Hershey 2021, Car Corral Edition

After a consecutive run which began in the early 1950s and then dealing with its first-ever cancellation in 2020, the AACA Eastern Fall Meet (colloquially known as “Hershey”) was back in place for 2021. For me, most of my visits here in the last 20 years have been multi-day affairs, but this year, personal obligations kept it to a one-day-only event, and that day was Thursday, October 7, 2021.

It was almost as if nothing had changed. The flea market vendors took up most of the Hersheypark parking lot, the car corral occupied the perimeter road around the lot, and the Giant Center stood in place at the center of it all. However, the crowd was a little thinner than in recent years; the car corral was only about 65-70% full; many of the usual food vendors were MIA; and even the flea market revealed either empty spots, or, what has been a growing trend, modern cars parked as a convenient alternative for those willing to spring for a flea market spot.

Because my time was limited, I spent most of the day walking the car corral. Cars did change hands: I witnessed a ’64 Falcon sell, and my friend Larry saw someone purchase a ’68 Olds 98. It was reassuring to know that some business was conducted.

The cars below are the ones which I found interesting and affordable, and there weren’t too many of those this year. Cars are listed only with their asking prices; I did not record any other pertinent details about each vehicle. It is my hope that the photographs provide much of the info you might desire. I scooted out of the car corral and over to the RM Auction by about 4:30pm. The auction cars will be discussed in a separate blog post to be published later.

1992 Mazda Miata (auto), asking $6,800

 

 

1988 Ford Thunderbird, asking $9,900

 

 

 

1984 Porsche 944, asking $12,490

 

 

1995 Jaguar XJS (6-cyl), asking $17,500

 

1964 Morgan 4/4, asking $23,900

 

How Not to Sell a Car in the Car Corral

As soon as I opened the driver’s door on the Iso Rivolta, a voice from about 20 feet away barked at me. “You interested in the car?” “Maybe” I lied. “My boss wants $150,000 for it.” The only response to that was uttered to myself: this guy is crazy.

I wanted to show Larry the Chevy engine under the hood, but I couldn’t find the hood release. I asked the boss’ man “how do you open the hood?” “Dunno”. Oh boy, the boss sent the smart guy out with the car. While I continued to look over the exterior, someone else hopped into the driver’s seat and got the hood opened. “I owned one when I was a young man” he said by way of explanation.

Underhood was as filthy and unkempt as the rest of the vehicle, although we did note that an A/C compressor was in place upon which someone had fastened a label: “recharged with R134a in 2020”.  We were beginning to collect a crowd. The minion again spoke, this time to someone else. “Yeah, it’s an ICE-OH”. OMG. I quickly corrected him: “it’s pronounced ‘EES-SO’. One more time to the other interested observer: “my boss wants $150 grand for it, they’re very rare”. I pulled out my current copy (Sep-Oct 2021) of the CPI price guide. Iso Rivolta coupes, made between the years of 1963-1970, are in the book for $25,000 in #4 condition; $46,500 in #3 condition; and $85,000 in #2 condition. This car was clinging to its #4 condition like a rock climber clings to a cliff wall.

The exterior had not had a bath in months and the interior had not seen a vacuum in years. The front seat upholstery was obviously incorrect. The steering wheel was held together with electrical tape. Popping open the glove box, the door fell beyond its catch, dumping its contents of plastic cups, trash, and some aluminum foil (drugs??) onto the floor. I left it there, as the paraphernalia hid some of the dirt on the carpet.

So here’s the catch: these are neat cars. Renzo Rivolta, founder of Iso, took the oodles of Deutschmarks he earned when he licensed his Isetta to BMW, and invested that money into a hybrid GT car, hybrid in the original sense of “European sports car with an American engine”. They don’t exactly come up for sale with any regularity, and compared to the later and admittedly prettier Griffo ($350,000-500,000), Rivoltas are a relative bargain. (My Isetta license plate was LILISO, for “Lil’ ISO”. I wanted to buy a Rivolta, put a hitch on it, and use it to pull the Isetta to shows. If I had done that, the Rivolta plate would have read “BIGISO”.)

