RM-Sotheby’s Hershey Auction, October 2016

RM-Sotheby’s again held their fall auction in Hershey PA to coincide with the AACA Hershey meet. As has been their custom, this was a two-day event, held at the Hershey Lodge on Thursday and Friday, October 6 & 7, 2016. All the vehicles were staged under two large tents pitched in the Lodge’s parking lot, with the actual auction taking place inside one of the conference rooms.

The RM tent immediately adjacent to the building entrance
The RM tent immediately adjacent to the building entrance

For those unwilling to pay the $200 to sit inside, RM thoughtfully set up loudspeakers outside. By positioning oneself immediately adjacent to the entrance door, one had a clear view of all the cars entering and leaving the building. The PA did a fine job of ensuring that you heard the bidding as it happened.

The vehicles for sale this year were a good mix of domestic and imported product. RM has recently specialized in pre-war vehicles, and despite the naysayers who insist that the audience for most anything built before World War Two is dead, these vehicles continue to garner interest among collectors. We also observed that the trend toward offering unrestored and “barn find” cars continued.

The majority of Thursday’s lots (and many of Friday’s) were listed as “offered without reserve”. (RM has long had a policy that vehicles with pre-sale estimates below a certain amount must be no-reserve sales. Several years ago, that threshold was $50,000. This year it appeared to be closer to $100,000.) Indeed, of the 15 lots covered below, 13 were no-reserve pieces. Perhaps more telling, 9 of these 15 sold under their pre-sale estimate.

You won't find this at Mecum: RM offers history of every lot they sell
You won’t find this at Mecum: RM offers history of every lot they sell

Presented below is a sample of Thursday’s sale results, the only day I was in attendance. SOLD prices are hammer prices, WITHOUT the 10% buyer’s premium. The results are again bracketed in price ranges, to provide a clearer sense of what’s available within a certain budget.

One more point: It is my opinion that remaining outside to directly observe the RM crew valiantly attempt to start and drive these vehicles reveals more about their overall condition than could be gleaned by parking one’s behind inside.

UNDER $10,000:

Lot #111, 1960 Ford Zodiac Mk II Saloon, 4-door sedan, red & white, red interior. Six-cylinder engine with automatic transmission. Pre-sale estimate of $10-15,000.

SOLD at no reserve for $4,000

Never saw one in the metal before, although I’ve seen grainy black and white photos of John, Paul, George and Ringo standing around one. Not the most attractive thing, although the quality of the restoration was decent. Drive it to your next Beatles convention.


Lot #117, 1963 Sunbeam Rapier Series III convertible, medium blue, white stripe and top, blue interior. Four-cylinder engine, 4-speed stick on the floor. Pre-sale estimate of $20-25,000.

SOLD at no reserve for $7,500

Another oddball British car, although with arguably a bit more charm than the Zodiac. The restoration looked top-notch, except for Port-a-wall whitewalls pulling away from the sides of the tires. You could have the only one at the next all-British  car show.

 Lot #130, 1963 Sunbeam Alpine Series III convertible, red, red removable hardtop, black interior. Four-cylinder engine with 4-speed stick. Pre-sale estimate of $20-30,000

SOLD at no reserve for $9,000

The car looked OK, possibly a well-kept original or older restoration. Of note, the catalog kept referring to the vehicle as a Series III, while the badges on the fenders and trunk stated Series IV. The hardtop adds to its all-weather use, although the Perspex windows were cracked and glazed.

Lot #116, 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 4-door sedan, bronze metallic, brown interior. Six-cylinder carbureted engine, automatic transmission. Pre-sale estimate of $15-20,000

SOLD at no reserve for $9,000

The catalog claimed this was an all-original car with just under 100,000 miles. My question is, who brings a car to a high-end auction with so many needs? Anyone who stuck their head through the open driver’s window could read the sticky note on the dash: “Brakes are VERY soft. Be prepared to use handbrake.” The RM staff had great trouble starting it, and it barely ran under its own power onto the block. On its way out, it stalled and would not restart. The hammer price is just the start of the expenses.


Right here is where it stalled, would not restart
Right here is where it stalled, would not restart


$10,000 to $15,000:

Lot #113, 1928 Pontiac 2-door coupe, tan body, black running boards and fenders, orange wood wheels. Six-cylinder engine, 3-speed manual transmission. Pre-sale estimate of $18-25,000

SOLD at no reserve for $12,500

A good-looking pre-war car in attractive colors, it ran well across the block. I’ll call it a good buy for someone interested in Pontiacs which pre-date Silver Streaks and Wide Tracks.

Pre-war Pontiac in handsome colors
Pre-war Pontiac in handsome colors


It got in and out under its own power
It got in and out under its own power


Lot #115, 1931 Chevrolet Independence 2-door sedan, dark blue body, black fenders, yellow wire wheels with whitewall tires. Six-cylinder engine, 3-speed manual transmission. Pre-sale estimate of $25-30,000

SOLD at no reserve for $15,000

A nice change from the usual Ford Model As, this compared well to the 1928 Pontiac which sold for a similar price. You had a choice of pre-war GM cars for under $20,000.

Nice pre-war Chevrolet
Nice pre-war Chevrolet


$20,000 to $35,000:

Lot #112, 1922 Buick Model 22-45 Five Passenger Touring, beige, dark tan fenders, white top. Six-cylinder engine, 3-speed manual transmission. Pre-sale estimate of $25-30,000.

SOLD at no reserve for $22,500

This makes an interesting comparison to the Pontiac and Chevy which sold for substantially less. This Buick appeared to be a more recent restoration (the odometer read 13 miles, and the catalog claimed this was the total mileage since it was restored), yet as a car with open sides, it may be seen as less usable than the two newer closed cars. The seller should be happy: it “almost” made low estimate.


Lot #125, 1928 Marmon Model 68 Roadster, blue, black fenders, white top, blue-painted wood wheels with whitewall tires. Inline 8-cylinder engine and 3-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate of $70-90,000.

SOLD at no reserve for $27,500

The catalog claimed that this was a mostly-unrestored car with 38,000 original miles. I thought it looked like a striking and honest automobile. (The straight-8 must give it some oomph.) The question is, was the pre-sale estimate way off, or did someone steal this car?

The Marmon leaves the building to a new owner
The Marmon leaves the building to a new owner


Lot #260, 1960 Volvo PV544 Sport 2-door sedan, red with red and white interior. Four-cylinder engine, two carbs, 4-speed manual transmission. Pre-sale estimate of $15-20,000

SOLD at no reserve for $31,000

While you do occasionally see Volvo PVs at auctions, from my experience it is rare to find one so thoroughly restored, and to original specs too. This car sold on Friday, so I was not present to witness what must have been spirited bidding, as the car sold for significantly over its high estimate. The audience recognized the quality of the resto.

Beautifully restored Volvo PV544
Beautifully restored Volvo PV544


Volvo's interior appears done to correct specs
Volvo’s interior appears done to correct specs

$50,000 to $90,000:

Lot #114, 1929 Packard Deluxe Eight Roadster. No paint color can be discerned. Inline 8-cylinder engine and 3-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate of $55-75,000.

SOLD at no reserve for $56,000

A barn find, or just a neglected old car? While the write-up assured all that the owner had brought the beast back to running condition, it still needed to be pushed around. Hey, at least it rolled. Sold almost right on its low estimate.

RM staff get their exercise pushing pudgy Packard
RM staff get their exercise pushing pudgy Packard


Lot #134, 1962 Ford Thunderbird convertible, white with aqua interior, Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels with wide whites. 390 V8, 3-speed automatic. Pre-sale estimate of $40-45,000.

SOLD at no reserve for $60,000

The catalog claimed that aside from one repaint in its original white, this was mostly an original car. While it looked nice, and I do like these so-called Bullet Birds, I can only explain the sale price blowing past reserve by the fact that the car sat on the block for 10 minutes while two determined bidders duked it out.

