2020 Atlantic City Car Show & Auction

G. Potter King (GPK) held its 2020 Atlantic City collector car event over the weekend of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, February 7, 8, and 9. According to their website, this mid-winter automotive extravaganza has been a February feature for forty years. I can recall attending this show in the 1980s and 1990s when it was held in the original Atlantic City Convention Center. A new building at a new location went up sometime in the early 21st century, and along with that came improved parking, lighting, and other amenities. Because February weather is unpredictable, I didn’t commit to attending until several days prior; luckily, two good friends came along and agreed to share the long drive down. We made a day trip of it on Saturday.

Perhaps because there is a recognition that the hobby is changing (i.e., the old guard is dying off), GPK expanded the scope of this year’s show beyond the traditional auction, car corral, and flea market. Inside the Convention Center were two static displays: a non-judged array of late-model exotica, both stock and modified; and a judged show including five different classes of cars. The latter show in particular took up significant floor space, a possible sign that there weren’t quite enough auction and corral vehicles to fill the available real estate.

Crowds were decent but not overwhelming

But wait, there’s more! As part of our $25 admission fee, we were granted tickets to the Showboat casino where there were even more show cars! I declined the jaunt over there, because my primary interest resided with the auction. The little time I did spend looking over the display n cars in the Convention Center only proved once again that most modern exotics look too much alike. I guess I’m not the target audience.

Conspicuous by absence was Kerbeck Chevrolet, the Atlantic City new car dealer who claims to be the world’s largest retailer of Corvettes. There has never been a year that I haven’t seen Kerbeck bring in dozens upon dozens of new and slightly used ‘vettes. I can no longer say that because it didn’t happen in 2020! A sign of the times, but I’m not sure yet of its significance.

Flea market had some of everything

On to the auction: the announced 11am start time was 11:30 in reality, and, it began with “automobilia”, that made-up hobby word which encompasses everything from oil cans and gas pumps to neon signs and artwork. Today’s feature was just that, “framed art work”, and we decided that it was a good time for an early lunch, but not before hearing the following (and this is close to verbatim):

“Up next is this ‘Raging Bull’ picture, and, it’s signed by Robert DeNiro! Now, the owner HAD the certificate of authenticity for the signature. But, he lost it. But trust us, it’s authentic! I was there when he bought the picture!”

Would the auctioneer lie to you? I didn’t think so. The picture sold, and I didn’t record the amount. It was around $100. However, the DeNiro autograph claim only reinforced that infamous phrase “caveat emptor”, Latin for “buyer beware”. Many of the “all original” or “low mileage” claims made during the day begged for verification.

From my casual observation, the sell-through rate was poor, below 50%. While there is general agreement that it’s a soft market at present, that does not mean that quality cars aren’t fetching fair prices. Unrecorded but observed by me were several late ‘60s/early ‘70s American muscle cars that hammered sold in the $50,000 range, plus or minus a few bucks. They seemed to represent good value, and such sales require a combination of sellers willing to let the car go for the “right number” and buyers willing to spend same. It’s the job of the auction company to bring like-minded buyers and sellers together at the same venue. It’s easier said than done, and it seemed to be somewhat lacking during my observations this past Saturday.

On the one hand, the longevity of the GPK auction scene is to be commended: the time of year is not favorable in the Northeast, the location is not a short haul for many in the metro NY/NJ area, and unless you’re a gambler, the local environment offers little incentive to hang out. On the other hand, there still is a “mom & pop” feel to the auction experience here, borne out by lack of attention to detail. Screens displaying current bid prices did not keep pace with real-time bidding, and “still for sale” cards on dashboards didn’t include high bids.

Competition in the Northeast has ratcheted up: Barrett-Jackson in CT and Mecum in Harrisburg PA are new as of a few years ago, and Carlisle Auctions in PA has made significant improvements to their spring and fall events. Lastly, unless the Convention Center has a jam-packed calendar, we continue to fail to understand why this event isn’t moved to late February, which incrementally improves the chances of better weather (or has global warming removed that concern?).


The cars covered below are the ones that struck my fancy. Since only a few of my picks met reserve, I am also including some cars that didn’t sell, along with my pithy comments about why or why not. As is always the case in my auction reports, vehicles are arranged in SALE PRICE (and bid price) order.

SOLD LOTS

Lot #1725, 1972 Triumph TR6, red, black top and interior

Crossed the block and declared “no sale” at $8,000; GPK website shows car SOLD for $9,000

A quick look showed no obvious defects; this is potentially a good buy for this 6-cylnder sports car.

 

Lot # 1720, 1993 Jaguar XJS convertible, green with tan interior (top was down & not inspected)

SOLD for $9,250

Paint looked substandard, headlight lenses opaque. Better cars have sold for slightly less.

 

Lot #1724, 1987 Olds 442, dark blue, blue cloth interior

SOLD for $10,750

A late ‘80s RWD intermediate from GM. Condition seemed to agree with low mileage claim. A bit above book, but fine if you want an affordable 442.

 

Lot #1770, 1967 Plymouth Sport Fury coupe, green, rare manual transmission

SOLD for $16,000

I always thought that Chrysler did a stunning styling job with these full-size ’67 Plymouths. This car was in nice shape, and not something that comes up for sale often. Well-bought for a MoPar fan.

 

Lot #1725, 1960 MGA, black, red interior

SOLD for $23,500

A very attractive car, could be a local show winner or fair weather driver. Sold slightly under market; a few thousand more would not have been unreasonable.

 

Lot #1743, 1968 Chrysler 300, green on green

SOLD for $28,500

Similar body shell as Lot #1770, the ’67 Fury. The 300 was even cleaner. Only issue were wide whites, but that’s an easy fix. A big beautiful Chrysler, and a car I’d be proud to own.

