Million Dollar Motoring

He searches the world for rare automobiles - and test drives them

By Michelle Valigursky

Cruising in million dollar motorcars may be the stuff of fantasy, but for Eric Minoff 06C it’s all in a day’s work. As Bonhams Collectors’ Motorcars and Motorcycles Specialist, Minoff works with priceless car collectors the world over and frequently test drives the automobiles in their collections. Always an auto buff, Minoff blends his avocation and his professional career. Simply put, he states, “I have a dream job.”

Minoff knows his vintage automobiles, working closely with Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lagonda, Lotus, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Rolls-Royce among others.

On June 1st, Minoff will visit with clients and collectors at the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance Auction in Greenwich, CT. “One of the stars of the auction is a 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 'Periscopica',” Minoff explains. “It is one of 150 built and is an original, unrestored example with fewer than 16,500km on the odometer, delivered new to Switzerland but in the hands of the current American owner since 1978. Its finish is Blu Tahiti over Naturale (light tan) leather. The estimate for this car is $450,000-550,000--but we sold a similar example last year for $836,000. It will be a very exciting auction.”

Now in its seventh year, the Greenwich Councours d’Elegance Auction had a record breaking year in 2013, with $5.6 million worth of cars trading hands. Entries are now being invited for this year’s prestigious event and Minoff will travel to inspect and test drive automobiles considered for auction. “With an international and national audience of buyers, it is an excellent way to get global representation at a local auction combined with the full strength and knowledge of an international department of motoring specialists,” Minoff explains.

Finding and discovering the property can be the most fun. The 1952 Frazer-Nash LeMans Replica MkII Competition Model photographed here was discovered in a barn in rural Pennsylvania after more than half a century of continuous ownership. “The thrill of coming upon a car like that after decades out of the public eye is fantastic. Watching it then transact for a nearly double its estimate makes the find even more exciting.”

At Emory, where Eric was a founding member of the Emory Car Club, his passion for motoring was stoked by his fellow students and the professors all the way up to President Wagner. “Our very first event was a visit to Lullwater where we got toy around with President Wagner’s Ford Model T Touring. It was a great experience and a lot of fun.” Minoff says his “only regret is graduating right when President Wagner purchased an MG TD project for restoration—but it is fun to come back and visit to see the finished car driving around.”

Start Your Bidding

Bonhams is the largest auction house to hold scheduled auctions of motor cars, motorcycles and related automobilia. Bonhams holds over 400 auctions a year through its sixty specialist departments. The motoring department itself has over twenty auctions a year worldwide, five of which are in the US. The auctions are held globally at some of the most premier locations in conjunction with internationally renowned motoring events with hundreds of motorcars and motorcycles worth several hundred million dollars trading hands each year. “With auction venues at top motoring events like Quail Lodge in August during ‘Monterey Car Week’; Scottsdale, Arizona in January; both the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival in Chichester, England; Paris in February during Retromobile, and elsewhere, Bonhams has the strength and presence to offer some of the most valuable vehicles in the world in the densest gatherings of qualified collectors.”

So how does the auction process for such high value items typically work? Bonhams operates on consignment agreement for individual owners and earns a small portion of proceeds for its service. Sales are marketed to a targeted audience of individuals and businesses that have expressed interest.

For a day or two prior to the auction, prospective buyers are welcome to come and inspect the motorcars, motorcycles, and automobilia available during the auction preview. In some cases, remote individuals may also bid by telephone, online, or through absentee bids where the auction house bids on their behalf. 

As each item is brought up for sale, the auctioneer offers a brief introduction of the lot and begins the bidding. Prospective buyers then raise their paddles and vie to be the last person with their hand in the air to win the lot.

While the million dollar lots get the most press, there is plenty to be had at more affordable price points. “At most auctions, we typically have a selection of cars in the $20,000 price range while vintage motorcycles can be purchased for as little as a few thousand dollars. Additionally, Bonhams is the market leader in automobilia, F1 memorabilia, as well as motoring literature and art—all of which are great ways to get into the hobby for only a few hundred dollars,” says Minoff.

Editor’s Note: When Minoff is not working with other people’s cars, he can often be found tooling around in his own—a 1968 Porsche 911.

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Michelle Valigursky