Baby, You Can Drive My Car: Celeb Charity Car Auctions

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July 30, 2012; Source: Business Insider

Having a good set of wheels with low mileage is great for charity. No, we’re not talking about donating your old clunker. Just this week, we took note of three charity auctions of fancy cars owned by celebs.

George Clooney is selling the eighth Tesla Roadster ever made, a Signature 100 Roadster from 2008. The beneficiary will be the Satellite Sentinel Project, which conducts satellite monitoring of people and arms in Sudan and South Sudan to help policymakers prevent conflict that could undermine the fragile new South Sudan nation. Long associated with the group, Clooney is featured on the project’s website explaining, “we are the anti-genocide paparazzi.” With only 1,700 miles on the odometer, the Tesla is valued at between $100,000 and $125,000, but Business Insider suggests that the auction might fetch more due to Clooney’s celebrity status as well as the nature of the charitable beneficiary.

Meanwhile, “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno collects cars, owning about 100, so he can part with one for charity, too. He is auctioning off his 2012 Fiat 500 Prima Edizione to benefit the Fisher House Foundation, a network of 57 residences around the country for wounded veterans and their families. Leno’s Fiat is the second in a 500-car limited edition (with the first in the possession of Fiat president Sergio Marchionne). The tiny car is estimated to sell for between $25,000 to $30,000, which sounds sort of low (in January, Leno auctioned off a 2007 New Boomer tractor for about $550,000 and donated the proceeds to Fisher House). Although Leno called the Fiat “incredibly fun to drive,” with 100 cars in his garage, he presumably hasn’t put a lot of mileage on it.

In the U.K., the estate of the late British entertainer Sir Jimmy Savile—for U.S. readers, sort of a cross between Dick Clark and Casey Kasem—recently auctioned off Sir Jimmy’s 1965 BMW Isetta 300 Plus, a yellow “bubble car,” for £22,000 (roughly $34,450 in U.S. dollars) and a silver Corniche Rolls-Royce, with only 4,420 miles on the odometer, for £130,000 (U.S. $203,600). Sir Jimmy was a longtime philanthropist through his Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, but the total take from the auction of his belongings plus the cars, £325,000, more than doubled the income earned by the Trust last year, £132,546. The Trust exists for “the relief of poverty and the relief of sickness,” with a major focus on providing recreational facilities for disabled persons.

Interesting hobbies of Clooney, Leno, and Savile—stocking up on rare cars, not driving them much, and then auctioning them for charity.—Rick Cohen