Barrett-Jackson Northeast Auction, June 2018

In the world of collector car auctions, Barrett-Jackson is the juggernaut: the biggest, loudest, most sensational extravaganza of classic and special-interest cars bought and sold in a public space. Or so you would be led to believe, based on the extensive TV coverage that the brand has managed to manipulate to its maximum advantage.

Mecum may hold a greater number of events; Bonhams may sell more high-dollar cars; Russo & Steele may run multiple auction blocks simultaneously; but Barrett-Jackson has captured and held onto the public’s imagination as THE place to go for ultimate auction thrills.

Aside from video exposure, a factor which has added to this allure is B-J’s no-reserve policy. Almost 100% of their lots are sold without reserve, meaning that the high bidder gets the car. (Very recently, B-J did begin to allow a small selection of reserve cars.) Of course, this only increases the drama when you KNOW the car is going to sell. None of this “whaddaya mean it didn’t meet reserve”. It’s always good for the buyers, and given the unrelenting supply of consigned vehicles, one would presume that sellers are satisfied too.

Phoenix has been B-J’s home for decades, and they’ve expanded from there into Las Vegas and Palm Beach. Three years ago, they launched their Northeast Auction, situated at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort in CT. By all accounts, this first foray into New England was hugely successful, and the Barrett-Jackson crew was back for the third consecutive year in June of 2018.

The actual auction dates were Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, June 21-23. The entry-level (read: cheapest) cars would be crossing the block the first day, so that’s the day I chose to attend. Purchasing tickets online (a 45% discount if bought in advance) meant buying them through Ticketmaster, an indication of how big they’ve gotten. Once that lovely organization was done tacking on its handling and service fees, I was out-of-pocket an additional 9 bucks. My final ticket cost totaled $35. A bidder’s pass would have cost many multiples of that.

Aside from morning rush hour traffic, getting there was easy enough, and as this was my first visit to Mohegan Sun, the initial impressions were favorable: the sprawling complex is well laid-out, with ample garage deck parking, clear signage, and a spotless infrastructure. A 9:30 a.m. arrival was well ahead of the crowds, and there was no waiting for my ticket to be scanned, granting me access to the auction building.

You would be forgiven if your initial impression was that you ended up at the wrong show. New-vehicle displays from Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge are your first sightings, along with booths selling everything from Meguiar’s to mattresses. Apparently, association with B-J makes it worth your while to display your automotive and non-automotive wares to the expected throngs.

Ford’s new vehicle display greets you upon entering

But where are the cars? A long walk toward the rear of the complex finally brought me to the auction vehicles, arrayed in a multi-level parking deck as well as in a pitched tent outside the garage. Next question: in what order are they? Unlike almost all other car auctions I’ve attended, these cars and trucks were NOT in run order. Instead, some of them were thematically placed so that similar vehicles were grouped (Corvettes here, Mustangs there, ‘50s custom cars back yonder). While it might make for pretty pictures, it didn’t help you find the Thursday cars starting with car #1, which was my goal.

Cars, ride & drives, vendors, and food stalls were spread outside

There certainly were some very nice cars on display. There were also the aforementioned “custom” cars (not my cup of tea when you take a ’65 Riviera and completely rip out its factory interior for 21st century electronics), along with late-model used cars. One such newer vehicle was a 2001 Volvo V70 T5, and I climbed in, looking for clues as to why it might be here. Suddenly, a booming voice was directed toward me: “Sir, get OUT of the car! You are NOT allowed to TOUCH, OPEN, or SIT in ANY of the AUCTION CARS!” The hired hand, a security guy wearing a “CSC Staff” shirt, made it all too clear that I had broken the law according to Barrett-Jackson.

Indeed, only then did I notice all the signs stating “Please do not touch any of the auction cars”. This rule applied to bidders too, which then begged the question: if you’re here to buy something, how do you check it out? Other auctions allow bidders to open hoods, check odometer readings, and in some cases, start the cars and turn on accessories. Not B-J. What’s up with that?

With wrists appropriately slapped, the on-site survey continued (hands behind back). Again, I asked myself, what order are the cars in? I had finally found Thursday’s car #1, but hadn’t yet spotted #2 through #10. After 90 minutes of pacing the parking areas, it was time to head to the auction block itself. The automobilia auction had started at 10am, and the cars were due to begin at 1pm. I wanted to find a seat and leave time for some lunch.