No Rivolta is worth 150 large. I was tempted to pull out a business card, write “$30k” on it, and give it to the mouthpiece to give to his boss. The danger of course would be the boss saying ‘yes’. Hey boss man, I hope you’re reading this, because I have some words of advice. Next time, spend 1/10 of 1% of that asking price on a detail job, and, give your representative something resembling working knowledge of the overpriced car you’re trying to peddle to the unsuspecting. I probably taught him more about your car than you ever did.

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 34: The Isetta Gets to Hershey in 2012

It was probably 1982 and I was at Hershey, in PA, in October, at the big annual AACA Hershey show. It was perhaps only the 3rd or 4th time I was there. I was young, and this was still all new, and I had so much to learn about the collector car hobby. I was living in an apartment without a garage. I had my Isettas stored in one garage not near me, and my ’57 Ford Skyliner stored in another garage not near me. I still dreamed of that future point in time when I would get back to these cars to perform a complete restoration on each of them. However, I had no real concrete plan for getting to that point.

As I strolled the aisles of that Saturday car show, I was still learning that these cars were here to be ranked and rated by AACA judges. The judging was a very strict and formal process. The car owners took this very seriously, and very much wanted to win. They wanted their 1st Junior, or 1st Senior, or their Preservation Award, things I had yet to learn about. It was neat for me, the neophyte, to discover that the vehicles were arranged in something resembling a sensible order, based on year, make, and model.

A particular recollection concerns the Baby Birds, the 2-seat Ford Thunderbirds only made from 1955-1957. They were all lined up, in their candy colors of red and blue, and pastel colors of green and yellow, and monochrome colors of black and white. They didn’t look like cars! They looked like edible sweets on a shelf. As I walked down this row of cars which were barely 25 years old, I could not get over how perfect each car was. With hoods up and trunks open, reproduction chalk marks and ink stamps were exposed. It was clear to me, the newbie, that these cars were rarely, if ever, driven.

The entire spectacle depressed me. How does an owner, I asked myself, get to a point that the car is so perfect that it’s not driven? Was this what the hobby was about? I was yet to learn that some owners did indeed treat their cars as trailer queens, driven only on and off trailers, and brought to shows only to collect awards. It was impossible for me to imagine a day when I would show a car at Hershey.

Fast forward exactly 30 years, and here I was in 2012, with a car of mine on the Hershey show field. I was as giddy as could be, and while I took the whole spectacle seriously, the event was eliciting a reflexive ear-to-ear grin that I could not erase. How did I get to this point? Having joined the National AACA around the year 2000, and attending almost every Hershey since then, the urge to enter a car was growing. With over 10 years of experience in showing the Isetta, as you’ve been reading in the Isetta Saga, it was time to put the car in the big boys’ show.

There was not much prep necessary. I had my trailer and my hitch-equipped Volvo V70 ready to make the journey. A logistical issue for anyone bringing a show car to Hershey is the question of “what do I do with my car during the week?” The judged show is always Saturday, but the flea market / car corral begins four days prior on the Tuesday. Owners who drive their show cars to the event leave them overnight in the hotel parking lot. They’ll then use those cars to commute back and forth during the week. If they have a flea market spot, they’ll just drive it onto the field and park in their spot.

Parked at the B&B in Dillsburg

My little Hershey secret, which I had begun to use about 10 years prior, was to stay at a local Bed & Breakfast in lieu of a hotel. (I refer to it as a ‘secret’ because if too many show attendees started doing the same, it wouldn’t be as easy to book a room. Compared to hotels, which start booking rooms for next year’s event the day after this year’s event ends, I found that local B&B’s had rooms available as late as 6 or 8 weeks before Hershey week.)

The B&B’s were more comfortable than hotels, they included breakfast (to go if I asked), and were about the same cost. There was a B&B in Dillsburg, located halfway between Hershey and Carlisle, which I started frequenting. When I called for the reservation, I asked permission to leave the Isetta on its trailer somewhere on the grounds. The woman proprietor, with whom I was on a first-name basis, told me that was absolutely fine, and said she had a spot behind the barn where my rig would be away from other guests’ cars, as well as out of sight from the road. Upon my arrival, I put the trailer where asked, unhooked it, and was then able to use the Volvo to-and-from the show during the week.

