All posts by Larry Edsall

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State Univeristy.

Motown celebrates its heritage, and its rivalry with Indy

One of the things we really like about the annual — this was the 35th — Concours d’Elegance of America is its eclectic mix of classes. Sure, it offers the Prewar European and American Classics 1928-1942 sort of groupings. But it puts them alongside such displays as Vintage NASCAR; Jet Age Convertibles (what a colorful array that was this year); cars from The Great Race; a row of the ultimate Muscle Cars as modified by the likes of Yenko, Baldwin Motion and Nickey; and this year it also celebrated its rivalry with Indianapolis for the very title of America’s Motor City.

Remember that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was funded in large part to provide a proving grounds and showcase for that city’s growing auto industry. To showcase the Detroit vs. Indy rivalry, this year the concours featured classes for Detroit Iron and Indianapolis Iron from the heyday of manufacturing cars of elegance — the 1930s — with Detroit represented by Packards, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chryslers and Indy by Marmons, Duesenbergs and a couple of Stutz (there was a separate class for Cords, which were built not in Indy but in northern Indiana).

At the end of the day, it was one of those Dusenbergs that was judged to be the best-in-show among all the made-in-America cars — a Derham-bodied 1931 Model J Tourister. The winner is owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini III of West Orange, New Jersey. This was the second year in a row in which one of their cars drove away from the fairways of the Inn at St. John’s with such honors, and their cars took the other best-in-show award, for European cars, in 2006 and 2008.

This year, best-in-show European went to a 1934 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 boat tail speedster owned by Roger Willbanks of Denver, Colorado (see adjacent photo of the best-in-show duo).

Just like at Monterey, the weekend no longer is large enough for all that happens around the Motown concours, what with various tours and even the Automotive Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

For the last 19 years, there’s been an RM auction, which this year sold 90 percent of the 80 cars offered for nearly $7.75 million, led by a 1929 Duesenberg Model J dual-cowl phaeton that went for $682,000. All of the top-10 sales were Detroit or Indiana classics from the 1930s.

No lull this year as we move from Motown to Monterey

Most years, there’s sort of a lull in the classic car world from the end of July and the conclusion of Detroit’s concour — the Concours d’Elegance of Motown… oops, make that of America — and the carpalooza week of shows and races and auctions in mid-August on California’s Monterey Peninsula.

But not this year, so strap on your helmet cause it could be a bumpy ride!

This year the action (not to mention the rumors and intrigue) continues non-stop, what with the controversy surrounding the sale of several dozen cars that have been in the possession of the Petersen Automobile Museum at Auction America’s new event August 1-3 at Burbank, and then the following weekend there’s the inaugural Barrett-Jackson auction (and isn’t there always something intriguing about Barrett-Jackson auctions?) in conjunction with the Hot August Nights celebration d’hot-rod in Reno-Tahoe.

Copperstate contingent returns with tales from the trails

A record 94 cars participated in the 23rd annual Copperstate 1000 vintage and sports car rally, which actually turned out to be the Copperstate 1111.1 this year with a route that included not only highways and byways in Arizona but a quick crossing of part the Mohave southeastern California and even a little slice of Nevada.

The drivers and co-drivers of each of those cars have stories to share from the route, though perhaps the most dramatic of those stories is shared by John and Peg Leshinski, and it may be a poignant tale for all of you who drive open-cockpit vintage cars.

This year, the Leshinskis did the drive in their 1952 Allard K-2, a car originally purchased by Al Unser Sr., who raced it up Pikes Peak and who later won the Indianapolis 500 four times.

Because the Allard not only has on open cockpit and only a pair of very small wind deflectors instead of windshield, John wanted Peg to be as comfortable and as protected as possible, so he decided they should wear period-correct helmets on the rally. He found a French company that makes just such helmets, and with clear and full-face wind visors.

“They looked like what Phil Hill wore,” he said in reference to the only native-born American ever to win the world Grand Prix driving championship, in 1961.

It was on the northbound stretch across the Mohave that the Leshinskis encountered a southbound semi, the cab and trailer creating so much turbulence that it sucked up the Allard’s hood, breaking the leather hood strap. The hood slammed back over the passenger compartment, smacking John and Peg in their heads, or, more accurately, in their helmets.