Lot #141, 1969 Jaguar E-Type roadster, green with green interior, Series II car with inline 6 and 4-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate of $60-70,000

SOLD at no reserve for $64,000

At first glance, under the harsh tent lights, this looked like a lovely and well-preserved E-Type. The green-on-green may not be to everyone’s taste, but at least it was all original. Upon closer inspection, one noticed that there was no sheen to the paint at all. It actually looked like primer. The interior was decent, and underhood, things appeared like the car got occasional use and maintenance. This is today’s price for a “driver” Series II E-Type roadster.

The green E leaves the building, "SOLD!"
The green E leaves the building, “SOLD!”

Lot #127, 1935 Packard Eight Convertible Sedan, yellow, black top, wire wheels with whitewalls, tan interior RIGHT HAND DRIVE. Pre-sale estimate of $80-100,000.

SOLD for $70,000

A lovely yet imposing thing, its sale price may have been held back by its steering wheel placement. I don’t pretend to know Packards, but this one sold for only $14,000 more than Lot #114, AND it ran, AND it looked good. If I were in the market for a pre-war Packard, I know which one I would have sprung for.

Packard about to go across the block; note RHD wheel
Packard about to go across the block; note RHD wheel


Lot #128, 1959 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, white, silver coves, red interior. 230-hp 283 V8, 4-barrel carb, 4-speed stick shift. Pre-sale estimate of $75-90,000

SOLD at no reserve for $85,000

A stunning cosmetic restoration in striking colors, the catalog claimed that the car has “almost zero miles” since restoration, although the write-up goes on to state that the engine is an “unstamped replacement block”. That did not hold back the bidders. Like the ’62 T-Bird, a contest ensued among several attendees until the hammer price almost reached the high estimate.

C1 Corvette got lots of looks
C1 Corvette got lots of looks


Interior freshly restored, looks never sat in
Interior freshly restored, looks never sat in


Someone's wallet is $85k lighter, and someone else's is that much heavier
Someone’s wallet is $85k lighter, and someone else’s is that much heavier


$300,000 to $750,000:

Lot #140, 1957 Porsche 356A Speedster, orange, black hardtop, black interior. 60-hp 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate of $200-250,000

SOLD at no reserve for $310,000

This is a car which, to the uninitiated, should be sent directly to the junkyard. This Porsche could be the poster child for a “barn find”: It was bought by a man in 1967 who hand-painted it orange over its original white, enjoyed it for a few years, then stored it for 40 years, until it was rediscovered and sold. This 356 got more attention under the tent than anything else on Thursday. After protracted bidding, it screamed past its high estimate. Originality has its price. Shame about the paint.

Barn find Porsche, born white, spray-bombed orange
Barn find Porsche, born white, spray-bombed orange


Best I can say about interior is that it's all present
Best I can say about interior is that it’s all present


Hardtop likely rare accessory
Hardtop likely rare accessory; note parking lot stickers to left of license plate


The Speedster gets driven to its new owner
The Speedster gets driven to its new owner

Lot #142, 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, red with tan interior, pre-sale estimate of $900,000 – $1,100,000

SOLD for $750,000

This was another cosmetic stunner, even if its red-over-tan was a change from its factory blue-over-cream. Claimed to come from long-term ownership, I had every reason to expect the car to break into seven figures. These 300SL roadsters long ago achieved price parity with their Gullwing brothers. Therefore, it came as a total shock to watch the hammer fall at a number so far below the low estimate. Was it the color change, did the audience see something I didn’t, or is the market that soft?

Beautiful Benz 300SL roadster
Beautiful Benz 300SL roadster
Iconic styling carried over well from Gullwing to this
Iconic styling carried over well from Gullwing to this


Interior looks faultless; did someone get a great deal?
Interior looks faultless; did someone get a great deal?


All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.


Auction Report: Mecum, Harrisburg PA, July 2016

Mecum Auctions came back to Harrisburg PA for the third consecutive year, and held its auction event at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex on July 21-23, 2016. Your correspondent was in attendance, also for the third year running, and while external appearances were roughly the same, the men and women of Mecum have been hard at work on incremental improvements.

Mecum builds the same set at every auction
Mecum builds the same set at every auction

Two years ago, parking was confined to off-site lots which required shuttle buses to usher attendees back and forth. Food was only available from counter service inside the building, with limited menu choices. Signage everywhere was poor, leaving many to wander and wonder which way to turn.

YUGE video screens always give you current bid
YUGE video screens always give you current bid

This year, ample parking was available within the Complex parking lot itself, allowing one to be inside within minutes. Food trucks lined the back parking lot, offering the traditional burgers and chicken, plus crab cakes, po’ boys, pizza, and Greek gyros. Not only were large signs posted everywhere; upon entry, all who paid admission (NOT just bidders) were handed run sheets, maps, and daily programs. The improvements were palpable, and it reinforced the juggernaut that Mecum has become in the collector car auction business.

Good crowd, plenty of seating, and A/C
Good crowd, plenty of seating, and A/C

The quality of the consignments seemed rather consistent each of the three years, although this year, there were fewer of the vehicles that light my fire (original and/or unrestored American cars, and European sporty cars). The field was heavy with hot rods and resto-mods, and of course, the always-expected Mustangs, Camaros, and Corvettes (as my friend Larry said of them, “the backbone of the hobby”). The latter three models easily comprised about 20% of the total offerings.

The queue on its way to the block
The queue on its way to the block

Sitting through two complete days of across-the-block auction action, the room was almost constantly abuzz. Real bidders were bidding, and most cars generated a high level of excitement. When that seemed to wane, Mecum seemingly just turned up the volume on the already-blaring PA system to make sure you were awake.

A recent distasteful trend: well-restored cars with modern wheels
A recent distasteful trend: well-restored cars with modern wheels

Sell-through rate appeared strong (SWAG: 70%), helped by Dana himself arm-twisting owners on the spot to drop their reserves and close the deal. Are some prices off their highs of one to two years ago? Yes. Is everything selling at distress-sale levels? Absolutely not. To those who think that the collector-car hobby is in a slump, I hold up Mecum Harrisburg 2016 as Exhibit #1 that it is not. And if it was slumping, it has bounced back with a vengeance.

Mecum staff excellent at organizing cars in staging tent
Mecum staff excellent at organizing cars in staging tent

Below, in lot number order, are my thoughts on an varied group of cars and trucks which were interesting to me. You, no doubt, would have chosen 14 different vehicles to profile. Let me know which of these, if any, you would have bought for the price.




Condition estimate: 2+

SOLD for $15,500

This generation SL is hot right now, especially the 450-SLs from the late ‘70s like this one, and the final 560-SLs. Many of the ones we see at auction are dogs; this one was decidedly not. Price was not a bargain, but fair for a very presentable Benz. This car can likely be enjoyed and then sold in several years for the same or a little more.



T114.1, 1985 BUICK RIVIERA


Condition estimate: 4

SOLD for $2,000

The scene on the auction block was something I’d never witnessed before. As the car came up, “auctioneer A” could not get a single $1,000 opening bid for it. He asked, begged, cajoled, screamed, and pleaded, all in vain. There was a long pause, and (this was the novel part) Jimmy Landis, Mecum’s well-known town crier, grabbed the microphone and said “let me try”! But still no bids. Jimmy turned to the owner, and into the microphone, said “sir, nobody wants your car!” Finally, someone in the crowd, recognizing that they could buy a running, driving, V8-powered American automobile for cheap, bid $1,000, then $1,500, then $2,000, at which point Jimmy screamed SOLD!!! This entire process took the better part of 10 minutes.

We checked out the car later. The sides were laser-straight, but the black paint on the roof was a little sketchy. The interior was not trashed, and it all seemed to be there. Someone got a driver for very little money.




Condition estimate: 3-

SOLD for $12,500

There were a large number of GM pickups from this generation (’67-’72) at the auction, most of which were either restored to #1 condition or were rodded. This was one of the few that appeared to be original and unrestored, and the truck had an honest vibe to it. The price seemed to favor the buyer; a few thousand more would not have surprised.





