Mecum Harrisburg PA Auction Report, Jul-Aug 2015

Mecum Auctions returned for its sophomore performance at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA on July 30-August 2, 2015. This is the only Mecum event held in the Northeast. (Their next closest auction is in Indianapolis.) Given the TV exposure they garner, combined with the number of shows held in all 4 corners of the contiguous 48, the name “Mecum” has risen above collector car stalwarts like Barrett-Jackson to become synonymous with “collector car auction company”. The crowds in attendance in Harrisburg bore that out. (Your author was on site for Wednesday’s preview, plus Thursday’s and Friday’s auction action.)

After last July’s inaugural run proved they had a market here, everyone came back for more. And could they have chosen a better locale than Harrisburg, centered between Carlisle and Hershey? Those of us in the hobby have been attending events in Carlisle since the mid-1970s. Hershey has hosted an AACA Eastern Fall Meet since the early 1950s, and that show has grown to become the single largest hobby car extravaganza in the country. The Farm Show Complex building, while not ideal because of limited on-site parking and air conditioning limited to the main hall, does allow lots of spread-out room.

Attending on Wednesday gave me the chance to see first-hand the huge logistical effort that is involved. Vehicles must be checked in, and more importantly, staged in lot number by day. We’re talking over 1,000 cars and trucks. There are also the motorcycles and the memorabilia, such as neon signs. Since this is a televised event, the stage and all its electronic accoutrements must be assembled. As we departed around 7pm on Wednesday, the Mecum staff was far from finished. Arriving at 8am the next morning caused me to conclude that they worked through the night, because everything was ready for show time.

My friend Larry (who was there to sell his 1963 Mercury Marauder) was with me. He has watched enough Mecum TV to know the auctioneers, TV commentators, and ringside “ushers” by name. Frankly, I was impressed. Of course, all the lights, music, and personalities in the world don’t mean a thing if bidders aren’t bidding. But people were there to buy cars. Like clockwork, the cars crossed the block in correct order; the auctioneers cattle-called in their unintelligible babble (thank goodness for the super-large display screen always showing the current bid); the “ushers” cajoled the last dollars out of anyone who dared to scratch their nose, ear, or elbow, signaling intent; and cars were either declared ‘SOLD SOLD SOLD’, or, as Mecum likes to say ‘the bid goes on’ for cars not meeting reserve.

This man just bought a car!
This man just bought a car!

Thursday’s offerings were a bit different than Friday’s. Because Larry was only offered a Thursday slot, we learned that Mecum holds Thursday’s lots to vehicles below a certain estimated value, likely around $25,000, based on observed results. While a good number of Friday’s cars sold below that too, the average price was higher, with more than a few sales approaching $50,000. Saturday is reserved for the crème de la crème. We missed it. I’m sure you can find it on reruns.

Not all cars left the tent under their own power
Not all cars left the tent under their own power

The sell-through rate was certainly better on Thursday. Counting only the 81 vehicles we personally watched cross the block, 53 cars sold, for a 65% success rate. Friday’s on-site observations totaled 51 lots, with 25 of those (49%) finding new owners. One would hope for everyone’s sake that the results got better as the weekend went on.

Presented below in lot number order is a small sample of the Harrisburg offerings, weighed heavily in favor of “cars I like”, mostly European stuff (which make up a very small percentage of the offerings). The “CPI Range” is the good-to-excellent values from the July-August 2015 edition. Note that the prices listed below (as well as those at http://www.mecum.com) do NOT include buyer’s commission.

Your comments, critiques, and questions are welcomed! CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE THEM.

1. Lot #T55, 1999 Porsche Boxster, non-S (S did not come out until 2000), silver, black top and interior. 5-speed stick. 36k original miles. Original paint shows scrapes in front bumper, blemishes on hood, gouge in driver’s door. Wheels and tires look small (compared to all the 22”s at the show), but are factory correct. Black interior shows normal wear for age and miles. Rear spoiler stuck in erect position. Overall, a used car that looks OK but for lack of a detailing. CPI RANGE $10,000-15,000, SOLD FOR $11,000. Good used Boxsters are an inexpensive entry ticket to the Porsche ownership experience. This one needed someone to love it. Make sure the IMS (intermediate shaft) bearing has been done.

