In the 1980s, when I began to attend the AACA Hershey events, Saturday was the day to go. First, as a full-time working guy, I didn’t always have the luxury of taking time off, so it was the only day available to make the trek. Second, the best part of Hershey, “the car show”, was on Saturday.
About 20 years ago, I decided that my Hershey visit deserved to encompass multiple days. So I headed out on Thursday, and spent several days roaming among the flea market stalls and vehicles for sale. Saturday morning, wanting an early start, I found myself at the entrance to the show field by 8 a.m., when a funny thing happened.
I discovered the Hershey parade.
AACA rules require that all show cars be driven onto the field under their own power. So, starting very early on Saturday, all the cars line up and serenely motor their way along a predetermined route. What a delight it was to realize that much better than the static show was to witness these glorious automobiles, from early-20th century brass cars to vehicles “just” 25 years old, making their way, and allowing us the joy to see and hear them.
Since then, the Saturday routine has been the same:
Spend Friday night in a hotel close to Hershey;
Arise by 6 a.m. Saturday morning;
Grab some coffee;
Park by 7:30 a.m., and find a good spot along the parade route;
Stand for the next two hours and take it all in.
This routine was followed again in 2017. The photos which follow were for the most part taken along the parade route. The early morning sun only helped further glamorize what are already impeccably restored automotive gems.
This third report concludes our posts covering the 2017 Hershey events. It bears repeating: if you have not visited this fall classic, held every October in Hersheypark PA, it is worth the trip.
The catalog fee, which grants admission for two, is up to $200 (my first Hershey RM auction in 2008 cost me $80). Once inside, one is constrained to one’s seat. I find it more rewarding to be outside, wandering among the lots, watching them be driven into the building, and taking in the auction block action courtesy of the outdoor loudspeakers. It’s also free.
Recent RM auctions have shown a focus on prewar and immediate postwar domestic iron, and Hershey ’17 continued that trend. Another trend, which we are guaranteed to see escalate, is the sell-off of estate collections. Two such groups of cars were sold on Friday: The Don Gibson collection, six Fords from 1938-1951, and a dozen cars from Thomas F. Derro, the majority of which were Chrysler Corporation vehicles from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Let us pause for a moment and discuss this. It’s not difficult to understand what is happening. Collectors are dying. In these cases, the “estate”, whether it be the widow, the offspring, or the dictates of the will, has decided that the family does not wish to deal with the vehicles. Perhaps the interest is not there, or it’s seen as too much work for relatives. Maybe the thoughtful collector prearranges this to make it easy to turn metal and glass into cash.
Enter the auction company. A representative swoops in and states “dear family: you need to do nothing. We will take the cars, clean them, prep them for auction, photograph them, market them, and sell them. We will take our commission, and at the end of the process, you will receive a healthy check.”
While the Gibson collection of Fords may have had reserves attached, all cars sold. By contrast, the Derro collection was conspicuously advertised as being sold “without reserve”, so they all sold too. (As I was not present for the sale of the Derro cars, please check RM’s website for those results.)
The no-reserve sale is a win-win-win. The auction company is guaranteed to get its commission. The estate is guaranteed 100% liquidation. And the bidders, knowing the cars will be sold, have a shot at obtaining something for a bit of a bargain, or at least a fair deal.
These collections, plus many of the other Friday sales, also bust open an oft-repeated myth: “the market for prewar and high-end immediate postwar cars is dying”. This auction showed it to be rather healthy. Is everyone doubling their money on cars they’ve owned for only a few years? Of course not, and that’s not the point. The point is, quality continues to sell.
During the first several dozen sales on Friday, some really nice cars from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s were bid to high five-figure and low six-figure numbers. Most of them found new homes. Don’t doubt for a moment that there isn’t value in a supercharged Graham, or V12 Lincoln, or even a Metropolitan convertible. Read on and see what happened at RM Hershey 2017.
NOTE: All “sold” prices shown below are exclusiveof 10% sales commission.