Larry hops in for the cruise to the show field

Once Saturday morning arrived, I reconnected the trailer and was off to ‘trailer parking’. AACA had set up a lot about 1.5 miles away from the show field dedicated to the dozens and dozens of trailers which needed to be staged somewhere. I asked my bestie Larry if he wanted to meet me there and ride with me in the Isetta, and he was more than game. As he climbed in, I handed him my camera and asked him to take as many photos as he could manage. We were literally in the parade of cars that I had witnessed as a spectator on so many prior occasions.

Once at the grounds, I was directed to my parking spot in Class 04B, “small vehicles 1942 and later” (04A is 1941 and older). I parked next to the only other Isetta at the show that day. Other cars in my class included a Vespa and several VW Beetles (which look large next to an Isetta). I exited the car, put up my signage, and stuck around as required for judging. The judging team was there soon enough to do their thing. Once that was done, I was free to walk around, but as is my wont, I preferred to stay near the car and engage with attendees.

We’ve arrived!

 

Three of the cars in Class 04B that year

The other Isetta was a beautiful two-tone blue & grey car, from Maryland, and the car was there for its Preservation Award, meaning that it had already achieved Senior status. Cosmetically, I thought it was a notch above mine; it certainly looked ‘fresher’ (I wasn’t telling anyone that the paint on my car was already 17 years old). The owner was sitting in her folding chair behind her car, and I went up to her to make a sincere effort to both compliment her on her car as well as engage her in conversation about it. When I asked her some details about the restoration process, she demurred, and didn’t really make any attempt to answer my questions. What eventually came out of our conversation was the realization that she was not an active participant in the car’s restoration. It’s what we call a “checkbook restoration”; she wrote the checks to the shop that did the work, and picked up the car when it was done. This is not to take anything away from the obvious quality of the work. But there is something to be said for taking more ownership of your own restoration, which helps elevate the understanding of how the car is designed, engineered, and built, and how it operates.

The blue/grey Isetta won its Preservation Award

 

Bubble cars side by side

Around 3 p.m., the show cars began to exit the field. It was a magnificent day on so many levels: the car ran great, the judging went smoothly, the audience enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the audience. It helped that the fickle Hershey weather was near perfect. I drove the car back to the trailer parking, loaded it up, and headed home, arriving before dark.

I had plenty reason to be happy

A few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail from AACA, announcing that I had succeeded in winning my 1st Junior award (there was, as always, an Award Banquet on Saturday night, but I did not attend). Had I been there, I would have been handed my trophy. The letter from AACA informed me that if I wanted the trophy, I would need to pay the nominal shipping cost, which I did.

At the close of 2012, I realized that I had been trailering my Isetta to various shows throughout NJ, NY, CT, and PA for the past 13 years! While I had previously made half-hearted attempts at selling the car, with absolutely no success, I knew that 2013 was going to be the year to let it go. I had had my fun. An auction was the best choice, and it was a question of selecting an auction company, having already held preliminary conversations with both Bonhams and RM. The Bonhams auction I had in mind was their Greenwich event held in conjunction with the Greenwich CT Concours in early June. For RM, the Hershey auction in October was also being considered. I had some time to decide, however, the wheels were firmly put in motion at the end of 2012. After 35 years of ownership, and 13 years of show attendance, it was time.

 

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

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 33: 2011 Brings Out the Car for Two Invitation-only Shows

APRIL 2011: THE PETITE CONCOURS AT THE NY AUTO SHOW

Sometime early in 2011, I received an email from an outfit billing itself as “Teeny Tiny Productions”. Almost deleting it on the presumption that it was spam, I opened the email to discover that Teeny Tiny Productions was actually associated with microcars. Reading further, I learned that they planned to host a special exhibit at the upcoming New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), and this email was my personal invitation to participate.

I called the provided number and spoke to a gentleman named Burt Richmond who assured me that this was legit. He and his business/personal partner Diane Fitzgerald had hosted a number of microcar-themed events in and around the Chicago area, where they resided. The email targeted me as an Isetta owner who lived in the NY Metro area. There were no costs to me outside of the need to transport the vehicle in and out of the city. He asked “are you game?” to which I replied “sure”, thinking that adding a display at the NYIAS to my Isetta’s résumé could only be a good thing.