 

Lot #1815, 2001 Ferrari 360 spider, red, black top, tan interior, F1 transmission

SOLD for $62,000

At first glance, seems cheap for a ‘late model’ Ferrari. F1 tranny not to everyone’s taste; holding out for a 3-pedal car will cost more money. Just budget for maintenance; oh, you forgot about that part?

 

NOTABLE NO-SALES:

Lot # 1802, 1966 Mercedes Benz 230SL, white, dark blue interior

NO SALE at $37,500

Hardtop on car; manual gearbox (many were auto); white steering wheel a ‘50s throwback. It was announced on the block that it would take $60,000 to sell. Car seemed honest and solid, but $60k might be a bit rich for the 230 model.

 

1793 1956 Continental Mark II, black, white & grey interior

NO SALE at $45,000

Appeared to be a slightly older restoration, and it was holding up well. Paint was excellent; leather upholstery showed slight wear. Engine compartment very good. Even hard-core car guys seem to know little about these Mark IIs, so potential audience may be limited. Bid was probably light by $10,000 or so.

 

Lot # 1800, 1970 Mercedes Benz 280SL green, tan interior

NO SALE at $45,000

Hardtop on car; stick shift; possibly same consignor as lot #1802. The 280SL is the most desirable of the 3 Pagoda SLs (230, 250, 280) as it has the largest engine. Block announced that this car will need to reach $60,000 to sell (same as white 230SL). I would have declared this bid as light, but, this car spewed blue smoke from burning oil as it was driven away. Budget $10,000 for engine work before the first rally.

 

Lot # 1792, 1935 Packard 4-door sedan, burgundy, tan cloth interior

NO SALE at $50,000

I loved this car, from the grille to its straight-8 engine to its enormous back seat to its rounded backlight. I watched it drive up to the block and you could not hear it running. I have little notion of the values of pre-war Packards, but I’d like to think that we were close with this bid.

 

 

Lot #1797, 1974 DeTomaso Pantera, yellow, black interior

NO SALE at $56,000

You forget how small these are until you see one next to almost anything else. It was one of the lowest vehicles at the entire auction. Price seemed light to me; I’ve seen these sell on Bring a Trailer for closer to $70-75,000.

 

Lot # 1738, 1974 Jaguar E Type Series III OTS, silver, black top, red interior, stick shift

NO SALE at $60,000

First, this car was cosmetically stunning; it was a strong #2 condition car, and the color combo was one of my all-time favorites. As a Series III car, it has the V12, loved by some, loathed by others, and it rides on the longer 2+2 wheelbase, which changes the original gorgeous proportions. The block announced that it will take $75,000 to sell; in this market, something in between high bid and declared need should get the job done.

 

Lot # 1759, 1969 Jaguar E Type Series II OTS, dark red, beige interior

NO SALE at $70,000

Another stunning E-Type, this one a Series II. Bid was a bit light by $10-20,000, but these cars are off their highs of a few years ago. Only Series I convertibles are breaking into six figures.

 

PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

A Look Back at the Concluded 2020 Scottsdale Auctions

Last week, I chose three collector cars that I found interesting, which were scheduled to cross the auction block during what’s known as Scottsdale Auction Week. All three were European sports cars, and all were offered at no reserve.

In that blog post, I provided a brief summary of each vehicle, listed the auction companies’ pre-sale estimates, and gave my own projection of a final hammer price. With the auctions concluded, let’s revisit the cars and see how accurate I was (or wasn’t).

(Note that all three auction companies charge a 12% buyer’s premium, and that inflated number, with premium, is what’s shown on their websites. This makes the sales results appear higher than they really were. I backed out that 12% to show the actual hammer prices.)


Bonhams: 1978 Porsche 928, Lot #11, sold on Thursday

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25718/lot/11/?category=list&length=12&page=1

ESTIMATE: $45,000-55,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $30,000
HAMMER PRICE: $67,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $75,040)

Ahem…. Not only did I miss the hammer price by a country mile; this car blew right past the high end of its pre-sale estimate. Undoubtedly, its original condition and low mileage contributed to giving the seller a grand slam, funky ‘70s colors be damned. And to those who continue to maintain that 928s are not collectible, I now have this piece of evidence in my arsenal.


Gooding & Co: 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce, Lot #010, sold on Friday

https://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1969-alfa-romeo-1750-spider-veloce/

Estimate: $80,000-100,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $50,000
HAMMER PRICE: $64,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $71,680)

I was a little closer with this one, but my guess was still under the hammer by $14,000. Auction fever can infect bidders in many ways, and someone caught the fever and stepped up for this cute little roadster. While this Alfa sold for 50% more than what similar cars have brought recently, note that its hammer price was still well under the auction company’s unreasonably optimistic estimate.


RM Sotheby’s: 1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster (OTS), Lot #168, sold on Thursday

https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/az20/arizona/lots/r0076-1970-jaguar-e-type-series-2-42-litre-roadster/838010

ESTIMATE: $110,000-140,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $95,000
HAMMER PRICE: $75,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $84,000)

Last week’s post stated in part: “… the Series II cars have become the affordable E-Type….”. Given that the hammer price was $20,000 under my seemingly reasonable guesstimate, and $35,000 under the auction company’s low-end estimate, it’s not going out on a limb to call this one a good buy. The new owner got a beautiful E-Type OTS (Open Two-Seater) with 80% of the charm of a Series I car at a 50% discount.