2. Lot #T68, 1967 Sunbeam Alpine convertible. Red with aftermarket Minilite-style wheels. Black interior. Odometer reads 43,000. Red paint is just average with lots of orange peel, uneven spray, ripples in front fenders. Talbot-style outside mirror. Outside chrome is good. Interior is fine except for missing dash pad. Top is down, so cannot inspect. Exhaust tip extends too far past rear bumper. While the wheels help with overall appearance, the car is a true 20-footer. CPI RANGE $9,000-20,000, SOLD FOR $7500. What, no V8? Most folks would look at this and mistake it for a Tiger. This is one way to get the look but not the performance at a steep discount. A fun and affordable way for someone to enter the hobby, while driving something a little different than what everyone else has.

3. Lot #T113, 2001 Mercedes Benz CL600 coupe. 12 cylinders, automatic. Silver paint with grey interior. 20” factory wheels. Very clean for a car with 102,000 miles showing. Nice overall condition for what is nothing more than a 14-year-old used car. CPI RANGE $13,000-17,000, SOLD FOR $11,000. Window sticker claims an original MSRP of $117,000. If you need 12 cylinders, might be worth waiting for the depreciation. Bring a gas card.

4. Lot #T126, 2000 Jaguar XK8 convertible. Silver paint with taupe interior. Odometer reads 126,000. Aftermarket oversize wheels and tires detract from overall presentation. Car is otherwise stock. Interior is decent for this mileage, but e-brake boot is torn, driver’s seat bolster is worn, as is steering wheel. Scratch on outside mirror cover. Probably original paint, car looks good considering the miles. Biggest improvement would be return to factory wheels. CPI RANGE $10,000-14,500, SOLD FOR $6,500. We’ve seen innumerable XK8 convertibles at recent auctions, and they all seem to sell in the $6,500-8,000 range. With supply outpacing demand, hold out and be picky if you want one. This might not be that one.

5. Lot #T153, 1979 MGB convertible with V8 conversion. Black paint, stripes, black top, tan interior with black piping. Odometer is 78,000. FMVSS label in driver’s door jamb gives it away as U.S. spec car, so was born with a 4-cylinder. Rover V8 engine swapped in. Black paint is OK, top is decent, interior is nice if obviously reupholstered. MG-branded alloys look good. Both front and rear bumpers fit poorly with large gaps. Engine install looks clean, but underhood wiring is sloppy. And why use blue electrical tape? Ran out of black? Would be fun to drive, as that V8 doesn’t weigh any more than the factory 4-pot. CPI RANGE $7,000-16,000, SOLD FOR $16,000. We watched this bid to $15,000 where it was declared “not sold”, and the house was told it would take $20,000. But the website shows it sold for $16,000. Your choice: a very clean and correct MGB, or this rough-around-the-edges one, for the same money. Sometimes you gotta date the wild ones, even if the maintenance is high.

6. Lot #T181, 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi 2-door hardtop, black paint and interior. Six cylinder with stick shift. BMW alloy wheels. Odometer is 85,000. Let’s start with the good: the interior is decent. The original design is stunning, and except for an aftermarket wheel, it appears to have held up. On the outside, the black paint is shot, especially on all the horizontal surfaces. Rust bubbles threaten to bust out of the paint and choke you. The car by design has no B pillar, but door and quarter windows on both sides fit so poorly that door windows overlap quarter windows by ½”. A true fright pig that needs a full restoration. CPI RANGE $31,000-59,000, SOLD FOR $24,000. The CPI values are for a car in good to excellent condition, which this car was not. I was floored by the final bid. If someone dares to undertake it, the restoration will cost more than today’s top value. It will be a long time before the restorer recoups his/her money. Or just drive it until the rusty front fenders fall off.

7. Lot #T274, 1978 Datsun 280Z, silver paint with black interior. Odometer reads 78,000. Inline 6 with 5-speed. Aftermarket alloy wheels nicely set off the car. Repaint looks good and glossy but paint is thick in places. Sign on the car claims original interior, and that is believable. Aftermarket racing pedals so out of place on otherwise decent interior. Dash pad cracked in several places. Rear hatch won’t open past half way. The 1978 was the last of the original Z cars, as the 1979 model was the ZX. CPI RANGE $8,000-18,000, SOLD FOR $15,000. While the hammer price is in the upper end of the book value range, the earlier 240Z’s are well above this, having accelerated beyond what many hobbyists can afford. This 280Z gives you the same look, with Japanese reliability and maintenance ease, in a package that can be enjoyed for years. You likely will not lose money down the road.