Condition estimate: 3-

SOLD for $7,000

Jaguar XK8 convertibles outsold their coupe counterparts 10 to 1. Coupes are therefore thin on the ground, and it was nice to see one. However, as I sat in the driver’s seat, “crumbs” appeared on my shirt. Looking up, I saw…. that the car had no headliner. This selling price (no reserve) seems fair, but don’t forget to factor in the parts and labor for a headliner.





Condition estimate: 2

SOLD for $13,500

Green over tan is popular on MGs and Jags, but not to everyone’s taste on America’s Sports Car. The car was clean and purportedly very low miles. Price was a bit higher compared to what we saw at Carlisle just 3 months ago; are C4s on the way up?




T154, 1984 PORSCHE 944              


Condition estimate: 2


As Porsche 911 prices climb beyond a reasonable level for the average collector, other Porsches gain interest. Several years ago, there was no such thing as a five-figure 944. This car, from the model’s third year of production, was highly optioned, and in an attractive and rare color. But it’s the later 944s which are getting bucks in the mid-teens. This car should have sold at this number.





Condition estimate: 2


The 1991 redesign of the XJS actually improved its looks, at which time, the introduction of a 6-cylinder engine and a full convertible meant most were built that way. That makes this late 12-cylinder coupe rare, but as we know, rare does not always equal valuable. The bid price seemed close enough to me, but not to the owner. One would guess we were no more than a few grand away from the reserve.





Condition estimate: 3-


“I got me a Chrysler it’s as big as a whale” sang the B-52s, and it certainly applies here. This car was fascinating on many levels: its size, originality, color scheme, and details like a shrouded dash with hide-away radio panel. This car was American late ‘60s luxury at its finest (if only it fit in my garage). A weekend spent detailing the land yacht (especially underhood) might have garnered a sale price a thousand or two more than the high bid.





Condition estimate: 4


All my friends know that I like small cars, and I’ve always been smitten with Bug-eyes. Sitting in this one, I was appalled at the complete lack of attention to detail. The overall vibe was of a car that was quickly slapped together for resale. Bug-eyes routinely trade in the $10,000-20,000 range, depending on equipment and condition. I don’t know what shocked me more: that the bidding reached $13,000, or that the owner didn’t grab the money and run.





Condition estimate: 2-

SOLD for $12,500

The color scheme, bright yellow with a BLUE cloth top and black interior, turned me off, as did the automatic transmission. There are too many other choices among used Boxsters to rate this as anything but on the expensive side for a late model play toy.





Condition estimate: 3


The XKR is the supercharged version, and this car (complete with headliner) deserved more. The miles were relatively high at 85k, but a mid-teens sale price would still be fair.







F80, 1965 FIAT 600


Condition estimate: 3

SOLD FOR $13,500

I fell in love again with an Italian redhead, but compared to last year’s 2-cylinder job, this girl runs a 4-banger and is water cooled. Thinking I might steal it if bidding stayed under $10k (hey, this audience is here for ‘murican muscle), bids quickly exceeded that and was hammed sold at what is admittedly a fair price. Just don’t take it on the Turnpike.






Condition estimate: 2-

SOLD for $34,000

The windshield decal claimed that the car has had the same owner since 1969, which seemed to play in this car’s favor, as it gave the appearance of a car that has been well-kept while still being enjoyed. Two-seat T-Bird prices are all over the place; as the final year of the first-gen car in an attractive color, I call this well-bought.



Condition estimate: 1-

SOLD for $25,000

There’s one at every auction – this one was in the frequently-seen two-tone combo of red and white. It appeared somewhat over-restored, save for some orange peel on the door. I spoke to the owner, who acknowledged that he might be out of his element with this audience, then confided in me that he needed to get $30k for it. I guess Dana changed his mind, because the hammer dropped $5k light.



All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.







The Carlisle Spring Auction, 2016

Spring Carlisle 2016, featuring an automotive flea market and car corral, was held at the Carlisle PA Fairgrounds from April 20th through 24th, 2016. In recent years, parent company Carlisle Events has also hosted a collector-car auction during the same week. This year, the auction was run on Thursday and Friday the 21st and 22nd at the Carlisle Expo Center, one block from the fairgrounds.

The Carlisle Expo Center is across the street from the famous fairgrounds
The Carlisle Expo Center is across the street from the famous fairgrounds

About 350 cars and trucks were driven, pushed, and dragged across the block. This is said with some facetiousness, as overall, the quality of the consignments was quite good. The few rats were obvious, and a cursory inspection of any of the vehicles revealed their true nature.


Overall highlights included the aforementioned strong condition of most of the entries, sufficient seating for bidders and spectators, a well-ventilated and well-lit indoor auction area, and plenty of available food and drink (including the hard stuff, which helps to lubricate your bidding arm).


On the downside, the Carlisle crew was lax in getting run sheets for Thursday printed when promised. During a phone call made earlier in the week, a staffer stated that run sheets would be ready at 8 a.m. Thursday morning. However, upon my arrival at 9, they were not out yet. Repeated trips to the windows were met with promises that they would have them “within the hour”. They finally made it out at 12:40 p.m, a little more than one hour before the auction’s start. At least Friday’s run sheets were out at 10 a.m.


Carlisle Events also seems to allow consignments to be added on the day of the auction; making matters worse, these vehicles in some cases do not show up on the grounds until hours before they are scheduled to cross the block. Prospective bidders have little chance to inspect the goods, and sellers are simply hurting themselves.


The auction business is still new to the folks who work for Carlisle Events, and while everyone seems to be trying very hard, the production has an amateurish, mom-and-pop feel to it. However, the crowds were there, cars changed hands, and as long as they keep trying, they should get better at this.


Following is a sample of the vehicles which crossed the block. CPI (Cars of Particular Interest) values are from the March-April 2016 price guide, value range is good-to-excellent, with amounts rounded to the nearest thousand. Reserve is shown on no-sale cars if the block announced it.


F464 1991 Chevy Corvette coupe, VIN 1G1YY2386M5104468, white, smoke glass top, 5.7L V8, automatic, 24,000 original miles, just serviced. Corvette alloy wheels are unmarked. Nose shows no paint chips or scrapes. Door seals in good shape. Interior is blue/gray, automatic, with slight carpet wear. Interior supports mileage claim. Paint looks original, all looks presentable. Glass OK. This car was very late in crossing the block, but bidder interest was high, possibly because of the low miles. Car was still sold within the CPI “good” range, so we’ll call this one well-bought.


HIGH BID: $9,200 SOLD!

CPI: $9,000-15,000


T106 1993 Chevy Corvette coupe, VIN 1G1YY23P2P5107900, LT1 350, 6-speed manual, mileage is 91000, red, smoke top, red interior, paint looks original, nose is unchipped, Corvette alloys are clean, one touch-up on driver’s door edge, typical wear to C4 window seals, red on red is garish, but driver’s seat shows little wear. If you like red, this was your car. This did not look like a car with 90k on it, and there was little to fault. There were at least 6 C4s among about 30 Corvettes at this auction, and in retrospect, this appears to be one of the best deals of the week.


HIGH BID: $7,600, SOLD!

CPI: $10,000-16,000

F479 1993 Chevy Corvette coupe, 5.7 V8, 40th anniversary edition, 6-speed manual, mileage unknown.  Teal color is very ‘90s, black leather interior gives dark ambience. Corvette alloys, some chips in nose. 40th anniversary emblems in front fenders. Drivers door window rubber worn out. Driver’s seat bolster worn. Body color roof panel. This was the last car to cross the auction block, at 9:30 Friday night. The crowd had dwindled to less than half of it peak. They were close, but couldn’t get it done.