FINAL THOUGHTS

These cars represent such a small fraction of the hundreds and hundreds of collector cars sold in Scottsdale. Can we draw any conclusions from just three sales? I maintain that we can:

  • No Reserve cars are, by definition, guaranteed to sell. A theory I’ve heard about no-reserve sales, disproven here, is that they always favor the buyer. Sometimes, when the audience knows the high bidder gets the car, a bidding war erupts. Both the Porsche and the Alfa sold over their high estimate, so the consignors in both cases should be delighted with these results.
  • Another theory we can try to debunk based on this minuscule sample is that the hobby is in poor health. The Alfa and the Jaguar are blue-chip collectibles; the 928 less so, but it’s still a Porsche. Each of these cars appeared to be in very nice shape. I’d venture that all three buyers, if a modicum of care is taken with their new prizes, will not lose money in the long-term when it’s time to sell. Were these cars affordable? It’s a relative term. For a large segment of the Scottsdale audience, vehicles under six figures are affordable, and return on investment was not a primary purchase factor. The hobby is far from dead.
  • Are auctions a good place to buy cars? There is no simple answer to that. It would be misleading to look at these results and think it’s not. Instead, I would postulate that these examples highlight the need for bidders to educate themselves before raising the paddle. You cannot make good judgments from pretty online photos while sitting 2,500 miles away. Learn all you can about the model you’re interested in, make direct contact with the auction company, seek out the seller if available, and bid with your head, not your heart.

A Peek Ahead at the Upcoming 2020 Scottsdale Auctions

In the collector car world, there are two major auction “happenings” in the U.S., both named after their locales: the Monterey (CA) auctions every August, and the Scottsdale (AZ) ones in January. All the major auction companies attend, and spend most of the week in an attempt to outdo each other with number of lots, featured consignments, and dollar totals.

Both are watched carefully by hobbyists, media, and pundits, and each has been known to act as a bellwether for the health of the classic car hobby. (We myopic Americans also quickly forget that similar events in the rest of the world perform a similar function, but because they’re “over there” their significance is easily ignored.)

With the more upscale auction houses due to begin dropping the hammer in a few days, I thought it might be educational and entertaining to select one car from each of the “Big 3”, and predict its end result. As it turns out, I have chosen one British, one German, and one Italian car. They are all personal favorites of mine, and I’ve made a habit of following their recent sales trends.

All three are listed as “no reserve” sales, meaning they will sell to the highest bidder. Pre-sale estimates are provided, and auction houses tend to be notoriously optimistic with them, presuming it will encourage bidding. From my observations, many no-reserve cars sell below estimate.

In alphabetical order by auction company:

Bonhams: 1978 Porsche 928, Lot #11, selling Thursday

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25718/lot/11/?category=list&length=12&page=1

ESTIMATE: $45,000-55,000 (NO RESERVE)

The car has 21,000 original miles, it’s a stick shift, in beautiful condition, but would you look at those colors! Porsche 928s have long been derided among marque enthusiasts who disdain anything that isn’t air-cooled. Part of the contempt for the model may stem from Porsche’s initial claim that the 928 would “replace” the 911, which the company intended to drop. It didn’t work out that way.

After years of sales languishing in the $5,000-8,000 range for a driver-condition one, enthusiasts have rediscovered the car. That doesn’t make it valuable, though. This one is a first-year edition with the (in)famous Pasha interior, and if you’re not familiar, check out the photos! The only 928s selling for numbers close to this estimate are the final versions from the early 1990s. Still, this car will have its fans.

RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $30,000


Gooding & Co: 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce, Lot #010, selling Friday

https://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1969-alfa-romeo-1750-spider-veloce/

Estimate: $80,000-100,000 (NO RESERVE)

This body style had its debut in 1966 as the Duetto. Its styling was initially considered controversial, coming after the achingly beautiful Giulietta spiders. But The Graduate movie helped put the car into the minds of mainstream America, at least as much as was possible for a semi-affordable Italian two-seater.

Because of its struggles in meeting U.S. emission standards, Alfa Romeo offered no 1968 models for sale here (ditto for 1970). This 1969 spider dropped the Duetto name in favor of “1750 Spider Veloce”. Displacement was up, fuel injection was added to keep the EPA bureaucrats happy, but the basic body shape would live on for a short while longer until the ram bumpers were bolted on.

Really fine Duettos have soared recently to $40,000. Most Alfisti prefer the carbureted Duettos over the Spica-injected later models. This car is gorgeous but the pre-sale estimate is out of whack, and is more appropriate to a perfect late ‘50s-early ‘60s Giulietta.

RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $50,000


RM Sotheby’s: 1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster (OTS), Lot #168, selling Thursday

https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/az20/arizona/lots/r0076-1970-jaguar-e-type-series-2-42-litre-roadster/838010

ESTIMATE: $110,000-140,000 (NO RESERVE)

The Jaguar E-Type (also known as the XKE in the USA) is often singled out as one of a small handful of collector cars considered a blue-chip investment. Stunningly beautiful and universally admired when new, E-Types were not just a pretty face, with power and speed to back up its feline curves.

The so-called Series I cars were sold from 1961-1968; the year 1969 brought the first significant styling changes to what became known as the Series II cars, mainly to the bumpers and exterior lights. The Series III cars, made from 1971 through 1974, were all built on an extended wheelbase; many had auto trannies. Under the hood was Jaguar’s V12 which added lots of torque and lots of complexity.

Time has firmly decided in favor of the Series I cars as the most pure and most valuable; the Series III cars have their fans for those who like power; and the Series II cars have become “the affordable E-Type”, with affordable a relative word in this context.

This RM car is a beautiful restoration, and an award winner, but it’s a Series II car. Those who want an XKE and have no price ceiling will seek a Series I. I personally am a fan of the pale primrose color here, but I’ve read that many are not. The pre-sale estimate is slightly optimistic.

RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $95,000


What do you think? Are the estimates accurate? How off-base am I? Send in a comment with your own sale price predictions.

