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.

Vehicle Profile: 1932 Ford 5-Window Coupe

1932 Ford 5 window Coupe

The 1932 Ford Coupe (more commonly known as the “Deuce Coupe”) is the epitome of the true, original American Hot Rod. The 1932 Ford Coupe is one of several 2-door models, of the new Model B series from Ford.  The car that started it all was born at the end of the Ford Model A run. It was a one-year model that transitioned the Model A series into the upgraded 1934 Ford model lineup (the 1934 and 1935 B models were significantly changed from the stand-alone 1932’s).

As our boys returned home from the theatre of WWII in the early 1940s, they found an outlet in hot rodding old cars (if you consider a 1932 “old” in the 40s).  They were expressing themselves with new energy, restlessness and maybe a bit of rebellion. The older cars to hot rod were readily available in large numbers and the 1932s were even more desirable than Model As, or even Model Ts, due to their more powerful Flathead V8 drivetrains (the Flathead V8s were actually marketed as the Model 18, in their day).

The 1932 Fords were produced in many variations of both 2 and 4-door models but the 2-door models seemed to make the best Hot Rods and Street Rods. There were also many different styles in which to modify these cars, like the Highboy, Lowboy, Lake, Bobbed, Gasser and Rat Rod, just to name a few. Each one became an individual expression of the owner’s (or creator’s) idea of what he thought a Hot Rod or Street Rod was meant to be.

There was a lot of part, component and drivetrain swapping going on and some people got very creative with fabrications.  Many businesses sprang up as a result of these early pioneers, builders and dreamers, and still exist to this day in what has become known as the enormous automotive aftermarket. In fact, many of the innovations born from the Hot Rodding and Street Rodding world, have been adopted by and installed on production vehicles from all the major automobile manufacturers in the world.  If it wasn’t for the early pioneers of the Hot Rodding and Street Rodding cultures, I doubt we would have all the beloved and prized muscle cars running around out there.

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.

Vehicle Profile: 1962 Ford Thunderbird

The 1962 Thunderbird offers two different models for classic car buyers to choose from. One is the Landau. This model originally featured vinyl roofs and simulated S bars on the sides. The introduction of vinyl roofs on the Landau was the beginning of a popular design trend that continued for Thunderbirds over the next twenty years.

The other 1962 Thunderbird model is the Sport Roadster, a limited production model. This model originally featured special upholstery on the seats and chrome plated Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. The Sport Roadster was also designed with a fiberglass Tonneau cover, that makes the vehicle look like a two seater. The Sports Roadster is considered the more exciting of the two 1962 Thunderbird models, by classic car enthusiasts.

Before we discuss innovations include the bases. The style was influenced by fashion, “Kalifornia Kustom” of the early 60s, the model 62 had a redesigned grille with four horizontal lines with small bright vertical bars. In front of the grid a “jaladera”. Moldings were replaced “stacked” in the back of the compact model 61 by a horizontal dashed line. After the spring, some cars were built with a horizontal chrome line along its side. Large, round taillights brand attributes were decorated with more chrome.

The price difference between each of the models was a little over $151 U.S. dollars. Apparently it was a modest amount, but it was in 1962. From 1958 to 1960 the increase in the price of the car averaged $60 per year, but the brand new T-Bird 1961 jumped more than $400 in price. An increase of $150 in 1962 would have been seen as a stepping stone for anyone who negotiates the purchase of a 1959 model. But for those who bought a T-Bird a year was less than the previous year’s effort. It is also worth noting that the convertible broke the line of $4,000 for the first time in 1960, whereas it did in 1961 Hardtop. Convertible Roadster for 1962 came to $5,000.

A long list of standard equipment included in the high price of the car. According to Car Fax 1962, including auto exhaust system with dual output, fuel filter, oil filter, engine 390 cubic inch carburetor four throats padded dash, padded sun visors,electric clock with a second , courtesy lights, directional, deep center wheel, the horn ring and horn dual, individually adjustable front seats, adjustable rear view mirror day-night double door locks with safe, completely covered in the wheels, armrests built , carpet, vinyl upholstery, Ashtray, lighter ashtray air filter, automatic transmission, power brakes, power steering, electric windshield cleaners, hand brake (or emergency), glove box lights, ashtray, luggage, support and in magazines, heating and defroster, a movable steering column (new to the standard equipment list), a console between the front seats, and black tires 8.00 x 14. The Sport Roadster convertible included cover rear seats with padded back for the head, chrome spoke wheels and a handrail for the front passenger.