According to the schedule I was provided, the “Petite Concours”, as the special display was named, would run only for the first five days of the show, including press days, and not its entirety. We owners would load our vehicles into the Jacob Javits Center before the show opened, and would get them out on a Sunday, after that day’s show had ended. This made it easier for me, as traffic in the area would be (relatively) minimized. Burt and Diane were on hand when I loaded in, and Burt was in charge of the floor arrangement. My car was chosen as one of four Isettas to be arranged in an “X”, with the cars’ tail ends inward. Thankfully, the vehicles were stanchioned off, and there was 24-hour security provided by the Javits crew.

My car is the red one on the right

Because we were in a room on the lower level, and not part of the main exhibit, I won’t pretend that the Petite Concours was a major spectator draw. Certainly, the other vehicles on display, which included Messerschmitts, Crosleys, Citroen 2CVs, old and new Hondas, Fiats, and NSUs, attracted some of the crowd that just happened to be meandering past, not necessarily aware of the special showing. As I’ve observed when an assortment of miniature cars is at a show, the Isetta becomes viewed as something that’s almost ‘normal’ when surrounded by some of its more abnormal contemporaries.

A view of some of the other microcars on display

The five days went quickly enough; the probable highlight of the entire affair was being behind the wheel of my car and piloting it through the dungeon known as the Javits’s basement. I’ve walked the show enough times, and had the pleasure of attending so often on a press pass, yet never imagined there would be a day when my little bubble car and I would be in that locale together.

A balcony shot showing some of the audience
OCTOBER 2011: THE MONMOUTH COUNTY CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

Later in the year, my good friend Dennis Nash called me up. He explained that he was very involved with an acquaintance of his who would be hosting a car show called the Monmouth County Concours d’Elegance, and 2011 was to be its 2nd running. Dennis said that they were quite short of judges, and asked me if I would judge for the day (no special training needed!). He also threw in the fact that the show vehicles were admitted as invitation-only, and he was extending such an invitation to my Isetta.

The show was scheduled for October 1, and checking my calendar, I noted that I had no conflicts, so I told Dennis I was in. Dennis’s only other request was that I arrive early that day for a judges’ meeting, and to be assigned to a team.

The day turned out to be cool and overcast, but we were thankfully spared the wet stuff, which counted for a lot, given that I was dressed in the de rigueur judge’s outfit of navy blazer, white shirt, chinos, and loafers (boater’s hats were optional). Dennis was running the judges’ meeting, and we were all put into teams of two. My judging partner was…. Dennis’s wife Ann Marie! I was happy to be with someone I knew, and the judging was quite informal anyway. There was a wonderful and eclectic selection of vehicles on the lawn, but to be blunt, the caliber of vehicles didn’t strike me as what I would expect to find at an “invitation only” concours. I did enjoy myself, in large part because the Nashes are a wonderful couple, and as dedicated to the old car hobby as any married pair I’ve ever met.

An elegant Rolls-Royce in some unusual colors

 

A decidedly non-original ’40 Ford

 

A personal favorite, the Lancia Fulvia coupe

 

Jaguar XKE Series III roadster

 

Award-winning Pontiac Grand Prix (even w/misaligned headlight doors)

 

I don’t believe that the Monmouth Concours continued much past 2012, if it even made it that far. As well-intentioned as the show organizers were, they learned how difficult it is to put on a top-notch fling, especially with the calendar becoming more and more crowded with collector car type events every weekend from April through October.

 

POSTSCRIPT: FALL HERSHEY

The following weekend was Hershey, and of course I was there. Wandering the aisles during the Saturday car show, I spotted this forlorn BMW out for judging:

This was the germination of an idea – could I, would I, consider putting my Isetta on display at Hershey? Stay tuned for the answer!

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 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.

 

 

AACA Hershey 2018, A Play in 3 Acts: Act III, The Saturday Car Show

If you’ve read Act I about the flea market and car corral, and Act II about the auction, then you know that AACA Hershey has a little bit of everything for everyone in this hobby. However, this is still a meet and its raison d’être is the judged show on Saturday.