Peg compared the impact to be “hit by a railroad tie.”

Somehow, John got the car stopped safely, neither of them was injured, and with help from others who stopped to provide assistance, they removed what remained of the hood and continued on along the route.

It was interesting that John Leshinski brought up Phil Hill’s name, because Phil Hill’s son, Derek, was on the Copperstate this year, driving a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 owned by Chris Andrews.

Also on the rally were Michael and Katharina Leventhal and their 1953 Ferrari 340 MM Le Mans Spyder, which, it turns out, is the very same car in which Phil Hill did his first race in Europe.

On the second day of the Copperstate, the Leventhals invited Derek Hill to drive their car.

“That,” Hill said later, “was very special.”

’67 Nova SS takes top honors at Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte

Fifty car clubs from the Charlotte, North Carolina, area were invited to display cars that annual Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Henry Brock’s 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS took best-in-show honors.

The project started with Brock helping a buddy restore his car, but Brock liked the Nova so much he decided not to just help with the restoration, but to take it over.

“He brought it by my house and that’s as far as it got,” Brock said. “I made it mine instead of his” in a restoration effort that consumed five years — and two paint colors.

Brock had the car painted gold, but decided he didn’t like it, so his wife, Mary, picked the fusion orange shade.

Each of the car clubs participating in the Food Lion AutoFair was judged individually, with a Best of Show picked for each club.

Barrett-Jackson’s $21+ million boosts Florida season total

Barrett-Jackson closed out the Florida portion of the 2013 classic and collectible car auction season with the sale of more than $21-million at its 11th annual Palm Beach event.

Add that total to $120 million generated by auctions earlier this year and the season’s total for Sunshine State tallies more than $151 million.

Now, add that to the $200 million generated in January in Arizona, and to the totals generated elsewhere around the country already this year — including the Mecum sale at Houston (see below) — and the 2013 sales season is off to a very good start.

“We kicked off the year strong in Scottsdale and are thrilled that our 11th year at Palm Beach has kept that momentum going,” said Craig Jackson. “We were able to offer a unique lineup of rare, high-end automobiles that helped to bring out an enthusiastic crowd and we are proud to see that the collector car hobby is going strong. We’re very pleased with the event’s overall results.”

The auction attracted 55,000 people despite severe thunderstorms. To make the event auction more attractive to new collectors, Barrett-Jackson staged an “introductory auction” featuring what figured to be more affordable classics on the Thursday of the auction weekend.

The high-dollar sale of the weekend was $1 million for the first 2014 Chevrolet corvette Stingray convertible. The first new C7 Corvette coupe was offered for sale at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale event. Both cars sold for charity, with the convertible’s sale benefiting the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Some $1.8 million was generated for charities at the auction, with a 2009 Ford F-150 King Ranch Super Crew pickup truck formerly owned by President George W. Bush brining $350,000 for the National Guard Youth Foundation.

Other top sales included $330,000 for a 1968 Shelby GT500 Ford Mustang convertible, $275,000 for a 1970 Oldsmobile 442 convertible and $258,500 for a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS6 convertible.

A tiny Texas town hopes to reclaim fame by celebrating classic cars

For much of its length, the Red River separates Texas and Oklahoma. Nocona is a Texas town just south of the river, and in its heyday was known for producing cowboy boots and baseball gloves.

Native son Pete Horton is working to revive the town’s acclaim, and is doing it with classic cars.

Horton, a veteran of the oil and wire line service industry, has restored several buildings in town — including old Ford and Chevrolet dealerships — and has filled a couple of them with his 120-vehicle (and growing) car collection.

During the weekend of April 19-20, Nocona, population around 3,000, will celebrate not only Horton’s classics but hundreds of others as well with Cruisin’ Nocona. Events include a Classic Car Poker Run and a 200-lot Vicara Classic & Muscle Car auction.

Featured vehicles at the auction will include a 1964 Pontiac GTO “Tri-Power” convertible, a pair of Chevrolet Corvettes — a ’62 “Big Brake” coupe and a ’63 split window Z06 — that have been stored since the 1980s, and several golf karts designed to mimic classic cars, including a ’34 Ford, ’57 Chevy, ’57 Thunderbird and even a Ford F-250 pickup truck. For details, visit www.vicariauction.com.

