Mecum Auctions, Harrisburg PA, August 2017

Mecum Auctions came to Harrisburg PA for the fourth consecutive year and held its collector car auction in the Farm Show Complex on August 3, 4, and 5, 2017. A cursory glance at Mecum’s website reveals a litany of events held around the country. In all, 14 different cities play host to a Mecum auction throughout the year, but Harrisburg is the only one situated in the Northeast.

Mecum creates identical auction block set-ups at each venue

The general location is well-known to all fans of special interest cars, as the Pennsylvania capital is almost exactly half-way between the cities of Carlisle, home of Carlisle Events, and Hershey, home to the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) Eastern Fall Meet. The crowds turned out for the auction action, as your scribe was on the ground both Thursday and Friday and observed the standing-room-only scene.

Hardly an empty seat to be found

Mecum advertised that “1000 cars” would be auctioned over 3 days. Thursday’s show started at 10 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m., with about 270 cars crossing the block; Friday started at 9:30 a.m. with automobilia, but the vehicle count almost reached 300, and the final gavel fell after 7 p.m.

The mix of vehicles was truly eclectic – while one could count pre-war cars on two hands, there were some gems from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Foreign jobs, as Tom McCahill might have called them, were well-represented by such famous marques as Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, MG, and Ferrari. The largest count, of course, consisted of ‘60s and ‘70s American muscle cars and resto-mods.

A trend that seems to be growing at Mecum Auctions is the inclusion of what I can only refer to as “late model” vehicles, defined as cars and trucks under 20 years old which can be found in abundance on used car lots around the country. Some are interesting, some are not, but most did sell.

In contrast to previous Harrisburg auctions, this writer didn’t see quite so many bargains. The trend this year favored the sellers. An exception may have been the Mercedes-Benz SLs from the early Seventies through the late Eighties (known by their platform name, R107). Prices for these seemed soft (compared to, say, BringATrailer), but so much depends on condition, maintenance, and upkeep.

The sell-through rate was also strong, guesstimated by me at around 70% for Thursday and Friday. (I was not in attendance on Saturday, which is when the premium lots are run, tempered by higher reserves and greater likelihood of not meeting same.)

Complete auction results are available at www.mecum.com.

Below are results for vehicles which I found interesting. Prices are hammer prices, exclusive of any buyer’s fees. Note that Richard’s Car Blog continues to provide multiple photos of each car, and, organize the sold lots in price order, the better for you, dear reader, to make note of what your dollar can buy.

Click on thumbnail photos to enlarge them.


T116 1982 Lancia Beta Zagato, red with black top and interior. The Zagato model has removable top and soft rear window. Odometer (5-digit analog) is 48,000 miles. Only rust is finger-sized hole in floor on left side. Lancia alloy wheels. Dash is cracked. NO RESERVE.

SOLD for $5,000. I wrongly guessed half this amount, thinking that no one in the room would know what a Lancia was. A Lancia fan got a good car in a rare body style.


 T58 1987 Nissan 300ZX, grey paint and grey cloth interior, 49,000 on analog odometer. Nissan alloys. Very marked up on outside, black marks on RF fender, alloys very marked, black on stainless trim is wearing away. Spoke with owner, he bought car from neighbor, claims that car was well maintained.

SOLD for $5,000. Good daily driver until it snows.


T169 1996 Jaguar XJR, 4-door sedan, supercharged. 4.0L inline 6. British Racing Green non-metallic paint, tan interior. Cosmetically shows very well. Interior particularly spotless. Sunroof, full power accessories. Some paint scratches around fuel filler door, otherwise paint is good. Mileage reported as 70,000.

SOLD for $6,000. If no mechanical needs, may be a great deal in a car that can soak up the miles.


T15.1 1999 Jaguar XK8 convertible, dark red metallic paint, tan top and interior, paint unmarked, 74,500 miles on odometer. V8 and automatic. Condensation in left headlight, touch up of paint chips on right side door edge, staining on top. Doors shut well. Decent overall, but some swirl marks on horizontal surfaces, some scratches on rear quarter.