LOT #211, 1917 DODGE BROTHERS ROADSTER
SOLD FOR $10,000
These early Dodges were known as finely-engineered cars, and considered quite road-worthy. This one looked complete, and appeared to be a very serviceable older restoration. It started and ran into the building without issue.
LOT #212, 1958 MORRIS MINOR CONVERTIBLE
SOLD FOR $22,000
This cute Minor convertible looked like a recent restoration, done to a correct standard. No obvious modifications from original spec were noted. The car ran well for the short distance it needed to drive.
LOT #219, 1931 DE SOTO ROADSTER
BID TO $39,000 AND NOT SOLD
This DeSoto oozed charm, and looked so much more appealing than the more frequently-seen Ford Model A roadsters of the same vintage. Another advantage for the DeSoto: its straight-six engine. The pre-sale estimate was optimistic at $50-70,000, and the bidding stopped at $39,000. One would like to think that it was close.
LOT #221, 1970 TOYOTA FJ LAND CRUISER
SOLD FOR $38,000
These FJs have become an auction staple, even at a prestigious RM event. This one looked freshly restored. It sold for about the going rate, but my question is, what do you do with it? After paying 38 large plus commission, are you going off-roading?
LOT #222: 1941 GRAHAM SUPERCHARGED SEDAN
SOLD FOR $77,500
If the body style looks familiar, it’s because Graham used the body dies from Cord to build the Graham sedan. This was a simply elegant prewar car, especially in its rich looking dark blue. Proof that collectors will step up and buy these unique and classy automobiles.
LOT #225, 1936 LINCOLN V12 CONVERTIBLE SEDAN
SOLD FOR $110,000
Representing true American luxury at a time when many families could not afford a car, this Lincoln V12 competed with the best from Packard and Cadillac. The 4-door convertible body style was about to die, which only adds to the allure of this fine automobile. I could not hear the engine as the big brute motored past me.
FOUR 1951 FORDS, FROM THE GIBSON COLLECTION
LOT #227, CRESTLINER, SOLD FOR $29,000
LOT #228, RED CONVERTIBLE, SOLD FOR $26,000
LOT #230, VICTORIA COUPE, SOLD FOR $35,000
LOT #231, BLUE CONVERTIBLE, SOLD FOR $44,000
Do you like 1951 Fords? Don Gibson did. By ’51, the Ford car was in its 3rd and final year of a styling cycle that debuted to great fanfare in 1949. Ford was also a pioneer among low-priced cars with special rooflines and trim options, such as the Crestliner and Victoria 2-doors seen here. All these cars appeared to be in strong #2 condition. None were steals, but all sold for a fair price, and have lots of life left in the show or cruise circuit.
LOT #233, 1961 AMC METROPOLITAN CONVERTIBLE
SOLD FOR $67,500
That is not a typo. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I, and a number of spectators around me, were speechless as the result was announced. As the kids would say, WTF? The only explanation I can muster is that this car was indicated to be one of only 116 Canadian-spec Metropolitan convertibles. But if that is supposed to explain this unrepeatable price, it’s lost on me.
LOT #234, 1934 LA SALLE CONVERTIBLE
BID TO $127,500 AND NOT SOLD
Of all the Friday auction cars, this is the one that stole my heart. I can’t say that “LaSalle” was ever on my radar before, but the styling of this elegant two-door, one of Harley Earl’s earliest efforts, was perfect in every way. It didn’t sell, but the auctioneer said after taking the final bid, “we are close”. I’d like to think that you could not overpay for such an outstanding automobile.
LOT #236, 1937 CADILLAC V8 CONVERTIBLE SEDAN
SOLD FOR $87,500
Another 4-door convertible, this “lesser” Caddy was competing with V12 and V16 models in the same showroom. Again, we see evidence that well-restored, yet usable, prewar luxury cars continue to find an appreciative audience.
Part 3 of my 2017 Hershey coverage will highlight the Saturday car show.
