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, 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.

Techno-Classica Essen provides show space and marketplace for classic cars

Techno-Classica Essen fills 20 buildings, 4 outdoor spaces with classic cars | T-C Essen photos
Techno-Classica Essen fills 20 buildings, 4 outdoor spaces with classic cars | Techno-Classica Essen photos

The 27th annual Techno-Classica Essen takes place April 15-19 in the Messe Essen, a fairgrounds-style convention center in the Germany city that spans 20 buildings and four outdoor areas. And all of that space was booked months ago for what is billed as the “world show for vintage, classic and prestige automotibles, motor sport, motorcycles, spare parts, restoration and world club meeting.”

A special exhibition in the show’s central hall will feature cars that competed in the Tourist Trophy races in Ireland from 1905-1936.

More than 25 automakers will be displays while classic car dealers will showcase some 2,500 cars for sale. The event, which is expected to draw nearly 200,000 visitors, includes 220 car clubs. Coys will stage a 60-vehicle classic car auction on the 18th.

Among the automakers:

  • Audi will feature historic roadsters and cabriolets,
  • Bentley will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Speed Six “Blue Train,”
  • Ford will focus on the 50th anniversary of its Transit commercial van,
  • Mercedes-Benz will celebrate aerodynamic design with the 60th anniversary of the 300 SLR No. 722 that Stirling Moss drove to victory in the Mille Miglia as well as the 1909 Blitzen-Benz, 1936 W 25, 1938 540 K Streamliner, 1978 C111-III experimental car and others.
  • Opel will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first concept car, the Experimental GT,
  • Porsche will showcase the 30th birthday of the 959,
  • Rolls-Royce will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Phantom,
  • Skoda features 40 years of its RS model,
  • SEAT will showcase prototypes never before shown in Germany,
  • Volkswagen will honor 40 years of its Polo model and 30 years of Syncro.


Cleveland auto show included a classic car auction

General Lee clone on the block | Rubber City Classic Car Auction photo
General Lee clone on the block | Rubber City Classic Car Auction photo

Most major-city auto shows are designed to showcase the newest vehicles available in local dealerships, and even concept cars hinting at what’s coming down the road several years in the future. But the recent Cleveland Auto Show included a special feature — a classic car auction.

Forty vehicles were shown throughout the show and then were put up for bidding by Rubber City Classic Car Auction, which is based south of Cleveland in Akron. The sell-through rate was 51 percent and sales totaled $483,100, according to Heather Marks of the auction company.

The classics were showcased and then sold in the South Hall of Cleveland’s I-X Center, with more than 1,000 people attending the auction. A 1974 De Tomaso Pantera sold for $72,100, a 1969 Dodge Charger “General Lee” clone brought $57,500, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird went for $43,000 and a 1946 Harley-Davidson 45 Flathead brought $19,530.

Rubber City Classic Car Auctions was created in 2013 in response to a change in Ohio law in 2009 that finally allowed consignment auctions of classic cars, though those cars must be at least 26 years old (don’t look for a late-model Ford GT) and auction companies are allowed to stage only three sales a year, Marks said.

“We started with a partnership with another auction company, Akron Auto Auction,” Marks said, adding that Akron Auto Auction wholesales used cars to auto dealers in a six-lane facility that moves some 1,200 cars every Tuesday.

The classic car company stages an annual fall sale at the Akron Auto Auction facility.

“You have to do a spring one,” Marks said consignors, buyers and spectators urged. “We had an opportunity to partner with the folks from the Cleveland Auto Show to offer 40 vehicles. We’re very happy. Our sellers are very happy. We’ll likely be back next year.”

In the meantime, Rubber City Classic will hold its third annual fall sale September 18-19, kicking off the weekend with a Friday night cruise-in car show in conjunction with the auction vehicle preview.

For more information, visit the Rubber City Classic website.