Driver’s Participation Class vehicles

The AACA judging process may seem arcane to the uninitiated, but First Junior, First Senior, Preservation, Grand National, DPC, and HPOF are embedded in the rule book, and are chased with unbridled enthusiasm. Why? For the same set of reasons: points, trophies, bragging rights. The weather, well-known to be unpredictable in this part of the world in October, hardly plays a role. When car owners have spent most of the year prepping their vehicles for The Big One, a little bit of water will not deter them from making an entrance.

U.S. spectators travel from as far as California to attend Hershey

Hershey is glorious when it’s sunny and 65. It’s barely tolerable when it’s cloudy, windy, and 50, as it was in 2018. Yet I would estimate that the show field was 95%+ filled, and foot traffic was more crowded than years past. Since vehicles are arranged by class, it’s easy to walk among the cars you want to see, and skip those you don’t. My continued infatuation with pre-war classics was rewarded with some beautiful machinery. And some newer cars weren’t so bad either. As you’ll read below under STORIES, meeting new hobbyists and hearing their stories continues to be an engaging part of the hobby.

 

1931 Lincoln

 

1926 Willys Knight

 

1931 Jordan

 

1933 Packard

 

1940 LaSalle

 

 

1961 Pontiac Ventura

 

 

1957 Dual Ghia

 

MG-TF

 

 

1963 Studebaker Avanti

 

Boattail Riv’s: ’73 (L) shows toned-down tail next to ’72 (R)

 

Mazda Miata NA (1st gen)

 

Mopar Muscle:

 

My 1993 Mazda Miata NA (1st gen), making its Hershey debut in HPOF:

 

STORIES:


Stan and the Bucket

“Hey, where’d you get the water for the bucket?”

“Ha ha! From my bathtub! I filled it up and carried it down to the parking lot.”

It was Friday evening, the day before The Big Show. The gentleman had alighted from his 1954 Pontiac at the rear of the Harrisburg Marriott where we were both staying, and watched me sponge off my quite dirty Miata using clean water from my bucket. Actually, my car had been spic-and-span clean two days before. It was the drive out on Thursday in the torrential rain which soiled it. Since it was wearing a fresh coat of wax, my theory was that a gentle bath with warm water would cleanse it again, and it seemed to be working.

Stan’s 1954 Pontiac in HPOF

“Gee, that would work on my car, if only I had remembered to bring a bucket.”

“I’m actually done with the Miata. You staying here? You can borrow my bucket and give it back to me later.”

“You sure? Ok, well, thanks.”

With that, Stan took my bucket while I said to myself, the worst that happens is I never see the bucket again. No big deal.

Saturday morning, I headed out to my car, and sure enough, my bucket was next to my car. Whether Stan had gotten to use it or not, he was honest enough to return it.

Heading inside for breakfast, I ran into Stan, and he invited me to sit with him. He was traveling by himself, as I was. We talked cars (natch), and he told me that his Pontiac was going to be a first-time entry in HPOF, as was the case for my Miata.

We shared some tips with each other about preserving paint and the like, which is when Stan told me that he had some other cars at home in Maryland, including a 1967 Volvo 1800S.

“Oh, I know those Volvos a little bit…” I always start out cautiously with a new friend about any Volvo knowledge I might possess. Treading lightly is a good start in case they have reason to despise the marque, and also to avoid any implication that I’m some kind of expert, which I’m not.

Stan continued: “I actually have a bunch of other Fords and Chevys home, and I like them all. But there’s something special about that 1800….”

I learned for the umpteenth time not to make suppositions about car people. Watching someone motor along in his 1954 Pontiac, I would never presume that the same collector would also enjoy a ‘60s Swedish sporty car. I was glad to be wrong.


Larry and the Fire Extinguisher

My Miata and I arrived on the show field a few minutes past 9am. Normally I would have preferred to make my entrance earlier, but the morning sprinkles caused me to delay my departure to minimize re-soiling my clean car. It got dirty anyway. Out came the cleaning supplies, and the Great Car Show Detailing commenced once again.

Judging was due to start at 10am. At 9:55, I was still wiping down the painted horizontal surfaces when I heard the voice: “Is this your car?” I spun ‘round to face two men wearing judge’s hats. They’re early, I muttered to myself. Can’t blame them; they’ve got a lot of cars to judge.