 

The 2014 New England 1000 Rally

We had had such a grand time on the 2013 New England 1000: we saw old friends, made new ones, and the Alfa performed almost flawlessly. That rally ended a 6-year drought, and I was determined to drive the Alfa in the event again in 2014, but rally brother Steve had some scheduling conflicts. I turned to another Volvo alumnus, my friend Bob, whom I knew was a fan of European sports cars and had the additional advantage of residing in central Massachusetts. Bob said he was in, so the Alfa was prepped and away we went.

Alfa and I, ready to depart Neshanic Station

Some of the work done to get the Alfa in shape included the removal of the air conditioning system. The factory belt-driven fan and shroud were reinstalled, and not only did the overheating problem cease to be, the engine actually ran on the cool side, at least according to the water temp gauge. This gave me great peace of mind given the distances we would be covering.

The 2014 host hotel was the Harraseekent Inn in Freeport ME, ironically, the same host hotel for our very first rally in 1998. The drive from my domicile to Freeport is over 6 hours in a modern car, a bit longer in the Alfa. Bob’s house, coincidentally, is almost exactly halfway between the two, and he and his wife graciously invited me to stay over, breaking the drive up (and back) in half, which was a pleasure.

The Rich and Bob show: new team, new adventure

The assortment of interesting and unusual cars was even more so this year. There was a Corvair Fitch Sprint, a Fiat Abarth, an Arnolt-Bristol, a 1955 Chrysler 300, a genuine Studebaker Avanti, and a very rare Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Berlinetta Speciale, which despite its rarity was driven to and from the event as well as the 1,000 miles of the event. It was also nice to see an MGB and Triumph TR-6 as reminders of the good ol’ days when the NE1000 field was populated by more popular (and affordable) sports cars.

Corvair Fitch Sprint

 

Fiat Abarth

 

Arnolt-Bristol

 

Ferrari 250GT Pininfarina Berlinetta Speciale

 

This was my 8th time out on the NE1000, run by Rich and Jean Taylor of Vintage Rallies, and to my recollection, this would be the first time that the entire rally remained in one state. If we had to select a state to do this, Maine would not be a bad choice. It’s large, diverse, lightly populated, and extremely picturesque.

2nd year in a row that the rally book included pic of the Alfa (taken during 2013 rally)

 

As always, documenting the official license plate install

 

The traditional Sunday car show had us jammed onto the Harraseeket’s lawn

One of the many perks provided to us rally participants is the chance to visit car museums and collections, both public and private. This year we made it to the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum and the Bob Bahre Collection. Even though I had been to both on previous rallies, there always seems to be something new to take in. One such highlight was Bahre’s ‘30s-era unrestored Alfa Romeo 8C, and I had to pose with it.

Alfa and I again (different Alfa)

The weather stayed cloudy and cool, with little precipitation. The overcast skies helped with the photography, but it was a bit nippy on the optional boat ride. One thousand miles over four days goes by very quickly, and before we knew it, it was over. On our way out of town Friday morning, we took advantage of the proximity of LL Bean’s HQ store literally just down the street before heading home.

The Alfa did it again! I had owned the car a little over 14 months and had already put close to 3,000 miles on it. It was a keeper, and I had every hope of driving it in next year’s NE1000.

Jaguar XK-150

 

Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster

 

Ferrari 330 GT 2+2

 

Porsche 911

 

MGB

 

The queue to depart a checkpoint
THE BOB BARHE COLLECTION

Bob Bahre keeps his vast collection in a specially-built “garage”, if one can call a 2-story building where each floor can accommodate about 30 cars a garage. The majority of his collection focuses on American luxury cars of the 1930s, but it does get eclectic. The less interesting cars stay in the cellar. The fact that a Tucker lives in the cellar tells you something about this collection.

Couple of black beauties at Owl’s Head

 

The Alfa poses with Maine shoreline in background

 

Arnolt-Bristol & Ferrari keep Alfa company

 

Arnolt-Bristol is a car most of us haven’t seen until now

 

Fiat 126 (never sold in U.S.) found in Maine parking lot

 

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2013 New England 1000 Rally

Happy New Year! It’s winter, with not much going on in the garage or out in the collector car world, so it’s a good time to catch up with some old business. Below is my summary of our participation in the 2013 New England 1000 rally. Previous reports for the 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, and 2007 rallies can be found at the highlighted links.

It was the dawn of 2013. We (my rally brother Steve and I) had not driven in the New England 1000 since 2007. Why the six-year layoff? Life had gotten in the way. Whether still in the way or not, we threw caution to the wind and signed on to participate once again. In the 2007 rally, we drove my ’68 Mustang California Special. The Mustang was sold in 2012, and was replaced by my 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, so the Alfa was the ride of choice. Steve, still living in Southern California, was flying east to be co-driver / co-navigator.

The helmet twins about to depart NJ. The ’12 Ford Focus and ’03 Volvo V70 are both gone.

In hindsight, it was a bit of a gamble to be taking the Alfa on a roughly 1500-mile journey. I had acquired the car only two months prior, in March of 2013, and had put hardly any miles on it. Some early teething problems were already addressed: the battery had died and was replaced, and the hard-as-a-rock tires were swapped out for a new set of Vredesteins.

Overheating was still a concern, though, as (previous owner) Pete’s attempt to install an air conditioning setup overtaxed the car’s cooling system. Even with the A/C turned off, the removal of the factory fan and shroud to make room for the compressor, combined with the extra weight of the compressor and its bracket, made the coolant temperature creep up at idle and low speeds. An aftermarket electric fan was bolted to the radiator, controlled by an on-off switch on the dash. The driver’s job was to constantly monitor the water temp gauge and engage said fan as necessary. It usually worked, but one had to be on constant alert.