’80s Audis sell well at Bonhams Goodwood sale

Goodwood Members' Meeting sale draws a big crowd | Bonhams photos
Goodwood Members’ Meeting sale draws a big crowd | Bonhams photos

Audis from the ’80s continued their strong showing at classic car auctions as Bonhams staged its inaugural sale Saturday in conjunction with the 73rd Goodwood Members’ Meeting in England. The auction was the first of three that Bonhams has scheduled this year at the Goodwood circuit.

A 1985 Audi quattro Sport short-wheelbase coupe sold at the auction for $426,435 while the ex-works 1982 Audi quattro A1 Group B rally car formerly driven by Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz brought $368,210 (prices include buyer’s premium).

Recently, a 1984 Audi Sport quattro sold at RM’s Arizona auction for $401,500. Some observers see the recent emergence of Audis at auction as an indication of a generational change among classic car buyers with post-baby boomers going for the cars they coveted when they were teenagers.

Rallying was a major international motorsport in the ’70s and ’80s. At the Goodwood sale, Bonhams sold a 1975 Ford Escort RS1800 formerly rallied by the likes of Ari Vatanen, Bjorn Waldegard and Roger Clark for $126,994.

While rally cars did very well at the Goodwood auction, the top-dollar sale was the ex-Kitty Maurice 1959 Frazer Nash Le Mans coupe that sold for $702,790. The car was one of only nine such fixed-head coupes built from 1953-56 and was the last of the breed to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it was entered by John Dashwood in the round-the-clock run in 1959.

Le Mans-racing Frazer  Nash exceeds $700,000
Le Mans-racing Frazer Nash exceeds $700,000

“We have enjoyed offering some magnificent motor cars at both the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival Meetings over the past 20 years, and we are thrilled to add the Members’ Sale to this portfolio,” James Knight, Bonhams motoring director, said in a news release after the sale.

“We have offered a varied cross-section of motor cars, with tremendous interest expressed across the board. A noticeable demand for sports cars of the 1980s has been evident at our inaugural event.”

Some 75 percent of the lots offered were hammered sold. Among them were a Pininfarina-bodied 1968 Bentley T-Series “Coupe Speziale” that sold for $371,538, a 1959 Jaguar XK150S roadster that brought $334,939 — nearly three times its pre-auction estimate — and a 1961 Jaguar Series 1 flat-floor roadster that went for $235,126.

Restoration projects also did very well at the sale. A 1966 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage sports saloon in need of restoration sold for $288,360, while a 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 sports saloon with needs brought $122,004 and a 1963 Porsche 356B Super 90 Coupe went for $47,827, double pre-auction expectation.

1938 540K cabriolet among cars offered at Mercedes museum auction
1938 540K cabriolet among cars offered at Mercedes museum auction

Bonhams returns to Goodwood with its Festival of Speed Sale in late June and its Revival Sale in mid-September. Bonhams next auction is March 28 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany.


Driven: 2015 Range Rover HSE

Nearest town: Superior AZ; Superior also describes the HSE | Larry Edsall photos
Nearest town: Superior AZ; Superior also describes the HSE | Larry Edsall photos

Two things we found particularly impressive during our week at the wheel of a 2015 Range Rover HSE: How quiet and comfortable the big British-built sport utility was while cruising along at freeway speeds (think tea time, but at speed and without spilling a drop) and yet how amazingly competent it was while carefully picking its way up and down and around steep, narrow mountain trails miles away from any pavement.

Talk about a single vehicle that’s ready to play all day — in mud, snow or sand, across the open desert or up and down rocky mountain trails — but then can be cleaned up and is ready to be valeted right up front at the opera or symphony or wherever you might be walking the red carpet in your tux or evening gown.

Like ancient saguaro, Range Rover at home in harsh conditions
Like ancient saguaro, Range Rover at home in harsh conditions

Yes, such versatility comes at a price: Base price of the 2015 Range Rover is a whopping $83,495. The upgrade to HSE adds $6,500, and ours was equipped with all sort of additional optional packages — four-zone climate/comfort control, vision-assist package, driver-assistance package, Rover tow package, Meridian Premium audio, etc., all of which boosted the as-tested price to $101,796.

