G. Potter King (GPK) again hosted its winter edition car show in the Atlantic City Convention Center during the last weekend of February. The event features an auction, a car corral, and a swap meet, all of which comfortably fit inside the cavernous hall. One of the main attractions of this show is that it is mostly impervious to the weather, and so gives us hobbyists a chance to relieve our cabin fever.
This year, similar to what we observed in 2015, the number of consignments seemed to continue to be on the decrease. The car corral in particular had enough empty space for an additional 20 or 25 cars. The auction side of the building was a bit more occupied, yet still could have held a few more cars.
For the third time in the last 5 years, GPK rearranged the auction stage and seating. This time, the flow of cars on and off the block seemed better integrated, and seating for non-bidders (like me) was more readily available. One downside to the new set-up was the lack of airflow. Non-catalyzed vehicles emitting exhaust fumes in an enclosed space eventually gets to you. There needs to be a way to move more fresh air through the grandstands.
Having attended auctions hosted by Mecum, RM, Bonhams, Auctions America, and Carlisle, it’s frustrating to see that GPK still could improve their auction block screen shots. This year, they took a step in the right direction by superimposing the lot number, vehicle year and make, and current bid onto the TV image. But the wording was not always easy to read, and often, the bidding on screen far lagged the real-time bidding. Mr. King, a suggestion: watch Mecum to see how it’s done.
The show was helped by a decent weekend of dry and sunny weather in southern New Jersey. There were 100 or more early birds who were waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m. Foot traffic was plenty strong, and the bidders area directly in front of the auction stand was almost filled to capacity. Nevertheless, the sell-through rate, or, the percentage of cars actually meeting reserve and moving to new owners, appeared to hover around 50-60%. This is due to some combination of unrealistic reserves, poor quality offerings, or not the right bidders in the room.
It says a lot about an auction company which can attract quality consignments, get sellers to agree to reasonable reserves, and then draw hungry bidders into the process. It may look easy from the outside, but it’s not. The Arizona auctions in January indicated some slight softening of the market, which didn’t help here. But we did see some cars change hands. Below are details on a random sampling of cars which caught our interest from both the auction and the car corral. (“CPI” values are from the author’s copy of the Jan.-Feb. 2016 edition of the classic car price guide Cars of Particular Interest.)
Lot #1542, 1995 Jaguar XJS convertible, champagne, brown cloth top, glass rear window, tan interior, 86,900 miles. Car looks very nice from the outside. Some driver’s seat bolster wear, otherwise clean interior. 6 cylinder, automatic, nice alloy wheels, paint looks great except for repainted passenger door (but it’s hardly noticeable). Sign on the dash said “not sold on Friday, but for sale at asking price of $9,500”. Online, the car was reported sold for $8,000. CPI values the car between $10,250 (#3) and $17,425 (#2). We would rate is at 3+ and call it very well bought.
Lot #1712, 1986 Corvette coupe, silver/dark grey, red interior, automatic. Mileage is 109,073. Looks just OK on outside, red interior is very worn. Car offered at no reserve, hammer price was $3,400. We rate it a #4 car, and CPI rates a #4 car at $4,475. If it runs, passes state emissions, and doesn’t leak copious amounts of fluid, someone who just wants to have fun may have gotten a very good deal. As one buddy put it, “drive it for 10 years, then throw it away”.
Lot #1782, 1974 Jaguar E-type convertible, Series III with V12 engine, manual transmission, A/C, dark red with biscuit top and interior. Last year for the E-type. Owner claims 16,000 original miles, and also claims it was thoroughly restored. We didn’t see this one up close, but it did appear to be near a #2 condition car. CPI values a #2 car at $87,750, and this hammered sold at $85,000, so someone was willing to pay full boat for it.
Lot #1716, 1990 Suzuki “Every” mini-mini van. Right hand drive, 3-cylinder, 5-speed, factory air, 2,800 original miles. Sliding doors, 2 rows of seats, roomy looking interior. Tall, narrow box on 4 wheels. Everyone was all over this little thing, but it was declared no-sale at a reported high bid of $8,250. We hope it sells just so you can claim to be the only person in your state with one.
