AACA Hershey 2018, A Play in 3 Acts: Act I, The Car Corral

“The Greatest Show on Earth”; “Automotive Mecca”; “The High Holy Days of Hershey”. The repetitive use of all these terms describes what is formally known as the AACA Eastern Fall Meet, a car show extravaganza that has been held in the quaint town of Hershey PA (“Chocolate Town USA”) since the early 1950s. This blog previously reported on Hershey in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The Hershey Show has evolved and expanded through the decades into its current three-part form: a weekday flea market/car corral, now exclusively held on paved ground (the infamous Hershey mud is no more); a Saturday judged car show, currently held on a mostly-smooth grassy lawn; and a two-day auction conducted by RM Sotheby’s (“the official auction of AACA Hershey”).

Here we present Act I, The Car Corral.


If the RM Auction represents the higher end of the automotive hobby here in eastern PA, the Car Corral is the everyperson’s version. By AACA’s requirements, cars for sale must be 25 years old or older, and essentially stock. (Minor mods like wheels and custom paint seem to be conveniently overlooked.)

If you still think you need a small fortune to enter the hobby, then you haven’t cruised the Car Corral. Asking prices of under $15,000 are the rule rather than the exception. (A dozen cars below make that cut, and there were many more not documented here.) Better if you’re open to some off-beat choices in the way of makes or body styles.

1956 Chrysler 300B

 

Mustangs & Shelbys line up in the corral

Below are my selections of Car Corral vehicles which piqued my interest. Sellers are a mix of dealers who bring a dozen cars at a time, and individuals who present an air of credibility as they attempt to gauge your desire for their prized set of wheels. Note that asking prices are just that, asking. Serious shoppers are encouraged to banter, barter, and bring cash.


$1,400 TO $5,900:

1989 AUDI 200 QUATTRO WAGON, 5-SPEED

ASKING $1,400

By far, the cheapest car I found in the corral. For the true Audi enthusiast. Manual gearbox obviates concerns over unintended acceleration.

 

1972 VW BEETLE, LIGHT BLUE, CLAIMED 65,000 MILES

ASKING $5,500

Parts availability and technical support make this a great starter collector car, as long as you’re not racing against Hemis.

 

1985 MERCEDES-BENZ 280SE 4-DOOR, CLAIMED 65,000 ORIGINAL MILES

ASKING $5,900

When it stops running, it still looks impressive sitting in your driveway.


$7,500 TO $9,900:

1975 BUICK ESTATE WAGON, 6-PASSENGER, CLAIMED 87,000 MILES

ASKING $7,500

So-called “long roofs” are on the upswing in the hobby. This seemed like a deal for a full-size GM wagon.

 

1988 PORSCHE 924SE, BLACK/BLACK, CLAIMED 76,000 MILES

ASKING $7,900

Long the poster-child for deferred maintenance Porsches, this 924 looked reasonably well-kept on the outside, which is not a small feat for a car with black paint.

 

1986 PORSCHE 944, RED/BLACK, 5-SPEED

ASKING $8,250

For a few dollars more than the 924, you could move up to this 944. I peeked inside and was pleasantly surprised to see an uncracked dash, a known issue with these.

 

1956 DeSOTO FIREDOME 2-DOOR HARDTOP, HEMI ENGINE

ASKING $9,500

Who said that you’ve been priced out of the Hemi collector market? The paint on this was a bit shoddy in places. However, the entrance fee got you a genuine hardtop.

 

OPEL GT, YELLOW/BLACK

ASKING $9,900

The whitewall tires did this no favors. Seems like an affordable way to get a baby ‘vette, unless you can spend a few more dollars for a real one….


$12,000 TO $14,500:

1993 CHEVY CORVETTE COUPE, 40th ANNIV., 6-SPEED, CLAIMED 32,000 MILES

ASKING $12,000

Clean car and lots of performance for the dollar. C4 Corvettes continue to be a bargain.

 

1963 CHRYSLER 300 (NON-LETTER CAR), DARK RED/DARK RED, CLAIMED 71,000 MILES

ASKING $12,750

The mags and oversize tires detracted from what was otherwise an unusual MoPar. The style was polarizing in 1963 when they downsized, but it has mellowed with age.

 

1982 ALFA ROMEO SPIDER, LIGHT BEIGE/TAN, CLAIMED 34,000 MILES

ASKING $13,000

This S2 spider had a surprisingly clean interior; most of them show significantly more wear. If the Italian tin worm has been kept at bay, this represents some affordable top-down fun.

