The Cars that Defined Each Decade

Launch Slideshow

RM Sotheby's is set to amplify its third iteration of the Manhattan-based auction by hosting what will undoubtedly be the culmination of all collector car auctions in 2017. Part of Sotheby’s inaugural A Life of Luxury sale series, RM Sotheby's celebrates the cutting edge of automotive design with an expertly curated roster of iconic cars from the world's most admired marques. Click ahead to discover some of the decade-defining highlights, from the 1960s Volkswagen Microbus to the 1980s Lamborghini Countach. –Jake Auerbach

RM Sotheby's: New York - ICONS
6 December | New York

The Cars that Defined Each Decade

  • Erik Fuller ©2017 Courtesy of R
    The 1920s

    1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Riviera Town Car by Brewster. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    Of the ten Riviera bodies produced by Brewster, this is believed to be the only example built on the Silver Ghost chassis. This Riviera was delivered on 7 December 1929, to industrialist Augustine Leftwich Humes of New York City, who commissioned several striking details not typically seen in town cars of that era, such as fine embroidered upholstery and Venetian mahogany inlays. One of the most elegant and significant Silver Ghosts, this important automobile continues a tradition of ownership by those who recognise greatness when they see it. 

  • ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
    The 1930s

    1932 Marmon Sixteen Convertible Coupe by LeBaron. Estimate $1,000,000–1,200,000.
    This 1932 Marmon Sixteen is one of just eight surviving examples. The car is offered from 27-year single ownership, after previous ownership by two of the most respected names in American car collecting today: William F. Harrah and General William Lyon. The Marmon’s clean lines and purposeful shape stood in contrast to its heavily ornamented contemporaries, but it was the aluminum V16 power plant that truly set it apart.  

  • Darin Schnabel ©2017 Courtesy o
    The 1940s

    1948 Cadillac Series 62 Cabriolet by Saoutchik. Estimate $850,000–1,000,000.
    One of only two such examples built, the Cadillac Series 62 by Saoutchik was the ultimate example of French coachwork in the classic era. A glamorous swan song of a fabulous stylist and coachbuilder, the “Ritter Saoutchik” represents audacious European coachbuilding at its absolute peak. It is the vision of an era wrapped into one utterly dramatic automobile. 

  • Ned Jackson ©2017 Courtesy of R/Ned Jackson
    The 1950s

    1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon by Franay. Estimate $1,000,000–1,300,000.
    While the R-Type itself was no slouch, the R-Type Continental was the weapon of choice for driving enthusiasts with means. Running with all its heart and soul during testing at Montlhéry, the Continental achieved 192 km/h – that is two miles in a minute. It was, as its makers would boast, the fastest production four-seater in the world. This car, with rich enthusiast history and a recent sorting my marque specialists, is one of only three to sport this highly attractive Franay coachwork. 

  • David Bush ©2017 Courtesy of RM
    The 1960s

    1960 Volkswagen Deluxe ‘23-Window’ Microbus. Estimate $150,000–225,000.
    Perhaps no object is so iconic of the 1960s as the VW “hippie bus.” A common site in Berkeley and Woodstock, the humble VW Microbus is a today a true pop culture icon. The most desirable variant is the 23-window – a veritable greenhouse on wheels. This spectacularly restored example has a number of charming period accessories and is restored to a condition that may well be considered “better than new.”  

  • Patrick Ernzen ©2017 Courtesy o
    The 1970s

    1973 De Tomaso Pantera L by Ghia. Estimate $125,000–175,000.
    Brainchild of Lee Iacocca, the “father of the Mustang,” the De Tomaso Pantera was built in Italy but sold largely through Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the United States with a full factory warranty. It combined the dead-reliable 351 Cleveland V-8 and American-style comforts, including power windows and air conditioning, with such European performance features as a ZF transaxle, disk brakes and rack-and-pinion steering. Simply put, it was the best of all possible sports-car worlds, and it cost considerably less than a comparable Ferrari or Lamborghini. 

  • Patrick Ernzen ©2017 Courtesy o
    The 1980s

    1989 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary. Estimate $200,000–250,000.
    To say this now iconic supercar , aptly named after a vulgar Italian expression of astonishment (“Countach!”), broke the mould is both cliché and understatement. Incredibly low, flat and angular, it resembled most other manufacturers’ concept vehicles – yet it was ready for production and available from one’s imported car dealer in 1974. The Countach would be in production for the next sixteen years. 

  • The 1990s

    1990 Lamborghini LM002. Estimate $400,000–500,000.
    The LM002 was based on a long-abandoned prototype originally designed for military use. Lamborghini retrofit this prototype with a luxurious wood and leather interior, a spacious cargo area and the Countach V-12. It would then sell to a public that had never before seen a true high-performance SUV, much less one that could run from 0–60 mph in 7.7 seconds, ford small streams and effortlessly climb mountain passes. The finest example of this wild machine available for sale, it is a Hollywood action hero come to life and the perfect automobile for fulfilling childhood fantasies. 

  • ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
    The 2000s

    2004 Porsche Carrera GT. Estimate $775,000–850,000.
    The Carrera GT’s debut in the early 2000s produced a flood of orders. Demand quickly surpassed the original target of 500 units, prompting Porsche to expand production to 1,000 units worldwide. 1,270 examples left the factory, with 644 shipped to the United States. A good number of them were driven only briefly and then disappeared into private collections, cementing their status as not merely a flash-in-the-pan collectible, but also as one of Porsche’s all-time greats. 

  • Patrick Ernzen ©2017 Courtesy o
    The 2010s

    2016 Ferrari F12tdf. Estimate $1,100,000–1,400,000.
    The ultimate iteration of the F12 Berlinetta, the F12tdf currently reigns supreme in Ferrari hierarchy as the fastest front-engined Berlinetta. The F12tdf is a modern-day collectible that will undoubtedly continue to be held in high esteem by collectors and enthusiasts. This F12tdf stands out thanks to its unique specification and eye-catching Rosso Dino paintwork. Among the most beautifully sculpted and designed Ferraris, it more than pays homage to its historic racing namesake. 


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