AACA Fall Hershey, Part 2: the RM Sotheby’s Auction

RM Sotheby’s again used the backdrop of Fall Hershey to conduct a successful collector car auction at the Hershey Lodge on October 5 and 6, 2017. With cooperative weather, this scribe spent a pleasant Friday evening loitering in the staging tent immediately adjacent to the building entrance.

Each car is labeled with lot number, vehicle specifics, and estimated sale range

The catalog fee, which grants admission for two, is up to $200 (my first Hershey RM auction in 2008 cost me $80). Once inside, one is constrained to one’s seat. I find it more rewarding to be outside, wandering among the lots, watching them be driven into the building, and taking in the auction block action courtesy of the outdoor loudspeakers. It’s also free.

No fewer than four 1951 Fords were lined up, ready to be sold

Recent RM auctions have shown a focus on prewar and immediate postwar domestic iron, and Hershey ’17 continued that trend. Another trend, which we are guaranteed to see escalate, is the sell-off of estate collections. Two such groups of cars were sold on Friday: The Don Gibson collection, six Fords from 1938-1951, and a dozen cars from Thomas F. Derro, the majority of which were Chrysler Corporation vehicles from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

In case there was any doubt, all these cars would find new homes

Let us pause for a moment and discuss this. It’s not difficult to understand what is happening. Collectors are dying. In these cases, the “estate”, whether it be the widow, the offspring, or the dictates of the will, has decided that the family does not wish to deal with the vehicles. Perhaps the interest is not there, or it’s seen as too much work for relatives. Maybe the thoughtful collector prearranges this to make it easy to turn metal and glass into cash.

Enter the auction company. A representative swoops in and states “dear family: you need to do nothing. We will take the cars, clean them, prep them for auction, photograph them, market them, and sell them. We will take our commission, and at the end of the process, you will receive a healthy check.”

While the Gibson collection of Fords may have had reserves attached, all cars sold. By contrast, the Derro collection was conspicuously advertised as being sold “without reserve”, so they all sold too. (As I was not present for the sale of the Derro cars, please check RM’s website for those results.)

The no-reserve sale is a win-win-win. The auction company is guaranteed to get its commission. The estate is guaranteed 100% liquidation. And the bidders, knowing the cars will be sold, have a shot at obtaining something for a bit of a bargain, or at least a fair deal.

These collections, plus many of the other Friday sales, also bust open an oft-repeated myth: “the market for prewar and high-end immediate postwar cars is dying”. This auction showed it to be rather healthy. Is everyone doubling their money on cars they’ve owned for only a few years? Of course not, and that’s not the point. The point is, quality continues to sell.

During the first several dozen sales on Friday, some really nice cars from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s were bid to high five-figure and low six-figure numbers. Most of them found new homes. Don’t doubt for a moment that there isn’t value in a supercharged Graham, or V12 Lincoln, or even a Metropolitan convertible. Read on and see what happened at RM Hershey 2017.

NOTE: All “sold” prices shown below are exclusive of 10% sales commission.


LOT #211, 1917 DODGE BROTHERS ROADSTER

SOLD FOR $10,000

These early Dodges were known as finely-engineered cars, and considered quite road-worthy. This one looked complete, and appeared to be a very serviceable older restoration. It started and ran into the building without issue.


LOT #212, 1958 MORRIS MINOR CONVERTIBLE

SOLD FOR $22,000

This cute Minor convertible looked like a recent restoration, done to a correct standard. No obvious modifications from original spec were noted. The car ran well for the short distance it needed to drive.


LOT #219, 1931 DE SOTO ROADSTER

BID TO $39,000 AND NOT SOLD

This DeSoto oozed charm, and looked so much more appealing than the more frequently-seen Ford Model A roadsters of the same vintage. Another advantage for the DeSoto: its straight-six engine. The pre-sale estimate was optimistic at $50-70,000, and the bidding stopped at $39,000. One would like to think that it was close.


LOT #221, 1970 TOYOTA FJ LAND CRUISER

SOLD FOR $38,000

These FJs have become an auction staple, even at a prestigious RM event. This one looked freshly restored. It sold for about the going rate, but my question is, what do you do with it? After paying 38 large plus commission, are you going off-roading?

It’s no more attractive from the rear than it is from the front

LOT #222: 1941 GRAHAM SUPERCHARGED SEDAN

SOLD FOR $77,500

If the body style looks familiar, it’s because Graham used the body dies from Cord to build the Graham sedan. This was a simply elegant prewar car, especially in its rich looking dark blue. Proof that collectors will step up and buy these unique and classy automobiles.

The best (and only) shot I have of the Graham

LOT #225, 1936 LINCOLN V12 CONVERTIBLE SEDAN

SOLD FOR $110,000

Representing true American luxury at a time when many families could not afford a car, this Lincoln V12 competed with the best from Packard and Cadillac. The 4-door convertible body style was about to die, which only adds to the allure of this fine automobile. I could not hear the engine as the big brute motored past me.

1936 Lincoln V12 convertible sedan

FOUR 1951 FORDS, FROM THE GIBSON COLLECTION

LOT #227, CRESTLINER, SOLD FOR $29,000

LOT #228, RED CONVERTIBLE, SOLD FOR $26,000

LOT #230, VICTORIA COUPE, SOLD FOR $35,000

LOT #231, BLUE CONVERTIBLE, SOLD FOR $44,000

Do you like 1951 Fords? Don Gibson did. By ’51, the Ford car was in its 3rd and final year of a styling cycle that debuted to great fanfare in 1949. Ford was also a pioneer among low-priced cars with special rooflines and trim options, such as the Crestliner and Victoria 2-doors seen here. All these cars appeared to be in strong #2 condition. None were steals, but all sold for a fair price, and have lots of life left in the show or cruise circuit.


LOT #233, 1961 AMC METROPOLITAN CONVERTIBLE

SOLD FOR $67,500

That is not a typo. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I, and a number of spectators around me, were speechless as the result was announced. As the kids would say, WTF? The only explanation I can muster is that this car was indicated to be one of only 116 Canadian-spec Metropolitan convertibles. But if that is supposed to explain this unrepeatable price, it’s lost on me.


LOT #234, 1934 LA SALLE CONVERTIBLE

BID TO $127,500 AND NOT SOLD

Of all the Friday auction cars, this is the one that stole my heart. I can’t say that “LaSalle” was ever on my radar before, but the styling of this elegant two-door, one of Harley Earl’s earliest efforts, was perfect in every way. It didn’t sell, but the auctioneer said after taking the final bid, “we are close”. I’d like to think that you could not overpay for such an outstanding automobile.


LOT #236, 1937 CADILLAC V8 CONVERTIBLE SEDAN

SOLD FOR $87,500

Another 4-door convertible, this “lesser” Caddy was competing with V12 and V16 models in the same showroom. Again, we see evidence that well-restored, yet usable, prewar luxury cars continue to find an appreciative audience.

1937 Cadillac convertible sedan

 

Part 3 of my 2017 Hershey coverage will highlight the Saturday car show.

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

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.