 

1957 VOLVO PV444, BLUE, CLAIMED 97,000 MILES

ASKING $14,500

Not sure if this blue was an original Volvo color, but other than the repaint, the car looked stock. A PV for the Volvo aficionado.


$18,000 TO $25,000:

1965 FIAT 600D, RED, CLAIMED 61,000 MILES

ASKING $18,000

What does the Fiat 600 have over the Fiat 500? Two more cylinders. These Italian cuties continue to be popular, in spite of asking prices twice that of the more usable 124 spiders.

 

1972 VOLVO 1800ES, ORANGE/BLACK

ASKING $18,500

The broken side marker light and painted rockers did not instill confidence. Still, if you must have an ES, the 1972 model offers the advantage of a smaller front bumper compared to the ’73 model.

 

1969 BUICK RIVIERA GS, CLAIMED 20,000 MILES

ASKING $18,900

I’m on a Riviera fixation lately. This is a big car, with a big engine, big doors, and big style. If the mileage and GS status check out, you could turn this into a nice cruiser. Bring a gas card.

 

1980 PORSCHE 928, SILVER/BLACK, 5-SPEED

ASKING $22,000

This is included only because I’ve been following the 928 market for years. There was nothing special here, and the ask was at least 50% higher than recent real-world transactions. Ironically, this car was spotted on Saturday in the Driver’s Participation Class (DPC). Ignore the hearse next door.

 

1957 IMPERIAL 4-DOOR SEDAN, 392 HEMI V8

ASKING $25,000

A rare car when new, even rarer 60 years later. Guaranteed to impress at the next Chryslers at Carlisle event. Clean out your garage; you’re going to need every inch.


$32,000 TO $35,900:

1958 PACKARD STARLIGHT HARDTOP

ASKING $32,000

A “Packard-baker”; Not attractive at all, but certainly unique. An orphan’s orphan.

 

1957 BMW ISETTA, RECENTLY RESTORED

ASKING $35,000

The non-original green metallic was the only glaring fault in what otherwise appeared to be a very nice restoration. Every time I walked past it a crowd had gathered ‘round.

 

1986 FERRARI MONDIAL SPYDER, RED/TAN

ASKING $35,000

The cheapest Ferrari you’ll find for sale, for a reason, as most don’t want a four-seater. Still, online comments from Mondial owners claim that it’s a great driving car.

 

1963 BUICK RIVIERA, DARK RED/DARK TAN

ASKING $35,900

The first year for the Riv, Bill Mitchell’s design hit it out of the park new, and hasn’t lost a beat since. The colors on this one were gorgeous, but the raised white-letter tires gotta go.


$39,000 TO $49,000:

1989 BMW M3, RED/BLACK

ASKING $39,000

These first-generation M3s routinely sell on Bring-a-Trailer for over $40,000, so this price seemed within reason.

 

1967 PORSCHE 912, 4-CYLINDER, SAND/BLACK, 5-SPEED

ASKING $49,375

Porsche 912s used to sell for 4 figures. Then, 911 values skyrocketed, and as the cliché goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, ergo, 912s are now priced above where even 911s were a few years ago.

 

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

Alfa Romeo Reverse Lamp Assembly Refurbishment

My Alfa is a mostly completely original car, meaning that it’s never been “restored”, not in the sense that classic cars are restored with all-new cosmetics and completely overhauled mechanicals. Yet with 65,000 miles on it (and counting), there have been maintenance and wear items needing attention.

 

The car is wearing about 90% of the paint and 100% of the interior with which it left the factory. The engine, gearbox, and rear axle are likewise the same assemblies that Tony, Vito and their fellow factory workers installed. During the past 51 years, the car has gotten new tires, brakes, belts, hoses, bulbs, shocks, clutch, tune-up parts, and fluids. I’m very conscious of my role as “steward” of this car, and hope that when it eventually moves to its next owner, the preservation efforts will continue.

 

As you may know from reading this blog, I’m not shy about putting several thousand miles a year on it, and if the paint gets a little worn or slightly chipped from my enjoyable time behind the wheel, so be it. But I would never consider repainting the car. Likewise, should a major engine component fail, I’ll repair it as necessary, but I’m not going to seek out a larger engine from another Alfa. I’m continually striving to maintain that balance whereby I get to enjoy the car while only fixing what needs fixing.

