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Batmobile sells for $4.62 million at Ariz. auction

By Bloomberg News

Two classic Ferrari roadsters and the original Batmobile were among the star lots during a week of car auctions in Arizona that raised more than $200 million.

The Batmobile sold for $4.62 million in Scottsdale as Batman fans and automobile collectors joined the events.

The vehicle from the 1960s Adam West TV show ("Pow!" "Zap!" "Kaboom!") was joined onstage at the Barrett-Jackson sale by its creator, George Barris, who had previously vowed never to sell it.

Earlier, the two Ferraris sold for more than $8 million each, leading auctions that also included Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bugattis and Aston Martins. The sales, held by five auction houses, generated an aggregate $223.8 million with fees, according to Hagerty, a U.S.-based classic car price database. The total was $39.9 million higher than last year, it said.

"These sales defied financial gravity," Simon Kidston, founder of the Geneva-based classic car adviser Kidston, said in an interview from Arizona. "There are a lot of people squirreling away money in classic cars at the moment. They see auction results that suggest the market is holding up, and they like the kudos of taking cars to events where they meet like- minded people who are comfortably off."

The Batmobile was adapted by Barris in 1966 from a Ford concept car called the Lincoln Futura, a bubble-windowed coupe handbuilt in Italy. Though it didn't carry a formal estimate, dealers said that it might fetch as much as $5 million on Jan. 19. Barrett-Jackson's week-long series of sales, from Jan. 13- 20, took $102.5 million from 1,340 offered cars. Just four were left unsold.

The 500-horsepower custom car has a fake jet exhaust in the back (a painted 10-gallon bucket), a Batphone and two packed parachutes that actually work, used to effect a "Bat turn."

The Caped Crusader's cruiser is almost 20 feet long and has controls for various imaginary James Bond-like gadgets on the dash. They include oil slicks, an ejector, rockets, nails and an anti-theft system.

During the TV show, which ran from 1966 to 1968, molds were made from the original and some half dozen fiberglass replicas were created for stunt work and promotional events. In 2007, one sold at auction for $233,000.

Barris calls himself the "King of the Kustomizers" and has made innumerable TV and movie cars, including the "Back to the Future" DeLorean, "The A-Team" van and KITT Trans Am.

A metallic-blue 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider led Gooding & Co.'s Jan. 18-19 event with a price of $8.25 million, just beating the $8.1 million paid for a dark-red 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta "Competizione" at RM Auctions.

"This is the second-most important series of classic-car auctions in the U.S. after Pebble Beach in August," Dietrich Hatlapa, founder and managing director of Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI), a London-based independent research company, said in an interview.

The HAGI index of exceptional classic-car prices advanced 16.1 percent in 2012, said www.historicautogroup.com.

Rising values for the most desirable Ferraris of the 1950s and 1960s was one of the key trends of the market last year, along with a surge in demand for collectable Porsches following the 40th anniversary of the 911 RS model, Hatlapa said.

The Ferrari sold at Gooding was an early production model with Scaglietti coachwork. It was one of only 23 examples with covered headlights and had been estimated to sell for between $5.5 million and $7 million, based on hammer prices.

In August, at the bellwether series of auctions in California, Gooding sold a 1960 "competition" 250 GT California Spyder, formerly owned by the late New England collector Sherman M. Wolf, for $11.3 million against a presale valuation of $7 million to $9 million.

"Ferrari 250-series cars from the 1950s and 1960s are the absolute sweet-spot of the market at the moment," Kidston said.

Gooding's Scottsdale sale raised more than $52.5 million, a record for the company at that venue, with 12 cars breaking the million-dollar barrier. The total was 31 percent up on last year from a slightly smaller 104-lot auction, with 97 percent sold.

Prices continue to strengthen for the rarest cars by the most desirable marques, said dealers.

At Gooding's, a silver 1959 Porsche 718 RSK racer sold for $3.1 million and 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Cabriolet A for $2.75 million. Both results were auction records for those models.

"The macro-economic environment still favors tangible assets," Hatlapa said. "Though the market dipped a little at the end of last year, demand for classic cars was strong in 2012." The indexes for both Ferrari and Porsche were up.


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