The judges spent perhaps five minutes looking over my car. As the proud owner, I was too anxious to answer questions they hadn’t asked. They thanked me for bringing it, and moved to the ’68 Camaro next to me. I looked at my watch: 10:01am. This was a blessing! With no need to hang around my car, the day was free to move among all the glorious machinery on the show field. I began by walking down the row of the remaining HPOF cars.

It stood out like a bright light among the cars surrounding it: a 1st gen Porsche 928 in white. The owner was still wiping it down when I engaged him with some questions.

Larry’s Porsche 928 in HPOF

“How long have you had it?”

“Since new.”

“Tell me, how are the maintenance and repair costs? I hear horror stories.”

“Not bad, really. Stay up on the preventative stuff, and it’s quite reliable.”

“Do you do your own work on it?”

“No, but it’s still not bad to maintain.”

With that, the 928 owner exclaimed “Oh crap. I forgot a fire extinguisher. Now what am I gonna do?”

“Listen”, I said, “my car’s been judged. I don’t need mine. I’d be happy to loan it to you.”

“Really? I’d appreciate it.”

I jogged back to the Miata, grabbed the extinguisher, and hustled it back to him.

“What’s your name?”

“Larry.”

“I’m Richard. I’ll swing by later, or, if you don’t see me, my car is the black Miata in the row behind you.”

“Thanks again, I really appreciate it.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that this was my weekend to loan items to fellow car owners, but it was OK. Again, the worst that could happen would be I would be out a relatively inexpensive fire extinguisher.

Hours later, I was finally heading back to my car. The extinguisher was on the floor, and I thought I would swing past the 928 one more time to see how he did. Its owner was sitting in the front seat. But I had forgotten his name. As I approached the car, I glanced at the dashboard placard: “Larry Holbert”.

“Hey Larry, how did you do?”

“Oh, judging went fine. And thanks for the extinguisher. I returned it.”

“Yes, I saw. Listen, I just noticed your last name, and the dealer plate on the back says this car came from Holbert Porsche. Any relation?”

“Yeah, my father started the dealership.”

“So you’re related to Al Holbert?”

“Al was my brother.”

A wave of emotion and nostalgia overwhelmed me. Al Holbert, a successful race car driver and team owner, was killed in a single-occupancy plane crash in 1988. I didn’t know Al, but at that time, I was in a band with a fellow band member who worked at the Porsche dealership and knew Al well. My friend was very broken up over the loss.

I told Larry about my band buddy, and expressed my condolences over his loss.

A while later, I looked up Larry Holbert. Up until the dealership was sold a few years ago, he had been president and CEO of Holbert Porsche. Yet when I asked him about his 928, said nothing about his executive status. He gave no hint that his stature meant that he could have these things taken care of. On a cool October Saturday on a show field in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he was just Larry, fellow car enthusiast.

 

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

 

AACA Hershey 2018, A Play in 3 Acts: Act II, The RM/Sotheby’s Auction

“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 most special auction cars were in the lobby of the Hersey Lodge

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 II, The RM/Sotheby’s Auction.


The RM Sotheby’s Hershey Auction, a mainstay event for the last several years, is now “the official auction of AACA Hershey”. For the uninitiated, it is held on the grounds of the Hershey Lodge, about four miles from the flea market/car corral at Hersheypark.

Bidders pay $200 for an auction catalog, granting them entry into the arena. For everyone else, it’s not so bad: there’s plenty of free parking (provided you show up before the 5:30pm kickoff); a bidder’s badge is NOT required for you to walk among the cars under the tents; and outdoor loudspeakers broadcast the auctioneer’s chants and gavel smacks. Perhaps best of all, you can watch the dedicated RM staff get each of these beasts running and driving into the building. Unless you plan to bid, the real show is outside.

It’s a two-day affair, held on both Thursday and Friday, and I was there only on the first day. RM has long specialized in auctioning primarily American iron, both pre- and post-war, with a smattering of high end European vehicles thrown into the mix. If anything, by my casual observation, the American offerings have become even more mainstream (witness the ’68 Camaro, something I thought I’d more likely see at Mecum). But pre-war cars continue to rise to the top of the “sold” column (more about that in a bit).

Several auction trends continue. “Estate sales” again constituted a large percentage of cars here. There were three such named estate lots on offer, and the first of these to cross the block, the Richard L. Burdick collection, did so early on Thursday.