 

Earlier this year, I discovered that the reverse light didn’t work. The truth is, in the 5 years I’ve owned the car, I don’t think I had ever checked the back-up light. Its inoperative status gave me the impetus to remove the light assembly (there’s only one, below the rear bumper) and get it working again. The overall goal was not to replace it, but refurbish it, reusing as many of the original components as possible.

Bezel, housing, lens, and broken hardware after removal from car

The first challenge presented itself when two of the four fasteners snapped during removal. The clear lens was held in place by two Philips head screws, and half of one stayed in the housing. The housing itself used two studs with nuts, and one stud broke in half. Unlike the recessed screw for the lens, the broken stud projected far enough above the housing that a pair of locking pliers got it out the rest of the way.

Closeup of housing. Note broken screw on left, and hardened white gasket.

The gasket beneath the lens had been some kind of rubber that had turned to stone. It’s likely that it had never been disturbed until now. The chrome housing was somewhat pitted, and looked like it would respond to some metal polishing. The rubber bezel, mounted between the housing and the painted rear valence, would be treated to a trick I successfully deployed during the Isetta restoration: using Meguiar’s #40 Rubber Reconditioner, the bezel would be submerged and soaked for several days, hopefully returning some of the rubber’s pliancy.

I had my doubts about salvaging the lens; the old gasket was that hard.

While that sat in its bath, I tackled the removal of the old gasket. This was more of a fight than I anticipated. Not wanting to damage either the housing or the lens, I started with a plastic scraper, but made little progress. Next, I tried various solvents, attempting to soften the material. WD-40 had a minor effect on it, so I kept at it with that, fearful that anything stronger would also harm the lens. The most effective removal tool turned out to be a single-edge razor blade, but this took time. Eventually, both surfaces were rid of the hardened white material.

The lens did clean up nicely

Instead of purchasing a replacement gasket, I fashioned one from sheet cork which I keep just for such purposes. I tacked it in place using non-hardening gasket glue. Three days in the conditioning bath brought the rubber bezel mostly back to its former glory.

I’ve had great success with Permatex #2 non-hardening sealant; note LED bulb in place

My best shot at finding the metric hardware I needed was the local ACE Hardware store, Post Hardware on Route 22 in Somerville NJ. They had the correct screws for the lens, but not the studs. So instead, I bought bolts with the right thread pitch, and hacksawed off the bolt heads. Viola! Metric studs.

There’s a reason they say that ACE is the place

The broken screw was drilled out, and retapped with my metric tap and die kit. The studs were installed with a dollop of thread-locking compound. The old incandescent bulb was replaced with an LED bulb from CARiD.com. As the repair books state: “reassembly is the reverse of disassembly”.

I may use the tap & die set infrequently, but it’s great to have

As you can see, the back-up lamp burns brightly. There’s just one more thing to report, but before I do, I must ask you to think like an Italian. You see, when I first tested the refurbished assembly, it still didn’t work. And that’s when I remembered: in 1967, as far as the Italians were concerned, a driver didn’t need the back-up light to illuminate every time you put the car in reverse! After all, it would provide little or no help in daylight. But if the headlamps are on, indicating it’s dark out, THEN a reverse lamp would prove helpful. So the back-up light is wired to come on only when the light switch is on. I’ll be taking a night cruise just to confirm how well I can see behind me….

Nice and bright (as long as the headlights are on)

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Replacing the Alfa’s Alternator

I just recently came across these photos, which I had frankly forgotten about, which is why this technical procedure, performed in May, is only getting its own blog post now.

 

If your memory is good, then you’ll recall reading back in May’s report on this year’s New England 1000 that the Alfa’s alternator failed us in the middle of the rally. If your memory is not so good, or if you’re just joining us, you can read about it here.

The truth is, I should have been wise to an impending failure, as even with the Red-Top Optima battery on trickle charge, the car would still occasionally need a boost. Alternator output measured at the battery was barely 13 volts, a weak statistic which I rationalized to a low idle.

As mentioned in the rally write-up, the drive to our starting destination was done in a steady rain, with lights blazing and wipers flailing. It’s likely that was enough to seal the fate of the battery.

Tuesday morning, we bought a NAPA-brand battery, and leaving the Optima in its place in the trunk, we simply swapped the cables onto the new unit, using bungee cords to keep it from sliding around. The alternator wasn’t completely dead, just on life support. With the new battery, we had zero starting issues the rest of the week, and coasted home on Friday.

Once again I must give a shout to my friends at Classic Alfa in the UK. A new alternator, ordered Tuesday afternoon after they had closed for the day, arrived at my house on Thursday evening. I dare say that most U.S.-based suppliers would not have been able to get me one with such speed. So Memorial Day weekend was spent in part performing the alternator-ectomy.