SOLD for $6,000. These cars have become an auction commodity.


T130.1 1998 Jaguar  XK8 convertible, light gold, tan top and interior. 79,000 miles on odometer. All alloys very pitted, driver’s seat bolster shows more wear than expected. Otherwise presentable. Originally a PA car. NO RESERVE.

SOLD for $6,500. Lot # T15.1 was the better deal, if only because the alloys were in better shape.


T155 1972 Mercedes-Benz 350 SL, 4.5 L V8, med blue metallic, with black interior. As a pre-1973 model, has small bumpers front and rear. Analog 6-digit odometer shows 051,545. Automatic transmission. Interior stock, driver’s seat shows minimal wear. Repainted to decent standard. Engine compartment filthy; a detail here would help immensely. NO RESERVE.

SOLD for $7,000. Nice buy of small-bumper R107 Benz.


T35.1 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, 4.5 L automatic, big bumpers. Dark blue, light cream interior, 169,000 on analog odometer. Driver’s seat bolster worn, and dye worn off, but not torn. Nardi aftermarket wood wheel, interior just looks old. Driver’s door rattles when shut. Chrome shows pitting. Car is a survivor at this mileage.

SOLD for $7,000. Good value if you plan to show it more than drive it.


F92 1988 Alfa spider Graduate, red, black top, tan interior. “Graduate” model was least-equipped of 3 available trim levels, with steel wheels and vinyl upholstery. Aftermarket alloy wheels and rub strips. Driver’s door very difficult to open. Series 3 with duck tail spoiler. Reads 70,751 on 6-digit odometer. Interior is OK as per ‘80s Alfa standards. Whole car could use a detail. NO RESERVE.

SOLD for $7,000.  No bargain for a Series 3 Alfa spider in so-so condition.


T5 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 – 2.3L supercharged inline 4, automatic, retractable hardtop, black with black and red interior, AMG wheels, paint nice, 119,800 on odometer. Bad rattle in driver’s door.

SOLD for $7,500. Cheap fun until something expensive breaks.


F22, 2006 Jaguar X-Type wagon, V6, automatic, AWD, medium red metallic, tan interior, odometer is 108,587. Interior design and execution is “down market” compared to XK8 siblings. Security cover, rear-mounted CD changer (remember those?). Jaguar alloys are unmarked. Paint is OK. Car has sunroof and factory roof rails. Odd duck of a car.

SOLD for $7,500. Great, now what do you do with it? Drive it, because re-selling it may be a challenge.


85.1 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL , dark red metallic paint, tan vinyl interior 85,000 on 6-digit odometer. Drivers’ seat has a little bagging. Floor mats in red look odd, interior has sun-faded to different shades of tan, photo of black soft top shown, so car has two tops.

SOLD for $8,500. Some life left in it at this price and mileage.


T31 1999 Porsche Boxster, non-S model, flat-6, stick shift, red, black top, black interior. Outside looks decent, headlights are foggy. Odometer is 084,558. Driver’s bolster shows some wear. No indication if IMS bearing done.

SOLD for $8,500. Another commodity, sold for what seemed to be market-value.


F8 1979 VW Beetle convertible, silver, black top and interior, 63,814 on 5-digit analog odometer. Wide whites add nice old-school vibe, doors shut well. Some stone chips in front. Car has been driven and maintained, which is refreshing. Very attractive car compared to many other ‘79s for sale.

SOLD for $9,000. A win-win for both buyer and seller. Lots of fun left.


T65 1995 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, 350 V8, automatic, 33,000 original miles, white, smoke top, black leather interior. No second top. Factory wheels are unmarked. Spoke to owner, told me that car has lived in his garage, and he just doesn’t drive it anymore. Car is unmarked and unmodified.

SOLD for $9,000. At lunch, I ended up sitting next to the seller and his wife. They seemed pleased with the result, and he remembered me when I had looked over his car. The couple on the other side of the lunch table from me overheard us, and said they were the BUYERS of this car! The whole table had a good laugh at the incredible coincidence.