Yes, that’s a lot of money, but this is a lot of vehicle, and one that isn’t merely luxurious but also is practical, at least for those who lifestyle takes them through such tough and even dangerous environments as the urban freeway, the suburban parking lot, and the muddy or rocky mountain trail, or across the vast expanse of the open desert.

But even if you never venture away from pavement, you’ll appreciate the Range Rover’s trail-bred dexterity as you almost effortlessly steer it into a parking place.

A lot of the driving of this big SUV feels effortless. Electric power steering and air suspension are part of the reason, but so is the fact that the sheet metal is aluminum and that despite its size, the curb weight is less than 5,000 pounds.

Empowering the 2015 Range Rover HSE is the buyer’s choice of two supercharged engines — a 3.0-liter V6 that pumps out 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque or a 5.0-liter V8 with 510 hp and 461 lb-ft. Both link to the permanent four-wheel drive system through an eight-speed ZF transmission.

Our test car carried the V6, and its output was more than sufficient. It also is rated at 17 mpg in town, a figure achieved in part by the engine shutting off at stop lights (and then immediately running again when you remove your foot from the brake pedal). The system works as intended and the radio keeps playing and the a/c keeps blowing, though in the 90-plus temperatures here in Phoenix we wish it blew as coolly with the engine off as it does when the engine is running and the vehicle is moving.

King of the hill
King of the hill

Regardless, the 2015 Range Rover cruises the freeway at 23 mpg, and it can cruise for quite a distance thanks to the Range Rover’s 27.7-gallon fuel tank. Carrying so much fuel also comes in handy when you’re far from pavement — or gas stations.

We spent such a day in the Range Rover exploring what is basically an old mining trail that crosses a dry lake bed and then climbs through Hewitt Canyon and then up into the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.

There's no pavement in sight
There’s no pavement in sight

A knob on the center console allows you to dial in the powertrain, suspension and braking systems for specific terrain — grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand, rock crawl — or you can just leave it in the Auto mode and let the car figure things out for itself. We tried picking a setting but soon realized it was better just to go with Auto, then focus on steering and let the car do its thing. That includes Hill Descent Control, which brings you slowly down even steep sections of trail, allowing the driver to focus on steering clear of rocks and staying from the edge of single-lane shelf roads with rock walls on one side and drop offs on the other.

Funny to even think about approach and breakover angles in a luxury vehicle, but the Ranger Rover has them, and they’re impressive: 34.7 degree angle of approach, 29.6 degree angle of departure, 28.3 degree breakover. Wading depth is 35.4 inches and ground clearance is 11.63 inches, though the air suspension lowers the vehicle nearly three inches at freeway speeds.

At one point we realized our Arizona trails atlas, now old, frayed and held together by layers of tape, didn’t show the detail we needed, so we stopped a family on ATVs and asked if we were on the route we wanted. We weren’t, and while they were helpful, they also were amazed that we were driving in such terrain in such a luxurious vehicle.

Interior is luxurious, and then some
Interior is luxurious, and then some

And the 2015 Range Rover is just as luxurious as it is capable. Standard equipment includes triple-zone climate controls, a steering wheel that not only tilts and telescopes but is heated, 10-way power adjustable and heated front seats, reclining back seats (all seating is leather-covered, of course), power-operated split tailgate, interior mood lighting, 12.3-inch information screen with GPS and 380-watt 13-speaker Meridian audio, real wood-veneer interior trim, etc.

The HSE package adds Oxford perforated leather front seats, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, heated rear seats, twin-blade sunvisors, 14-way front seat adjustment including the bolsters, four-way tilt headrests front and rear and soft-close doors.