Old alternator and attendant wiring connections

Access to the unit in the engine compartment was quite good, improved by the battery’s relocation to the trunk, performed by the previous owner (PO). The PO had also removed the factory generator (which I still have) and installed this alternator plus an external voltage regulator. My new replacement alternator has an internal regulator, and it’s a so-called one-wire job.

 

Old one again. Note alignment of upper bracket.

I photographed the wiring to help with any reinstallation questions, then removed the two components. I noted that the alternator’s upper mounting bracket was at a slight angle, and vowed to focus on improving that geometry when putting it all back together.

With everything hooked up, I measured a steady 13.8 volts at the battery (yet another new Red-Top that I purchased to be on the safe side). I was able to recover the old Optima by very slowly trickle-charging it, and both that battery and the barely-used NAPA one were sold to a young man in my office who is always working on 3-4 project vehicles at a time. (And for the record, both the old alternator and regulator were put in the trash. I don’t keep worn-out parts around.)

New alternator in place, and better aligned too

The only issue, and it’s the smallest of nits to pick, is that the one-wire alternator needs to be ‘excited’ after initial start before it will charge (much the same can be said about me). The ammeter reads zero until I bring engine revs above 3,500 rpm (waiting a few minutes so that oil circulates), at which point, the amp gauge needle jumps to life. It’s a small price to pay to be secure in the knowledge that the battery’s got the juice to crank that 1300cc monster to life.

 

A good number

 

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

Sunday Morning Breakfast Run, September 16, 2018

The weather prediction for Sunday September 16, 2018 said “sunny, warm, no rain”. Never mind that the reality was a 7 a.m. fog so thick that traffic signals were all but invisible until you were almost on top of them. They promised the fog would burn off, and it did. After a summer filled with excess heat, an overabundance of precipitation, and more cancelled driving events than I can count, our chosen date for a Sunday morning breakfast run was promising to turn out well.

A perfect morning for a breakfast run

The weather awakened something in many of our driving buddies too, as 22 participants in 17 cars made it for the 8:30 push-off from the Crossroads Sheraton in Mahwah NJ. We had not been on a Sunday run since early June, so expectations were high for a nice drive and a tasty breakfast. We were headed to the Empire Diner in Monroe NY, a first-time destination for us. The route we chose was scenic and not too drawn out. Since driving time was just about an hour, there were no planned pit stops. (The group must be learning; everyone had enough fuel in their rides to make it to the diner.) Perhaps most amazingly, traffic was light and the 17 cars managed to caravan for the entire run.

Lined up for a rest room, I mean, for the diner parking lot

Word continues to spread about our adventures: a VW GTi and a Porsche 944 were driven by two gents who were making their maiden voyage with us. Most of the rest of the fleet consisted of old and new domestic iron, a host of German cars, a Jag, and two Miatas. Alas, the Italians stayed home today.

Following Danny’s Porsche 944 cabrio

The Empire Diner had tables waiting for us at 9:45 (thanks, ladies!), and the food and service were exemplary. Any waitress who swings by every 10 minutes with a hot coffee pot in her hand gets my vote. As usual, the men did their best to out-gab the females, and after the meal the chit-chat spilled out into the parking lot. Speaking of our better halves, several drivers brought their significant others. The ladies are always welcome as long as they can tolerate a bunch of guys sitting around talking about cars all morning.

We managed to fit all 17 cars into the Empire Diner’s smallish lot

The first day of autumn is one week from today (and this scribe wishes to say ‘thank goodness!’). More than one driver asked when we plan to run again. With Carlisle and Hershey coming up, the best we can hope for is late October. And with what had better be cooler weather by then, we should have another beautiful drive.

 

Larry’s ’72 Nova

 

Stevie’s heavily worked GMC pickup

 

Woody’s 911

 

Ralphie’s ’67 Buick Skylark

 

Paul’s ’69 Camaro

 

John’s 944

 

Peter’s 911

 

 

John’s 2003 Miata NB (2nd gen)

 

The author’s ’93 Miata NA (1st gen)

 

 

Richard L’s Jaguar F-Type

 

Bill’s ’39 Ford with ’40 font clip, driven by Corey

 

Jeff’s BMW Z3

 

Danny’s Porsche 944 cab

 

Bill’s ’67 Corvette

 

Art’s VW GTi

 

Rich S’s Shelby Mustang

 

While we all did fit in the lot, it meant blocking some cars in…

 

 

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

 

 

Lime Rock Park Historic Festival, Sep. 2018

Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park held its 36th annual Historic Festival during the Labor Day weekend, running from August 30 through September 3, 2018. If you enjoy vintage racing, then Friday, Saturday, and Monday are your days to watch classic race cars battling it out around this historic track. By local ordinance, racing is not allowed on Sundays. The Festival organizers have taken advantage of that restriction by hosting their “Sunday In The Park” event, with hundreds of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) cars arrayed along the entirety of track’s perimeter.