8. Lot #T301, 1999 Porsche Boxster, 5-speed, black paint, top, and interior. Shows 34,000 original miles. Wheels are 19” factory. Same year as lot #T55, the silver Boxster, but this one looks so much sharper, as paint is better, and Porsche wheels set off entire stance of car. Minor wear on driver’s seat, some hard plastics worn in interior. Otherwise hard to fault. Hot (in both senses of the word) in triple black. CPI RANGE $10,000-15,000, SOLD FOR $11,000. Sold for the exact same price as T55, but of the two, this was the one to have, provided you’re OK with driving a black convertible in the summer sun. Like the silver one, this is an inexpensive and reliable opportunity to enjoy a Porsche. 

9. Lot #F77, 1969 Fiat 500L, blue with tan interior. Air-cooled, rear-engined 2-cylinder motor, stick shift. Done up as some kind of Abarth replica, with 13” Abarth wheels, decals, requisite open engine lid. Fabric sunroof. Lots of “cute”, likely the cutest thing at the auction. Looks good, but not without some faults: steering wheel center button hanging by its wire, passenger seat upholstery torn, aftermarket gauges in dash look tacky, window moldings rough. What is replica and how authentic are these changes? THIS MODEL NOT IN CPI; EARLIER GENERATION CAR IS $12,500-29,000. SOLD FOR $17,500. Fiat 500s are hot in the marketplace right now. Jerry Seinfeld collects these (he also rolled one). If the Abarth mods added any useful horsepower, would be a blast to drive. Yes, I adored it, even with the (fixable) flaws.

10. Lot #F82, 1932 Essex Super 6. 3-speed. 2 door coupe with rumble seat. Dark blue-green with dark tan leather interior. White wall tires, painted wire wheels. Striking looking pre-war car. Sign claims former AACA award winner, but does not state which decade award was given. Looks like a slightly older restoration which has held up very well. Suicide doors, tight entry into tight passenger compartment, the governor of NJ need not apply for entrance. Paint, pinstriping, chrome look great. Hood not open, so no opportunity to view engine compartment. Lots of neat styling details like V-radiator and headlights. NOT IN CPI. SOLD FOR $24,500. This car drew me in because of its style and overall condition. Looked good enough to show, but not so perfect that you’d be afraid to drive it, which is what I’d do if it were mine. Price seemed fair just for the uniqueness (when did you last see an Essex at a car show?).

11. Lot #F110, 1984 Jaguar XJ6 1984 sedan, black with grey leather interior. Jag’s inline 6, automatic, sunroof, 56,000 miles. Black wall tires on chrome wire wheels. Not a single flaw in the entire black surface, not a single swirl mark. Interior presents well with minimal wear on driver’s seat. Side moldings detract from classic XJ lines, but may have saved it from door dings. It’s striking to see any 1984 Jaguar that sparkles like this. Cannot open hood. Trunk full of documentation going back to original sales order. Car from dealer in Kansas, alleged to be two owner car. CPI RANGE $4,300-8,500, SOLD FOR $10,000. I expected this car to sell in the $6,000-8,000 range like most ‘80s era XJs, but it exceeded book value, and was worth the premium. One of my favorite cars of the hundreds I looked at over three days.

12. Lot #F261, 1962 Triumph TR-4 (first year for this model, still on solid rear axle; TR-4a indicates IRS). Red paint, black top, black interior with white piping. Odometer reads 60,000. Chrome wires. Red paint is spotless, entire car looks great from a few feet away, but car is let down by some details, such as pitted door handles. Underhood looks good except for blue tape on harness (restorer borrowed roll of tape from owner of the MGB V8). Interior looks good, metal dash is painted white, as per factory arrangement. CPI RANGE $18,500-36,000, NO SALE AT HIGH BID OF $34,000. Like so many cars we saw at the auction, the restoration work takes it to 90% or 95%, and the final details get missed. Or the restorer burns out, or runs out of money, who knows. This TR was very nice, and should have sold at the top bid. Now owner gets to take it home and do what with it? Take it to Monterey?