It was a longish walk, first outside, then into the bowels of the complex to get to the stage. Unbeknownst to me, the actual auction was being held in the Mohegan Sun Arena, a 10,000-seat multi-level indoor stadium usually used for sporting events and concerts (upcoming in July: Barry Manilow and Britney Spears, on different nights, thank you). Now it was time for the next surprise: ground-level seating was strictly for those with bidder’s passes – general admission ticket holders, i.e., me, were directed into the nose-bleed upper tier. From there, the auction block looked like it was several hundred feet away, because it was. So much for walking anywhere near the cars. But hearing was no problem, as the auctioneer took advantage of the 110-decibel house sound system. At least from that vantage, I could look down at the skyboxes, where the high-roller bidders had buffet tables and adult beverages as part of their several-hundred-dollar premium package.

The view of the stage from the rear of the arena

 

Free treats in the skybox

It was time for lunch. A sandwich, bag of chips, and a soft drink for $9 wasn’t a bad deal, and there was no line at all. The cars began to cross the block. The magic number of the early afternoon was $7,500; that was the hammer price for 8 of the first 20 lots. The pace was similar to Mecum, in that cars spent an average of two minutes in the spotlight, so they moved at 30 cars per hour. Vehicle descriptions were lacking in detail; mileages were announced only if it was something favorable (“this car has 43,000 original miles!”).

Of the first 25 cars, only 9 of them broke into five figures, so if your goal was to buy a car for less than $10,000, there was ample opportunity. The flip side of that is that, to this eye, there were rather few bargains.  No-reserve sales can cut two ways: a consignor is taking a chance that his car slips through the cracks and sells too cheaply. Sellers know that the car is going home with someone. But it only takes two determined bidders to push the hammer price to a level that favors the seller, and my overall impression was that the majority of Thursday’s sales did indeed favor the seller. Hey, who needs to know the service history if you can be shown on TV pumping high-fives after spending twenty grand?

I had seen over 40 cars sell, and ninety minutes is my personal limit for remaining in one place, so it was time to wander back to the garages. Cars which had crossed the block were all slapped with SOLD stickers, and conveniently, the sale price was noted on the windshields. A few more strolls back and forth between the staging area and the arena, and it was time to bring this long day to an end.

It’s very easy to look casually at the Barrett-Jackson experience and understand the attraction. There’s automotive variety; everything sells; the side shows keep even the most bored folks entertained; and it’s pumped up like it’s going to be on TV because it is.

I watched about 80 cars sell; the highest hammer price I personally observed was $42k; my guesstimate is that Thursday’s average selling price was in the $15k-20k range. If your interests lie with resto-mods, Jeeps, late-model exotics, or running projects, this could be your venue. At any auction, you’re buying a pig in a poke. At B-J, the inability of bidders to take a hands-on approach made it more so. As a non-bidder, the limited access was a bit off-putting, as that is not the case at other auctions. I’m glad I went. I can say that, yes, I’ve experienced a Barrett-Jackson auction. It’s likely that I’ll not feel the need to make a return appearance.

A sampling of Thursday’s auction cars are below, and as always, they are arranged in SALE PRICE order (dollar amounts are exclusive of the buyer’s 10% commission). Apologies for the poor picture quality; I didn’t want to carry my SLR and brought a cheap digital camera with me that did a poor job in the fluorescent lighting.


$3,000 TO $7,200:

#1, 1990 Chrysler Maserati TC convertible, sold for $3,000

Mitsubishi V6 and 4-speed automatic. An American-Italian-Japanese mash-up; I’m sure that any FCA dealership can service it for you.

1990 Chrysler Maserati TC

 

#15, 1989 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, sold for $6,700

This 6-speed car wore newer Corvette wheels. Sign claimed that most of its paint was original, and listed a host of recent maintenance. This was one of the few really good deals from Thursday.

1989 Chevy Corvette

 

#24, 1964 MG Midget convertible, sold for $6,800

An affordable way to get a British sports car. Just check to make sure your girth lets you fit.

1964 MG Midget

 

#25, 2002 Jaguar XK convertible, sold for $7,200

An average used exotic which sold for an average price.

2002 Jaguar XK convertible

THE $7,500 BUFFET TABLE:

#1.1, 1966 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, sold for $7,500

Driver’s seat upholstery worn, looked OK otherwise.

1966 Cadillac Sedan DeVille

 

#18, 1966 Ford Thunderbird Landau hardtop, sold for $7,500

A lot of style, luxury, and fuel consumption for not much money.

1966 Ford Thunderbird

 

#6, 1972 Plymouth Satellite, sold for $7,500

Both A-pillars bubbling with rust. Rear quarters not much better. Rebuilt 440, perhaps only good for parts.