Each year there is a special featured marque, and for 2018, that marque was Bugatti. By my count, there were 70 of these famed French cars on display, a number that might be rivaled only by the former Schlumf Museum’s holdings. The strong turnout speaks to the high esteem with which Ettore’s cars are held. Many of the race cars appeared to be in original condition, while most of the road-going cars have been restored at some point. No matter, as Bugatti owners (like Bentley owners) are known to drive their cars rather than treat them like trailer queens.

While the Bugatti display bordered on overwhelming, there were plenty of other vehicles on the field to draw one’s attention. This show tends to attract primarily European cars, and the British, German, Italian, and Swedish turnout did not disappoint. A relatively new feature at Lime Rock is the so-called “Gathering of the Marques”. Open classes, sometimes labeled by Country of Origin and sometimes specified by make and model, are created, and owners are invited to park their vehicles on the track.

The Gathering of the Marques attracted particularly large volumes of BMWs (especially the 2002 model), Porsches (especially 911s), Mazda Miatas, plus the cars of Sweden, Great Britain, and Italy. (Where else but at Lime Rock would a fan of Italian cars such as myself see an Alfa 1900, Fiat Dino Coupe, and Lancia Stratos all on the same day?) A smaller but significant selection of domestic iron provided a nice contrast to the European cars.

The flea market area which used to exist near the start of the straightaway has all but disappeared, but a few vendors had interesting cars for sale, at what appeared to be reasonable prices. And let’s not forget that the paddocks are open to the public on Sunday, so race vehicles otherwise not on display can be ogled as part of the entertainment.

 

The threatened rain showers never materialized; in fact, the temps remained reasonable, staying in the high 70s/low 80s. Anything would have been better than last year’s deluge. It’s a three-hour one-way drive for me, but the quality and variety of offerings has drawn me back almost every Labor Day weekend for the past 25+ years. The track’s setting, nestled in a valley in the Berkshire Mountains, only adds to the ambience. The Lime Rock Fall Historic Festival is a must-see event on the calendar for auto enthusiasts in the Northeast.

 

Click on the photos to enable full-screen view!

 


BUGATTIS:


 ITALIAN:

Fiat Abarth Double Bubble

 

1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 (for sale for $395,000)

 

Lancia Fulvia Zagato! Here’s looking at you, Lenny!

 

Lancia Appia four-door pillarless sedan

 

1974 Lancia Stratos Stradale

 

1983 Lancia Rally 037 Stradale

 

Alfa Romeo Zagato GT Junior

 

Alfa sedan rear ends

 

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

 

Alfa Romeo Spider

 

Lancia Beta Zagato

 

Fiat Dino Coupe, powered by Ferrari V6 Dino engine

 

Chrome-bumpered Fiat 124 Spider

 

Lancia Fulvia Coupe

 

Pre-war Alfa monoposto race car; note “SF” (Scuderia Ferrari) emblem

GERMAN:

1950 VW; note lack of chrome

 

BMW Isetta bubble-window coupe

 

Row of BMW 2002s poses with hoods up

 

Audi GT Coupe

BRITISH:

 

Jaguar E-Type Series II Coupe

 

Triumph TR3

 

Triumph GT-6

 

E-Type OTS stunning in gunmetal grey & red

JAPANESE:

 

Mazda Miatas

 

First-gen Mazda RX-7

 

Datsun 240Z

DOMESTIC:

Early ’50s Chevrolet woody wagon

 

1963 Chrysler 300 convertible

 

Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible

 

1955 Dodge, with original flathead-6

VOLVOS:

1968 Volvo 122 wagon

 

OK, Volvo experts, what’s not correct here?

 

Volvo 780 Coupe

 

Volvo 1800ES

 

Volvo 850 T5-R wagon

 

Volvo 1800E Coupe

 

Volvo C30

 

Brand-new Volvo XC40!