The ceremonial attaching of the plate

This year’s host hotel was the Sagamore Resort on Lake George NY, where we had stayed during previous rallies. Much of the week’s itinerary kept us in New York, with dips into New Hampshire and Vermont. (The “New England 1000” takes liberties with its name; please, no angry missives from you Revolutionary Patriots. You know who you are.)

The queue to get past the starting checkpoint

It was great to be back with some familiar faces and vehicles, and it was equally great to meet new folks and see their rides. The classics were again out in force: Mercedes 300SLs, various Jaguars and Maseratis. We noted that modern machinery represented an increasing percentage of the cars: the rally book listed no fewer than 5 new 2013 Porsches, plus several Ferraris less than 10 years old. Our class of three included an MGB and a Morgan 4/4. In the bigger picture, though, our 95 horsepower Alfa was significantly outgunned by the more powerful 6-, 8-, and 12-cylinder ground missiles. The NE1000 of old, with its preponderance of quaint 4-cylinder ‘50s and ‘60s European roadsters, was not to be seen again.

A photo of the Alfa made it into the rally book.

 

By Monday morning, we were already experiencing a highlight of the week when we stepped into the private car collection of Jim Taylor. Jim is the CEO of Taylor Made Products, and judging by what he has been able to amass, business has been very good.

THE JIM TAYLOR COLLECTION

 

Lake Placid NY was another déjà vu, as we had stayed in this Olympic town during the 2001 NE1000. The Mirror Lake Inn is situated on the body of water after which it’s named, and the views are stunning. The view from the top of one of the ski lifts is equally stunning in a very different way!

This is why it’s called Mirror Lake

We left Lake Placid and headed to Whiteface Mountain, still in NY. Although the day was cool, driving up the steep mountain started to push our car’s temperature gauge into uncomfortable territory. Flicking on the electric fan didn’t help, so half-way up the mountain, we opted to reverse direction, but not before losing one of the car’s hubcaps. If that was the biggest tragedy we were to face, so be it.

Our turnaround point; note missing hubcap

Driving into New England proper, we stopped at a perennial favorite: the RPM Repair & Restoration Facility in Vergennes VT. Not only has the Markowski family provided wonderful technical support to the rally through the years, they also run a top-notch workshop which can fix anything automotive, with a special focus on Ferraris. This was the 3rd or 4th time the rally has dropped by, and we were again given free run of the place. This gearhead could stare at disassembled 12-cylinder engines all day long.

RPM, VERGENNES VT

My recollection is that, with the exception of the occasional sprinkle, the weather held up during the week, but I also recall driving home on Friday in torrential downpours (which at least kept the Alfa’s engine cool). Aside from the slight trouble on Whiteface Mountain, the Alfa ran flawlessly for us, and it was an easy decision to proclaim the car fit for duty for future rallies.

 

Modern Porsches

 

C2 Corvette

 

Morris woody wagon

 

Ferrari 365 GTC/4

 

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso

 

 

Lamborghini 350 GT

 

Acura NSX
Maserati Ghibli

 

Something old (Morgan), something new (911)
The Alfa with some of its competition

 

 ACs and Alfa

 

We pose with the Alfa, which was a real champ all week

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

A Visit to Steven Babinsky’s Restoration Business, Nov 23, 2019

I’ve driven past the spot dozens, if not hundreds of times: just another industrial park along Route 22 in western New Jersey. But on Saturday November 23, 2019, this locale, set back a few hundred feet from the highway, proved to be quite something else, as the New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) was invited to tour the Steven Babinsky Restoration Business.

The weather cooperated: it was a sunny and dry, if somewhat crisp day. Many club members took advantage of an optional breakfast at the Readington Diner starting at 8am, which gave us a chance to fuel ourselves with food and coffee while chatting with our buddies about, what else, our cars. By 9:30, the last of the participants met us there, and we totaled over 50 attendees, ready to begin our tour.

NJ REGION AACA MEMBERS’ CARS AT THE READINGTON DINER

From the diner, it was a 5-minute drive to our destination. Steve Babinsky was on hand to greet us, and made us feel quite welcome by informing us that we were free to wander around the premises. A few of his craftsman were working, and they didn’t mind fieldling our questions. Steve also made himself available for Q & A all morning.

Steve Babinsky (in red & black plaid shirt) uses piece of paper to make a point

The shop itself is huge; there were perhaps two dozen vehicles inside, all in various states of disassembly. I get a kick out of inspecting shop equipment, and I wasn’t disappointed. Everything from lathes, milling machines, and tubing benders, to presses, a paint booth, and a ‘fire pit’ (to pre-heat aluminum prior to welding according to Steve) was inside.

TOOLS & EQUIPMENT IN THE WORKSHOP

With the sole exception of a ’59 Caddy convertible, all the vehicles in this building were pre-war, which is Steve’s specialty. After we had enough running around in the shop, we were invited to enter another warehouse across the parking lot, which serves as a storage building. Here, cars were so tightly packed that it was difficult to walk around (and certainly a challenge to get good photos).

VEHICLES IN THE MAIN SHOP UNDERGOING RESTORATION WORK

 

One car though stood out among all the valuable machinery. A silver Mercedes-Benz 540K roadster (I believe), looking like an older restoration, was in the middle of the crowd. The top was down; the whitewall tires had long ago turned yellow; it was dusty; and one got the impression that it had not been started in a long time. But its design was breathtaking. Everyone to a person admired it.

THE MERCEDES-BENZ 540K ROADSTER

After staring at so much interesting automotive history, we were invited to drive another 20 minutes to the town of Bloomsbury, where Steve stores yet more vehicles in a building which once was a Studebaker dealership. Scattered among the cars at this location was a lot of automobilia: metal signs, old advertising, hood ornaments, toys, and the like. The biggest surprise (and far and away the biggest vehicle) was a pre-war Ahrens Fox fire engine.