The $3,200 Four-Zone Climate Comfort package adds solar-attenuating windshield, front massage seats, front cooler box, and rear climate seats with power adjustment and an intelligent cargo mode that adjusts even the front seat positions when you need the full flat cargo floor.

There's lots of room inside for people and their stuff
There’s lots of room inside for people and their stuff

The $1,800 Vision Assist package includes a surround camera system, adaptive Xenon headlamps, and blind-spot mirrors with closing vehicle sensors.

The $1,560 Driver Assistance package. which is new for the 2015 model year, adds lane-departure warning with traffic-sign recognition and “perpendicular and Parallel Park with Park Exit and 360 degree park distance control,” all of which is designed to help you park smack-dab in the middle of any parking place to provide the most room possible for entering and exiting your vehicle.

The $2,150 Meridian Premium audio adds InControl smartphone-integrated apps and boosts the surround-sound system to 825 watts.

Our test vehicle also had a $900 towing package with hitch receiver and full-size spare tire.

The 2015 Range Rover is part of the fourth-generation of such vehicles by Land Rover, which was founded in 1948 basically to design and build Jeep-style vehicles for the British. The first Range Rover was launched in 1970 as a more luxurious vehicle designed as much for paved roads as for rugged terrain. The fourth-gen version was introduced to the U.S. market for the 2013 model year.


2015 Range Rover HSE
Vehicle type: 5-passenger sport utility vehicle, 4-wheel drive
Base price: $83,495 Price as tested: $101,796
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6, 340-horsepower @ 6,500 rpm, 332 pound-feet of torque @ 3,500 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 115.0 inches Overall length/width: 196.8 inches / 87.4 inches (including mirrors)
Curb weight: 4,918 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 17 city / 23 highway / 19 combined
Assembled in: Solihull, England


Post-block sales boost RM Sotheby’s to 100 percent sell-through at Amelia Island

'Blue Train' Bentley reproduction sells after the block | RM Sotheby's photo
‘Blue Train’ Bentley reproduction sells after the block | RM Sotheby’s photo

It turns out that the RM Sotheby’s classic car auction at Amelia Island was even better than reported.

At the auction, Max Girado hammered all but two of 101 lots “sold.” But that was on the block. RM Sotheby’s reported Thursday that both of those lots sold in post-block deals, which the auction company says makes its Amelia Island auction its first multi-consignor sale since Hershey in 2010 to have a 100 percent sell-through rate. (Post-block sales made within five days of the actual auction can be included as part of the official auction results.)

During the auction, a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 S convertible (Lot 114) was bid to
$460,000, well shy — by $90,000 — of its lowest pre-auction estimate, while the 1930 Bentley “Blue Train” recreation (Lot 169) was bid to $480,000, also short of its lowest pre-auction estimate of $550,000.

In both cases, those bids also were less than the owners’ reserve prices on the cars.

“A 100 percent sell-through rate for a multi-owner consignment auction is a rare occurrence in the collector car auction industry and reflects not only our team’s client service orientation and commitment to achieving the best results for our consignors, but also the depth and expertise of our specialist team,” RM Sotheby’s said in announcing the post-block sales.

“The RM experience does not end when the final gavel drops.”

The Blue Train Bentley recreation was completed last fall on a 1950 Bentley Mark VI chassis and looks like the streamlined Gurney Nutting coupe owned by Capt. Joel Woolf Barnato, who in 1930 was one of the original “Bentley Boys,” a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, scion of South African diamond and gold mining interests, and chairman of Bentley.

Barnato and others were in Cannes, France, and were discussing a Rover advertisement that claimed the Rover Light Six was faster than the famed Le Train Blue. Barnato said his Bentley Speed Six could beat the train, placed a wager and with a co-driver left Cannes at the same time at the train was heading north to London.

Despite several problems along the route, the drivers reached London even before the train had arrived for its ferry ride across the English Channel.

Barnato won his bet, but he was fined more than that amount for racing on public roads. Bentley also was banned from showing its cars at the 1930 Paris auto salon.