RESERVE: $7,500

CPI: $6,000-15,000


T138 1965 Dodge Monaco, VIN D456138536, 2-door hardtop, 66,000 original miles, 383 4-barrel, automatic, dark burgundy, white vinyl top, burgundy interior. Dent in front of hood is heartbreaking, given how clean and straight remainder of car is. Tires appear one size too small. Car is stunning in person for its originality. Interior is a knockout – center console, buckets, gauges, cane inserts on door panels and seat backs. Glass good, doors shut OK. This was a highlight of the auction, both for its rarity and its originality. Alas, if bidders want a Mopar, they want a hemi, and the reserve was not met.



RESERVE: unknown

CPI: $7,000-17,000


F330 1977 Fiat 124 spider, 124CS10120860, blue metallic, black top, black vinyl interior, Fiat alloy wheels. No visible rust, paint looks OK if a bit thick in places, not sure that this shade of blue is a factory Fiat color. Interior decent at first glance; however, steering wheel cracked. Gauges and seats show no obvious problems. With a new Fiat 124 spider due to hit dealerships in the fall, some have speculated that the old Fiats will start to move up the price ladder. The audience here did not agree.



RESERVE: $7,000

CPI: $6,000-15,000

F355 1965 Ford Mustang convertible, dark blue, white top, blue interior. VIN 5F08C776691. 289 V8, 3-speed manual, mileage reads 82,548, claimed to be original miles. Ford styled steel wheels, clean underhood, chrome valve covers and open air cleaner. No Power steering, brakes, or AC. Paint defects in LF fender and door, checked and cracked, possibly older paint job that is letting go. Vinyl top OK but dirty. Wood wheel, center console. Interior presentable overall. JVC cassette unit in dash. Plastic rear window OK. Chrome is so-so, with some pitting. Just a driver, but a V8 drop-top driver. Car has many needs, but only if you’re trying to collect trophies. If you’re looking for cruise night fun, this was a great entry into the hobby, and with a first-gen Mustang V8 convertible to boot.


HIGH BID: $17,500 SOLD!

CPI: $20,000-42,000

F409 1976 Mercedes Benz 450SL, silver, red interior, hardtop, no sign of soft top. Six-digit odometer reads 043998. Very nice shape outside, looks all original and well kept. Blackwalls on MB alloys. Paint looks good. Red interior striking, very little wear which supports mileage claim. Door panels OK. FMVSS label confirms US spec car, mfd. 9/76. Doors shut like bank vaults. Overall very clean and striking looking car. With a half-dozen of these 107-model SLs here, this one stood out. The result was some of the more spirited bidding of the auction.


HIGH BID: $17,750, SOLD!

CPI: $10,000-21,000

T117 1980 Mercedes Benz 450 SL, VIN 10704412065489, mileage is 129,734. New tires, soft top included, hard top in place. Gold with dark brown interior. Aftermarket lights in front plate look tacky, front fog lights, blackwalls on MB alloys, car is dirty overall. Interior: both seats show leather which is cracked and dried, carpet faded from brown to green. Buyers will step up for high mileage cars which are clean; they will shy away from high mileage cars which are not. There are too many SLs on the market at any time to make this one worth more than what was bid.



RESERVE: unknown

CPI: $12,000-24,000

T198 1988 Nissan 300ZX turbo, VIN JN1CZ14S0JX203504, white, grey and black interior. Six-digit odometer reads 098558. Shiro special edition , 5-speed manual, Recaro seats. Pearl white paint with matching wheels scream ‘80s disco. Minor wear on driver’s seat bolster. Interior looks OK, has T-tops. Black rear spoiler faded to light grey. These Shiro cars, of which a little over a thousand were made, play to a very narrow audience. CPI does not call out a separate price for the Shiro package. Car was seen the next day across the street in the Car Corral, with an ask of $12,900, but on the block, it was said that “10” would get it done. Caveat Emptor.



RESERVE: $10,000

CPI: $5,000-10,000



T118 1986 Pontiac Trans Am, VIN 1G2FW87F4FN228262, 5.0 V8 fuel injected, rare Recaro seats, T-tops, white, gold trim, black/tan/grey interior. Odometer reads 35,263, claimed to be original. Paint OK, could use buff out, nose unmarked. Screaming chicken reduced to Cornish hen on hood, B-pillars, and rear valence. Interior condition does support miles, as seats show no wear at all. No signs of wear on wheel, shifter, pedals. A decent looking Trans-Am, and the low miles and Recaro seats make it worth a little more than what was bid.



RESERVE: unknown

CPI: $6,000-13,000

F332 1984 Porsche 944  WP0AA0944EN465320, red, tan interior, 2.5L inline 4, 5 speed, sport seats, sunroof, black and silver Porsche alloys. Odometer reads 61,778, might be on first go-round. Paint looks thick in places, but repaint shows well, with no overspray. Body color side rub strips, some small touch ups. Wheels are slightly marked up. Interior not torn, but dirty, leather dry. Aftermarket Blaupunkt sound system. Porsche floor mats. There are a million (OK, a few less) 924-944 cars for sale at any time, with  conditions running the gamut. This car was straight-looking, and if the mileage is accurate, represented a very good buy at the sale price.


HIGH BID: $4,200, SOLD!

CPI: $7,000-14,000

T160 1969 VW Karmann Ghia coupe, 4-speed, odometer reads 63,989, VIN 149863189, dark red, sign says  “one repaint on rust free car”, black interior. Rear side reflectors, no front reflectors. Wide white wall tires look out of place on late ‘60s car. Nose unbent. Black wipers look out of place, all outside stainless trim is good. Paint looks fresh. Interior smells musty, cracked dash fixed with tape, seat upholstery OK. Carpet shot. FMVSS label confirms US spec car. Overall, car appears original except for repaint. Chrome on bumpers very thin, starting to peel and pit. These sporty VWs used to be all over; the tin worm ate most of the northeast ones, so there was plenty of interest in this honest-looking example, which sold at a number fair to buyer and seller.


HIGH BID: $10,750 SOLD!

CPI: $8,000-19,000



T147, 1940 Ford Coupe: This Ford looked completely stock on the outside, but had an early ‘50s Cadillac V8 under the hood. It was a no-sale at a high bid of $32,500.


T175, 1977 Pontiac Firebird “Skybird”: a rare factory option package, the blue-on-blue is not for everyone, but it is different. Sold at $9,750.


T183, 1962 Buick Invicta convertible: striking in off-white with a two-tone tan and beige interior, this was one of the few auctions cars almost worthy of a #1 condition rating. Sold for $25,500. Have the only one at the next Cars & Coffee.


F312, 1966 Ford Mustang convertible: a late entry, this car’s two-tone pony interior was striking, but possibly was the only good thing about it. Quickie repaint in blah beige, filthy underhood, it was bid to $17,500 and not sold. Owner should have cut it loose (see lot F355 above).


F314, 1989 Porsche 944: With 81,000 miles, an automatic, and rock-hard leather seats, it is amazing that this car sold for $6,100, or almost $2,000 more than lot F332.


F319, 1974 MGB: Cosmetically, this car was almost perfect. However, we observed the Carlisle staff struggle to get it running on Thursday. Friday morning, we struck up a conversation with the owner while he “tuned it up”. He told us he had just bought it (to flip it), but the spark plugs were hand-tight, and the distributor hold-down was completely loose, so at idle, the engine vibration constantly changed the timing. It did drive OK across the block, where it sold for $13,100.


F434, 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud: My photo does not do justice to the poor paint on this automobile. A literal barn find, one observer was overhead to mutter “the most expensive car in the world is a cheap Rolls Royce”. Bidding shocked me when it sailed past $5,000 to end at $8,900.


F469, 1994 Jaguar XJS V12 convertible: The colors were right, as it’s hard to argue with BRG and saddle, but this car gave off a vibe of neglect. If you’re not afraid of the big 12, perhaps you could do worse than the successful bidder who took this home for $8,500.



All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.




Larry Moves The Mercury At Mecum

“A roller coaster”: Those three words, direct from my friend Larry, summed up his experience as a first-time seller of a vehicle at a public auction. But this was no ordinary car, and certainly was an extraordinary auction. The car was his 1963 Mercury Marauder, a one-family car previously owned by his late aunt. (Regular readers of this blog have likely seen the coverage of this gem of an automobile. For those who may have missed it, you can find the story here.) It was Larry’s decision to liquidate it via his chosen venue, the Mecum auction in Harrisburg PA.