To appreciate the stature of the Thunderbird at the time, we must consider that in the period 1961-1962, the base models of Ford and Chevrolet only included directional, sun visors, and oil filter as standard equipment. The list of equipment for most cars was two to three long lines. In contrast, the T-Bird 1962 was equipped with almost all car accessories fitted quite well today (one difference may be the air conditioning, which is more common today). The T-Bird was also appreciated as extremely quiet, in a time when ordinary cars were noisy. About 45 pounds of sound-absorbing materials were placed in the car, including the isolation of aluminum, felt or fiberglass putty were applied to the roof cavity of the rough, board, instrument panel, passenger floors and floor trunk, roof panels, trunk, and panels of the compacts.

There were some additional revisions to the 1962 Thunderbird. A manual emergency brake, slight changes in trim, and adjustments in the indicators of the board were some of them. Below the car, a zinc-based coating was applied as protection against oxidation. Also applied three coats of primer or primer. On top of this, two coats of enamel “Never Wax.” Aluminum muffler also been upgraded with stainless steel sections in some critical parts in the exhaust system, such as resonators.

The T-Bird engine were made improvements in the intake system. Only in the carburetor were made 15 improvements plus the addition of a fuel filter that worked for 30,000 miles. The oil filter life also extended to intervals of 4,000 or 6,000 miles by removing a valve. At this point, most cars used antifreeze that required change almost every year. Thunderbird buyers were given a permanent anti-freeze protection to -35 degrees and had to be changed every two years or 30,000 miles. Taimen had better brakes. It said a larger master cylinder would increase the efficiency of braking with less pedal pressure. For durability and strength will be new materials used in mechanical brake. However, the T-Bird was three years of having disc brakes, something that fans of the brand thought very necessary.

Outside, 18 colors were available for simple Hardtop. Twelve of these colors were unique to the Thunderbird. A color, Blue Diamond, was added during the model year. Including Blue Diamond, there were 21 combinations of two tones. Nineteen interior options were available in four models of the Thunderbird in seven basic colors. The seats came in full on vinyl seven options, five options in vinyl and cloth, and seven full leather options.

1962 Thunderbird seats were low and soft. The heater controls and a glove compartment were incorporated in to the center console between the seats. The steering wheel moved 10 inches to facilitate entry and exit of the car, but it only works when the transmission selector was in Parking. Car and Driver (August 1962) mentioned “wide opening doors and generously sized interior” in both models. However, the magazine said that when setting back the front seats reduce the space for rear passengers’ knees and even then, the front seats do not fit enough to handle with arms outstretched.

A quick look at the 1962 body codes shows that the four models had only two different model numbers. This means that the differences between cars of similar body was in the ornaments of the chassis, rather than the body structure. There was only a minor difference of importance in the shape of the windshield or the roof line, Ford had used a different code to distinguish the cars. Both bodies had the same form of “projectile” front end and design of dual jet pipe at the back in 1961. The hardtop roof was again the trend of formal style. The convertible had a deck in the rear seat folded up and hidden mechanism “accordion” that Tom McCahill joked in May 1962 Mechanix Illustrated magazine.

“The first time I went down the roof, I thought the car was about to eat itself,” Tom McCahill said. “The roof of the rear seats opens, the panels are unfolded, the roof is straightened up, all accompanied by a noise similar to a missile launch. The spectacle of this operation is sufficient to cause thrombosis of a playboy 3rd Avenue slightly intoxicated. The total operation are seen as fellow woodcutters Buck Rogers of Abraham Lincoln and the end result, though the roof is successfully hidden, leaving less space in the trunk in a Volkswagen. ”

The convertible was the basis for the Sports Roadster. A large lid “tonneau” fiberglass made it a two-seater car. The convertible roof has to be hidden in order to install the cover and the cover can be installed or removed in less than three minutes. A Tom McCahill liked the idea of a conversion to two places and said “This vibrating glass fixture saw the T-Bird as an Easter hat parade.” Going back to 1955 (the system of baldness that Tom McCahill was used to define dates, “when he was three more in my bald hair.”) The writer had created a record of the T-Bird in speed on the track at Daytona. He liked the two places. But Uncle Tom was at the question of what to do with the cover to be away from home. “I could work in a slightly larger problem that is in the Congo,” he threatened, referring to a political issue at the time.