 

#19, 1985 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, sold for $7,500

A clean-looking 2nd year C4 in attractive colors. No explanation why this car would have fetched more money than Lot #15, which is 4 years newer and has a drop-top.

1985 Chevy Corvette

 

#12, 1985 Toyota Supra, sold for $7,500

A potentially good deal on a rising Asian collectible.

1985 Toyota Supra

 


$11,500 TO $14,500:

#30, 1964 Ford Falcon convertible, sold for $11,500

This six-cylinder drop-top sold for half what a comparable Mustang would have brought.

1964 Ford Falcon convertible

 

#23.1, 1986 GMC Sierra 4×4 pickup, sold for $12,000

The first of 2 GM pickups to sell for this price. Perhaps B-J is the place to buy your pickup truck, because these sell for twice this at Mecum in Harrisburg.

1986 GMC Sierra

 

#37, 1987 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, sold for $12,000

Pickup trucks of all flavors were relative bargains today. Aside from its wheels (easy fix), truck looked to be done to a good original standard.

1987 Chevy Silverado

 

#60.1, 1953 MG TD, sold for $13,000

Worst repaint I’ve ever seen on an auction car. Literally looked like it was pulled from a garage and painted with rattle cans over dust and dirt.

1953 MG TD

 

#19.1, 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst W30, sold for $13,000

A model infrequently seen these days, interesting RWD Hurst/Olds package looked to be all there.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass H/O

 

#35, 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, sold for $14,500

A survivor, as most of these were long ago consumed by the tin worm. Plain exterior offset by nice interior.

1965 Plymouth Barracuda

$18,000 TO $20,000:

#32, 1965 Fiat 500, sold for $18,000

Got a lot of attention in the garage pre-sale, sold for more lira than most of the domestic iron that preceded it across the block.

1965 Fiat 500

 

#33, 1963 Austin-Healey Sprite roadster, sold for $18,500

The good news: the restoration work looked to be top-notch. The bad news: the 1955 Dodge LaFemme color scheme didn’t look good here. I met the winning bidder while he photographed his new toy. A 30-something hipster, he told me that he always wanted one. Hope he drives it and enjoys the attention.

1963 Austin-Healey Sprite

 

#66.1, 1966 Chrysler Newport, sold for $19,000

Sign claims “rotisserie restoration” of body, rebuilt 383, and original interior. Big stylish cruiser for Mopar fans.

1966 Chrysler Newport

 

#58.1, 1988 Porsche 928, sold for $20,000

This was a $10,000 car five years ago. This one claimed to have 43,000 original miles.

Porsche 928

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

NJ Alfa Club Spring Driving Tour thru Hunterdon County

It was reported the other day that in New Jersey, there has been rain on at least one, if not both days of the weekend for the past ten weeks. The corollary to that is that the weather forecasters have been batting about .210 (if they were ball players, they would have been sent back to the minors by now).

So it should not have come as a surprise to awaken on Sunday June 10 to showers, even if 24 hours prior they had not been predicted. It was two months ago that the NJ Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) selected this date for its spring driving tour through Hunterdon County. But Alfa drivers love to cruise so much that a little moisture wasn’t going to deter us. We met as planned at the Readington Diner on Route 22 in Whitehouse at 10am, and after a brief driver’s meeting, ten people in six Alfas were off.

1967 Alfa Giulia sedan

 

1967 Alfa (Giulia) GT Jr.

 

Alfa 164 (V6, FWD)

The half-dozen vehicles were neatly divided into two groups of three: in the ‘older’ group were two ’67 Giulias, a sedan and a coupe, along with a 164 four-door sedan. Alfa Romeo’s current model lineup was thoroughly represented by the 2nd group of three: a Giulia sedan, a Stelvio SUV, and a 4C Spider. The factory couldn’t have planned that better if it tried.

Alfa Giulia sedan

 

Alfa Stelvio SUV

 

Alfa 4C Spider

From the diner, we drove about 4 miles on Route 22 before turning south. From that point on, 100% of the driving was on two-lane secondary roads. We wound our way around Round Valley Reservoir, and meandered through the towns of Stanton, Barley Sheaf, Cherryville, Quakertown, and Pittstown before descending into Frenchtown, on the NJ/PA border. The rain at this point was nothing more than a nuisance, and made me long for intermittent wipers on my ’67.

About 12 miles south of Frenchtown, we pit-stopped at Prallsville Mills, a charming collection of historic outbuildings and the site of numerous artistic events. We hung out there for about 30 minutes, because for this group, next to driving and eating, our favorite activity is talking.