We’ve known for months that the vehicle would cross the block on Thursday July 30, the first of three selling days. We’ve also known that the lot number, T75, ostensibly meant that his would be the “75th car” to sell that day. Initial concerns about the car going up too early in the day evaporated when The Selling Day arrived. More about that in a few moments.

Larry had previously arranged for the car to be transported to the auction site via truck. Our plan was to arrive on Wednesday, do a final prep of the car, and check out the other cars for sale. We would be back early Thursday to stay with the car during its final roll under Larry’s ownership, and Friday would be our day to return to the auction in a more relaxed mode. Most of that went according to schedule.

After the requisite stop for a road-trip breakfast of Dunkin’ Donuts bagels and coffee, we were at the Farm Show Complex by 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. Credentials were quickly issued (registering ahead of time has its perks), and our lanyard-mounted badges allowed us access to the entire building. Your author attended this auction last year, but never left the main auction room. Much to my surprise, we found that there are many additional rooms throughout the complex. This is where all the cars and trucks (and tractors) sit waiting their turn. Finding the Mercury meant wandering among these rooms, although we were helped by the “Thursday”, “Friday”, and “Saturday” signs providing direction. As the Complex is used primary for animals, these back rooms are not air-conditioned (the main hall is), and have a musty, dingy feel to them. It’s not the most appealing arrangement for classic cars and trucks.

The Merc as found in Thursday's holding pen
The Merc as found in Thursday’s holding pen

The Merc was in the Thursday room, and looked pretty good after its journey. In fact, we decided based on the conditions in the holding pen that any final detailing would best wait until early Thursday morning. This was our excuse to spend the rest of Wednesday checking out the merchandise! By late afternoon we learned that drivers would be restaging Thursday’s cars from the pen to the tent immediately outside the main hall’s entrance. At around 5 p.m., “our” driver arrived, and suggested that we hop in for the ride, which of course we did. This was my first time in the Marauder with it moving under its own power, and it was Larry’s last time. As we coasted into our parking spot, I saw that we had a good location: the fourth row, near the front of the tent, very close to the main room’s entrance ramp.

Under the big tent
Under the big tent

The Big Day arrived soon enough. We were on site by 8 a.m. in order to secure a close parking spot for the daily driver, detail the ‘63, and chat up any potential prospects. Fears that we would not have an audience due to our rather early time slot were allayed when we saw A) the mob lined up at this hour to get into the building, and B) all the attention the Mercury was getting under the tent. Of course, there were about 150 other cars sharing the tent with us, many of them real beauties. But surreptitious listening to observers’ comments reinforced what we already knew: this was a nice car. Most onlookers told each other (or us) that it was great to see such a rare car; that the car’s condition was “fantastic” for an unrestored vehicle; and that it was one of the more striking cars in the tent that morning. We were feeling good! One gentleman in particular lingered long enough that he asked for the car to be started, and he was the only one to peer into the trunk. He told Larry that he would be bidding.

Detail bucket deployed for final time
Detail bucket deployed for final time

Mecum’s schedule said that automobilia would be sold starting at 9:30, with the first automobile crossing the block at 10 a.m. We do not know why cars did not start rolling out of the tent until about 10:45. However, once they started to roll, they moved quickly. Official drivers, distinguished by their neon green Mecum caps, were staged at the top of each row, and dispatched to the cars in plenty of time to start them, warm them up a bit, and begin the parade.

In case his green hat isn’t obvious enough, his badge says DRIVER

A few digressions: perhaps it’s me, but wouldn’t you think that if YOU had a classic car that you planned to sell at auction, YOU would make sure that the car would start at its appointed time? When I say “start”, I’m referring to “crank”, as in “have a charged battery in the car”! To my utter amazement, I saw not one, not two, but THREE cars ahead of us in the tent require the services of the jump-start cart in order to become motorvated (Chuck Berry’s word). In at least one of those cases, the jump attempt failed, and the good ol’ golf-cart-with-a-tow-rope was deployed. Once inside and on the smooth level ground, the white-gloved pushers move the car along with the engine off, and most of the bidding audience is never the wiser.

Golf cart doubles as tow truck
Golf cart doubles as tow truck

One of the volunteer drivers, a middle-aged woman assigned to move the ’67 Dodge next to us, chatted me up about the Merc, saying that while she liked it, she and her husband collected Pontiacs. I used the opportunity to inquire how she landed this prestigious job, and she told me that their club, the Susquehanna Valley GTO Club, volunteered their services to the auction company. So these drivers knew each other, and were on site primarily for the fun of it. She then confided to me that she did not drive a manual transmission, and she was quite nervous hopping into these “strangers’ cars and figuring out the controls”! Having worked for years at car dealerships, I told her that driving many different new and used cars every day becomes second nature.

It was time. Even with the late start, we had predicted that Larry’s car would cross the block between 12 and 12:30, and here it was just a few minutes before noon. The driver assigned to the Marauder asked Larry if there was anything special to the starting procedure. “Hop in and she should start right up” was the reply. He did and she did.

In the building at last
In the building at last

The Mercury cruised effortlessly up the ramp and into the queue. Once in the main building, the excitement level for both of us jumped up several notches. First, the car looked even more incredible under the neon lights. Second, the inside crowd mobbed this car (in truth, they mobbed every car in line). We got the sense that these folks were the more serious potential bidders, rather than the tire-kickers outside. The car got a more thorough going-over during these brief moments than it had at any point prior. Third, this line was moving fast! It felt like less than a minute before the Marauder was about to make the 90° right turn toward the block.

Then…everything stopped. A charity appeal began, in order to raise money for childhood cancer. This was a truly noble cause; and while $10,000 was raised, it gave us a chance to catch our breaths.

Mecum Man talks to the owner
Mecum Man talks to the owner

Like a light switch on at full brightness, then turned off, it was switched on again. I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of the cars that crossed the block ahead of us, whether they sold or not, and if they did, for what amount. My eyes were glued to that Merc, headed to a new destiny. The auctioneer’s voice was suddenly clear enough for me to understand every word: “Lot T75, 1963 Mercury Marauder, 45,000 original miles, unrestored barn find, one family since new, do I have 20,000, 20, 20, who will bid 20? Can I have 15, 15,000, anyone? 10,000, 10,000 for this Mercury? Do I have 5?” Finally, a bite. While I knew he would start high, there was a slight sinking feeling when I heard the opening bid drop all the way to 5,000. The auctioneer continued: “6,000, I have 6, 7,000, who will bid 7? 7, now 8,000?” And so on, as it quickly jumped to $10,000. “Eleven thousand dollars, who will bid 11? 11? 11?” Nothing. It stalled at 10,000. Larry, in the “batter’s box” as they call it, directly below the auctioneer’s podium, was getting pressure from the Mecum man to lower his reserve from $12,000. Larry would not. It was over. The car did not sell. It was 12:15 p.m.

We had 10; asking for the 11 which never came
We had 10; asking for the 11 which never came

Shock. Disappointment. Dismay. We could only repeat “I can’t believe it!” to each other over and over. The car missed Larry’s reserve by $2,000. It got a “The Bid Goes On” sticker stuck to its windshield, and was relegated to one of the back rooms normally used by horses and cows. Our cell phones went into overdrive, but instead of broadcasting success, our emails and texts informed our friends that Larry still owned the Mercury. Which brought up this realization: it would be Larry’s responsibility to move the car back home, on his dime. Time to stop thinking about it so much. Time to take a break and not worry about it for a while. We decided to have lunch.

After eating, we convinced ourselves that watching and enjoying the auction proceedings was a good thing to do, so we did. A calmness settled in, combined with an acceptance of the outcome. Larry would do what needed to be done, and I would do my best to support him through this.

