Dennis Nicotra and John Chiara of Premier Resource Group surely had monied persons in mind when they persuaded the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York to open its doors to their New York Auto Salon and Auction Thanksgiving weekend. They said the hotel had not been the site of such a show in decades. Some of the 50 'invited' cars had values in the six- and even the seven-figure range.
In the balconied third-floor Grand Ballroom, in adjoining hallways and in quarters bearing such names as Jade Room and Astor Salon, rare Mercedes-Benzes, Aston Martins, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Ferraris sat gleaming amid pots of rich, rusty orange chrysanthemums, awaiting the scrutiny of potential owners. Their only blemishes, it seemed, were duct-taped gas caps - a safety requirement. There would be no leaks or spills here on the thick, flowered carpet.
Guests could purchase $8 glasses of wine as they reviewed the classics. Waiters circulated with nibbles on silver trays.
'We reviewed 300 vehicles before deciding which ones to have at this event,' said Nicotra, who is himself a collector.
The Robb Report, a publication that chronicles luxury lifestyles, was a sponsor of the event. It provided, among other things, chic little black bags with gold-colored handles containing information of interest to bidders.
When a vehicle sold during the Saturday afternoon auction, there was polite applause from the audience, said by a Premier spokeswoman to have numbered about 1,000. The highest sale price was $875,000 for a 1933 Mercedes-Benz 380K.
The highest bid was $1.1 million for the rare - only four were built - 1921 Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, a high-performance convertible. However, the bid did not meet the minimum sale price set by the owner.
On the modest side, a striped 1915 Brewster Transformable went for $55,000, and the oldest vehicle on hand, a 1903 Columbia Electric Model XIX, brought $20,000. About half the cars on display were sold.
Premier Resource Group, of Woodbridge, Conn., which describes itself as a 'sales and marketing organization with an interest in classic and antique cars,' promises an encore in 2000.