 


CARS FOR SALE:

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boonton NJ Cruise Night, August 10, 2018

The Boonton (NJ) cruise night has been a Friday night tradition in that town’s WalMart parking lot for at least a decade. Known for its ability to draw upwards of 300 cars, the show on Friday August 10th of this year was well below capacity, possibly in part due to vacation season, but more likely a result of a sudden change in the afternoon’s weather from sunny and hot to cloudy and threatening.

This was my first time back to Boonton in several years, and I enjoyed the smaller number of cars and trucks as well as the lighter crowds. It made for a very relaxing evening. Oh, and it sprinkled for about 5 seconds, causing a small number of drivers to jump in their rides and split. It was their loss, as the evening stayed dry.

Cruise nights in general have a greater variety of vehicles on display. By that I am referring to a large mix of pre- & post-war, stock & custom, and original & restored. It provides a chance to look over cars that I otherwise might not go out of my way to see. If there was one ‘class’ of vehicle lacking, it would be imports. I could count on one hand the number of non-domestic vehicles on display. That made the few there all the more interesting.

The pictures below are displayed in random order, which is how the vehicles are parked, unless family members or friends arrive together. (Although if you didn’t know better, you’d think that the night’s festivities were sponsored by the local Buick club.) Enjoy the photo-documentation of this classic NJ cruise night.

1941 Buick Roadmaster sedan

 

1948 Pontiac Silver Streak

 

1965 Buick Gran Sport

 

1967 Buick Gran Sport

 

1968 Buick Gran Sport

 

1958 Dodge Coronet

 

1967 Ford Mustang

 

Buick Reatta convertible

 

1953 Chevrolet

 

1966 Chevrolet Corvair

 

His-&-her C1 Corvettes, ’62 on left and ’58 on right

 

2nd generation AMC AMX

 

1963 Corvette with steelies, dog dish caps, and redwalls

 

Ford Pinto Runabout

 

Naming a car after a cartoon character was a huge success for Plymouth

 

1962 Chevy Impala big block, claimed barn find

 

Ford F-1 pickup truck

 

Triumph TR-8

 

1963 Corvette split-window

 

1973 Buick Riviera boat tail

 

A pair of Chevy Novas

 

1956 Ford Crown Victoria

 

 

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

 

 

Mecum Auctions, Harrisburg PA, August 2018

After a summer hiatus, the blog is back! Enjoy the report on last week’s Mecum auction held in Harrisburg PA.

 

Mecum Auctions returned to Harrisburg PA for the fifth consecutive year, conducting its collector car and automobilia auction on August 2, 3, and 4, 2018. This event at the Farm Show Complex just keeps getting bigger and better, proving that Mecum knows its business. I’ve been in attendance all five years, and there’s little to complain about (especially in comparison to my disappointment in Barrett-Jackson’s CT event of just a few weeks prior).

 

Thursday’s crowd

This year, my buddy Larry and I made it a one day out-and-back journey, and we decided that Thursday would be the most enjoyable, as the lower-priced wares are usually on offer on Day #1. In the past, we’ve also experienced slightly smaller crowds, as many other attendees wait until Friday and Saturday so they can witness the big-buck stuff go bang on the block.

We were parked and on the premises by 9am. The doors had opened at 8, but the action wasn’t due to start until 10. We wandered among the cars in the staging tent, which would be first to cross, and made our way into the air-conditioned main hall just before the top of the hour. The size of the crowd shocked us both; there wasn’t a seat to be had, and the SRO crowds crushed the front corners. The word was out: Mecum on Thursday is a great show.

Adding to this evidence were the bidders. From the very first lot, bidders weren’t holding back. Bidding was loud and quick, paced by lead auctioneer Jimmy Landis’ style, which could be summarized as “Hey folks, we have 330 cars to sell today, and I’m gonna spend about a minute or so on each car, so pay attention!” He did, literally, spend about one minute or so per lot for the reserve cars.

A big change this year was the greater number of no-reserve lots (which kept the sell-through rate high). For these, the auctioneer had no concern about meeting reserve, so about 2-3 minutes were spent on each car, knowing it would sell.

No-reserve cars, as has been mentioned in previous posts on this blog, can cut two ways. If it’s a less desirable car, or if the right people aren’t in the room, cars can fall through the cracks, and buyers can get a potential deal. But, bidders know that a no-reserve car is guaranteed to sell, and it only takes two determined bidders to drive the price up. From my casual observations, very few of the no-reserve cars were “great deals”; most seemed to sell at or slightly above their value. (Although not photographed by me, and therefore not included in the reported results below, we watched not one but TWO Buick Rivieras, a ’79 and an ’81, sell for Two Thousand Dollars each. Yes, each drove under its own power on and off the block.)