Close to 5pm, almost 4 hours after the car failed to sell, Larry’s cell phone rang. It was a brief conversation. The Mecum rep who called told Larry that they had just gotten a bid from an absentee bidder (phone or internet) for the reserve price of $12,000. The car was sold. There was nothing he needed to do. Relief, not joy, was the emotion of the moment. We could talk all day and all night about how the car was worth more; about the lack of real interest among the in-person bidders; and about the sale going to someone who presumably didn’t even see the car in the metal. Finally, the goal was achieved, and a real sense of “done” settled over us. The beers with dinner that night tasted especially good.

We returned bright and early on Friday morning to watch more of the auction without the pressure of the Mercury hanging over us, but we were tired. We hung around until right after lunch, when it seemed our best course of action would be to get on the road and ahead of the upcoming weekend’s traffic. The trip home gave us a chance to review everything that went down over the preceding several days.

There were some lessons learned about the entire auction process. Much of what occurs on the block is not predictable. While some nice cars sold for strong money and a few poor cars sold for cheap prices, good cars were not always bid up to a fair value, and some junk sold for what seemed like crazy high dollars. With all the effort we put into representing the car on Wednesday and Thursday, it ended up selling to someone offsite. Mecum’s cars and trucks tend to be all about the sizzle, whether they are bondo-filled quickie repaints, 100-point restorations, or dolled-up restomods. The Mercury was none of these. Did that affect its outcome? Who knows, because we don’t. Would the car have found a more receptive audience on Friday or Saturday? Again, perhaps, but perhaps not. Finally, would it have done better somewhere else? If so, where? One attraction about Harrisburg is its closeness. Taking it to another locale would have raised the costs of doing business for shipping and accommodations.

The collector car hobby is immensely fulfilling in so many ways. Auctions are only one part of it. At times, they’re a necessary element to help us continue with our passion. In this case, after the ups and downs of the roller coaster, the ride ended, and the players got what they needed to get out of it.

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Mecum Harrisburg PA Auction Report, Jul-Aug 2015

Mecum Auctions returned for its sophomore performance at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA on July 30-August 2, 2015. This is the only Mecum event held in the Northeast. (Their next closest auction is in Indianapolis.) Given the TV exposure they garner, combined with the number of shows held in all 4 corners of the contiguous 48, the name “Mecum” has risen above collector car stalwarts like Barrett-Jackson to become synonymous with “collector car auction company”. The crowds in attendance in Harrisburg bore that out. (Your author was on site for Wednesday’s preview, plus Thursday’s and Friday’s auction action.)

After last July’s inaugural run proved they had a market here, everyone came back for more. And could they have chosen a better locale than Harrisburg, centered between Carlisle and Hershey? Those of us in the hobby have been attending events in Carlisle since the mid-1970s. Hershey has hosted an AACA Eastern Fall Meet since the early 1950s, and that show has grown to become the single largest hobby car extravaganza in the country. The Farm Show Complex building, while not ideal because of limited on-site parking and air conditioning limited to the main hall, does allow lots of spread-out room.

Attending on Wednesday gave me the chance to see first-hand the huge logistical effort that is involved. Vehicles must be checked in, and more importantly, staged in lot number by day. We’re talking over 1,000 cars and trucks. There are also the motorcycles and the memorabilia, such as neon signs. Since this is a televised event, the stage and all its electronic accoutrements must be assembled. As we departed around 7pm on Wednesday, the Mecum staff was far from finished. Arriving at 8am the next morning caused me to conclude that they worked through the night, because everything was ready for show time.

My friend Larry (who was there to sell his 1963 Mercury Marauder) was with me. He has watched enough Mecum TV to know the auctioneers, TV commentators, and ringside “ushers” by name. Frankly, I was impressed. Of course, all the lights, music, and personalities in the world don’t mean a thing if bidders aren’t bidding. But people were there to buy cars. Like clockwork, the cars crossed the block in correct order; the auctioneers cattle-called in their unintelligible babble (thank goodness for the super-large display screen always showing the current bid); the “ushers” cajoled the last dollars out of anyone who dared to scratch their nose, ear, or elbow, signaling intent; and cars were either declared ‘SOLD SOLD SOLD’, or, as Mecum likes to say ‘the bid goes on’ for cars not meeting reserve.

This man just bought a car!
This man just bought a car!

Thursday’s offerings were a bit different than Friday’s. Because Larry was only offered a Thursday slot, we learned that Mecum holds Thursday’s lots to vehicles below a certain estimated value, likely around $25,000, based on observed results. While a good number of Friday’s cars sold below that too, the average price was higher, with more than a few sales approaching $50,000. Saturday is reserved for the crème de la crème. We missed it. I’m sure you can find it on reruns.

Not all cars left the tent under their own power
Not all cars left the tent under their own power

The sell-through rate was certainly better on Thursday. Counting only the 81 vehicles we personally watched cross the block, 53 cars sold, for a 65% success rate. Friday’s on-site observations totaled 51 lots, with 25 of those (49%) finding new owners. One would hope for everyone’s sake that the results got better as the weekend went on.

Presented below in lot number order is a small sample of the Harrisburg offerings, weighed heavily in favor of “cars I like”, mostly European stuff (which make up a very small percentage of the offerings). The “CPI Range” is the good-to-excellent values from the July-August 2015 edition. Note that the prices listed below (as well as those at http://www.mecum.com) do NOT include buyer’s commission.

Your comments, critiques, and questions are welcomed! CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE THEM.

1. Lot #T55, 1999 Porsche Boxster, non-S (S did not come out until 2000), silver, black top and interior. 5-speed stick. 36k original miles. Original paint shows scrapes in front bumper, blemishes on hood, gouge in driver’s door. Wheels and tires look small (compared to all the 22”s at the show), but are factory correct. Black interior shows normal wear for age and miles. Rear spoiler stuck in erect position. Overall, a used car that looks OK but for lack of a detailing. CPI RANGE $10,000-15,000, SOLD FOR $11,000. Good used Boxsters are an inexpensive entry ticket to the Porsche ownership experience. This one needed someone to love it. Make sure the IMS (intermediate shaft) bearing has been done.

2. Lot #T68, 1967 Sunbeam Alpine convertible. Red with aftermarket Minilite-style wheels. Black interior. Odometer reads 43,000. Red paint is just average with lots of orange peel, uneven spray, ripples in front fenders. Talbot-style outside mirror. Outside chrome is good. Interior is fine except for missing dash pad. Top is down, so cannot inspect. Exhaust tip extends too far past rear bumper. While the wheels help with overall appearance, the car is a true 20-footer. CPI RANGE $9,000-20,000, SOLD FOR $7500. What, no V8? Most folks would look at this and mistake it for a Tiger. This is one way to get the look but not the performance at a steep discount. A fun and affordable way for someone to enter the hobby, while driving something a little different than what everyone else has.

3. Lot #T113, 2001 Mercedes Benz CL600 coupe. 12 cylinders, automatic. Silver paint with grey interior. 20” factory wheels. Very clean for a car with 102,000 miles showing. Nice overall condition for what is nothing more than a 14-year-old used car. CPI RANGE $13,000-17,000, SOLD FOR $11,000. Window sticker claims an original MSRP of $117,000. If you need 12 cylinders, might be worth waiting for the depreciation. Bring a gas card.

4. Lot #T126, 2000 Jaguar XK8 convertible. Silver paint with taupe interior. Odometer reads 126,000. Aftermarket oversize wheels and tires detract from overall presentation. Car is otherwise stock. Interior is decent for this mileage, but e-brake boot is torn, driver’s seat bolster is worn, as is steering wheel. Scratch on outside mirror cover. Probably original paint, car looks good considering the miles. Biggest improvement would be return to factory wheels. CPI RANGE $10,000-14,500, SOLD FOR $6,500. We’ve seen innumerable XK8 convertibles at recent auctions, and they all seem to sell in the $6,500-8,000 range. With supply outpacing demand, hold out and be picky if you want one. This might not be that one.

