All posts by Bob Golfen

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle.He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs.A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

1958 Dodge sways to top in British hill climb

John Harrison careens around a curve in his 1958 Dodge Coronet | Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb
John Harrison careens around a curve in his 1958 Dodge Coronet | Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb

Ordinarily, we would pass on publicizing the upcoming Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, a competitive event May 4 in Worcester, England. But this photo, and the story behind it, is too good to ignore.

Among the vintage sports and race cars that will run up the historic hill course – along with up-to-date racers competing in the Midland Hill Climb Championship – we have John Harrison of Wareham, Dorset, who again will entertain the crowd by roaring to the top in his 1958 Dodge Coronet sedan.

With its mammoth weight, towering tailfins, pronounced body sway and two-speed automatic transmission, the Coronet most certainly is the least nimble entry. But according to Harrison, that’s the whole point.

“The challenge of hill climbing such a totally unsuitable but exciting car is what appeals to me,” Harrison said in a news release from the hill-climb organizers. “The car is completely unrestored and retains its original paint, interior and drive train, with no power steering or assisted brakes and is running on authentic cross-ply whitewall tires to provide a true 1950s driving experience.

“It will reach 60 mph in first,” Harrison said, “so I just keep it in that gear and hang on for dear life as it wallows along and smokes its tires around the corners.”

Mecum launches ‘super yacht’ auction in Florida

The beautiful 86-foot Permare Amer will be among the super yachts offered by Mecum | Mecum Auctions
The beautiful 86-foot Permare Amer will be among the super yachts offered by Mecum | Mecum Auctions

After more-than a quarter century of classic car sales, Mecum Auctions takes the plunge this week with what it is calling the world’s first Super Yacht Auction.

Super yachts – the massively opulent luxury vessels that can sail the Seven Seas and cost multi-millions of dollars – will be featured May 2-3 in the South Beach, Florida, auction of 25 high-end yachts, off-shore speedboats and other pricey vessels designed to appeal to the world’s wealthiest bidders.

Of the ocean-going craft, about 12 of them are officially classified as “super yachts” because they run more than 75 feet from stem to stern, according to Mecum’s yacht specialist, Jerry Burton. But like Mecum’s classic car auctions, the yacht sale will have enough variety of scale and price to make it interesting, and help separate the real billionaires from the mere millionaires.

The Hatteras 130 is the biggest boat at auction | Mecum Auctions
The Hatteras 130 is the biggest boat at auction | Mecum Auctions

“They are the same class of people who have polo ponies,” Burton said. “These boats are expensive, and owning a boat is an expensive proposition.”

About $30 million would be generated if all the boats are sold, Burton said.

Burton said it was his longtime expertise with yacht sales that convinced Dana Mecum, founder and head of the auction company, to create the seaside auction.

“It’s a new venture for him,” Burton said of Mecum. “He’s not a boat person. I’m as experienced in boats as he is in cars. I know everybody in the boat business as he knows everyone in the car business.”

The largest vessel in the auction is the 130-foot Hatteras Tri-Deck Motor Yacht, which boasts the spaciousness and luxury fittings of a mansion in Beverly Hills. Built in 1995 by Hatteras of North Carolina, the yacht has 5 cabins for 10 guests (including the master suite) and accommodations for 7 crew members.

Mecum includes no value estimates for the auction boats, but a similar Hatteras spotted for sale on an Internet site was priced at $9.4 million.

The Italian-American Magnum 44 | Mecum Auctions
The Italian-American Magnum 44 | Mecum Auctions

Although it’s the biggest, it might not be the most-expensive boat on board, Burton said, with such custom beauties as the 124-foot craft from Delta Marine, which “has a relaxed, beach house ambiance, filled with warm, light woods and fine stonework,” the auction catalog says.

“A lot of these boats have gone to Europe,” Burton said. “You could live on these boats, and live like a king.”

There is a selection of smaller boats for island hopping and exploring the coastline, all of the craft exotic and very expensive.

