Back in the 80s, Guernsey’s Auctions president Arlan Ettinger got a tip from a consigner about an elderly woman in Georgia who owned an early 1950s Maserati racecar. Ettinger knew the brand only made about 20 racecars per year during that period of time, and he was skeptical about the veracity of this rumor.
As fate would have it, a picker (one who finds rare and unusual vintage items) from Georgia contacted Ettinger a couple of weeks later. The auction executive took a chance and hired him to find the mysterious Maserati racecar owner. As it turned out, the picker led Ettinger to not just the rare Maserati but a 1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 shooting brake that is up for auction this week.
Mrs. Logan Lewis, whom the picker tracked down, was 88 years old at the time. When Ettinger called her she confirmed that indeed she did have a Maserati in her barn; it has been sitting there, sealed in the building, since her husband’s death in the 1960s. She closed the doors and hadn’t seen it since, nearly a quarter of a century later. Lewis told Ettinger she didn’t know which model it was, but he knew it had to be very valuable.
“I told her we had an auction coming up and it would sell for a lot of money,” Ettinger told Lewis. “She said, ‘I don’t need the money, so thanks but no thanks.’ I tried a few times with her and the auction came and went and I didn’t get anywhere.”
Weeks later, Lewis called Ettinger out of the blue.
She told him that she grew up in Wisconsin and married a southern gentleman, so she hadn’t been back home in many years. Lewis said she liked Ettinger’s Northern accent and asked if she could call him occasionally to chat. Over the course of a few months, they had a series of casual conversations and didn’t mention the racecar until one day she said, “Remember that Maserati we talked about? If you’d like to come on down, you could see it.”
Ettinger booked the first plane he could find to Macon.
“I arrived and there was a small barn on a lovely property,” Ettinger remembers. “I borrowed a shovel and dug the dirt away from the door that had been accumulating for decades. There was this beautiful Maserati that was clearly a predecessor to the birdcage Maserati, one of the world’s most magnificent machines. It was a dream to see it.”
Ettinger decided to make her an offer to buy it for himself and tossed out a generous number because he didn’t want to cheat her. Lewis responded, “Are you insane to pay me that much?” She insisted on calling Ettinger’s wife to make sure she was on board with him spending that kind of money. That afternoon, he rented a U-Haul and took his prize home.
“Mrs. Lewis became like a grandmother to me,” Ettinger told me. “She called me one day and said, ‘Do you want to see the other cars?’ I didn’t even know there was another barn. So I raced down and there were seven more cars, including a 1939 Jaguar SS 100, a late-40s XK120 Jaguar, an early Rolls from the 1910s, an interesting Chrysler, and the Rolls-Royce shooting brake.”
On the spot, Ettinger bought the SS 100, which he says was a fabulous-looking car; Humphrey Bogart once owned one and Jaguar didn’t make many of them. Not long after that visit, Lewis suffered a stroke and never fully recovered. After she passed away several years later, the auction house president received a call from her estate that she had specified in her will that she wanted Ettinger to personally auction off the rest of her cars. He agreed, with one caveat: he wanted to be able to bid on the Rolls-Royce shooting brake himself. (Where does the term “shooting brake” come from, anyway? I’ll let Peter explain it here.)
“I bought it honestly through a third party,” he told me. “Roughly 15 or more years after I fell in love with the Rolls-Royce, I finally got to buy it. We got it up north and got it running through a Rolls-Royce shop in Atlanta; it hadn’t been started for more than 30 or 40 years.”
Ettinger had the engine rebuilt by Pierce Reed, one of the leading Rolls Royce specialists in America, and he says now it runs like new.
The 1933 Rolls Royce shooting brake is believed to be one of fifty; less than 25 of that number half are still around. The shooting brake model is associated with names such as Andy Warhol (his sold for $750,000 some years back) and King Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor), who secretly shuttled his paramour Wallis Simpson into Balmoral Castle in his. Ettinger’s Rolls-Royce was built in 1933 and bodied by Corsica, then purchased in London by Mr. and Mrs. Lewis.
According to Guernsey’s Auction House, after WWII the original Rolls-Royce body was replaced by the shooting brake body, crafted in the Channel Islands by Jersey Coachbuilders. Over the last seventy years, this gorgeous car has had only two owners: the Lewises and the Ettingers. Since Ettinger purchased it, he has entered it in several automotive Concours events, winning Best Unrestored Car, Best Rolls-Royce, People’s Choice, and Best in Show, among others.
The auction will take place virtually on Wednesday, May 12 at 3 p.m. ET via Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com. It will sell for no reserve and is estimated to go for between $80,000 and $120,000, which sounds like an incredible steal for this one-off, all-original Rolls.
“I take care of my things and it has been a much-beloved object,” Ettinger says. “My children grew up in it and we’d take it to special events; I will feel a little sad to sell it.”
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