Auctions America does $17.5 million at Fort Lauderdale

Auctions America by RM opened its 2013 calendar with a sale at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that generated more than $17.5 million in transactions. The sell-through rate was 74 percent.

The high sale was $880,000 for a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL gullwing coupe. A 1963 Shelby Cobra went for $553,500, a 400-mile 2012 Lexus LFA brought $319,000, a 1932 Lincoln KB duel-cowl sport phaeton sold for $275,000 and a 1931 Cadillac V12 dual cowl sport phaeton brought $203,500.

Another highlight was the sale — for $88,000 — of a 1951 Chevrolet Styleline DeLuxe convertible formerly owned by Steve McQueen.

For further information on upcoming events, along with full results from the 2013 Fort Lauderdale collector car auction, visit auctionsamerica.com.

Classic car owners help Hagerty teach young driver to shift gears

Scottsdale, Arizona – resident Jim Bauder admitted “a lot” of hesitation about turning over the driver’s seat in his immaculate 1958 Triumph TR250 to someone who never before had manipulated a manual transmission. But, Bauder said, “I taught my three children to drive a stick and had only one failure” — when his daughter burned up the clutch. Undaunted, Bauder fixed the car and his daughter tried again, and became so skilled at coordinating clutch pedal and shifter that she not only moved to San Francisco, but bought and drove a stick-shifted Honda Civic.

We share Bauder’s experience, and that of other Phoenix-area classic car owners who offered up their manually shifted cars — including a 1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spyder Veloce, a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and a 1960 Ford Galaxie — when Hagery Insurance called for cars and car owners to participate in the Hagerty Driving Experience, which the company says is “a rare opportunity to receive hands-on instruction on how to drive some of the most unique and iconic classic cars on the road.”

The program starts with classroom instruction and then moves outside for a lesson on routine vehicle maintenance — including checking air pressure and fluid levels — before anyone turns a wheel.

Hagerty launched the program to celebrate the inaugural Classic Car Appreciation Day in 2011. Hagerty makes arrangements to block off a section of private pavement — here in the Phoenix area, it was the driveways in front of the Scottsdale Automobile Museum. Hagerty staff provide classroom instruction and lunch.

In addition to clientele’s privately owned classics, the program has become supported by the Ford Motor Co., which provides some brand new cars for the youngsters to drive as well. Driving starts with the car owner or instructor at the wheel. After a couple of laps, instructor and student swap seats.

Yes, the students often chug the cars to a stall. But the car owners are impressively patient.

“He helped me a lot and was very supportive,” 17-year-old Paul Heinrich said after repeatedly stalling out Mark Esbenshade’s ’58 Alfa.

For his part, Esbenshade brushed off any strain on his car’s components. “Hey, somebody taught me to drive stick” he said.

Students and their parents offered various reasons for seeking such instruction, though only a few had manually shifted cars at home.

Dorrie Sibley said she brought her 16-year-old son, Breslin, because someday he might be out with friends who’ve been drinking and regardless of the vehicle they’re in, she wants her son to be ready to step in as designated driver and get everyone home safe and sound.

Hagerty has several more such sessions planned this year: April 13 at Houston, June 7 at Denver, July 12 in Orange County, Calif., Aug. 2 at Toronto and Sept. 21 at Las Vegas. If you get a call about offering up your car, please don’t hesitate to respond in the affirmative.

MV Agusta motorcycle collection goes back on the auction block

Remember that collection of more than 70 classic MV Agusta motorcycles offered as a single lot at Mecum’s auction in Monterey in August? Well, the high bid was $850,000, but that didn’t meet the reserve. So now those bikes will be offered as individual lots at the annual MidAmerica Auctions event January 10-12 at the South Point Casino and Exhibit Hall in Las Vegas.

The action that weekend in Vegas also includes the annual Bonhams Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction, where the docket includes a 1939 BMW RS 255 Kompressor, the 1902 Rambler Model B, the only surviving 1905 Leo Two-Cycle, Steve McQueen’s 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross and a collection of cut-away engines, hubs and motor wheels from a variety of manufacturers.

The Bonhams sale takes place at Bally’s Hotel & Casino.