Even the smallest boat offered, a 16-foot open fishing vessel called the Bimini Bonefisher, is “a work of art,” Burton said. It comes from a small Bahamas company that builds one boat per year with the finest craftsmanship and materials. “It’s gorgeous.”

The idea for the yacht auction came after the successful sale several years ago of a single luxury yacht during a Mecum auction in Florida, Burton added.

“We sold a boat at the Kissimmee auction that one of my wealthy clients brought to Italy,” he said. “It was terrific, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about that and talking with Dana.

“I worked on him for a long time, and finally he said, ‘OK, let’s give it a shot.’”

Car designer Peter Brock to lecture at Blackhawk

Peter Brock will sign copies of his recent Corvette Sting Ray book | Brock Racing Enterprises
Peter Brock will sign copies of his recent Corvette Sting Ray book | Brock Racing Enterprises

Car designer, author, racing-team owner, photo journalist – Peter Brock has excelled at all his pursuits, starting at the age of 19 when he joined Bill Mitchell’s group of stylists at General Motors, where he became a leading force in the creation of the Corvette Sting Ray.

Brock will present a lecture at noon Sunday at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, Calif., focusing on his time as one of the youngest designers ever hired at GM Styling and how he worked with Mitchell, Harley Earl, Zora Arkus-Duntov and Ed Cole in producing the groundbreaking 1963 Sting Ray.

Part of the museum’s Spring Speaker Series, the lecture by Brock coincides with the 34th annual “A Legend on Display” car show presented by the Northern California Corvette Association, which takes place in the museum plaza. More than 100 cars are expected.

Brock's 1957 sketch helped launch the Sting Ray | General Motors
Brock’s 1957 sketch helped launch the Sting Ray | General Motors

Brock will be available to sign copies of his 2013 book, Corvette Sting Ray: Genesis of an American Icon, in which Brock gives an insider’s look at how the Sting Ray came about, and the many competing decisions that went into its design.

A sketch made by Brock in 1957 was picked by Mitchell as the focus for the second-generation Corvette and spawned one of America’s most famous show cars, the Sting Ray Racer of 1959. It also provided the direction for the eventual production Sting Ray that appeared to manic acclaim in the fall of 1962.

Brock is most-famous among racing fans for his work with Carroll Shelby, who hired the young designer as the first employee for his performance and racing endeavors. Brock accepted the challenge from Shelby of creating a version of the Cobra roadster for high-speed performance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The result — the iconic Cobra Daytona Coupe — succeeded in beating reigning Ferrari for a GT-class win at Le Mans. It also was the first American car to win the FIA’s GT World Championship.

Brock ran his own racing team at one point, under Brock Racing Enterprises, which campaigned Datsun 510 coupes to conquer Alfa-Romeo and Porsche in Trans Am 2.5 competition. The BRE Datsuns became famous for taking their blue-and-orange livery into victory lane.

For more information about the lecture, the Corvette show and other events at the Blackhawk Museum, see www.blackhawkmuseum.org.

California Mille gets set for thousand-mile tour

Alfa-Romeos and a Jaguar XK soar through the curves during a previous Mille | California Mille
Alfa-Romeos and a Jaguar XK soar through the curves during a previous Mille | California Mille

The 24th annual California Mille starts April 28 for a four-day, thousand-mile classic car tour of scenic countryside and challenging back roads across the middle of California.

“It’s kind of a cross-section of California landscapes, really a mix of the Coast, the Sierra Nevadas, Napa Valley wine country, Sacramento river delta and Central Valley,” co-director David Swig said of the drive route. “So it will be quite a diversity of roads and landscapes. We change the routes every year to give people something fresh and new roads to drive on.”

For the second year, the California Mille is headed by David and Howard Swig, sons of the late Martin Swig, the irrepressible old-car enthusiast who founded the California version of Italy’s famed Mille Miglia road rally. Martin Swig died in July 2012. His sons vowed to keep the premium event going unchanged.

Rally cars displayed at the Fairmount Hotel | California Mille
Rally cars displayed at the Fairmount Hotel | California Mille

As ever, the grand sweep of 80 vintage sports, race and touring cars is the star attraction of the road rally. On Sunday, the day before the rally departs, the public is invited to enjoy a free show of the rally cars from noon to 6 p.m. in front of the Fairmount Hotel on San Francisco’s historic Nob Hill. More than 10,000 people are expected to see the rare field of entries.