The British magazine Motor Sport, said that the tonneau cover was “made of thin fiberglass” and questioned if this could cause annoying noise. However, the tonneau cover was very well designed. The section of the headrest was shaped like a horseshoe to adjust on the chair seat Thunderbird. A secure early release was holding the transmission tunnel between the seats. The tonneau slipped below the top of the rear seats to be attached to the rear. You could add or retract the convertible roof tonneau cover in place. With the lid on in the back seat was a hole, this allowed to keep small items from sliding below the deck, cushioned by the back seat. Access to this “hiding” was achieved simply by folding the front seat forward.

The Sport Roadster for some, resembled a toy car racing spoiler with two figurines in the front seat. Tim Howley, author of Collectible Automobile, said he gave the impression of a large aircraft with the pilot and copilot sitting in the front. Car Life magazine compared the large area between the seatback and the rear of the car with the cover the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The equipment also included Sport Roadster Kelsey-Hayes wheels ray-top nut, a fastener for the front passenger, special badges to the front of the compact front below the letters Thunderbird, and wrote off the tail of the compact rear. Tom McCahill said, “The Roadster is the only Thunderbird wheels with spokes and simulated as a nut cup.”

However, Car Fax 1962 lists it as a regular T-Bird plus a cost of $262.90 for distributors and additional suggested price list of $372.30 dollars. The Tim Ford Howley expert agreed that this was the case. It is possible that other T-Bird wheels have been sold with lightning and simulated nut cup. The tail of the compact was removed from the Sport Roadster due to problems space with simulated nut cup, but the restorers have found a way to put them. The compacts also open allowing greater ventilation for the brakes and the car make it look more sporty. The rays wheels do not work well with tubeless tires.

The new model “forgotten” was the Landau or Landau Hardtop. It was produced with a cover in black or white vinyl roof. The cover was designed to look like a leather cover. To reinforce this impression the ceiling was decorated in a more classical. “The Landau has, as might be expected,” Landau Ornaments “vertically and attractive sides of the roof panels,” reported The Motor Sport. “It’s a very nice combination with genuine leather upholstery optional . The number of built Landaus was not recorded separately, but the model Hardtop pushed sales at more than 7,000 units.

The performance of the T-Bird Road remained largely unchanged since 1961. The standard engine of 390 cubic inch V8 with 300hp gave the Thunderbird enough speed for a typical buyer of the T-Bird, though not a Muscle Car McCahill reported an average of 9.7 seconds to take the car from zero to 60mph in Sport Roadster weight of 4.530 pounds. According to Motor Trend (September 1962), in a Sport Roadter of 4.842 pounds of weight in the same test they showed a 11.2 seconds time. Car and Drive Management 11.3 seconds in a convertible than 4,400 pounds. It is possible that the aerodynamic properties of the tonneau cover has made faster Roadter Sport of McCahill, although the proximity of the two results suggests greater accuracy. The great engine of T-Bird ran smoothly and quietly tore most of the time. Car and Driver said, “is nearly undetectable.” The Convertible Car and Driver recorded a top speed of 110mph, while McCahill said his Sport Roadster arrived at six miles more than that. (Probably the old Tom is not calibrated the meter). Motor Trend said “an honest 107mph in our Weston electric speedometer.” An optional engine was available in 1962. His production was limited, “tell me that under pressure and with the help of a member of Congress, it is possible to order the T-Bird with a more powerful engine” joked Tom McCahill. This engine was a version of 390 with three Holley two progressive carburetor throats, a compression ratio of 10.5:1 and an aluminum air filter distinctive. Known as the power plant Code-M was capable of generating 340hp and 430 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm. Car Fax showed that the engine had a cost to distributors of $ $ 171 and $ 242 added to the selling price.

