect to the last detail. Now that, is a labour of love.
1963 Aston Martin DB4 GT
Photo: Shooterz LLC
3670cc, 300 bhp, inline-6, dual overhead camshaft, four-speed transmission
Sold for $1,265,000
The competition variant of the stunning DB4, the DB4 GT was out in 1959. Over the next few years, it got better and better on the circuits, when it was made shorter, lighter and given more output – making it the most powerful British car of its era. It could attain a top speed of 245 kph, do 0 to 96 kph in 6.1 seconds and also boasted a 0-160 kph-0 timing of under 20 seconds, allowing it to take on the might of Ferrari in GT racing. Immortals who drove these Aston Martins included Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss and Jim Clark. This is one of 75 DB4 GTs (not including the 19 built by Zagato) that were built between 1959 and 1963. And this is the last GT to be despatched from Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell works. 1967 Shelby 427 S/C Cobra Roadster
Photo: Shooterz LLC
6960cc, 485 bhp, V8, four-speed transmission
Sold for $1,430,000
By a quirk of fate, Carroll Shelby ended up with Ford’s cast iron 427 to shoehorn into the bodies built by AC of England. And what a twist of fate it was. With a complete redesign of the chassis to accommodate the motor and with help from Ford’s engineering department, the 427 Cobra was born. Again, by another quirk of fate, Shelby couldn’t enter his competition-spec car in the GT class. So his dealer suggested that the GT machines that Shelby built be re-painted and sold as street cars, giving birth to the 427 S/C, or Semi-Competition. These cars were certainly not for the weak-hearted – at 13.2 seconds, the S/C beat the Aston Martin DB4 GT’s claim of 0-160 kph-0 of under 20 seconds to pulp. This is one of only 30 Shelby 427 Semi-Competition Cobras built. The world needs some more...
1930 Cadillac V16 Convertible Coupe
7406cc, 175 hp, V16, three-speed transmission
Sold for $236,500
A slap in the face of the Great Depression era. The luxurious V16 Cadillac took the name of the marque up where it is today, but at that time, it was nothing less than an indulgence. General Motors commissioned the building of the breathtaking V16 from scratch and housed it in a gigantic superstructure. Marmon was spurred to introduce its own V16, while Pierce-Arrow and Auburn developed V12s – acts of excess that led to their downfall – while General Motors somehow managed to keep Cadillac afloat. Styling by Fleetwood means this Cadillac is as much of an eyeful as what’s below the bonnet.
1957 BMW 503 Convertible
Photo: Simon Clay
3168cc, 140 bhp, V8, four-speed transmission
Sold for $165,000
BMW’s post-war 501/502 series, famously known as the Baroque Angels, were luxury cars that are considered the spiritual predecessors of the 7 Series. Based on the 501/502 chassis, the 503 was a new series of coupes and cabriolets designed by Count Albrecht Goertz. And to supplement the inline-6, BMW started development of an all-alloy V8, which debuted in the 502 with 120 bhp. Later the V8, now with twin Zenith carbs, developed 140 bhp – and was used in the 503. This 503 however has been bodied by Bertone, one of 43 examples built. Oh yes, the engine would find its way into Goertz’s visceral 507 roadster as well. BSM
1930 Isotta-Fraschini 8A Convertible Sedan
Photo: Simon Clay
7365cc, 135 bhp, inline-8, three-speed transmission,
Sold for $330,000
The cheek of the Italians. After chasing racing success to sell a variety of cars, Isotta-Fraschini decided to produce only a single model – it wouldn’t be an ordinary machine, but one that would be the most luxurious in the whole world, meant only for the super rich. The engine that debuted in the Tipo 8/50 is reputedly the first mass-produced inline-8 in the world – superbly built, powerful, refined and high-tech for its time. The Tipo 8A was its successor, and was even more refined. This Tipo 8A was commissioned for a US buyer, and at that time, Isotta-Fraschinis with Castagna coachwork like this commanded double of what one would pay even for Duesenbergs, Packards, Cadillacs and Pierce-Arrows.