Fall Hershey (formally entitled the Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Division National Fall Meet, which is why we call it Fall Hershey) is an automotive smörgåsbord: collector-car flea market, car corral, judged car show, and auction, encompassing such a voluminous spread of acreage that one needs at least three days to take it all in.
We’ve covered Fall Hershey on this blog in the past; this year, as a tie-in with the report on the previous week’s Carlisle visit, the focus shall be on the car corral. Unlike Carlisle, where one can offer for sale a fat-tired 2003 Toyota pickup truck if one desires, AACA’s rules apply. Vehicles placed in the car corral must be a minimum of 25 years old, and must essentially be in “stock” condition. Beyond that, asking prices are determined by the sellers, and negotiations are strictly between seller and buyer. A car corral office and public notary are on hand to facilitate exchanges.
Overall, the quality and variety of cars were on par with previous years. Unlike the recent past, and eerily similar to Carlisle, were the long stretches of empty spots. It was not a ghost town, however, I’d estimate that 25% of available spots remained so.
The corral has changed in other ways. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, most cars for sale were privately owned. Deals were often made among hobbyists who knew each other, or at least had a mutual friend. If buyer and seller were meeting for the first time, the sale would many times be the start of a new friendship.
Today, classic car dealers buy up an entire row in the corral, and place their half-dozen or dozen cars together. (You can always tell: the signage and lettering styles are identical.) Dealers are as likely to be buyers as they are sellers. Asking prices are set by picking numbers out of a hat (I kid, but you do sometimes wonder about the relationship between that number on the windshield and reality).
Dealers spew the same lines: “it’s a good car, runs good, real solid, real nice condition, all restored, very rare with these options”. The lack of specificity is jarring. Not to disparage dealers, but if you do find an individual owner who is selling, you are more likely to learn more about a vehicle’s true recent history.
A private owner will talk specifics: “I bought it 10 years ago, put 5,000 miles on it, drove it in an AACA tour five years ago, re-did the brakes two winters ago, and drove it here from Maryland”. Comments like these were actually overheard this year.
This lengthy preamble is to set the stage for my eclectic selection from the car corral. The thirty cars below are arranged in order of asking price. No attempt was made to ascertain if the seller was a private owner or dealer. While all these cars “looked good”, condition was not analyzed, and mileage was not recorded. You can presume that none was modified to be non-original. In the case of American cars, the level of optional equipment was not noted. The vast majority of signage indicated “or best offer”, so think of these prices as a negotiable starting point.
Organizing them in price ranges allows the reader to make comparative estimates regarding what your collector-car piggy bank can get you. Have fun on your imaginary shopping trip.
Part 2 will be my report on the 2017 RM Sotheby’s Hershey Auction.
Fall Carlisle 2017, a combination automotive flea market, car corral, and auction, was held at the Carlisle Fairgrounds from September 27 through October 1.
As I strolled through the grounds, the same two questions repeated in my head: “Should someone get in while the getting is good?” Or, “Should we get out while there’s still a way out?”
These questions came up because many of us in the hobby are concerned about its future. It always comes back to “what will my old car be worth down the road?” The Carlisle events, principally Spring and Fall Carlisle, have been a wonderful barometer of the hobby for over 40 years. The car corral this year told a markedly different story: corral spaces were perhaps 60% taken (in the past, one usually had to wait for a car to sell for a spot to become available); yet among the cars on the premises, many seemed to have reasonable asking prices.
The flea market, on the other hand, was filled to capacity, with nary an open space to be found. Vendors were out in force, even if the crowd on the picture-perfect Friday when I attended was a bit lighter than I would have expected.
I began my morning in the car corral, then after a gourmet lunch under the grandstand, walked a few of the flea market aisles. By 3pm, I was headed across the street to the Expo Center where the Fall 2017 version of Carlisle Auctions was underway. Here we saw the hobby flexing its muscles. The auction has expanded to three days from its previous two; most of the bidders’ seats were taken; and the bidding, while not exceptional, seemed to hold to about a 60-70% sell-through rate. Perhaps, rather than deal with tire kickers in the corral, sellers are rolling the dice on the auction block.
