We love the hordes of vintage Ferrari, Maserati, and Jaguars that invade the Pebble Beach auction lots each year, but if you look beyond the mainstream cars that populate the sales dockets, you’ll stumble upon some seriously rare and offbeat gems. They’re usually not cheap, but it’s a great way to stand out from the waves of Rosso Ferrari 250s. Avoiding the mainstream, we picked our favorite drop-tops from RM Sotheby’s upcoming Monterey sale.
1939 Frazer Nash-BMW 328 Sports
Sure, BMW isn’t exactly flying under the radar, but pre-war Bimmers are few and far between. Plus, this 328 roadster is particularly special, thanks to a bespoke coachbuilt body
This is one of just six BMWs brought to England through Frazer Nash. Like many high-end cars of the day, the cars were delivered as rolling chassis, letting customers decide which atelier to sculpt the bodywork. Thanks to the onset of World War II, the Frazer Nash BMWs were impounded and held by the government until the war concluded. This curvaceous roadster was bought in 1949 by RAF pilot and factory Frazer Nash driver Dickie Stoops, who had the car bodied by Leacroft of Egham after taking delivery.
The result was a spectacular open-top barchetta that was entered in the 1949 Spa 24-Hour race, where it took 6th in class and 12th overall. Stoops traded the BMW back to Frazer Nash for a Mille Miglia roadster, and the car disappeared from the public market until 1988. Since then, it’s enjoyed time at some of the most prestigious museums and shows around the world.
1971 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI All-Weather Cabriolet by Frua
It’s not as handsome as the new eighth-generation Phantom, but this oddball Phantom VI was too good to pass up. According to RM Sotheby’s, this Rolls took a reported 22 years to complete. The car was commissioned new by a British real estate developer, who worked with Pietro Frua to develop a unique slab-sided design that followed an earlier Frua-bodied Phantom from a few years prior.
Development was slow. After four years, the car was still in various stages of work. Rolls-Royce collector James Leake purchased the incomplete car in 1977, armed with new sketches from Frua. Work continued, but Frua retired and then passed away in 1983, leaving the car without the creator to oversee production. Over the course of nearly a decade, the owner worked patiently to finish the car, eventually reaching completion in 1993, where it was shown at that year’s Geneva auto show.
Aside from the unique design, the “All-Weather” drop-top is a complex design that allows for three individual configurations. Depending on weather or mood of the imperious passengers, the Phantom transforms into either a sedanca de ville, landaulet, or full convertible. Regardless of roof config, the back is chock-full of the finest luxury available during that time, including burled walnut trim with silver inlays, silk-lined lady’s vanity, cigar humidor, television, VCR, and cocktail cabinet.
On top of this, you won’t have to worry about dealing with previous owner’s old cigar ash or lipstick stains – this behemoth wears just 72 miles on the odometer.
1952 Siata-Ford 208S Cabriolet Speciale
While Siata made a name for itself tuning-up Fiat powertrains and sports cars, it looks like the Italian automaker played the role of consultant and supplier for other mediums as well. This shapely cabrio was initially commissioned by an Ohio-based Ford dealer as a promotional car to drum up interest. When Ford turned down the request for a Police-spec chassis, a regular 1951 Ford Sedan was purchased instead.
The car was sent to Siata through a New York Ford dealership in mid-1952. At some point either before or after being shipped to Italy, the Ford was stripped down to its skivvies, retaining only the Flathead V-8 powertrain, suspension, and instruments. Siata developed a special chassis for this project, and sent the car to Stabilimenti Farina, a coachbuilder that is seen as a pseudo-predecessor to Pininfarina. Stabilimenti folded soon after the car was completed, leading some involved with the project to believe Bertone may have had a hand in finishing the car.
After returning to Ohio, the beautiful Siata changed hands multiple times over the years, before settling in with a long-term owner in 1988, where it remained until 2005, when it moved to a new owner before finally landing with its current steward.
1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix
A bright blue Type 35C is hardly the most offbeat car to hit the auction block, but when compared with these other drop-tops, the Bugatti stands out like a rainbow-colored unicorn.
According to records, this 35C was originally built for use at the ACF Grand Prix in 1925, where it finished 8th in the race after almost 10 hours of continuous driving. After a brief stint with a new owner in 1926, the Bugatti was sold to Edward Meyer. He used the blue Bug to win the Moroccan Grand Prix in 1928, a race that spanned 440 miles between Casablanca and Marrakesh.
After Meyer’s ownership ended around 1929, the car passed through an impressive number of collectors and Bugatti enthusiasts before landing in California in the mid-1950s, where it remains today.
It’s far from the cleanest example – the car was run hard, and put up wet in many cases – but Bugatti historians assert that it’s extremely authentic and very original in some aspects.