Carlisle Auctions’ Spring 2023 event took place over two days this year, with the auction running on Thursday and Friday, April 20 and 21. This was a particularly fun event for me because of the number of lots in which I had great personal interest. Before we get to the particulars, though, a few words (as always) about this auction and the state of the hobby as we begin the car show season in the Northeast.
There is no doubt that transaction prices, in general, are up. The high-quality cars continue to be in demand and continue to bring good money. At the same time, for beginners, or bottom feeders, or anyone for whom a bargain price is a deal, there are still choices. Case in point: Thursday’s auction, which actually began about 15 minutes early (and caught me off-guard, as I was still outside), got off to a roaring start by anyone’s measure. Of the first 31 cars to cross the block, 26 of them sold (the 5 that did not meet reserve were an eclectic lot, and included a ’29 Nash, a ’62 Bonneville, a 2005 BMW 3-series, and most bizarrely, a ’66 Fiberfab). Now, of the 26 that did sell, 23 of them hammered for less than $10,000 each (I stress “hammered”, as all referenced sale prices are exclusive of an 8% buyer’s premium). Many of these early cars were true projects, but some were vehicles for which there isn’t great demand, like an ’87 Corvette ($6500), a 1996 RHD MG-F ($4250), and a 2008 Saturn Sky ($9000). In other words, something for everyone.
Once past this initial surge, things slowed down a bit, though, with many cars not meeting reserve. A rough guess is that the remainder of Thursday’s auction had around a 50% sell-through rate, not a great performance. As Friday’s auction started, one of the announcers stated “we had a good day yesterday, but frankly we’re hoping for a better day today”. Based on my notes from the first 70 or so cars to cross the block, Friday’s sell-through rate was up significantly to decent 67%. I also found it interesting that to my eye, the room was less crowded on Friday than it was on Thursday.
Compared to Mecum, and certainly compared to the “catalog” auctions run by RM, Sotheby’s and the like, Carlisle is still a mom-and-pop operation, with a large number of dealers in the audience. They are there to buy and to sell, and they’re expecting to pay wholesale. So you do see bargains, but you also see cars that don’t meet reserve. Over these past few days, I began to realize that in a situation like this, a published book value is not very meaningful. The audience isn’t dumb, and they will buy the car if they feel the price is fair. However, some sellers still have inflated concepts of the values of their own vehicles, and that is outside the control of the bidders. For a sale to occur, the reserve must be reasonable, and the bidders must see the worth. That is all that matters, and that is what it takes for a successful auction transaction.
Sold lots are listed first, and as always on Richard’s Car Blog, are listed in hammer price order, from low to high. Following this is a selection of interesting lots which did not meet reserve.
Lot T121, 1996 MG-F, green paint, grey interior. RHD, mid-engine 1.8L 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual, A/C.
SOLD FOR $4250
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the metal before. Obviously is old enough to be legally imported under the “25-year-old” rule. Given how popular JDM RHD cars are, I would imagine that there are enough people out there willing to embrace the quirkiness of this one. You might have the only one at the next MG meet.
Lot T140, 1982 Buick Riviera, tan paint, vinyl roof, and leather upholstery. Five-digit odometer reads 53, 328. Engine is 307 V8, driving front wheels through an automatic transmission. Wire-wheel hub caps, whitewall tires. Buckets and center console, which I believe are rare in this generation Riviera. One of the cleanest cars at the auction. Only flaw of note is that plastic bumper filler pieces are warped, but they are not cracked.
SOLD FOR $8500.
While you may see this as a typical ‘80s-era GM luxo-barge, these have a following among Riviera fans. I’ve read some of the contemporary road tests where it has been claimed that they are actually nice driving and riding cars. This sale may have been one of the truly good deals of the auction.
Lot T171, 1987 Ford Mustang GT convertible, white paint, white top, red plaid cloth interior. Odometer (5-digit) reads 68,308, 5.0 V8, 5-speed manual. Looks great from afar as well as close up. No major flaws noted, could be original paint. Interior has held up well; obvious that car was not left outside with the top down. Biggest flaw noted was 2001 date codes on tires.
SOLD FOR $14,000
Fox-body Mustangs continue to be some of the best performance bargains out there. While a few bring bigger bucks, here is a great example of a very usaable driver with lots of life left in it. A friend texted me the day after this sale to report that the new owner had this car online for sale with an ask of $20k, and he was using the Carlisle auction photos!
Lot T194, 1951 Kaiser Club Coupe, 2-door sedan. Deluxe trim model, Continental flathead 6, 4-speed GM-sourced Hydramatic transmission, one high quality repaint in copper, copper colored interior is stated to be original to the car. Upholstery looks ok, but carpet in rear is worn. Headliner very deteriorated, especially where it meets the windshield and door tops. Five-digit odometer reads 44,021. Whitewall tires, full wheel covers, AM radio, clear vinyl cover on front bench seat.
SOLD FOR $14,500
I saw this online a week before the auction and was totally smitten. Seeing it in person did not disappoint. What a rare sight, and this “Club Coupe” is different from the 2-door sedan, as it features a shortened greenhouse and an extended deck lid. Styled by Howard “Dutch” Darrin, as all the ’51 Kaisers were, this must have stood out when new as much as it stands out today. I thought that this one might fly under the radar, but someone really wanted it and paid a price fair to both buyer and seller.
Lot F484, 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible, emberglo paint, emberglo interior. Full wheel covers, whitewall tires, fender skirts. Sign says 390 V8 and 3-speed auto. I did not note if the car has A/C. Some flaws: paint damage on left side of convertible top cover, filler strip between rear bumper and body completely missing, upholstery damage on driver’s seat and driver’s door panel. Displayed with top down at all times. Online photos show a white convertible top.
