Don Davis' 64 vintage cars could net $14 mil at auction

Posted Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- They are immaculately preserved slices of automobile history -- 64 of them -- each with a story to tell.

For many of the Ferraris, Corvettes and other cars in Don Davis' collection, the history is as spectacular as the polish on the hood.

And soon they will all be driven away by the highest bidder.

Davis, a real estate investor and founder of several Fort Worth-Arlington car dealerships that still bear his name, plans to sell much of his vintage car collection during a single-day auction April 27 in west Fort Worth.

"I'm reducing my collection," Davis said in an interview at a nondescript building on University Drive north of West Seventh Street, where he houses the cars. "It's just too much trouble to take care of them."

The sale, which will be open only to those who pay a $150 registration fee, is being handled by RM Auctions of Ontario, Canada.

In all, the auction could fetch up to $14 million, a car specialist at RM Auctions said.

For those who aren't in the market for a six- or seven-figure car but want to see what one looks like up close, a preview of the vehicles will be held April 26. Those who wish to attend the preview can buy an $80 auction catalog, which includes two admissions.

Davis' veritable museum includes a 1958 Dual Giah convertible, the epitome of a four-wheel Hollywood status symbol that was owned by composer/jazz musician Hoagy Carmichael. Carmichael wrote some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century, including Stardust and Georgia on My Mind.

There's also a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray 427/425 Big Tank Coupe originally equipped with a 450-horsepower engine, which was downgraded to 425 horsepower to placate the insurance industry's fears about its speed. (According to the auction's glossy catalog, the change was mostly a paperwork alteration, and the engine is still capable of 450 horses.)

And not to be forgotten is a 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort capable of accelerating to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph -- a vehicle that was illegal to import into the United States until 1999.

Top of the class

But arguably at the top of the auction class is the 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS, which has been meticulously restored with every detail, right down to its rubber seals and its beaming coat of the manufacturer's blu scuro, or deep dark blue, paint. The vehicle, one of 99 built, won best of show at the 2011 Concorso Italiano in Monterey, Calif.

"It's easy to drive, whereas a lot of Ferraris aren't," Davis said. "It drives like a million dollars."

It should drive like a million bucks -- because the auction house estimates its value at $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

"I think it will sell for a record amount -- got to break $1.5 million," said Ian Kelleher, RM Auctions car specialist. Kelleher said he based his projection on the quality of the car, the economic condition of the car-collecting hobby and his many conversations with prospective buyers who have their eye on the Ferrari.

"It's a very correct car," he said, "and people pay for correctness."

At least four vehicles in the auction could sell for more than $1 million, and in all, roughly $12 million to $14 million could change hands, Kelleher said.

Davis' collection is unusual not because of its size, but because of the diversity of makes and models.

His collection also includes a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing that has undergone $375,000 in restoration. There is also a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona with its original tan leather interior -- a vehicle that Davis says "has never spent a night outside."

Another attention grabber is a 1941 Chrysler Newport Indianapolis 500 Pacemaker originally owned and driven by Walter P. Chrysler Jr. The vehicle was one of five made, and it's the only one with open headlights -- and it was the pace car for the last Indy race held before the U.S. entered World War II.

"He has such a high level of Ferraris and a high level of American cars such as the Cobras and Corvettes," Kelleher said. "Usually, you just have one or the other."

Also, the auction is being held without reserve, meaning there is no minimum price -- and, at the end of the day, all 64 vehicles will be moved.

Eclectic taste

Davis said he will continue to be an active car collector, as he has since the 1980s. He owns 20 other vehicles that aren't being offered at auction, including six that are being restored.

"Twenty to 25 cars is a more manageable number," said Davis, who splits time living in North Texas and Carmel, Calif.

Two employees are working full time to prepare the vehicles for auction.

One of them is Shane Dickinson, who has managed the car collection at Don Davis Investments for eight years.

Dickinson always keeps his eyes open for cars that could someday be the next crown jewel in Davis' collection.

"Not many people have eclectic taste as Mr. Davis does," he said.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

Twitter: @gdickson

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