NEW YORK – “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? My friends all have Porsches, I must make amends.” So sang Janis Joplin in her famous one-take, a cappella song, recorded at LA’s Sunset Sound studios some 45 years ago. Her very own Porsche – a 1964 356 C Cabriolet with a psychedelic paint job that summed up California’s hippie era – might have been parked right outside, but being different was what Joplin’s life was all about. Being different is also what RM Sotheby’s Driven By Disruption auction on 10 December aims to be, so naturally Joplin’s car counts among the sale’s greatest attractions. Its history as Joplin’s daily ride for the last two years of her life, its wild decoration – butterflies, jellyfish, members of Joplin’s band and, of course, flowers – as well as its provenance (two decades in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio) make the car a perfect fit.
THE 1956 FERRARI 290 MM WAS BUILT FOR JUAN MANUEL FANGIO TO COMPETE IN THE MILLE MIGLIA. TIM SCOTT © 2015 COURTESY OF RM SOTHEBY’S.
Driven By Disruption is the second auction at Sotheby’s celebrating four-wheeled head-turners. The sale features 31 carefully curated automobiles, each as thought-provoking, remarkable and, in some cases, subversive as when they first appeared.
FANGIO AT THE RACE. COURTESY ALEXIS CALLIER COLLECTION.
Take for instance the ultra-sleek, gleaming white 2006 Lamborghini Concept S, one of the most recent cars on offer. Though nearly ten years old, it remains an example of wildly radical design, notably in the cabin’s two distinct compartments. Inspired by the firm’s best-selling Gallardo, this open-top street-legal roadster is the only example ever built and has just 180 miles on its counter – miles it accumulated while making jaws drop at concours from Pebble Beach to Villa d’Este. Another Lamborghini in the sale, the 1981 Countach LP400 S – lavishly louvred, sensationally scooped and clad in its inimitable Verde Metallizzato colour – boasts quadruple red-tipped exhaust pipes and a crackling 365 horsepower V-12 engine. No wonder it was the “poster car” for schoolboys around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.
THE 2006 LAMBORGHINI CONCEPT S. DARIN SCHNABEL © 2015 COURTESY OF RM SOTHEBY’S.
For those who prefer Porsches, Driven By Disruption has one of the Countach’s most famous counterparts: a 1975 Porsche 911 Turbo from the first batch of the total 284 produced. With characteristic fat rear-wheel arches and outrageously proportioned “whale tail” spoiler, this original Turbo raised the supercar standard: Its six-second, zero-to-60 mph acceleration time and 160 mph top speed reignited the quest for searing performance. Car designers and manufacturers have been ripping up the rule book forever, of course, as proven by the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante on offer. One of just twelve with aluminum bodywork and the very last Atalante to be produced, the Art Deco marvel was shown at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, where its suicide doors, teardrop bumpers, curving roofline and sculptural engine wowed the crowd.
JANIS JOPLIN’S 356 C CABRIOLET. 2015 © RM SOTHEBY’S INC.
The crowd at Driven By Disruption, meanwhile, may well be wowed by one of the most remarkable competition Ferraris ever to cross the block, a 1956 290 MM, built for five-time Formula One World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio to compete in that year’s Mille Miglia. (The Argentine finished fourth overall, an astonishing accomplishment considering the atrocious weather and absence of a navigator.) Subsequently raced by such greats as Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips, Eugenio Castellotti, Alfonso de Portago and Peter Collins, this Ferrari offers such an amazingly strong combination of innovation, history and provenance – the association of Fangio and Ferrari being enough to make it a jewel – that it wouldn’t be surprising to see it set a record price. Another Ferrari in the sale makes for a staggeringly unique offering: A 500 Mondial in the same national racing blue as when it was delivered to its original owner, French racer Yves Dupont, in 1955, this car still bears most of the traces of its racing history, a unique trait that cannot be replicated.
ONE OF THE NINETEEN ZAGATO-BODIED 1962 ASTON MARTIN DB4GTS EVER PRODUCED. PATRICK ERNZEN ©2015 COURTESY OF RM SOTHEBY’S.
Not every lot at the sale is of this landmark calibre, but from one of the nineteen Zagato-bodied 1962 Aston Martin DB4GTs ever made, to an example of the 1954 Pegaso Z-102 – Spain’s first and only supercar – and the 1963 Pontiac Bonneville paying homage to Roy Rogers, collectors are sure to find treasures to fit their fancy – including, in the Pontiac, a hand-tooled leather interior, saddle-equipped transmission tunnel, bumper-mounted steer horns and a full complement of six shooters and shotguns. As the King of the Cowboys himself might have said, “Let’s ride, my friend.”
London-based writer Simon de Burton covers old and new cars for the Financial Times, Country Life, EVO and Octane.