SOLD FOR $15,000
The car was declared a “no sale” at $15,000, and 5 minutes after it left the block the auctioneer announced “we sold the Thunderbird”. Carlisle’s website confirms the $15,000 number. I am a sucker for emberglo, which was a one-year-only color for Ford. Even with the flaws, that wrap-around back seat is a killer look. Drive it and fix it as you go.
Lot F550, 1966 Ford Mustang hardtop, emberglo, emberglo/parchment pony interior. Mustang wheel covers, whitewall tires, dual exhaust. Odometer reads 51,753. Engine is “A code” 289 4-barrel, with 3-speed manual gearbox. Manual steering and brakes. Woodrim steering wheel missing a big chunk.
SOLD FOR $17,000
Was bid on the block to a $16,000 no-sale; website indicates sale price, so it sold after. One of the oddest combination of options I’ve seen on a Mustang. Basically, the A code engine is the only option. The interior trim code indicates “emberglo” but there is another trim code for “emberglo/parchment” so I suspect the pony interior was added after. Like the ’66 T-Bird, I really like this one-year-only color.
Lot T119, 1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, 2-door coupe, turquoise, grey leather interior, 3.0L V6 mounted transversely, AWD, 5-speed manual, 6-digit odometer reads 034434, underhood shows aftermarket hoses and pipes, giving modded “boy racer” vibe, exterior undamaged but not clean, interior the same. Clutch pedal was one of the stiffest I have ever tried, my left leg would be worn out in 5 minutes of city driving.
SOLD FOR $23,250
This was the first big sale of the day, and the bidding action was frantic. I presume that some of the value was driven by the low mileage, but the entire car will need a serious detailing before it can be resold.
Lot 546.1, 1959 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, 4-door hardtop, dark blue, blue and grey interior. Full wheel covers, whitewall tires. Write-up claims California car, factory A/C, 57,000 miles.
SOLD FOR $38,000
Most cars which cross the block at Carlisle are up there for less than two minutes. The auctioneers are consistently able to run 30-35 cars an hour. Sometimes, though, they let the bidding linger, which is what happened with this Caddy. Bidding stalled at around $36,000, but they didn’t close the lot. Instead, I saw the owner up there, as he was pressured by a ringleader to lower his reserve. After about 4 minutes of this, he got a disgusted look on his face, and the auctioneer intoned “the reserve is off!” Two bids later, it hammered for $38k. The paint on this car was stunning. There is nothing more I can say about these fins that hasn’t already been said. Let’s hope the new owner has a large garage.
CARS WHICH DID NOT MEET RESERVE:
Lot T108, 1929 Nash Standard Six 4-door sedan, black, brown mohair interior, wooden wheels, blackwall tires, unmounted spare at rear, inline 6, manual gearbox. Body shows no obvious damage, black paint is ok, probably a repaint from many years ago. Interior might be original. Driver’s door shows both pot-metal handles for window winder and door release are broken. Like so many cars at the auction, car looks like no one bothered to clean or detail it for the auction.
HIGH BID: $8,000
This was one of several cars being sold on behalf of the AACA Museum, and as such, it is fair to presume that this car was donated to the Museum, but they decided to sell it rather than show it (a statement to the car’s condition). The other Museum donations sold. I am lacking an explanation as to why this high bid was not accepted.
Lot F402, 1982 Toyota Celica Supra, blue paint, blue interior, Toyota alloys with raised white letter tires. Inline six, 5-speed manual, 126,669 miles on odometer. Owner claims California car. Paint shows significant wear and fading on most horizontal surfaces.
HIGH BID $8500
The owner was really hawking this car, doing his best to distract viewers from the paint by pointing out the positives. It didn’t help its block performance. It’s a shame because the car looked decent other than the paint, which could only be remedied by a complete respray.
Lot F556, 1985 Ford Mustang GT hatchback, Canyon red, grey cloth interior. Carbureted 5.0L V8, 5-speed manual, Mustang alloy wheels with blackwall tires. Odometer reads 68,976. Sign claims one family-owned since new. Very clean car given age and mileage. Biggest drawback: no A/C.
HIGH BID: $14,000
I overheard the son of the owner as he was detailing the car talking about his dad’s thought process when ordering it: “He didn’t want A/C because it would have added weight and made the car slower”. Such was the thinking in 1985. I had my eye on this one as a potential purchase, but lack of A/C was a dealbreaker. I asked at the resale desk about the reserve: $18,000 which seems a bit high to me.
Lot T193, 1991 Mazda Miata, silver, black cloth interior, Mazda daisy alloys with blackwall tires, 1.6L inline 4, 5-speed manual, odometer reads just under 9,000 miles. Except for mileage, an otherwise unremarkable NA Miata.
HIGH BID: $16,000
It continues to amaze me how many early low-mileage Miatas were seemingly salted away, and are now coming out of the woodwork and in some cases, bringing the bucks. High bid had to have been close.
Lot T209.1, 1971 Jaguar E-Type 2+2 Coupe, silver, red interior, V12/automatic. Aftermarket Minilite-style wheels. Silver paint and red upholstery look decent, but entire looks of vehicle marred by Jaguar “leaper” hood ornament and completely unnecessary “V12” emblems behind quarter windows.
HIGH BID: $37,500
From a distance, this looked like a presentable Series III Coupe, even with the automatic, as many of them had. But the “custom touches” ruined the car for me, and likely for the bidders too. High bid was fair for equipment and condition (just imagine trying to repair those holes in the hood from that emblem!).
All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.