The collector car world will turn their attention to the cars that put Chrysler at the forefront of styling ideas in the early 1940s when RM Auctions returns to Phoenix in January for their “Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona” auction event.

The annual multi-million dollar sale, to be held January 18 at the luxurious Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, will kick off RM’s 2008 auction season, which in addition to a number of annual, well-established events will include their highly anticipated return to Maranello, Italy.

All attention will however be on Arizona in January as the Canadian-based auction house presents a rare 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt by LeBaron and a 1941 Chrysler Newport by LeBaron for auction. Considered the very first ‘true’ concept cars and each with limited production, both cars are expected to draw significant interest in Phoenix.

“The Thunderbolt and Newport were considered some of LeBaron’s last and most interesting projects, they are a testament to automotive engineering like no other concept car – without question they rank as some of the most important American cars ever built” said Ian Kelleher, Managing Director of RM Auctions.

“The combination of both cars being sold at the one auction together for the first time will likely exceed all expectations of what each is worth both individually and collectively. Never before has such an opportunity been available to collectors, and as a result, we expect to see strong prices and spirited bidding,” he added.

The remarkable 1941 Thunderbolt is a sleek roadster with concealed headlights and a retractable metal hardtop. Styled by Alex Tremulis, who later when on to pen the legendary 1948 Tucker, and built by coachbuilders LeBaron, the car made history by not only its futuristic styling, but as America’s first electrically operated, retractable hardtop. Today, only four of five Thunderbolts built remain; the fully restored example on offer at RM’s upcoming Arizona sale is considered the finest and most correct in existence. Restored to national concours competition standards, it has enjoyed considerable success as a show car – at the 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, it so impressed both the public and the judges that it earned a remarkable 99.5 points and was a winner in its class. Its sale in Arizona presents a rare and unique ownership opportunity. (Est. $1.5million – $2 million).

The exceptional, highly original 1941 Newport LeBaron on offer at Arizona is also predicted to attract significant interest. Produced at the same time as the Thunderbolt, the Newport was one of LeBaron’s last hand built designs before World War II halted production. Described as a ‘revelation’, the Newport was designed as a showpiece to be paraded on sunny days only as it is without a top or side windows. Like the Thunderbolt, production of the Newport was limited; only six cars were ever built. The example on offer at RM’s Arizona sale was the first in the series built and, having been carefully preserved and maintained, is considered the finest and most important of the surviving five. (Est. $1.5 million – $2 million).

Another unique car set to roll across the block in Arizona is a specially customized 1947 Chevrolet Fleetliner Street Rod by famed custom builder Ken “POSIES” Fenical. This car presents a radical concept of mating the era of streamlining with the modern drivetrain chassis.

“In typical “POSIES” fashion, he has once again created an amazing, one off vehicle,” said Kelleher of the Fleetliner.

“The detail and thought that was employed in the construction of this vehicle makes this custom totally and entirely unique. The best part is that it is a true four-passenger custom car that one could comfortably drive from Arizona to California,” he added.

For those who prefer more traditional design, the Arizona sale will also present a series of luxury classics, including: a luxurious 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton, also by LeBaron; an elegant 1918 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 Seven Passenger Touring, formerly belonging to lyricist of the patriotic “Yankee Doodle Dandy” tune, George Cohan; a 1911 Locomobile Model 48 Seven Passenger Touring; and three gloriously appointed Packards – a 1930 Packard Model 730 Roadster, a 1934 Packard Twelve Convertible Sedan by Glaser, and a 1934 Packard Super 8 Coupe Roadster.

The “Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona” auction event will be held at the luxurious Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, 24th Street & Missouri, Phoenix, Arizona on January 18, 2008. An auction preview will be held January 17 from 9am to 6pm. The auction will take place between 10am to 6pm on January 18.

Admission to the auction is by catalog only, which admits both the catalog holder and a guest. The full-color collectable catalog is available for $80 U.S. (plus shipping), by calling (800)-211-4371 or visiting www.rmauctions.com