Although hard to believe was true, so it only took 120 Sport Roadster M. Code A M Roadster could reach 0-60 mph in about 8.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 125 mph. Although the T-Bird was a sports car fast, it was not a Muscle Car fast. The management was slow and vague and inadequate to conduct themselves in corners. Professional management techniques were necessary for driving gear corners closed due to slow response and leadership position. “These are shortcomings that most owners never meet,” said Car and Driver. Motor Trend rated the car as fast, but printed a photo caption in criticizing the chassis. There were problems in the mechanics of the braking system. The brakes work very well under normal conditions, but the mechanisms were warming rapidly and lose their braking when driving at high speed. It was necessary to wait a long time to cool the brakes to work right again.

How to Choose a Classic Car for Restoration

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Starting a restoration begins by choosing a vehicle that fits your interests. Many of you may already have a vehicle in mind or already have one in your possession. Sometimes, these vehicles have been in the family or picked up in the name of a “good deal”. That’s fine, but if you’re a first time restorer there are a couple of things that you should consider before making a vehicle choice.

The first question should be: “Is the vehicle in driveable condition?” This is a very important point for the first-time restorer. Unless you have a lot of space to store a vehicle during the entire process, look only for driveable candidates. Even if you have the space, you should consider only driveable vehicles for your first restoration. The reason we suggest this for the first-timer, is that an inoperative project sitting in your garage will become very unpopular in a short amount to time. A vehicle that you can drive and restore at the same time will be much more satisfying. Believe it or not, it is very common to lose interest in a classic car restoration project. This happens when an individual takes on too big a project for their time and/or pocketbook. So it’s best to save the frame-off projects until you build some experience.

Another piece of sage advice: don’t get sucked into “Basket Case” vehicles. These types of vehicles fall into several categories. The first is a vehicle that does not run and needs absolutely everything replaced to get to the final product. Next, is the vehicle that comes in many boxes. Usually these are projects that others have given up on. Missing parts is the biggest concern here, not to mention trying to figure out where all the pieces of the puzzle go. Leave these projects to the die-hard restorer. Most professional restoration shops won’t take these types of projects on and the ones that do, want a blank check when you drop off the parts. Another good thing to keep in mind about “Basket Case” type restorations is that they eat up a lot of time and cash! The fun is in doing the restoration work, not in chasing after a ton of parts or going broke. Therefore, you should look for solid, complete vehicles when choosing. The more you start with the less you have to buy new or hunt down.

Research!

Once a choice has been made, the education process begins. This is where you will need to “do your homework”, because that’s really what you’ll be doing once you decide on your area of interest. As an example, let’s say your area of interest is 1955-57 Chevrolet cars. The next step will be to learn all you can about these vehicles. You will want to find out about the history, factory production totals and aftermarket parts that are available for your selection. Good sources for this type of information are bookstores, car clubs, special interest magazines and of course, the ever growing Internet.

The research process includes requesting parts catalogs from vendors dealing in parts for the vehicle you are considering. Educating yourself about the cost of parts is a good idea before you actually make a purchase. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to tell whether a vehicle is in your budget and if there are adequate parts available to complete your restoration.

This information also helps a great deal when looking to buy. You will be able to better judge a vehicle’s condition by knowing which parts are missing and the cost of replacing those parts. If you see a missing part and you know its not available in reproduction, it could be a deal breaker or a bargaining chip. You can then use this information to leverage the seller into adjusting his or her price. Information is powerful, so do your homework, and save.

William Durant: the General of General Motors

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William C. Durant was born on December 8th, 1861 in Boston Mass. He quit high school to begin work in his grandfather’s Flint, Michigan, lumberyard. By 1885 he had partnered with Josiah Dallas Dort to organize the Coldwater Road Cart Company, which would become a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. By 1890, Durant-Dort Carriage Company was the nation’s largest carriage company, producing approximately 50,000 horse-drawn vehicles a year.