“This year’s Mille may be the most signi?cant compendium of classic cars we’ve ever had,” David Swig said. “Along with some 13 Alfa Romeos, 11 Porsches, 6 Jaguars and half a dozen Ferraris – largely vintage ‘50s and ‘60s – we have a ’52 Tojeiro Roadster, a ’28 Bentley, ’57 Kurtis Kraft 500KK and a ’38 Lancia Aprilia.”

David Swig said that for his own rally car, he picked two distinctively different possibilities: a brawny all-American vintage race car or a nimble Italian sports coupe with unique California Mille history.

A pair of red 1950s Jaguars on the road | California Mille
A pair of red 1950s Jaguars on the road | California Mille

“I’m going to drive whatever car is ready to go, but at this point it looks like we’re going to drive a ’51 Chrysler Saratoga, which is a car similar to the car that John Fitch drove in the 1951 La Carrera Panamericana race,” he said. “It looks like the car that John Fitch drove. It has Halibrand magnesium wheels and a 331 Hemi, which is pumped up a little bit. All period stuff in the style that they would have run back in the early ’50s. Still drum brakes and all that.

“If that for whatever reason is not ready to go, I’m going to drive a car that my father drove on the first California Mille, which is a little Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce. But I’m really hoping to take the Chrysler because we already have quite a few Alfas and Porsches and small sports cars. Sometimes it’s nice to take something that’s a bit out of the ordinary.”

David Swig, 29, and his brother Howard, 26, along with Dan Radowicz and Ron Wren, have taken on the task of keeping alive the spirit of the California Mille after the death of Martin Swig, who was well-known in classic car circles for his unflagging enthusiasm and gregarious demeanor.

“Basically, my brother and I grew up fully immersed in the car world from all different aspects,” David Swig said. “It was and continues to be a full-immersion experience. He certainly passed on his passion to me and Howard.”

Martin Swig started up the California Mille after taking part in 1982 in the Mille Miglia of Italy, a road-rally re-enactment of what was formerly a full-on thousand-mile road race, which was run 24 times from 1927 through 1958 under the same name (Mille Miglia is Italian for “thousand mile”). The 24th year of the California Mille is therefore considered a notable milestone.

Bonhams readies London motorcar, automobilia auction

The 1927 Bentley 3-Liter Speed Model Tourer is one of the stars of the auction | Bonhams Auctions
The 1927 Bentley 3-Liter Speed Model Tourer is one of the stars of the auction | Bonhams Auctions

Coachbuilt Bentleys and an off-road truck built by Lamborghini highlight the Bonhams Collector’s Motor Cars and Automobilia Sale, scheduled for April 28 at London’s RAF Museum.

Bonham’s sale opens with a high-end collection of vintage automotive literature, posters, artworks and pre-war mascots, including a selection of valuable radiator ornaments by French glass designer Renè Lalique.

More than 70 classic cars will be offered after the automobilia sale, with a wide range of values and conditions, from a three-wheeled economy panel van and “barn-find” Jaguars to rare restored Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Alvis motorcars.

Macho Lamborghini LM 002 off-roader | Bonhams Auctions
Macho Lamborghini LM 002 off-roader | Bonhams Auctions

A classic 1927 Bentley 3-liter Speed Model Tourer with coachwork by Vanden Plas and painted a brilliant red will cross the block with an estimated worth of $170,000 to $250,000. A 1956 Bentley S-Series Continental Sports Saloon with shapely streamlined styling by H.J. Mulliner will also be offered, estimated at $470,000-570,000.

An unusual 1949 Bentley MKVI 4¼-Liter Countryman Shooting Brake with a woodie-wagon body by Harold Radford is valued at $120,000-150,000.

The 1987 Lamborghini LM 002, an over-the-top four-wheel-drive SUV known in the U.S. as “Rambo Lambo,” is valued at $130,000-200,000. One of just 328 LM 002s produced between 1986 and 1992, this one was originally owned by Italian racing driver Mario Ricci.