But as the RM Sotheby’s auction catalog noted, it was not the Gurney Nutting coupe that won that race — and was memorialized in newspapers, magazines, in Terence Cuneo’s commemorative painting, and even in the reproduced car offered at Amelia Island.

The Gurney Nutting fastback Bentley was still under assembly when a black, fabric-covered and “unassuming” Bentley sedan built by Mulliner beat the blue train in a race across Europe.

Huge collection of vintage auto and other neon signs to be sold by Mecum Auctions

Vernon Walker's collection of some 400 neon signs is going to auction | Mecum Auctions photos
Vernon Walker’s collection of some 400 neon signs is going to auction | Mecum Auctions photos

Vernon Walker was in his mid-20s when he decided someone needed to “save the signs.”

“Being a car guy, I thought owning some of the dealership signs would be something fun to get into,” Walker told the folks from Mecum Auctions.

Vintage Chevrolet dealer sign
Vintage Chevrolet dealer sign

“Once I got into that, I quickly found that the future of these signs was not shaping up to be such a pretty picture.”

The reason, Walker discovered, was that many people who were buying such signs were, as Walker saw it, actually destroying them.

What Walker saw was that people were buying the glorious two-sided neon and porcelain signs, taking them apart and turning them into a pair of one-sided signs to sell.

“They were destroying the history of these signs,” Walker said. “When I realized what was going on, I just went crazy buying signs.”

Walker’s plan was to someday open a museum to showcase the signs and their place in American roadside history. But he was so busy buying and preserving that he never got around to opening that museum.

Now, he said, “I’m 74 years old and I’ve got to do something with them. I didn’t want my family to have to go through dispersing them. It’s certainly not that I don’t like them. It was just that I figured they should be hung up so people can enjoy them.”

Walker’s father, Harry, founded the Walker Radiator Works in Memphis in 1932, and it grew to become the largest independent radiator manufacturer in the country.

Walker collected a variety of signs
Walker collected a variety of signs

Walker’s collection includes more than 400 signs, and they will be up for bidding March 27-28 when Mecum Auctions sells the collection in West Memphis, Arkansas, where the sale will be conducted in one of the three buildings Walker used to store the signs.

And signs aren’t the only things Walker saved. In addition to cars and signs, he found a complete Texaco filling station in new-old-stock condition, stored in a couple of big semi-tractor trailers. He bought the contents and had the station built on his property.

His collection of more than 400 signs includes those from automobile and tractor dealerships, gasoline stations and a variety of other businesses, including pharmacies, motels, hardware stores, taverns, shoe stores, restaurants and more.

To see the more than 400 signs being offered, visit the auction website.

Eye Candy: Swap meet at the Goodguys Spring Nationals

Photos by Larry Edsall

I usually spend my Saturdays at the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s twice-a-year visits to the Phoenix area walking up and down and back and forth along aisle after aisle after aisle of, well, hot rod and custom cars.

But with Nicole James eager for a turn at doing the Eye Candy gallery on the main event, I left the show field to her and her camera and walked up the hill to the swap meet that lines both sides of the perimeter road along the south side of the WestWorld equestrian center in Scottsdale.

Though it’s called a swap meet, it’s not as if people are up there trading baseball cards like a bunch of school boys. What’s being exchanged are parts and pieces for cold hard cash money.

And it’s not just the people there to see the cars who are buying.

I asked several of the vendors how business was. Several said Friday had been terrific, but that most of the show-goers were still out looking at cars and had yet to make their way to the swap meet.

However, one vendor said that not only was Friday good, but so was Thursday.

Thursday? I asked. Isn’t that the day you’re setting up shop, the day when there are no customers here to buy.

True, he said. But then he explained that there is actually a lot of buying that takes place on Thursdays when the vendors check out each others’ merchandise.

So, I said, if they think you’re not charging enough for something, they buy it and put it on their own tables?