THE REPURPOSED STUDEBAKER DEALERSHIP

Before the tour, I had read a little bit about how Mr. Babinsky got his start. Like many other businesses, things started slowly for him. But once word spread about the quality of his work (he does boast of having restored multiple Pebble Beach winners), he said he has no reason to advertise. He doesn’t even have a website. Based on my very informal observation, he has enough work on hand at present to keep him busy for several years. It was a thrill and a privilege to be given inside access to his business for a few hours.

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Winterizing 2019

Where did the year go? I swear that just the other day was sunny and 75; today is frosty and 40….. Every year I need to remind myself that putting the cars away for the winter needs to be done well before Thanksgiving, lest we get an early taste of winter and my ever-shrinking window of opportunity gets blown away like the final leaves of autumn.

Today was the day to put the Miata to rest until spring. The Alfa, on the other hand, is still up on four jack stands as it patiently waits for me to complete the brake overhaul I started during the summer. The only accomplishment today in the Alfa’s favor was funneling a few ounces of Sta-Bil into the tank. I can’t start her up, because the battery positive cable and carburetor intake plenum have been temporarily displaced. We’ll save the rest of that story for the next post about the brakes.

Back to the Miata: my routine for winterizing this car, or any of my cars, is fairly simple. Unlike some friends who keep their collector cars “at the ready” should we get a sunny dry day above the freezing mark, I believe in putting them down with the intent of not starting them again until spring returns. The tasks to reach that goal are: add air to the tires; fill the tank and add fuel stabilizer; dissuade critters from making my car their winter getaway; connect the battery charger; and cover the car to protect the paint.

 

TIRES

Tire flat-spotting is a potential problem with any car, even one that sits only for a few days. The issue seems to vary among tire brands. When I bought my Acura TSX, the tires on it would be flat-spotted every morning. It took 2-3 miles of driving for them to warm up and stop going “thump-thump-thump”. A car which sits all winter is especially prone to this problem.

Like everything else I’m recommending, there is more than one solution. I’ve read that you should remove all the tires from your vehicle (necessitates jack stands) and store the tires on a wall-mounted tire rack (takes up extra space). You can buy cradles designed to go under each tire which distribute the car’s weight more evenly along the tread (more cash outlay, and I’ll need to store the cradles when not using them).

The sidewall indicates maximum tire pressure of 51 psi; I aimed for 45.

My method, which I’ve used for almost 20 years, is to over-inflate the tires and just let them sit. The extra air supports more weight, and it costs nothing other than about 10 minutes of work. I check the tire sidewall for the tire manufacturer’s maximum tire pressure, and aim for a number about 5 psi below that. Come spring, I bleed the tires back down to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation, and drive off without any thumping. Tires I’ve treated like this have never flat-spotted.

My cost-effective method to prevent flat-spotting

 

FUEL

Modern fuel will go bad in about 6 months; it’s been said that the ethanol in today’s fuel only exacerbates the problem. Besides the fuel turning to gel, condensation (from minuscule amounts of water in the fuel) can end up on the tank’s walls and cause corrosion.

A fresh bottle of Sta-Bil awaits my use. Note the forlorn Alfa in the background.

There are two good solutions for the condensation issue: store the car (or lawn mower, or snow thrower) with a full tank of gas, or with a completely empty tank. My lawn equipment, with its pint-sized plastic tanks, easily lends itself to the empty tank approach. But I do the opposite for the cars, because I don’t want to expose the remainder of the fuel system to whatever debris is likely lounging at the bottom.

Once opened, the contents are good for 2 years. Sta-Bil provides a spot for noting start date.

I’ve written before about fuel stabilizers; there are a few different brands, and I’ve been partial to Sta-Bil by Gold Eagle, simply because I’ve been using it for years and it works very well for me. One necessity with any fuel stabilizer is to run the engine for at least 5 minutes AFTER you’ve added the stuff, to circulate it through the rest of the fuel system. I’ve one more trick, and that is to add the Sta-Bil to the tank before filling it up. As fresh fuel is added, it mixes the two, and the drive back from the filling station usually suffices to distribute to good stuff through the carbs, injectors, and what-have-you.

Sta-Bil was added with tank one-quarter full, after which it was topped off

 

CRITTERS

The good news is, I have a 3-car detached garage in the yard next to my house. The bad news is, I have a 3-car detached garage in the yard next to my house. I joke; there is no bad news. Except sometimes, critters, mainly field mice, want to see my collection. They think it’s cute. I don’t think they are cute. While no real damage has occurred, I’ve caught a few of them in there. They are not welcome. Rather than catch them, I’d sooner discourage them from entering. Through the years, I’ve used bait, traps, dryer sheets, mothballs, and black pepper, to varying degrees of success. Last year, the black pepper approach seemed to help, but it was loose on paper plates, and invariably, I would kick the plates and scatter the pepper about.

McCormick calls the coarse ground “table grind”

My wife came up with this suggestion: she offered to buy “potpourri” bags, like you’d use in the house for scented objects. (She got them in Michael’s in the bride’s section.) I bought an institutional-sized container of black pepper from Costco (get the coarse ground, not the fine), and filled a dozen bags with pepper. These went into the interior floor, trunk, and engine compartment. My entire garage smells like pepper (it’s better than mothballs; the one time I used them, the odor lingered for almost a year). As long as I spot no signs of toothsome damage, I’ll consider the pepper bags a success.

Potpourri bags are now pepper bags

 

BATTERY

Again, there are multiple approaches for off-season battery maintenance, and none of them is wrong. What’s important is that your battery charger offers a trickle-charge function so the battery does not overcharge and boil over. The Battery Tender brand has been my choice, simply because that was the first one I bought. I now own several.

