Restaurant magnate Herb Wetanson—after decades spent amassing a significant private collection—has decided to bring three of his most unique and collectable cars to RM Sotheby’s Dec. 8 auction at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The vehicles include a Lynx-built Jaguar XKSS that is nearly identical to the storied Steve McQueen-owned model that resides in the Petersen Museum, a 1941 Mercury custom built by Coachcraft, and a 1940 Mercury custom inspired by some of the most iconic full customs of all time. Combined, the cars are estimated to bring between $775,000 and $1,025,000.
“Each of these cars has a wonderful story and I will miss them deeply, but it has come time to let them go,” said Wetanson. “I’ve had the pleasure of owning some of the all-time greats and these three are up there. I owned the very first XKSS produced, chassis No. 701, and the Lynx car drives just as well with a fraction of the stress. The Coachcraft Mercury is so special I have owned it twice, and the Rudy Rodriguez Mercury was a labor of love.”
1969 Jaguar XKSS Recreation by Lynx
This car is one of nine built by Lynx, a Jaguar marque expert specializing in C-Types, D-Types and E-Types. Completed in the ‘70s with a production E-type as its base, this hand-built XKSS benefitted from tooling identical to the original cars and is exceptionally accurate—even boasting period race history.
Collectors who have admired the McQueen Jaguar XKSS that is a centerpiece of the Petersen collection, but who don’t want to spend eight-figures, should look no further. Wetanson’s Jaguar ownership resume includes an original D-Type and XKSS, which speaks to the quality and accuracy of this Lynx-built example, which Wetanson said is impossible to tell from the original when being driven. Outside of the 16 original cars, this is the closest a person can come to owning an XKSS.
The car was built with special cams, pistons, crankshaft and 3.8-liter dry sump engine. It also features many of the details one would expect from the original car, from its right-hand drive configuration to the worn leather bonnet straps. With performance and looks to match the original, the Lynx XKSS represents excellent value—a true XKSS experience at a fraction of the cost.
Click here for more information on the Lynx Jaguar XKSS.
1941 Mercury 'Stengel' Custom by Coachcraft
This Coachcraft was built in 1941 just blocks from where the Petersen Museum now stands by a coachbuilder known for the bespoke bodies it crafted for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The vehicle started life as a then-new 1941 Mercury Convertible. Legendary Los Angeles-based builder Coachcraft created the car in its second year of business and helped usher in a new era of American automotive culture with this car at the forefront.
The car has a unique three-position roof, making the car a coupe Sedanca de Ville with full enclosure “T” Tops or full convertible. Original sketches for the car were done by iconic coachbuilder Dutch Darrin, a part-owner of Coachcraft at the time. The descendants of some of the original owners still own and operate the business today, nearly 80 years later. Wetanson sold the car once before, but later regretted the decision. He placed a classified ad looking for the car, and when its owner responded, Wetanson was able to purchase the car once again. It has since undergone a full restoration and looks now as it did in 1941.
Among its many modifications is a bespoke side window mechanism which lowers the vent and door windows at the same time, creating a minimalist line with no interruption when the top is down. The hood is sectioned and lowered, the windshield is raked back, and the front fender has been reworked for a simpler look as well. The Mercury also features completely custom wheel covers with concentric ribbing and a chrome finish. It is powered by an Eddie Meyer designed and built ‘41 Flathead V-8 with high-compression heads and two Stromberg 97 carburetors. It has covered just 41,000 miles in the last 80 years and remains one of the most sought-after customs of its era.
Among the car’s many achievements are appearances at the illustrious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance as well as being displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Click here for more information on the Coachcraft Mercury Custom.
1940 Mercury Coupe Custom by Rudy Rodriguez
This Rudy Rodriguez creation is one of the most beautiful Mercury customs built to date. It started life as a pristine ‘40 Mercury Coupe with just 50,000 original miles before being modified. Heavy modifications inspired by famous full customs like the Matranga, Hirohata and Sam Barris Mercs were made to nearly the entire body and the result is an elegant but quintessentially American coupe. The custom is one of the finest machines to leave Rodriguez’s shop, Fullerton Fabrication.
The roof line is one of the most striking modifications, with a nine-inch cut down in the rear and a five-inch cut down in the front. With the windows now much smaller than the originals, Fullerton Fabrication extended the side windows further back into the roofline. The window frames, jewel moldings and exterior trim pieces were also custom-made to fit the new openings. The grille was also handmade, along with the hood latch. The nose was also heavily reworked to fit the new modifications. Under the hood sits a Tatum-built Flathead V-8 connected to a Columbia two-speed rear end. The interior was finished to the standards of the best European cars of the era with Aston Martin green leather seats and door inserts with a black Mercedes-Benz headliner.
Since its completion in 2011, the ‘40 Mercury has been featured in numerous magazines including an appearance on the cover of Rod & Customs in June 2011. The car was the first ‘40 Mercury built by Fullerton Fabrication and remains one of the most sought-after examples to leave the shop.
Click here for more information on the Rudy Rodriguez Mercury custom.
The three Herb Wetanson collection cars will be sold at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on Dec. 8. The auction is the first at the newly redesigned museum in the heart of the city. The cars will be offered alongside other legendary automobiles such as the Lamborghini Miura SV and the Ferrari 290 MM.