Estate collections were gathered together under banners

One other trend, not unique to Mecum, was on full display here: the sell-off of “estate” collections. “The Samuel & Rhea Kline Collection”; “The Peery Family Collection”; and “The Berry Mountain Estate Collection Offered at No Reserve” were three such offerings. All of us in the hobby know it’s changing, and not necessarily for the better. As older collectors become unable to tend to their stables, or pass on, families face decisions about selling the old man’s cars. A stark reality is that their next-of-kin has no interest in a bunch of old jalopies, so those responsible for liquidation are turning to auction houses. If there is a silver lining, it’s that younger collectors have the chance to snap up some deals. Look through these results and decide for yourselves if that’s the case. (Warning: the condition of some of these cars is not for the faint-hearted.)

Below is a small sample of vehicles of interest which sold on Thursday, along with my personal observations for each. Sale prices are hammer prices, and are therefore exclusive of the 10% buyer’s premium. No Reserve lots are noted as such. And finally, as we do here on Richard’s Car Blog, these cars are arranged in price order, to give you a sense of what your pennies can buy.


$6,000 to $6,500:

Lot T101, 1991 Honda Beat convertible

Sold for $6,000

Japanese “kei class” car, never officially sold in U.S., now over 25 years old, so legal for import. Three-cylinder mid-mounted engine, 5-speed manual. Yellow, black convertible top and interior. From my research, all Beats had zebra-stripe seat upholstery and floor mats, both missing here. High miles (147,000 MILES, per sticker). Overall look is somewhat worn, with rust bubble on rear decklid. Cute, unique, but you might have wanted to hold out for a better example.

 

 

Lot T29, 1973 VW Beetle convertible, No Reserve

Sold for $6,500

White paint, white interior, top color not noted. Sign on car claims new tires and new chrome. Overall look is of a presentable car. This no-reserve car was potentially a great deal, provided the rust has been kept in check. And let’s for once and for all stop saying that you’re priced out of the hobby, as this would be a wonderful first collector car.

 

Lot T257, 1976 Alfa Romeo spider

Sold for $6,500

Red, black top, black interior redone in leather. Aftermarket lace style wheels looked good. Paint faded and swirled. Sliding my hand along passenger side rocker panel revealed ability to insert fingers into rust holes. This is a Series 2 spider, with Kamm tail, big bumpers, and Spica fuel injection. Alfa spiders have been climbing in value in recent years. Given the rust, the best bet here is to drive and enjoy. Any attempt at restoration will put you underwater.

 

Lot T19, 1989 Dodge Shadow Shelby CSX coupe

Sold for $6,500

Laugh if you want, but this is a real Shelby. Misleadingly listed as a “Dodge”, this was one of, if not the last car that ol’ Carroll developed for his buddy Lee at Chrysler. It was the first production car to use a variable-vane turbo, which didn’t need a wastegate, and eliminated turbo lag. FWD, 2.2L 4, 5-speed manual. In 1989, only 500 were built, all of them red with grey interior. No visible rust, one decent repaint, and it has avoided being modded to death. This one was missing its front spoiler and side skirts, but they are available. Interior with optional factory Recaro seats was well preserved. Mecum sold the same ’89 CSX 3 times in 2014, between $4,000 and $5,000. I thought this one, the 19th car across the block, might fly under the radar. Someone got a very unique and fun Shelby for very little money.


$8,000 to $9,000:

Lot T28.1, 1998 Jaguar XK8 convertible

Sold for $8,000

The mileage wasn’t noted, but many of these seen at auctions have close to 100,000 miles on them. This one, in a nice color combo, looked clean overall. Interior wasn’t shot, which is about the best thing that can be said for this 2nd year example. Cheap fun until the first big repair bill comes due.

 

Lot T109, 1993 Chevrolet Corvette coupe

Sold for $8,500

When we first entered the main hall at 10am, we saw lots T12 and T13, two C4 Corvettes, apparently being sold by the same owner. I overheard him telling a prospective bidder: “I need to get my reserves, or these are coming home with me”. His ’88 sold for $7,750, and his ’95 sold for $9,000, so his reserves were reasonable. Lot T109 was arguably the nicest of all the C4s at the event. The aqua paint, which looked blue in photos, was more attractive in person. Whether original or a repaint, there wasn’t a mark on it. The white interior was a nice contrast, and unlike most C4s, the seats weren’t beat. The mileage was reasonable at 78,000. The only thing holding this one back was the automatic, but on a Corvette, that may not be as much of a factor. When this one hammered for $8,500, I declared it one of the best buys of the day. C4 Corvettes continue to be performance bargains; good for buyers, not great for sellers.