For more information about the Bonhams sale, visit the website at www.bomhams.com.

Eye Candy: Reborn Cruise attracts thousands

Photos by Bob Golfen

Phoenix police cracked down on cruising Central Avenue in the 1980s, breaking a tradition going back to the ’50s when young people meandered up and down the main drag in everything from custom hot rods to daddy’s station wagon.

But the practice was brought back to life in 2002 when the city-sanctioned Cruise on Central was organized by car-show promoter Nancy Perry, who also used the broad parking lot of a Central Avenue shopping mall for a car show that has come to attract thousands of entrants and onlookers.

And, of course, folks still take their vintage rides for a cruise up and down Central, with crowds gathered on the sidewalk to watch them go by.

The Cruise on Central, which happens twice a year in the spring and fall, took place on a recent Saturday under Arizona’s typical cloudless blue sky, with more than 2,000 vehicles that ranged from classic ’50s cruisers, lead sleds and bucket T hot rods to a contingent of custom Volkswagens.

The next Cruise on Central is scheduled for October.

Nancy Perry, who had petitioned Phoenix to allow the Cruise on Central to re-ignite 12 years ago, heads up a production company that also organizes a number of other cars shows, rallies and cruises in the Phoenix area.

$7 million GT40 goes to Utah motorsports museum

The Ford GT40 was raced by Shelby America during the 1965 season | Mecum Auctions
The Ford GT40 was raced by Shelby America during the 1965 season | Mecum Auctions

The Ford GT40 prototype racecar that hammered sold at a record $7 million April 12 at the Mecum auction in Houston will be put on permanent display at the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum in Tooele, Utah.

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La Jolla Concours picks best of show winners

The 1953 Cadillac Ghia was designed to show off the Italian coachbuilder’s skill | Petersen Automotive Museum
The 1953 Cadillac Ghia was designed to show off the Italian coachbuilder’s skill | Petersen Automotive Museum

A Cadillac concept coupe that an Arabian prince once gave to a Hollywood movie queen was picked as a best of show winner at the recent La Jolla Concours d’Elegance in California.

The Cadillac, a streamlined fantasy car designed by Italian coachbuilder Ghia and which first appeared at the 1953 Paris Auto Salon, was the judges’ choice for the post-war grand prize at the 10th annual concours.

The Bugatti is a past Pebble Beach winner |  La Jolla Concours
The Bugatti has a Gaston Grumman body | La Jolla Concours

The winner of the pre-war best of show award was a rare Bugatti touring car, a 1930 Type 46 Faux Cabriolet known as a “Petite Royale” because of its placement as a smaller variation of the massive, ultra-luxury Bugatti Royale.

The Cadillac Ghia, which is based on the Series 62, was one of just two built by the carrozzeria. After its appearance in Paris, the show car was purchased by Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan as a gift for his actress wife, Rita Hayworth. Despite the spectacular present, the couple divorced later that year. Hayworth kept the car.

Now owned by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the Cadillac Ghia originally was painted white but later changed to its current burgundy color. Since its restoration, the show car has made a number of appearances at major concours, including Pebble Beach.

The winning Bugatti Type 46 also has a coachbuilt body, created by Gaston Grumman of France, and is now owned by Richard Adams of La Jolla, an affluent seaside section of San Diego.

For a complete list of La Jolla Concours winners, see www.lajollaconcours.com.

‘Barn-find’ classics soar at British auction

A British auction featuring neglected “barn-find” cars and partially completed restoration projects hit the target Saturday, earning £1million ($1.67 million) with 85 percent of the 184 lots sold.

Ranging from valuable classic sports cars in decrepit condition to low-mileage mini cars and downright oddities, Silverstone Auctions’ inaugural Practical Classics Restoration Show in Birmingham, England, offered a few classic car bargains for restorers, as well as some surprisingly high results for beat-up cars.