 


T69.1 1949 MG-TC, 4-cylinder, 4-speed, older restoration. Painted non-original bronze, top and interior are tan, engine is red, painted wire wheels. Owner’s son had car here, dad restored car in 1960s, driven 700 miles since. Dad is now deceased, car being sold at NO RESERVE to settle estate. RHD as all TC’s were. Car has nice original vibe, owner claims that car runs well.

SOLD for $11,000. Lots of charm at max of 45 mph. Try to find another running TC at this price.


T96.1 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, V8, automatic, claimed to be California car. Brown metallic with tan interior, hardtop on car, photo of soft top shown. Odometer reads 110,812. Nardi aftermarket wood wheel, doors shut well, no discernable wear on driver’s seat. Trunk is clean.

SOLD for $11,500. Good value for final year of the 450 SL, possibly held back by color.


T87 1983 Pininfarina (Fiat) 2000 spider, Red, black top, black interior. Claimed 12,600 original miles (possibly), claimed original paint (no way). Giveaway is bottle of body shop touch-up paint in center console. No rust anywhere. Looks like cosmetically well-done restoration of solid car. Engine compartment not up to same standards as paint and interior. New Ansa exhaust.

SOLD for $14,500. One of the nicer Fiat spiders out there, but still highly shocking (and shockingly high).


F42 2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500 retractable hardtop-convertible, “rare launch edition”, warm silver with black interior. Both doors rattle. (What has happened to Mercedes quality?)  Odometer reads 63,875, paint is unmarked. Factory alloy wheels. With top down, almost all trunk space is pre-empted.

SOLD for $16,000. There were easily a dozen of these in Harrisburg. All sold for about the same money. This was one of the more attractive ones, in both color and condition.


NOTABLE NO-SALES:

 T40.1 1994 Jaguar XJS convertible, 4.0 inline 6, white, tan top and tan interior, outside has add-on gold badges, alloys with fake wire wheel look, tarnished alloy gas filler. Top is worn along edges. Gold badging on back. Stress/heat cracks in tail lights. 85,000 showing on six digit odometer. Could use a good detailing.

NO SALE AT $7,000. How far could we have been from the reserve?

 


F20.1 2006 Jaguar XK8 coupe, 4.2 V8, automatic, BRG non-metallic, tan interior. 75,450 miles on odometer. Headliner is OK (known weak spot for these). Minimal driver’s seat wear. Paint is nice, except for hood, which shows blotching in numerous spots. Either something splashed on it, or there was poor prep on a repaint. Both doors shut well. Jag alloys are attractive and unmarked. Car only let down by hood, which doesn’t affect driving experience.

NO SALE AT $8,000. Based on hood paint, seller should have taken money and run to bank before high bidder changed his mind.


FINAL THOUGHT:

Fakes have been called Clones, Tributes, Recreations; now MIRROR IMAGES???

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 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.

 

 

LOT T41, 1977 MERCEDES BENZ 450-SL

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.

 

T136, 1972 GMC PICKUP TRUCK

 

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.

 

 

T140, 2002 JAGUAR XK8 COUPE

 

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.

 

 

T142, 1993 CHEVROLET CORVETTE COUPE

 

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

NOT SOLD AT $15,000 HIGH BID

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.

 

 

T172, 1995 JAGUAR XJS COUPE

 

Condition estimate: 2

NOT SOLD AT $10,000 HIGH BID

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.

 

 

T263, 1968 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL

 

Condition estimate: 3-

NOT SOLD AT $7,000 HIGH BID

“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.

 

 

F25, 1959 AUSTIN-HEALEY SPRITE

 

Condition estimate: 4

NOT SOLD AT $13,000 HIGH BID

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.

 

 

F33, 2000 PORSCHE BOXSTER S

 

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.

 

 

F38.1, 2002 JAGUAR XKR COUPE

 

Condition estimate: 3

NOT SOLD AT $8,000 HIGH BID

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.

 

 

 

F140, 1957 FORD THUNDERBIRD

 

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.

 

LOT F215, 1957 BMW ISETTA

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.