Yep, was the response.

Prices can range from a few dollars to a few thousand, with everything for sale from door-window crank handles and tail-lamp lenses to headers, engines and even entire cars; some are your basic restoration projects in waiting while others are running and ready to be driven home.

Some bring only enough to fill a single card table and the ground next to it. Some pull up in a pickup truck with its bed full of car parts and pieces. Others have more elaborate displays of everything from automotive literature to model cars, from road signs to old drive-in movie theater speakers now wi-fied to play music downloaded to a smart phone or tablet computer.


With $101.15 million in sales, Amelia auctions show strong pulse for classic car market

The scene at RM Sotheby's Amelia Island auction, where buyers spent $60.3 million | Darin Schnabel photos for RM Sotheby's
Buyers spent $60.3 million at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction | Darin Schnabel photos for RM Sotheby’s

We like to say that major auctions, especially those held in close geographic and chronological proximity, provide an opportunity to take the pulse of the classic car hobby. Based on recent high-end sales in Arizona and Amelia Island, you’d have to say the body is healthy, indeed, very healthy. Consider:

In January in Arizona, Bonhams, Gooding & Company, and RM combined to sell a few more than 300 vehicles for $82.8 million.

Last week on Amelia Island, those same three auction houses (though RM now is partnered with Sotheby’s) reported 252 vehicles sold for a combined $101.15 million.

Put another way, the average price paid at the trio’s auctions in Arizona was slightly more than $274,000. Last week in Florida, the average sale — high bid plus buyer’s commission — was a little more than $401,000.

Some of the cars available at RM Sotheby's
Some of the cars available at RM Sotheby’s

Rupert Banner, vice president of business development in the motoring division of Bonhams, was talking about his company’s sale, but his words would seem to apply across the board at Amelia when he said, “The results point to continued strength in the market, with particular emphasis on rare, original-condition pre-war American marques, as well as top-tier mid-to-late century European sports cars.”

Amelia Island auctions have been known for the sports and racing cars made available and purchased there. For the most part, that trend continued, led by a short-wheelbase 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica cabriolet that brought $6.38 million at the RM Sotheby’s sale.

RM Sotheby’s sold 13 cars for $1 million or more and nine were post-war sports cars — Ferraris, Jaguars, a Lamborghini, a Shelby Cobra, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL and an Austin Healey 100S.

Gooding & Company recorded seven $1 million or more sales and all were post-war European sports cars — four Ferraris, a pair of 300 SL roadsters and a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR — led by a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for $3.3 million.

Bonhams was making its debut on the island and drove against the grain with six of its top-eight sales hammered not for post-war cars but for pre-war classics, led by the auction’s trio of $1 million-plus transactions: $1.76 million for a 1930 Cord Model L-29 Town Car, $1.738 million for a 1908 American Underslung 50HP roadster and $1.012 million for a 1932 Stutz DV-32 Super Bearcat convertible.

Bonhams’ debut sale totaled $13.95 million. Gooding reported $26.9 million in sales. Meanwhile, RM Sotheby’s did an astounding $60.3 million in sales, some 67 percent more than the RM sale on the island a year ago.

Last year, RM sold 88 cars at an average of slightly more than $407,000 each. This year it posted 98 sales at an average of more than $615,000.

RM also reported receiving bids representing people from 22 countries and that nearly a quarter of all its Amelia bidders were new customers.

Florida-based Hollywood Wheels also held an auction at Amelia Island but has yet to release results.

RM’s next sale is May 2 when it distributes the Andrews Collection in Fort Worth, Texas. Later in May it stages its annual auction at Lake Como in Italy in conjunction with the Villa d’Este Concorso.

Bonhams will do four sales in Europe — March 21 at Goodwood, March 28 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, May 9 at the Aston Martin Works and May 24 at the Spa racing circuit — before returning to the U.S. for its annual sale May 31 at the Greenwich concours.