Lot #1783, 1965 Austin-Healey Mark III, inline 6, light blue over white paint, with dark blue leather interior. Chrome wire wheels, blackwall tires. Odometer reads 77,000. Car looks very clean overall, no blemishes outside or inside, but appears that restoration may have been done a few years ago. CPI rates a #3 car at $52,500 and a #2 car at $100,000, so that’s a huge spread, mostly defined by condition as there were few options. This one sold for $58,000 which was fair to buyer and seller.
Lot #1784, 1939 Packard, 4 door convertible sedan, black, off-white convertible top, dark red interior. Odometer reads 50,166. Whitewall tires, Packard hub caps, everything looks stock. The car gives off the vibe of a vehicle that was restored 20-30 years ago. It’s all there, and may run out well, but everything has the look and feel of a 20-year-old used car. Rare and unusual body style not seen much, where the B-pillar is removable for a full-open look when the top is down. Car hammered sold for $38,000, which may seem rich, but A) it’s a Packard, and B) try to find another convertible sedan in that price range. Join AACA and go on a tour.
Lot #1755, 1956 BMW Isetta, bubble-window coupe, red/white, white sunroof, white vinyl interior. Restored to an acceptable cosmetic standard. Like most Isettas, interior not done to original style. Car has original ISO-designed side windows, as well as coveted “Z-molding” on the side. Every auction seems to have at least one Isetta. This one had shiny paint but little else to rave about. In the opinion of this former Isetta owner, if you plan to drive the thing, get the sliding-window model, as airflow through these tiny pivoting triangular windows is next to non-existent. CPI rates a #3 Isetta (which this one barely was) as worth $30,000. The car was sold for $33,500, so someone paid a slight premium for 13-horsepower worth of cute.
CAR CORRAL ENTRIES
1986 Corvette coupe, red, tan interior, automatic, claimed to have 23,000 original miles. Asking $13,900. Car was fairly clean yet obviously used. Rear panel has been resprayed, and that red does not match rest of car. Lots of swirl marks in paint. Car is in CPI between $8,000 (#3) and $14,700 (#2), and this car just didn’t look like a 23,000 mile car. $10,000 would be all the money, however, there are lots of C4 Corvettes for sale all the time, many of them under $10k .
1958 Edsel Pacer convertible, unusual off-white/pale yellow exterior, black interior. Sign claims 35,000 miles, yet car looks restored, not preserved. Very straight overall, interior very nice, engine compartment especially well-done. The entire car does pop, but so does the asking price of $100,000. That is not a typo. CPI values a #2 car (which this is) at $66,000. Even if you pay a premium for the low miles, what do you do with it? Every mile you drive it will depreciate it.
1963 Mercedes Benz 190 SL, dark silver, black convertible top, red interior, narrow whitewall tires, MB hub caps in red, cosmetically very pretty car. No asking price displayed. (Why would you put a car in the car corral and not show a price?) All 190s have 4-cylinder engines and manual gearboxes. Having never driven one, I’ve read that the driving experience is nothing special. Up until about 2 years ago, these languished in the $30k-40k range. Suddenly, as 300SL Gullwings and Roadsters regularly broke through a million, the baby brother 190 came along for the ride. Prices broke $100,000 and seemed headed to $200,000. Now that there’s been a slight cooling, more level-headed thinking has pushed these values back into the high-fives. Whatever he’s asking, I wish him luck.
1980 MGB convertible, odometer reads 45,822 miles, odometer may have turned over once. White with black interior, stick shift with overdrive switch in shift knob, MG-style mag wheels, trunk-mounted luggage rack. Engine compartment a bit of a mess. Last year for the MGB in this market. This car might be unrestored, as it’s all there but nothing is tidy. We would rate this car as a #3- or even a #4. CPI puts a #4 car at $4,150 and a #3 car at $8,000. The ask here is $8,995. Offer $6,000 if a rubber-bumper MGB is on your bucket list and you’re feeling generous.
All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.