Mr. Burdick, a successful businessman and collector, passed away earlier this year, and obviously, his family decided that the auction method was the cleanest way to liquidate his automotive holdings. Trend #2 is to note the high percentage of “no reserve” sales, such as almost every car in the Burdick Collection.

In spite of what some perceive as a softening in the collector car hobby, the auction houses hold a good amount of power: they have continued to demonstrate their ability to move the metal (especially noteworthy in our digital-rich age); they can arrange for cars to be brought to the auction site; and they may even include some auction prep work (for the appropriate fee).

In exchange for the advertising, marketing, host location, and expected bidders, the auction company can state that all this is done on the condition of a no-reserve sale. It’s positioned as a win-win-win: the car is sold to an exuberant new owner, the seller/estate gets paid, the auction company earns its slice, and everyone goes home happy. And that’s not a bad thing! Bidders and observers alike find it a special treat to see a no-reserve car climb the block, knowing that the car is guaranteed to sell.

If no-reserve sales have potentially pushed down values, no one is seen complaining. The reality is that both buyer and seller may be happier with a guaranteed sale at 80% of perceived value compared to no sale at 100% of perceived (and unachieved) value. (Two days after the auction ended, RM Sotheby’s rightly bragged about their 94% sell-through rate.)

Automobilia is a big part of the auction

Staying on values, much has been written about the ups and downs of market values, driven in no small measure by collectors of various ages entering and leaving the hobby. For example, we know that Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1962, collect the cars of their youth. As the oldest Boomers leave the market, it’s said, then the cars they’ve been chasing (in this case, American cars of the early-to-mid ‘50s) drop in value. To some extent, that has been true. Many American cars of that time period hit their value peak a few years back, and while they are certainly not worthless, prices have dipped.

The other side of the curve has seen demand (and therefore values) rise for cars of the ‘80s and ‘90s as young entrepreneurs and executives, dripping with newfound wealth or at least some disposable income, snap up the cars whose posters adorned their bedroom walls. We’ve seen it with everything from Fox-body Mustangs to Lamborghini Countachs.

If we follow this logic, then it should stand to reason that most cars built before World War II would have little or no following, and I’ve heard that uttered by more than one pundit. Let’s do the math: a 1934 Lincoln should be attractive to someone who got their driver’s license that year. He or she could probably barely afford a used Model T, but they lusted for that Lincoln (or Packard, Cadillac, Duesenberg, etc.). Someone who turned 18 in 1934 was born in 1916. If alive today (unlikely), that person would be 102 (and if I’m wrong, Happy Birthday).

Reality at RM Hershey is this: of the top 10 highest-priced cars which sold, NINE were pre-war (the only exception a 1960 Plymouth Fury convertible). Here is a quote from the email I received from RM:

“… top honors going to the 1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, which exceeded its pre-sale estimate and achieved a final price of $495,000. Other strong results for American classics included a 1941 Packard Custom Super Eight One Eighty Convertible Victoria by Darrin, which reached a final price of $357,500, and a 1934 Lincoln Model KB Convertible Sedan by Dietrich, which exceeded estimate at $286,000.”

 

So who is buying these cars? My own theory is that the great American pre-war classics are being purchased by a variety of well-heeled collectors of no particular age group. They see these cars as transcending any pre-ordained value curve. Instead, the cars have been elevated to a status of collectability akin to fine art: they are admired for their style, grandeur, and place in history. Whether the purchaser remembers this car from an earlier time is of no consequence. Just as someone with means may decide to grab a vase, table, or piece of jewelry from a time long ago for its intrinsic beauty and value, automobiles from the earliest decades of the 20th century are now in that same rarefied position.


The cars featured below are a sample of the Thursday auction cars which I inspected and which sold. Hammer prices are shown exclusive of 10% buyer’s premium. (Of the 16 here, 11 hammered under estimate.)

Vehicles are arranged in ascending price order.

 

Lot 155, 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SL, champagne/brown, pre-sale estimate $20-25,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $15,500

Just another used 107-platform SL, like seen so often at Carlisle and Mecum. Buyer didn’t take pre-sale bait.