5. Lot #T153, 1979 MGB convertible with V8 conversion. Black paint, stripes, black top, tan interior with black piping. Odometer is 78,000. FMVSS label in driver’s door jamb gives it away as U.S. spec car, so was born with a 4-cylinder. Rover V8 engine swapped in. Black paint is OK, top is decent, interior is nice if obviously reupholstered. MG-branded alloys look good. Both front and rear bumpers fit poorly with large gaps. Engine install looks clean, but underhood wiring is sloppy. And why use blue electrical tape? Ran out of black? Would be fun to drive, as that V8 doesn’t weigh any more than the factory 4-pot. CPI RANGE $7,000-16,000, SOLD FOR $16,000. We watched this bid to $15,000 where it was declared “not sold”, and the house was told it would take $20,000. But the website shows it sold for $16,000. Your choice: a very clean and correct MGB, or this rough-around-the-edges one, for the same money. Sometimes you gotta date the wild ones, even if the maintenance is high.

6. Lot #T181, 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi 2-door hardtop, black paint and interior. Six cylinder with stick shift. BMW alloy wheels. Odometer is 85,000. Let’s start with the good: the interior is decent. The original design is stunning, and except for an aftermarket wheel, it appears to have held up. On the outside, the black paint is shot, especially on all the horizontal surfaces. Rust bubbles threaten to bust out of the paint and choke you. The car by design has no B pillar, but door and quarter windows on both sides fit so poorly that door windows overlap quarter windows by ½”. A true fright pig that needs a full restoration. CPI RANGE $31,000-59,000, SOLD FOR $24,000. The CPI values are for a car in good to excellent condition, which this car was not. I was floored by the final bid. If someone dares to undertake it, the restoration will cost more than today’s top value. It will be a long time before the restorer recoups his/her money. Or just drive it until the rusty front fenders fall off.

7. Lot #T274, 1978 Datsun 280Z, silver paint with black interior. Odometer reads 78,000. Inline 6 with 5-speed. Aftermarket alloy wheels nicely set off the car. Repaint looks good and glossy but paint is thick in places. Sign on the car claims original interior, and that is believable. Aftermarket racing pedals so out of place on otherwise decent interior. Dash pad cracked in several places. Rear hatch won’t open past half way. The 1978 was the last of the original Z cars, as the 1979 model was the ZX. CPI RANGE $8,000-18,000, SOLD FOR $15,000. While the hammer price is in the upper end of the book value range, the earlier 240Z’s are well above this, having accelerated beyond what many hobbyists can afford. This 280Z gives you the same look, with Japanese reliability and maintenance ease, in a package that can be enjoyed for years. You likely will not lose money down the road.

8. Lot #T301, 1999 Porsche Boxster, 5-speed, black paint, top, and interior. Shows 34,000 original miles. Wheels are 19” factory. Same year as lot #T55, the silver Boxster, but this one looks so much sharper, as paint is better, and Porsche wheels set off entire stance of car. Minor wear on driver’s seat, some hard plastics worn in interior. Otherwise hard to fault. Hot (in both senses of the word) in triple black. CPI RANGE $10,000-15,000, SOLD FOR $11,000. Sold for the exact same price as T55, but of the two, this was the one to have, provided you’re OK with driving a black convertible in the summer sun. Like the silver one, this is an inexpensive and reliable opportunity to enjoy a Porsche. 

9. Lot #F77, 1969 Fiat 500L, blue with tan interior. Air-cooled, rear-engined 2-cylinder motor, stick shift. Done up as some kind of Abarth replica, with 13” Abarth wheels, decals, requisite open engine lid. Fabric sunroof. Lots of “cute”, likely the cutest thing at the auction. Looks good, but not without some faults: steering wheel center button hanging by its wire, passenger seat upholstery torn, aftermarket gauges in dash look tacky, window moldings rough. What is replica and how authentic are these changes? THIS MODEL NOT IN CPI; EARLIER GENERATION CAR IS $12,500-29,000. SOLD FOR $17,500. Fiat 500s are hot in the marketplace right now. Jerry Seinfeld collects these (he also rolled one). If the Abarth mods added any useful horsepower, would be a blast to drive. Yes, I adored it, even with the (fixable) flaws.

10. Lot #F82, 1932 Essex Super 6. 3-speed. 2 door coupe with rumble seat. Dark blue-green with dark tan leather interior. White wall tires, painted wire wheels. Striking looking pre-war car. Sign claims former AACA award winner, but does not state which decade award was given. Looks like a slightly older restoration which has held up very well. Suicide doors, tight entry into tight passenger compartment, the governor of NJ need not apply for entrance. Paint, pinstriping, chrome look great. Hood not open, so no opportunity to view engine compartment. Lots of neat styling details like V-radiator and headlights. NOT IN CPI. SOLD FOR $24,500. This car drew me in because of its style and overall condition. Looked good enough to show, but not so perfect that you’d be afraid to drive it, which is what I’d do if it were mine. Price seemed fair just for the uniqueness (when did you last see an Essex at a car show?).

11. Lot #F110, 1984 Jaguar XJ6 1984 sedan, black with grey leather interior. Jag’s inline 6, automatic, sunroof, 56,000 miles. Black wall tires on chrome wire wheels. Not a single flaw in the entire black surface, not a single swirl mark. Interior presents well with minimal wear on driver’s seat. Side moldings detract from classic XJ lines, but may have saved it from door dings. It’s striking to see any 1984 Jaguar that sparkles like this. Cannot open hood. Trunk full of documentation going back to original sales order. Car from dealer in Kansas, alleged to be two owner car. CPI RANGE $4,300-8,500, SOLD FOR $10,000. I expected this car to sell in the $6,000-8,000 range like most ‘80s era XJs, but it exceeded book value, and was worth the premium. One of my favorite cars of the hundreds I looked at over three days.

12. Lot #F261, 1962 Triumph TR-4 (first year for this model, still on solid rear axle; TR-4a indicates IRS). Red paint, black top, black interior with white piping. Odometer reads 60,000. Chrome wires. Red paint is spotless, entire car looks great from a few feet away, but car is let down by some details, such as pitted door handles. Underhood looks good except for blue tape on harness (restorer borrowed roll of tape from owner of the MGB V8). Interior looks good, metal dash is painted white, as per factory arrangement. CPI RANGE $18,500-36,000, NO SALE AT HIGH BID OF $34,000. Like so many cars we saw at the auction, the restoration work takes it to 90% or 95%, and the final details get missed. Or the restorer burns out, or runs out of money, who knows. This TR was very nice, and should have sold at the top bid. Now owner gets to take it home and do what with it? Take it to Monterey?

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Carlisle Auction Report, April 2015

“Carlisle” held its Spring 2015 collector car auction on Thursday and Friday, April 23 & 24, at the Expo Center across from the Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle, PA. For the uninitiated, “Carlisle” is classic car slang for Carlisle Events. What started in 1974 as a single flea market for post-war cars has grown in the ensuing decades into one of the biggest old car enterprises on the east coast, if not in the country. Today, in addition to the all-makes Spring and Fall events, there are marque-specific shows for GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Corvette. Imports are covered once a year at the Import-Kit Car Show. A number of years ago, auctions were added to the calendar. At first the Carlisle group ran their own auctions. They then partnered with Auctions America, the U.S. arm of RM Auctions. Most recently the auctions are again independently run.

The auction block at the Carlisle Expo Center
The auction block at the Carlisle Expo Center

This is not Mecum. Approximately 400 cars ran across the block over two days, and based on lot numbers, it was about 250 cars on Thursday and 150 on Friday. The vast majority of vehicles are the Chevrolets (Corvettes, Camaros, Malibus, Impalas) and Fords (Mustangs, T-Birds, Rancheros, pickups) you see at other auctions, in other words, the usual suspects. Unlike AACA, there is no model year cut-off. I witnessed a 2008 Ford F-550 truck attempt to maneuver its way onto the block (it didn’t make it, nor did it sell), so sometimes you feel like you’re sitting in Manheim at a late-model auction.