The photo coverage below is divided into two sections. First, we feature car corral choices with asking prices below 10 grand. If you’ve got some bucks burning a hole in your pocket, or are open-minded enough to be flexible about a first (or additional) collector car, there were plenty to choose from.
Our second section is entitled “Carlisle Auction re-runs”. This is an arbitrary list of vehicles which did not meet reserve. To the credit of the folks who run the show, the high bids are posted on the windshields in plain sight. I sometimes think that going back and trying to negotiate a price AFTER the car has crossed the block might be a better strategy, as it removes the pressure of bidding while the auctioneer is yammering in your ear at 110 decibels.
In both cases, no editorial comment about vehicle condition or value relative to the asking/bid price is supplied. As always, caveat emptor(which is Latin for “collector cars may be worth more or less than what you pay for them”).
CAR CORRAL: UNDER $10,000 EDITION
1988 Mercedes Benz 560 SL roadster, asking $7,000:
1976 Triumph Spitfire, asking $5,500:
1995 Pontiac Trans Am, asking $8,900:
2003 Toyota Tacoma pickup, asking $9,500:
1987 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, asking $5,400:
1976 Olds Cutlass coupe, asking $9,000:
1985 Nissan 300ZX 2+2 coupe, asking $7,950:
1977 MGB, asking $8,500:
1995 Pontiac Firebird convertible, asking $5,800:
1995 Chevrolet Camaro, asking $6,500:
1978 Ford Thunderbird, asking $9,500:
2002 BMW 330Ci convertible, asking $5,995:
1996 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, asking $6,995:
The most attractive and unusual car in the corral (to me) was this 1974 Fiat 128, claimed to have 12,000 original miles (and it looked it):
CARLISLE AUCTION RE-RUNS
1969 MGB-GT, no sale at high bid of $6,750:
1939 La Salle, no sale at high bid of $14,000:
1964 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, no sale at high bid of $5,700:
1988 BMW M3, no sale at high bid of $41,000:
1961 Sunbeam Alpine (Tiger ‘conversion’), no sale at high bid of $4,500:
Who needs a cell phone to double as a key? Just carry a screwdriver…
1991 Ford Mustang convertible, no sale at high bid of $7,250:
1979 Chevrolet Corvette, no sale at high bid of $10,000:
1969 Chevrolet El Camino, no sale at high bid of $12,000:
1966 Ford Mustang coupe, no sale at high bid of $11,000:
1964 Chevrolet El Camino, no sale at high bid of $16,000:
There is no new material to add to the blog this week. On Friday, I intend to make a one-day visit to Fall Carlisle, and next week is automotive Mecca: 3 days at Fall Hershey. Expect to see full reports here.
In the interim, here’s a blast from the past: one of my very first auction reports. It is interesting to look back at what has changed (and what hasn’t) in the hobby from just two and a half years ago.
Also, for those readers who are relatively new to the blog, this is something you may have missed.
Don’t believe the weatherman. Yes, he’s frequently right; but he’s wrong as often as he isn’t. Guess that makes the forecast a 50/50 proposition. If you allow your planned outdoor activities to be dictated by the weather, you’d miss out on half the things you wanted to do.
On Saturday, the forecast for Sunday, September 17, 2017 predicted a sunny, warm, humid day, with a slight chance of thundershowers. Except we all woke up to fog and mist. As I headed to the garage and looked at the Alfa, then the Miata, I considered taking the newer car. I quickly changed my mind; it’s not as though I’ve never driven the Alfa in the rain. My determination was to set an example, and as I pulled onto the highway, wipers flailing, headlights barely cutting through the fog, I told myself that we’d be lucky if 7 or 8 cars showed up for this morning’s breakfast run.