Gooding’s next sale is in August at Monterey, where it, Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s again share geographic and chronological proximity.


Cave Creek building its classic car auction business

Cave Creek Auctions hopes to offer 200 cars | Cave Creek Auctions photos
Cave Creek Auctions hopes to offer 200 cars | Cave Creek Auctions photos

Until the economy went sour a few years ago, John Bettencourt was in the construction business. Since then, instead of building new buildings, Bettencourt, his wife Jennifer and their two teenage sons have specialized in redistributing old stuff, from jewelry, clocks, coins, Western art and furniture, glassware and pottery, antiques and even automobiles through their Cave Creek Auctions & Events company.

Basically, Cave Creek Auctions specializes in estate sales, but sometimes those estates include a classic car or two, and Bettencourt noticed that there was a lot of interest in such vehicles.

Being based in Phoenix, where classic car auctions dominate the month of January, Bettencourt found yet another niche to explore. On April 3-4, Cave Creek Auctions will stage its third annual spring collector car sale at Stagecoach Village, a $23 million, Old West-style commercial complex on Cave Creek Road in Phoenix.

“We’re trying to get 200 cars,” Bettencourt said. “We had 163 last year.”

The auction scene at Stagecoach Village
The auction scene at Stagecoach Village

Bettencourt said many of his customers — both consignors and bidders — aren’t really comfortable dealing with the big major auction houses that stage their sales in Phoenix or Scottsdale each January. Cave Creek also offers less expensive consignor and buyer fees than the big auction houses.

And the Cave Creek classic car auction draws more than just the typical January crowd of bidders because the company does some 200 auctions a year and can draw on a broad clientele.

For those who cannot attend, bidding can be done through, Bettencourt said.

Bettencourt also said that in addition to the annual sale in Phoenix, Cave Creek Auctions is working on a summer sale, not in Phoenix but up in the cooler climes of the mountain village of Prescott, Arizona. His idea is to do classic cars one day and what he calls “treasures” from the estate sales docket the next day.

Hagerty Market Rating indicates a cooling trend

March Hagerty Market Rating Gauge

The Hagerty Market Rating for the classic car marketplace continued to grow in the past month, but only by one one-hundredth of a point in the last reporting period, which includes the run-up to the Amelia Island auctions.

While Hagerty, the classic car insurance company and price-guide publisher, didn’t introduce its new rating gauge until earlier this year, it started beta-testing its system last May and reports the latest 0.01 monthly increase as the smallest to date.

“The rating reflects modest increases in private sales and auctions compared to the same period last year, while expert sentiment is down slightly,” the Hagerty news release reported.

The rating is based on a weighted algorithm that considers 15 proprietary data points in eight categories, including public auction and private sales, values of insured cars, price-guide values, Hagerty’s own index system and input from industry experts.

The rating, reported at the middle of each month, is based on a 100-point scale and is presented in the form of a tachometer-style gauge, complete with a “superheated” red zone, a sort of warning that we’re approaching a possible burst of the bubble. Ideally, the market cruises along comfortably in the 60- to 80-point “expanding” zone.

The 70.98 rating for mid-March indicates an expanding market, which means strong values and increasing prices, though those figures are building at a slower pace.

Previous ratings were 70.22 in mid-January (adjusted to 70.28 by the end of the month), and 70.61 for February (adjusted to 70.97 at the end of the month). The reason for the month-end adjustments, Hagerty said, is the release of the national Consumer Price Index, one of the factors used in adjusting the classic car market index to include the national rate of inflation.

Hagerty notes that, as expected, the market is cooling and adds that, “market insured value increases are essentially flat for the first time in 11 months.”

Hagerty reports that year-to-year growth in the classic car market was 14 percent in 2013 and 11 percent in 2014. However, Hagerty expects the rate of growth to be around 8 percent for 2015.

Hagerty also said that its mid-March rating does not include the results of auctions held last week at Amelia Island. Those prices will be factored into the mid-April rating.