Our group at Prallsville Mills

 

The two ’67s

 

New to old, in a row

Back on the road, we turned left and began to head east, passing through Sergeantsville, Ringoes (named after John Ringo), Unionville, and Reaville. We briefly entered Somerset County, driving through Cloverhill and Montgomery, before circling round, winding through Wertzville, and finally turning south toward our destination, the town of Hopewell in Mercer County. We covered just over 70 miles in slightly under 2.5 hours, including our break.

Lunch was at Antimo’s Italian Kitchen, and it was charming. Our wait staff catered to our every need, and the food was delizioso. Perhaps best of all, new friendships were formed, as several of today’s participants were on their maiden voyage with the Alfa club.

 

Both of these cars are Alfa Romeo Giulia sedans! Can you tell them apart?

The roads were lightly traveled; the scenery was verdant and historic; the overcast skies kept the temperatures reasonable; and no one broke down. What else but to conclude that our NJ AROC Hunterdon County tour was a roaring success?

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, June 3, 2018

This is what we do: we get up early on a Sunday morning, earlier than many of us would otherwise arise on a day off from work. We hop into our toy car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-year-old gem we’ve owned for many a decade, a recent “beater” that’s a work in progress, or a brand-new supercar. (One rule in this club that has no rules is, we do not criticize each other’s cars based on age, marque, horsepower, color, or relative value.)

 

The lineup: the cars and their owners

We meet at a pre-arranged spot, and then we drive. It’s almost always delightful, verdant, winding, two-lane roads, which may take us north, south, east, or west. We delight in the sights and sounds of our friends’ cars in front of us and behind us. Sure, we drive in a spirited fashion, but there’s no reckless behavior on the road; we respect each other too much for that. (Rule #2 in this rule-less club is that overly aggressive driving will certainly ensure you’re disinvited to our next soiree.)

 

“So I opened the hood, but still couldn’t find the battery….”

 

Upon arriving at our destination, we anxiously await our morning treat: hot coffee, good breakfast food, and lots of conversation. Some of us have known each other for 25 years. Some of us met about 90 minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. We share a passion for our internal-combustion-powered devices, and we’ll talk about them and the exhilarating freedom they provide until the waitresses toss us out (pity the future generations who will not know the thrill of piloting such sporting machines).

 

Following the Ferrari on the way to breakfast

 

Some of us break from talking long enough to glance at the camera

 

With breakfast done, our desire to continue the chat is all too obvious, as we spill out onto the sidewalk, inadvertently blocking the restaurant’s entrance. Finally, as the noon hour approaches, we reluctantly wish each other a fond “see you next time”, and head back to our machines, and back to whatever reality awaits the remainder of our Sunday.

This is what we do.

 

Buick Skylark convertible

 

Chevy Nova

 

Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce
Volvo C70 Coupe

 

NA (1st gen) Mazda Miata

 

NB (2nd gen) Mazda Miata

 

Porsche 911 Targa

 

Jaguar F-Type

 

Shelby Mustang convertible

 

I had a hard time keeping up with this guy on my way home

 

As we exited the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, Rich S took these photos, and they are used with his permission:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade, May 26, 2018

WHAT MEMORIAL DAY MEANS TO ME

  • It means that we must remember the true spirit of the holiday, as we honor those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
The flag display at the parade
  • It means that we have the freedom to pursue our own vision of happiness. For many of my friends, as well as for me, that means sharing our passion for the old car hobby.
AACA members chat before the parade start
  • It means that I can volunteer to spend a few hours to participate in a local parade, giving citizens a reason to come out and smile, cheer, and wave the flag.

  • It means that I have freedom of choice to purchase and drive the car that I want, not based on what someone determines is “the right choice” based on that vehicle’s country of origin.
My ’93 Miata, the only non-domestic car in the parade
  • It means that our children, our future generations, can learn from the past, and work toward a future that we hope is peaceful and safe for them.

  • It means that there is great joy in recognizing that Americans come in all colors, from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and they are as proud and happy as anyone to celebrate this momentous holiday with all their fellow Americans.

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

2018 New England 1000 Rally, Summary Report

The 2018 edition of the New England 1000 rally was held during the week of May 21. The rally started and ended at our host hotel, the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, with additional overnight stays in Newport RI and Lenox MA. The group also visited Wayne Carini’s F40 Motorsports and Mystic Seaport.

In all, about 35 cars drove in the event (the number is estimated because first, not every car listed in the tour book showed up; and two, some of the cars spotted earlier in the week seemed to have dropped away by the end of the week). The oldest vehicular participant was a 1952 Cunningham convertible. Tied for newest set of wheels were a 2017 Audi R8 and 2017 Porsche 911.