Sometimes you feel better about being wrong. Our stalwart group arrived, 17 cars strong, plus one spouse as a passenger. My planning partner Larry and I were trying something new this morning, in the event we had a crowd like the last few outings. For the first time, we sent out maps, directions, and destination info a few days ahead, in the hope that the group could familiarize itself with the route.
What transpired instead was a plan to split the group in two, with Larry leading the first 8 cars or so, and I, your spirited Alfa driver, leading the rest. This worked perfectly. Traffic lights and stop signs did not break us apart; no one made any wrong turns; we kept to our planned pit stop; and we were at the diner by 10:10am, only 10 minutes later than intended.
Larry planned a stunning route, mostly along Greenwood Lake Turnpike, Warwick Turnpike, and Route 94. We dipped in and out of NY and NJ several times, and traffic wasn’t terrible. Maybe the weather was keeping people home. Several times, the sun blessed us with its warm rays, as it worked to burn off the fog.
The Hampton Diner on Route 206 in Newton NJ hosted us this morning, and it was our first time with them. A table set for 18 awaited us as we entered. The service was a bit slow, but it was a New Jersey diner on a Sunday morning, and no one seemed to mind. We’re not shy about yakking it up while waiting for food.
Speaking of yakking, this crowd loves to gab, as captured in the photos. A few of us managed to linger in the diner parking lot for close to an hour after the meal. For one moment, we considered heading back in for lunch.
With the group size continuing to grow, and everyone getting along so well, the biggest challenge may be keeping things moving along so that we eat breakfast while it’s still morning.
The most frequent comment I heard as we departed the diner was “are we going to do this one more time this year?” The answer was “yes, we’re counting on it”.
The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) hosted a casual car show at the Spring Hills Senior Community facility in Morristown, NJ, on Monday September 11, 2017. For a number of years, the NJ AACA has been welcomed at numerous assisted living operations throughout the state.
The elderly residents are given the chance to peruse the classic cars, and club members are provided the opportunity to show off their four-wheeled beauties. The car owners and residents have lots of time to reminisce, and everyone wins. We saw that effect in full swing on this beautiful late summer day, with sunny skies, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70’s.
Event chairperson Abe Platt was pleasantly surprised with a turnout of 11 cars, a copious number for a Monday. Vehicles ranged in age from a 1923 Ford Model T to a 2001 Chevrolet Corvette. The decade with the largest representation was the 1960s. Your author was thrilled to see how many Spring Hills residents could eloquently recall the cars they owned 40, 50, even 60 years ago.
The first gentleman I met approached me as I stood by my Alfa. He told me that in the 1960s, his daily driver was an Austin Healey 3000. He related that the exhaust note on the Healey was so distinctive that his then-three-year-old daughter knew when daddy’s car was about a half block away, and she would get excited knowing her father was almost home. I asked him what his wife drove, and he said “always Volvo wagons. We had them all, from a 122 wagon, to the 140 wagon, then a succession of 240 wagons.” When I admitted that I had spent much of my career with the brand, he said “at Smythe?” In what was the coincidence of the week (nay, the month), it turned out that he knew the owners of the dealership where I was employed in the 1980s. He still regularly communicates with one of the senior partners.
Another man eyeballed my Alfa and told me that he had purchased a new BMW 2002 tii in the seventies. The BMW replaced a Jaguar E-Type 2+2, which had replaced a Jag 3.8 sedan. With a wink, he said he loved his sports cars, but needed the back seats to carry the family. The last car he owned was a 1999 BMW 7-series, which he would pilot back and forth to Florida at “extra legal” speeds.
The facility generously provided lunch to the car owners, and bottles of wine were presented as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place “People’s Choice” awards. The event started at 12:30pm, and was over by 3:15pm. This was the first time I had been able to join the NJ Region in a Senior Living facility visit. I was touched by the opportunity to share stories with the facility residents. Frankly, it was the best way I could have spent my Monday afternoon.