Since opening his doors 14 years ago, David Gooding has become—despite his youthful appearance—the elder statesman of the collector-car auction business. Every year, some of the world’s finest antique, classic, sports, and racing cars roll across the Gooding & Company ramp at venues like Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and Scottsdale. Off the stage, Gooding has facilitated private sales of automotive icons like the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic now in the Mullin Museum, a more than $30 million piece of sculpture that just happens to be a car. We visited him in Santa Monica, Calif., just blocks from the beach, in a fastidious brick warehouse that combines offices hung with art by notable contemporary printmakers and open space that can serve as an automotive showroom.
The Automotive Market
We’re currently seeing a gulf between the really special stuff and the okay stuff. Prices for the okay stuff are just staying level, but the special best of the best is going up, up, up. The price delta is growing.
We have 10 cars—from a 1913 Mercer to the newest car, a ’71 Mercedes 3.5 convertible. I didn’t set out to necessarily buy, for example, a 1914 Silver Ghost. I ran across this car and fell in love with its history. Briggs Cunningham bought it in the ’40s and owned it into the ’70s. One of the things that pushed me over the edge was, “If it was good enough for Briggs Cunningham. . .” Restored or Original?I love a beautifully restored car, and I have many friends who are incredible restorers. I have great respect for restorations, but it’s the original cars that speak to me more.
The Holy Grail
My Mona Lisa? One of the two Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupes. They have it all. Historical, sculptural, technical, they represent one of my favorite periods in automobiles. And the sound. [I think] one of the great things about automobiles is the sound they make.
Deck the Halls
My wife and I love art. She has a great eye, and we’ve collected prints, for example, by Ed Ruscha and Ellsworth Kelly. Or photographs by Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, and Dorothea Lange. I love losing myself in the details of a photograph and studying them carefully.
Dining à la C(art)e
There’s an incredible restaurant—the Kronenhalle—in Zurich. I love that place because it’s a brasserie once owned by this fellow who was passionate about food and collecting art—Picasso, Chagall, incredible paintings. You can have great food in a lot of places . . . but it’s the whole setting.
I love ’50s and ’60s classic rock and am a huge Beatles and Stones fan. The other day, my daughter tested me to see if I could identify a Beatles song in a second or less. I think I got most of them. Lately, I have been listening a lot to blues and jazz, including Ray Charles and Sam Cooke.
I enjoy French and Italian wines, though I don’t get obsessive about it. Actually, I’m more of a beer drinker and especially enjoy the Japanese beers, English ales, and whatnot. There’s nothing like a great pint of lager. And I’m a sucker for single malts and Japanese whiskies.
I’m always comfortable in Etro suits. They fit me nicely, and I like the material. I also wear Henry Poole on Savile Row. I bought a couple of suits from that shop, only to see the tailors later at a car show. They’re really into cars—you know, they’re English, so they’re into anything mechanical.
I’m a huge film buff. The Graduate is one of my favorites for all kinds of reasons. I love that movie.
I travel a lot for work but also love traveling as a family. Switzerland is gorgeous, organized, beautiful. We did a great rally—2,100 miles in 17 days—in the Silver Ghost through the Alps, retracing the famous Alpine Rally. My wife, my two daughters, and I will remember it for the rest of our lives. And we’ve gone to Japan a few times and are fascinated by Asia.
I’m very attracted to silversmiths and fine metal objects and, of course, to beautiful watches. We visited the Patek Philippe Museum, and the craftsmanship in the watches instantly drew me in. But this Rolex has special meaning for me. It was a gift from the Pebble Beach Company after 10 years of holding auctions at Pebble Beach. Every year, Pebble is the barometer for the car market, so it’s a major test for us. It’s like the Super Bowl, you know?