For rally co-driver and co-navigator Steve Hansen and me, this year was a double-milestone: it was our tenth NE1000 (although not all 10 were driven with each other), and it was the 20th anniversary of our first such rally in 1998. We both recall that during our initial drive to Freeport ME in Steve’s Tiger, we pondered what other vehicles might be joining us. Instead of the resto-modded Camaros and slightly rusty Chargers we envisioned, the first car spotted in the hotel lot was a white four-door Bugatti. We instantly knew we were in for something special.

Rallyist extraordinaire Steve H behind the wheel

This year’s rally was different in several ways:

  • The semi-official featured marque was Cunningham. The realized dream of Briggs Cunningham, a total of 25 road cars were manufactured. Four were scheduled to run the rally, but only three actually did so. It was a rare thrill to see three in the same place at the same time, and even more rare and thrilling to hear them run and watch them move.
  • For the first time in our experience, one of the four “rally days” consisted of no driving events. Tuesday was spent in Newport RI; participants were given the option to ride on an America’s Cup yacht, visit an automobile museum or two, and/or tour the “cottages”, as Newport’s mansions are euphemistically called.
  • Also for the first time, there were no optional driving events, such as hillclimbs, gymkhanas, or drag races. In large part due to only three days of touring, we drove slightly less than our usual 1,000 miles. As per the tour book, the mileage total for the week was 837.

Those of you in the Northeast know all too well what disappointing spring weather we’ve had. Things were no better as we departed Neshanic Station on Saturday. We drove in a near-steady rain on Saturday afternoon, the trip made more bearable only by its brevity (Mohonk is just two hours away). Sunday dawned damp and cloudy, but by that afternoon, we saw the sun, and except for some sprinkles on Tuesday evening, we were spared further precipitation.

Our steed, my 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, was in its fourth (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018) NE1000. Its performance was almost flawless. Tuesday morning, intending to drive into town, the car would not crank. The battery was drained, but the car instantly roared to life with a jump start. With the help of Peter and Keith from RPM (thanks guys!), we determined that the alternator was intermittently charging. It’s very likely that the Saturday drive, with lights and wipers on the entire time, helped accelerate the battery’s depletion.

The local NAPA store, in exchange for some credit card info from me, donated a new battery, and our starting problems were solved for now. From my phone, I ordered a replacement alternator from my preferred supplier, Classic Alfa in the UK. The alternator was on my front porch on Thursday afternoon, a day before we arrived home. How’s that for service?

Participation in multiple events has taught me that rally photography is a tricky proposition. Once the driving starts, opportunities for the camera can be few and far between; after all, I’m either driving or navigating. Below is a sampling of pictures, organized roughly chronologically by location. Please note that all these photos are different from the “Photo Gallery” pictures posted last week. Enjoy the shots!


ARRIVAL, SATURDAY & SUNDAY

Although the official festivities begin on Sunday afternoon, many participants (including us) arrive on Saturday to feel less rushed as we perform any final car prep. Here are some of the cars as they arrived in a lot set aside for the rally participants.

Lamborghini Miura

 

The ceremonial mounting of the rally plate

SUNDAY CONCOURS

Every year, the rally events begin with an informal “concours” on the hotel property, done as much for the owners to show off as to present our wares to the hotel guests and public. At Mohonk, we were crowded onto a narrow walkway.


F40 MOTORSPORTS VISIT

On Monday, we made a scheduled stop at F40 Motorsports, the home of Chasing Classic Cars starring Wayne Carini. Mr. Carini was on the premises, and gave a short informal presentation. Better still, he led us into the back shop where many treasures are hidden away. He was warm, gracious, humble, and obviously a very knowledgeable enthusiast.


THE AUDRAIN MUSEUM

On Tuesday’s “open” day in Newport, we had every intention of visiting two of the local car museums. Our battery issue, while fortuitously falling on the non-driving day, shortened our available time. We were only able to get to the Audrain Auto Museum, located in downtown Newport. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. The smallish display area featured American muscle.


MYSTIC SEAPORT

Wednesday found us in Mystic CT, with about 2 hours to kill at the Mystic Seaport Museum before our scheduled lunch. As lunch ended, the parking lot served as an ideal staging area for our departure, and was also a great photo op.


THE RALLY ENDS

By Thursday, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment at just having driven the roads. That evening’s banquet dinner will reveal the final score, including how many teams “zeroed out” (this year, only one). As the cars arrived back at Mohonk, they were prepped to be either driven or shipped out on Friday morning.

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.