Lot 172, 1969 Buick Riviera, brown, tan vinyl top, tan interior. Dealer emblem on back is from Quebec Canada. Pre-sale estimate $25-30,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $16,000

The RWD Rivs consistently sell in the mid-high teens, so price was appropriate.

Lot 171, 1989 Mercedes-Benz 450SL, white, white hardtop, black softop, pre-sale estimate $20-25,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $16,000

1989 was the last year for the 107 chassis, and they usually bring a higher price, so well-bought. May have been held back a bit by the refrigerator white color.

Lot 175, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro convertible, blue/blue, 350/automatic, “SS exterior trim” implying fakey-doo, pre-sale estimate $35-40,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $25,500

I’m no Camaro expert, but the price seemed fair for the condition.

 

Lot 199, 1951 Kaiser Dragon sedan, two-tone green, dragon skin upholstery, claimed 11k original miles, pre-sale estimate $35-50,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $26,000

From the Burdick collection. If you had to have a Dragon, this might have been the one to have.

Lot 176, 1959 Ford Sunliner convertible, blue/white inside and out, Continental Kit, pre-sale estimate $40-45,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $26,000

The Skyliner retractable gets all the attention; the soft-top Sunliner, with its ‘normal’ sized trunk, is arguably the better-looking car.

Lot 195, 1954 Ford Crestline Skyliner, white, blue painted top, blue interior. Glass roof, claimed “rare peek-a-boo” hood; pre-sale estimate $40-50,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $28,000

From the Burdick Collection. Claimed 13k original miles and cosmetic restoration.

Lot 173, 1969 VW Microbus camper, blue/white, “weekender” edition fully equipped for camping, pre-sale estimate $25-30,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $30,000

One of the few cars seen on Thursday to sell within estimate. VW buses continue to gain traction in the hobby, and you can even live in this one if you have to.

Lot 196, 1947 Lincoln Continental convertible, green/tan top/green, V12, one of just 738 made, pre-sale estimate $35-45,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $34,000

From the Burdick Collection. The post-war restyle did this car no favors, and neither did the color (and I like green cars, but not this green). Sold for a grand under low estimate. Cheap way to get 12 cylinders.

Lot 156, 1964 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible, white, dark red leather, factory air, pre-sale estimate $30-40,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $35,000

Sold exactly at estimate mid-point. Clean, good looking, imposing car. Someone got a decent deal on a great cruiser.

Lot 153, 1971 Volvo 1800E, dark silver/red, pre-sale estimate $25-30,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $35,000

This was the first car to cross the block (after the automobilia). Someone got excited and paid above estimate. To my eye, the color and the alloys weren’t right. Well above market for an 1800 Coupe.

Lot 178, 1957 Olds 98 convertible, red & white in & out, J-2 tri-power, pre-sale estimate $50-60,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $47,500

1957 was a peak year for GM styling, before it went a bit haywire in ’58. This was a great-looking full-size American convertible. Well bought.

Lot 187, 1936 Cord Westchester 4-door sedan, beige, FWD, pre-sale estimate $55-65,000

SOLD FOR $53,000

This is the only car in this report to have had a reserve. Usually, the low number on the pre-sale estimate IS the reserve, yet this sold for two grand under that. Most people who want a FWD Cord will hold out for a drop-top, but I find these sedans to be just as attractive.

Lot 179, 1954 Chevrolet Corvette, white/red, inline 6 and Powerglide as built, pre-sale estimate $60-70,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $59,500

Close enough to say that it just sold at low end of estimate. These first and second year 6-cylinder cars have their followers.

Lot 180, 1958 Jaguar XK150 Coupe, white/red, wires, pre-sale estimate $50-60,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $70,000

It was a nice-looking restoration, but these coupes don’t look as good to my eye as the convertibles. Someone saw more value here than RM did, and they may have been correct.

Lot 157, 1948 Playboy retractable hardtop/convertible, light blue, white painted top, tan interior, pre-sale estimate $55-75,000, no reserve

SOLD FOR $120,000

I’ve never seen one in the metal. It’s a sad and pathetic looking little thing, and this is coming from a former Isetta owner. It’s so rare that there may be no prior sales history, so making an accurate estimate is not possible. Whoever got it will have the only one at every show they attend.

 

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

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.