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

9 thoughts on “Mecum Harrisburg PA Auction Report, Jul-Aug 2015

  1. Another very well-written summary. More cogent, thoughtful, and a more enjoyable read than most of the “professional” verbiage out there today. You need to do this for a living.

    The Sunbeam Alpine described below was not necessarily a great deal at the hammer price. Along with the missing dash pad, I note the following discrepancies: -Exterior “Alpine” and “1725” emblems on front fenders are MIA -Chrysler “Pentastar” emblem (lower passenger-side front fender MIA (evidence of previous bodywork) -Rocker panels should have visible seams continuing front and rear vertical door cuts (more evidence of previous bodywork) -Lower grille finisher (bright trim) MIA -Aftermarket temperature gauge -The padding below the dash has been redone with non-original material and padding. -Looking at the additional photos on Mecum’s website, the original color seems evident in the engine compartment. Looks like #86 Forest Green. -Condition of convertible top and its associated hardware is unknown.

    Makes me wonder what else is not to spec. No excuse, given the good parts availability for these cars (and their Tiger siblings) today.

    Nit-picking, perhaps, but there are still unmolested examples out there which are available for less. This is at best a $5K car IMHO.

    Like

    • Thank you, brother, for the kind words. I also greatly appreciate your learned insight on the Alpine, given that you’ve had numerous Sunbeams through the years. As we’ve been taught, it’s always best to have more than one set of eyes on a car before spending your hard-earned money!

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  2. Rich I agree with Steve, either Hemmings, Old Car Weekly, or one of the other groups should hire you ASAP. Your passion for the truth and great descriptions about these cars is really appreciated.
    When you make it big just promise us you won’t stop doing this blog.
    Thank you

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  3. I second Steve and Bill’s comments on your excellent reports. Just out of curiosity, I checked the recent sales from the Manheim auction network on some of the “used cars” you mentioned. The Jaguar XK8 price is pretty similar to what ones with significantly lower mileage are selling for at the wholesale auctions. The price of the Boxsters are quite a bit more than one would expect to pay at a dealer auction. A ’99 with 33k miles listed as “Above Average” condition recently sold in Milwaukee for $8500. Similarly, a 2001 CL600, also “Above Average” with 80k went for $8100 in San Francisco. In addition, the buyer’s fee at the dealer auctions are a fraction of what Mecum charges. This may account for the relatively feeble sell rate that you observed since a hobbyist who has auto industry ties might be reluctant to pay the “celebrity premium” at Mecum and similar auctions. Conclusion: if you have a special interest car to sell, take it to one of these venues but if you are a buyer, especially for not-so-old cars, it might make sense to contact someone in the business to find a car for you. Even with a decent profit for the dealer, one would probably come out ahead, although that won’t get you on TV.

    Other comments: That poor BMW appears to be slowly folding in the middle. I observed this condition on some when they were only 5-6 years old. Beautiful rustbuckets!
    Now for the “gotcha”. My memory for useless automotive trivia indicated that your “..TR-4a indicates IRS..” was not correct. A quick check on Wikipedia confirms that about 25% were made with the solid rear axle.

    Keep up the good work!

    Like

    • Robert, excellent comments! Your experience with dealer auctions sheds a realistic light on these “collector car” auctions. It’s far too easy for an enthusiast to get caught up in the show that is Mecum (or RM, or Bonhams, etc.). We do presume, however, that many in the Mecum audience are dealers, so they should have a handle on current prices. As you pointed out, this could, at least for the cars which are still plentiful in the wholesale arena, cause bidders to sit on their hands. Of course, if they’re Gold Members, with access to free alcohol, anything can happen.

      RE: the TR-4a, I stand corrected. To me, that model change always signified IRS. This is what is in The Standard Catalog Of Imported Cars, published by Krause: “TR4A- Modest modifications were made to the engine, which boosted top speed a bit. The main change, however … was adoption of independent rear suspension…. Some examples were sold with the old (rigid axle) rear end.”

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m enjoying the give-and-take, as it helps all of us have a better understanding of our hobby.

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