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Barrett-Jackson hits record sales in Palm Beach

A beach-cruiser-blue 1956 Ford Thunderbird sold in West Palm Beach for $66,000 | Barrett-Jackson
A beach-cruiser-blue 1956 Ford Thunderbird sold in West Palm Beach for $66,000 | Barrett-Jackson

Barrett-Jackson cruised to another strong auction in West Palm Beach, Fla., this past weekend, scoring a record $25 million in overall sales that included $2.35 million for charity.

Results for the 12th annual Palm Beach auction easily eclipsed figures from a year ago, when $21 million worth of cars were sold.

Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach 2014

Total sales$25 million
Catalog509 automobiles
Sell-through99.6 percent
High sale$1 million (charity sale)
First 2015 Corvette Z06
Next 9 price range$165,000 to $500,000
Next auctionReno-Tahoe, Jul. 31-Aug. 2

“Each year, Palm Beach continues to expand its impact, bringing better cars, more fans and growth,” Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson, said in a news release. “We have enjoyed the years here and this year was a stellar showing, which continues the explosive start we had in Scottsdale.”

Charity sales led the top results for the Florida auction and provided a stunning déjà vu moment when NASCAR team owner and mega auto dealer Rick Hendrick stepped up once again and bought the rights to the first production 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 for $1 million with all proceeds going to the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

Another million-dollar Corvette | Chevrolet
Rights to the first 2015 Corvette Z06 hit $1 million | Chevrolet

It was one year ago during the 2013 Palm Beach auction that Hendrick bid $1 million for the first production 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible, also benefiting the Karmanos institute. Hendrick started off his million-dollar run of new Corvettes at the 2013 Scottsdale auction, where he paid $1 million for the first 2014 Corvette Stingray.

Hendrick, a North Carolina-based car dealer and major collector of Corvette and Chevy muscle cars, is a leukemia survivor and a strong supporter of cancer charities.

The 2015 Corvette Z06 sale was the top sale of the Barrett-Jackson auction at Palm Beach. Another car donated by Chevrolet, the first 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 coupe, sold for $500,000 to benefit the AARP drive to End Hunger. Barrett-Jackson charges no auction fees for its signature charity sales.

The 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang was celebrated throughout the three-day Barrett-Jackson auction. The official anniversary date for the Mustang’s debut in April 17.

The 'Need for Speed' Mustang reached $300,000 | Barrett-Jackson
‘Need for Speed’ Mustang reached $300,000 | Barrett-Jackson

Punctuating the Mustang party was the sale of one of the star cars of the Palm Beach sale, the 2013 Mustang fastback that co-starred in the recent Hollywood movie “Need for Speed.” Donated by the Ford Motor Co. and benefiting the Henry Ford Health System, the Mustang went for $300,000.

The wide array of collector cars offered at Barrett-Jackson’s only East Coast auction reflected the laid-back lifestyle of the high-end Palm Beach retirement community, with a strong emphasis on cars that can be driven and enjoyed, including late-model exotics and luxury cars. Two of the top 10 auction sales reflect that: a 2005 Ford GT sports coupe that sold for $242,000 and a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder that fetched $181,500 (all non-charity results include the 10 percent buyer fee).

Full-classic 1935 Packard V12 convertible | Barrett-Jackson
Full-classic 1935 Packard V12 convertible | Barrett-Jackson

The highest non-charity sale was for a full-classic beauty, a highly desirable 1935 Packard V12 convertible coupe with coachwork by Dietrich, which sold for $330,000. The Packard was one of a handful of cars offered with reserve bidding at Palm Beach, two of which – a 1966 Shelby GT350 and a 1938 Cord 812 Phaeton – were the only no-sales among the 509 auction cars.

As with all Barrett-Jackson auctions, there was a something-for-everybody run of modestly priced collector cars, such as a 1976 Triumph TR6 roadster that went for $10,670, a 1969 Corvette custom coupe for $12,100, and a restored 1967 Mustang 289 convertible for $23,650.

Barrett-Jackson’s next auction is July 31-August 2 with the second annual Reno-Tahoe event that takes place in conjunction with the Hot August Nights old-car celebration. For more information, see www.barrett-jackson.com.