The seating area was just about filled to capacity.
The seating area was just about filled to capacity.

Reserves are up to the consigners, and based on my most unscientific observations, many reserves were high and kept the sell-through rate down. Thursday seemed to be a better day for sales than Friday, with a sales rate perhaps approaching 70%, dropping to 50% on Friday. One attraction for consigners is the “you don’t pay unless you sell” policy. The consignment fee ranges from $100 to $400, and Carlisle states that if your car does not sell, they will refund your fee. Both days, the Expo Center was standing room only, with plenty of active bidders crowding the block. There was not a seat to be had in the bidders’ area, likely helped by the free food and booze offered as part of the consignment package.

The crowd patiently waits until it's their turn to spend money.
The crowd patiently waits until it’s their turn to spend money.

Again, this is not Mecum. While I give the Carlisle staff full marks for their efforts, there were times when the proceedings had a true mom-and-pop feel to it. More than once, the auctioneer lost his place, and could not find his current two highest bidders. At least one of those times he had to wind the bidding back by a grand. Another vehicle had its mileage misstated on the screen (it showed 19k when the car had 99k) and all bids were struck while the auctioneer started again. On the other hand, it was nice that TV monitors scattered throughout the room clearly showed the car, the lot number, and the current bid. There was no such luxury in Atlantic City this past February.

My specific vehicle coverage below is all-import; first, this is where my heart is in the hobby; second, I find that many European cars get ignored at a domestic-heavy event like this, and some potentially good deals can be had. I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention the weekend’s star car: a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am, owned by the actor Burt Reynolds, and modified into a “Smokey & The Bandit” tribute car, crossed the block around 7 p.m. on Friday. It STAYED on the block for about 30 minutes, or 10 times longer than the typical auction car. My personal guess was that the car would sell for $70,000. Add a one in front, as the car hammered for $170,000. Burt had signed the hood AND the dash, so that must have made the difference….

In model year order:

Lot #F395, 1957 BMW Isetta. Chassis #493993. Mileage: 10,000. Bubble window coupe, not the more common sliding window. Dark red and white two tone, black vinyl sunroof, red and white interior. Beautiful workmanship inside and out. Having owned one for 35 years, I know these cars. Outside restoration is almost 100% authentic, except for painted headlight trim rings (should be chrome). Rare to see someone get all the outside details correct. Interior modified as most are, with vinyl-covered panels (factory gave you painted fiberboard panels). This interior is relatively understated, looks professionally done, and complements outside colors well. Overhearing attendees’ reactions is priceless. One fellow said “this is not a car. This is almost a car”. Although Isetta market has cooled slightly, high bid was light by $5,000-10,000.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $28,000-53,000 (CPI)

Lot #F399, 1966 Mercedes Benz 230 SL roadster, warm silver with red vinyl interior, stick shift. Mileage is 70,936. Optional hard top. Unknown if soft top is included. Striking color combo, very clean overall. Nothing to fault with interior. Only glaring misstep is aftermarket exhaust, with tips extending about 4 inches past rear bumper. Sign says same owner last 20 years. If it runs well, this was well bought, especially with the stick, and will only appreciate.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $40,000-76,000 (CPI)

Lot #F443, 1973 Mercedes Benz 280 CE coupe, green and white with green velour interior. Mileage is 53,380. Automatic. Sign says “barn find”. Odd two-tone, with white paint across center section of roof. White hub caps. Outside is rough, with both doors not shutting well, poor paint, rust bubbles everywhere. EPA label verifies this is US spec car, but upholstery looks odd. Cheap sale price reflects an attractive body style on a car that will need serious work before becoming drivable.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $5,000-12,000 (CPI)

Lot #412, 1976 Triumph TR 6, bright green, black top, tan interior. Odometer just over 56,000. Sign claims car is rust free and it looks it. Red line tires and trim rings add elegant air to exterior; clean upholstery, unmarked wood dash, and coco mats do same for interior. Convertible top has correct reflective stripe. Overall strong presentation. Sale price is fair to buyer and seller.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $12,000-20,000 (Sports Car Market)

Lot #T199, 1977 Fiat 124 spider, orange, black top and interior. Mileage not noted. Quality repaint but overspray on windshield frame. No signs of rust. Front bumper crooked. Nice looking Fiat alloy wheels. Interior looks straight with no rips or tears. Lots of eyeball but would need to look at floors and underside to ensure solid metal was underneath.
SALE PRICE/HIGH BID: Not sold, high bid not noted
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $7,000-10,500 (Sports Car Market)

Lot #T150, 1981 Porsche 924, silver with black interior, bra on front, mileage not noted (it doesn’t matter). Sad and tired looking thing. Silver paint worn, faded, scratched. Factory sunroof, Porsche alloys. Interior no better than outside. Seat covers with driver’s cover pulled back to reveal black electrical tape on seat bolster. Wires running through door jamb from hood into interior for aftermarket gauge. Aftermarket exhaust looks too large for car. Trailer hitch! Bid to $2000 and did not sell. Car is living proof that Porsche is not infallible.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $3,000 (Sports Car Market)

Lot #F339, 1983 Mercedes Benz 380 SL roadster, black with gray interior, hard top, sign says mileage is 50k. Sign also says light blue interior which is wrong. Straight body, aftermarket fog lights, exterior bright work dull, Benz alloys look scruffy, black paint shows every wash/wipe/buff mark. Interior good except for driver’s seat with blue pen marks. Car looks no better and no worse than any other of the dozens of 70s-80s era SLs for sale. Sold for a bit of a steal considering mileage, as many of these cars have over 100k on them. A good detail will do it wonders.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $7,000-16,000 (Sports Car Market)

Lot #F447, 1984 BMW 633 CSi coupe, black on black, 80k original miles, sunroof, automatic. BMW alloys. Black looks well maintained but still shows swirl and buff marks. Trunk roundel chipped, aluminum bumpers dull and scratched. Clean underhood. Sold near mid-price guide number, should provide many more enjoyable miles.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $3,700-7,600

Lot #F434, 1984 Fiat 2000 spider, badged as Pininfarina, 47k original miles, red, tan top and interior. Fiat alloy wheels, Repaint looks quality and shines up well. Little to fault on exterior. Sign on car claims original interior and chrome, new tan top. Interior very clean. Overall very attractive presentation. Really good Fiat spiders are gaining traction, as witnessed here with this result.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $6,800-16,000 (CPI)

Lot #F402, 1986 Porsche 928 S4, automatic, 155k miles, garnet red metallic with brown leather interior. Car looks clean for mileage. No sign of overspray, could be well maintained original paint. Factory sunroof. Interior likewise appears like a good used car with no signs of typical 928 interior breakdown. Sign claims one owner car. Car appears more like an example with half the miles. Mileage did not scare away bidders. Only question is what maintenance and repairs are in the immediate future.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $9,700-19,000 (CPI)

Lot #F451, 1987 VW Cabriolet, bright red, white top, white pinstripe cloth interior, stick shift. Mileage is 86,736. Exterior looks sharp as does interior. Sign says original paint and miles. As clean as the exterior and interior are, the engine compartment is a disaster. A valve cover repaint and power wash would transform it. Air cooled VWs are hot, water cooled VWs are not. This “chick car” has long been ignored in the marketplace except by a few who correctly see it as inexpensive top-down fun. Sold well above high price guide number, likely due to overall presentation. Most of these Cabrios are shot by now.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $2,300-4,600 (CPI)

Lot #F401, 1999 Jaguar XK8 roadster. Red, tan top, ivory interior. Chrome wheels. Automatic. Looks like a clean 15 year old used car (meant as a compliment). Mileage is 79,258. Driver’s seat has some leather cracking and wear, but still serviceable. Sign claims upgraded stereo and heated seats. At this sale price (10% of its MSRP), car could be a daily driver AND a weekend cruise night car.
PRICE BOOK RANGE: $10,000-14,000 (CPI)


All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.