 

Lot T235, 1956 Packard 400 2-door hardtop, No Reserve

Sold for $9,000

The ‘56s were the last “true” Packards, as the ‘57s were restyled Studebakers. The 400 coupe rode on a 127” wheelbase, 5 inches longer than the Cllipper and Executive coupes. The 400 also had the larger 374 c.i. V8 making 290 horsepower. This car appeared to be all there, with nothing obvious missing or modified. The paint could charitably be called tired. This one was fun to watch, as all the action took place literally two seats away from me. A man in the row in front of me was holding the high bid of $8,000. When the auctioneer asked for $9,000, the man behind him (and next to me) raised his hand, and seconds later, the car was declared sold. This was a lot of car for $9,000. Having driven one, a ‘50s Packard is on my bucket list.

  


$10,500 to $13,500:

Lot T227, 1984 Porsche 928

Sold for $10,500

With classic Porsche 911 prices climbing so that only one-percenters can afford them, those who want to scratch their Stuttgart itch have turned to other models: 914, 924, 944. A few years ago, the 928 was the laughingstock of the lot. Overweight, overcomplicated, 80% of them saddled with automatics, the word on the street was to run away. The few which crossed auction blocks had crazy high mileages (150,000 was not unusual), or lacked any maintenance records. How things change over the course of a few years. Today, asking prices for 928s are 50-100% higher than they were about 5 years ago. However, there is still quite a pecking order, driven by year, equipment, and condition. This ’84 had the automatic, was in decent colors, and unlike many 928s, had an interior that didn’t need a complete re-do. The mileage wasn’t recorded, but the hammer price got you entry into the Porsche club at a number that’s hard to duplicate with any other model.

 

Lot T138, 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza coupe, No Reserve

Sold for $13,500

Most car guys I talk to see the Corvair as an anomaly. “Yeah, I like Chevys. Give me a mid-sixties Impala coupe, or any Malibu from ’68-’72. Corvairs? They’re for weirdos.” And even those who appreciate its quirky engineering prefer the 2nd generation cars from ’65-’69. But there was no denying the appeal of this 1st gen coupe. The sign on the car stated that it has 20,000 original miles, a believable statement based on its condition. Except for several chips on one rear quarter, the paint was unmarked. So too was the interior, with its buckets and automatic shift lever sticking out of the dash. The sale price was high for a Corvair without a folding top, but its originality and condition made it a good deal for those who like their Chevys weird.


$22,500 to $24,000:

Lot T127, 1957 Ford Thunderbird, No Reserve

Sold for $22,500

Two-seat T-Bird values have gone nowhere in the last, oh, twenty years or so. Sale prices are completely driven by condition, and perhaps there’s a dwindling audience for these faux sports cars. On the other hand, if you want one, attend an auction and be patient. Of the 3 model years from 1955-1957, the ‘57s have their fans (this writer included). This one, in bland colors, looked like an older restoration. On the positive side of the ledger, it had PS, PB, and the engine dress-up kit. But the engine compartment needed a good detail. The no-reserve price was a bit light, so let’s hope the new owner drives it and enjoys it rather than worries about future values.

 

Lot T303, 1964 Buick Wildcat convertible

Sold for $23,000

As one buddy of mine learned, it’s the Fords and Chevys, and not their fancier stablemates, which tend to bring the big bucks. It seems counter-intuitive, but higher-priced marques such as Pontiac, Buick, and Mercury are less desirable simply because fewer of them were sold new. Case in point: this ’64 Buick. Here was a full-size sixties American convertible, in nice shape, in desirable colors, selling for 2/3 what a similar Chevrolet would hammer for. This one sold for the exact same number as shown in CPI for an “excellent” car, so I’ll call it fair to buyer and seller.

 

Lot T107, 1956 Ford Thunderbird

Sold for $24,000

At first glance, this one looked nice: Fiesta red (almost flamingo) with red & white interior, decent engine compartment with dress-up kit, and both tops. But looking past the ’56-only Continental kit (making it my least-favorite of the ’55-’57 Birds), the paint was simply shot. There would be little choice but to expend for a complete strip and respray. This one was expensive, especially compared to the ’57 covered above.

 

 

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