Lights on Battery Tender are only thing to monitor

I used to remove the batteries from the cars and arrange them on a shelf, connecting each one to a separate charger. (If you have multiple cars, and access to a wall outlet is an issue, there are trickle chargers designed to charge an entire bank of batteries.) I’ve now decided that there is no advantage to taking the battery out of the car; it’s just more work. However, I disconnect the negative cable to isolate the electrical system during charging. Once the terminal clamps are connected and the unit is plugged in, my work is done.

 

COVER

Before working at my current employer, I didn’t believe in car covers. Somehow I was convinced that they did more harm than good. Then I researched some of the better covers that we sell, and did a 180 on them. My brand of choice is Covercraft: the fit is excellent, the materials are top-notch, and there is a good variety of covers at different price points. Once the tires, fuel system, battery, and interior are treated, on goes the cover.

The first day of spring next year is Friday 03/20/20. I’ll be OK with it if Mother Nature wants to usher it in a week or two sooner, so I can undo all the above and take the Miata on its first spin of 2020.

 

Until next year….

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

HERSHEY 2019: The AACA Eastern Fall Meet

HERSHEY! For old-car enthusiasts, that one word is all that needs to be said. Its official name is the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Eastern Fall Meet, held every October, but we know it simply by the town which has hosted it since the early 1950s. This 5-day event takes over all of Hersheypark’s paved lots, and encompasses a flea market, car corral, and AACA-judged car show.

SHOW CARS ARE ARRANGED BY CLASS:

With one exception, and that for a business trip, I haven’t missed Hershey since 2002, and have attended on and off before that, going back to my first visit in 1980. It not only represents the unofficial end of the collector car show season; it has become the highlight of my automotive year. Typically, I’ll come out Thursday morning and stay through Saturday afternoon. The first two days are spent wandering the flea market and car corral, and Saturday of course we’re all at the big show. This year was especially outstanding: the weather was close to perfect on Thursday and Friday, and although Saturday was cloudy and cooler, it was still pleasant to be outside (and not staring at a screen).

 

The crowd strolls through the Car Corral on a perfect weather day

There was nothing in particular on my shopping list this year; sometimes it’s enough to walk the aisles and take in the ambiance. I did end up purchasing a few items from Eastwood, and succumbed to my weakness for printed material by purchasing a book entitled “GM: The First 75 Years of Transportation Products”. This hardcover 223-page tome was a giveaway to GM employees, and had never been offered to the public. My copy even included the letter addressed to “Dear GM Employee” and signed by Roger B. Smith. With beautiful full-color photos courtesy of Automobile Quarterly’s archives, it was a no-brainer at a measly $5.

More and more dealers are setting up displays with cars for sale

While there were some empty spots among the flea market vendors, attendance seemed good, people were pulling out their wallets to make purchases, and many languages besides English were overheard. It’s reassuring to know that Hershey continues to attract an international audience.

FLEA MARKET OFFERINGS:

The car corral was unimpressive this year. There was a dearth of cars priced under $20,000 or so, and worse, many of the cars in the corral had been here in 2018, with no change in the asking prices! Do people put cars in the car corral to sell them, or to give themselves a way to park on the show grounds? (Don’t laugh, I’ve had some club members actually admit that to me.)

PROJECT CARS:

The Hershey Highlight continues to be the chance to watch the parade of show cars as they enter the field. By AACA rules, show vehicles (except race cars) must be driven onto the show field under their own power. Ever since rally brother Steve and I accidentally discovered this many years ago, it’s been a must to arrive by 7 a.m., and find a suitable vantage point. I tried a new spot this year which provided unobstructed views. The only problem was that it was a stretch of asphalt that allowed speeds somewhat above a parade crawl, and that made for some tricky photography.

WAGONS, AKA LONG ROOFS:

If you’ve been to Hershey, you can relate, and you have your own stories. If you haven’t been, and you consider yourself to be the least bit interested in classic cars, then it’s a must for your bucket list. You could visit only for a day; however, even the healthiest among you could cover about 50% of the flea market/car corral at best. If you attend only for the Saturday show, be aware that most vendors have closed up by Friday afternoon. Whether you attend for one day or the entire week, Hershey continues to provide proof that the collector car hobby remains vibrant.

DETAILING IT FOR THE JUDGES:

Below, please enjoy photos of the show cars as they paraded in on Saturday morning.

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

HERSHEY 2019: The RM Sotheby’s Auction, Friday Oct. 11

Friday was Day Two of the RM Sotheby’s Auction at the Hershey Lodge (located of course in downtown Chocolate World). In contrast with Thursday’s auction, the cars were a mix of pre- and post-war (still dominated by the former), and some of the lots had reserves this time around. The performance of the pre-war iron was again impressive, with the cars selling for decent money, proving that there is still a market for ’20s and ’30s era vehicles. Friday also had a smattering of imports scattered amongst the American marques.

Pre-war metal ready to cross the block

As we’ve seen at every auction lately, Friday’s offerings included an estate sale, with a large poster proclaiming “The Complete Collection of Jack Dunning, Offered Entirely Without Reserve”. Presumably, Jack has either passed on and his heirs don’t care, or, he needed to liquidate and he didn’t care. I didn’t stick around long enough to witness any of Jack’s wares sell, but if you’re interested, RM has the results posted here.

Poster was impressive; so were his cars

I did watch the first dozen and a half or so cars go in, up, off, and back. The fine ground crew decided to start and drive most of these cars, so that treat was enjoyed after missing out on it the previous night. Of the vehicles I watched, only one failed to sell: a ’55 Chrysler C-300 (first year of the legendary 300s), which was bid up to $50,000 against a $70,000 estimate. Me thinks the right number is right in between.

1955 Chrysler C-300, no sale at $50,000 high bid

Overall, I do believe that RM Sotheby’s puts on an excellent auction. They work hard at it, and frankly, it shows. I’ve been fortunate to be a first-hand spectator at auctions by Bonhams, Barrett-Jackson, Carlisle, and Mecum, all of which are fine auction companies in their own right. But I’ve seen their hits and misses. RM seems to be the most consistent of the bunch.

Below is a selection of Friday’s sales, arranged in ascending hammer price order. The prices shown are exclusive of 10% buyer’s premium.

 

1953 Chevrolet 210 2-door sedan, sold for $11,000
1959 Nash Metropolitan coupe, sold for $12,000
1928 Ford Model A Roadster, sold for $13.500
1931 Ford Model A Roadster, sold for $17,000
1928 Ford Model AR Phaeton, sold for $21,000
1941 Ford V-8 Convertible Coupe, sold for $23,000
1931 Ford Model A Roadster, sold for $25,000
1963 Ford Falcon Futura convertible, sold for $27,500
1939 Ford V-8 Convertible Sedan, sold for $29,000
1963 Ford Falcon Futura Coupe, sold for $30,000
1962 Lincoln Continental sedan, sold for $35,000
1934 Ford V-8 Coupe, sold for $37,500
1936 Packard 120-B Convertible, sold for $52,500
1964 Fiat 2300S Coupe, sold for $52,500
1940 Ford V-8 Convertible Coupe, sold for $70,000
1929 Pierce-Arrow Roadster, sold for $75,000
1938 Packard Twelve Touring Cabriolet, sold for $110,000

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

HERSHEY 2019: The RM Sotheby’s Auction, Thursday Oct. 10

Anyone who thinks that the collector car hobby is on the decline, or who at least proposes that the pre-war segment in particular is as dead as these vehicles’ original owners, was not in attendance as I was at the October 2019 two-day auction held by RM Sotheby’s in Hershey PA. As they have for probably the last 10 years, RM contracted with the Hershey Lodge to host the event, and it was scheduled to coincide with the AACA Hershey Fall Meet.

Lots are queued up under the tent next to Hershey Lodge

The auction results I observed made it crystal clear that the hobby is as strong as ever; and anyone suggesting that “no one is in the market for anything built before ______” (insert the post-war model year of your choice) is not cognizant of the facts.

The orange Reliable Carriers truck glows under the twilight sky

The facts are these: the Thursday portion of the auction was the liquidation of the Merritt Auto Museum of Nebraska. No explanation was given for its closing, but the 107 vehicles on offer were all pre-war, and all were offered at no reserve. The catalog provided the auction house’s pre-sale estimates, and much of the pre-auction excitement boiled down to this: would the supposed indifference to such aged lots result in low-dollar sales? Or would the no-reserve format drive the bidding to numbers close to or above the estimates?

I stuck around long enough to personally observe 33 lots cross the block. Of those 33, 21 sold within or above their estimates; 13 lots sold below (and of those 13, two were “replicas”, and one was a sedan rebodied as a phaeton). It was an impressive performance, and with possibly very few exceptions, no one “stole” any automobiles. This chart shows those 33 vehicles (buckboards were clearly the hot attraction of the night):

2019 RM Hershey Thurs

Note that the indicated “hammer” price is exclusive of 10% buyer’s premium.

Thursday’s show also differed from other RM at Hershey auctions because every lot was pushed into and out of the building. In previous years, one of the thrills for me (and a reassurance to the bidding audience) was the visual acknowledgement that the cars started and ran. Whether the pushing was done for expediency or to spare our lungs was not stated; and while all the vehicles looked cosmetically fresh (I’d rate every vehicle a 3+ or 2- in condition), I did overhear the handlers state “watch out, that one has no brakes” several times.

They pushed them in….
… and they pushed them back out.

 

Below are selected photos from Thursday’s auction. The vehicles below are arranged in order of HAMMER PRICE, from lowest to highest. Due to the size of this report, I will break out Friday’s auction results as a separate blog post.

 

Lot 163, 1902 Olds Curved Dash Replica, sold for $3,500, 42% below its pre-sale low estimate of $6,000

 

Lot 186, 1914 Buick Roadster, sold for $13,000, 35% below its pre-sale low estimate of $20,000

 

Lot 181, 1923 Willys-Knight Roadster, sold for $13,000, 48% below its pre-sale low estimate of $25,000
Lot 179, 1930 Marquette Phaeton (rebodied sedan), sold for $14,500, 3% below pre-sale low estimate of $15,000
Lot 168, 1933 Essex Terraplane, sold for $17,000, within its pre-sale estimate of $15-25,000
Lot 184, 1913 Maxwell Roadster, sold for $18,500, within its pre-sale estimate of $15-25,000
Lot 180, 1933 Essex Terraplane, sold for $20,000, within its pre-sale estimate of $20-30,000

 

Lot 178, 1929 Ford Model A Phaeton, sold for $22,000, within its pre-sale estimate of $20-25,000
Lot 201, 1928 Franklin Depot Hack, sold for $22,500, 25% below its pre-sale low estimate of $30,000
Lot 185, 1912 Detroiter Speedster, sold for $25,500, within its pre-sale estimate of $25-35,000
Lot 206, 1932 Pontiac Coupe, sold for $26,000, within its pre-sale estimate of $25-35,000
Lot 195, 1932 LaSalle sedan, sold for $30,000, 14% below its pre-sale low estimate of $35,000
Lot 187, 1923 Packard Runabout, sold for $34,000, within its pre-sale estimate of $30-40,000
Lot 202, 1936 Cord 810 Westchester sedan, sold for $37,500, 25% above its pre-sale high estimate of $30,000 (it was announced on the block that engine had a cracked cylinder head)

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.