In 1904, Billy Durant was approached by James Whiting of the Buick Company to promote his automobiles. Whiting persuaded Durant to join Buick as General Manager. In his first act as Buick’s GM, Durant moved the Buick assembly operations briefly to Jackson, and then began construction on a large Buick complex in Flint. In three short years Buick led the U.S. automobile production by manufacturing 8,820 vehicles. Between 1904 and 1908, Durant was made Buick’s president and established several essential parts and accessory companies such as Weston-Mott and Champion Ignition Company

By 1908 the top four auto producers in the U.S. were Buick, Reo (headed by Ransom E. Olds), Maxwell -Briscoe, (headed by Benjamin and Frank Briscoe) and Ford (headed by Henry Ford). Benjamin Briscoe wanted all four producers to merge and form one large company. Negotiations began in New York with J. P. Morgan’s son-in-law, Herbert Satterlee, and ended when Ford demanded cash instead of stock. and along with Reo pulled out of the deal.

Still determined to start this new auto company, Durant, at Satterlee’s suggestion, dropped the proposed name “International Motor Car Company” and settled on “General Motors” as the new name for his company.

On September 16, 1908, Durant incorporated General Motors of New Jersey (GM) with a capital investment of $2,000. Within 12 days the company issued stocks that generated over $12,000,000 in cash. General Motors then purchased Buick with stock. Six weeks later, GM acquired the Olds Corporation of Lansing, Michigan.

img-article-12Next, Durant completed a deal with financially troubled Oakland Company. Oakland was located in Pontiac, Michigan, and would later be renamed — you guessed it — Pontiac. Finally, Durant sought to acquire Cadillac Motor Car Company from the Leland father/son team. The Leland’s did not want stock and like Henry Ford, would only settle for cash to the tune of $4.5 million.

GM could not raise this amount of money, but Buick, the cash cow, could. So, Cadillac was bought with Buick funds, thereby becoming a subsidiary of Buick.

Eventually, though, GM purchased Cadillac from Buick. During this same period, Durant also acquired many truck and parts supply companies, including AC-Delco, which he helped form with Albert Champion and still bears his initials today.

In an 18 month burst of aggressive wheeling and dealing, Durant purchased, acquired or incurred a substantial interest in almost 30 auto makers. However, all this wheeling and dealing came at a price. Durant became financially overextended and consequently, lost control of GM to banking interests in 1910.

Undeterred, Durant partnered up with Louis Chevrolet to form Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911 and used the profits from Chevrolet to regain control of GM in 1915. However, Durant’s management style once again proved troublesome and he resigned in 1920 under an agreement with, then GM president Pierre Du Pont in exchange for Du Pont’s paying off Durant’s debts.

Determined to regain his place in the automotive marketplace, Durant formed Durant Motors in 1921 and produced a line of cars bearing his name for the next 10 years. However, a declining market and the Great Depression ended Durant’s automotive career in 1933.

Durant continued to create innovative ideas, but he no longer had the money to execute his plans. Near the end of his life, he operated several bowling alleys in Flint near the Buick complex. Durant was not bitter, nor did he regret his actions. Instead, he put his energy into new ventures. He believed bowling alleys were the next big thing – every family in America would spend their leisure time at bowling alleys. This venture too, proved to be unsuccessful and marked the end of long string of personal tragedies and failures that plagued Durant since the fall of the Durant Motors in 1933.

From 1934 until his death, Durant dabbled in stocks, politics, and social issues. None of these later ventures reflected his former industrious thinking and he faded from public life. On March 18, 1947, William Durant died in New York City, the same year as Henry Ford, thus, marking the end of a remarkable era in automotive excellence.

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.

Christmas present from the Petersen: The vault is open for tours

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles has a Christmas present for car guys and gals: Starting December 15, the museum opened its vault, the underground section of its parking structure where it stores vehicles that are not on display in the exhibitions inside the museum proper.

There are dozens of vehicles in those exhibitions, but that still leaves two or three hundred hidden away — until now.

“It’s a part of the museum that has become almost legend,” said Chris Brown, the museum’s information and marketing manager. “If you’re an enthusiast, you’ve heard about the vault of great cars at the Petersen. We get more and more people who keep asking, ‘hey, how do I get down in the vault? ”

Cruisin' with LarryYou now can do that by signing up for a guided tour. Each tour is limited to 10 people, runs for 90 minutes and costs $25, plus the regular museum admission.

At the moment, those tours are offered only on weekends. But, Brown promised, “if it proves to be as popular as we hope it is, we’ll extend it throughout the week.”

Brown and the museum’s new director, Terry Karges, recently offered me a pre-tour sneak peek of the vault and it was amazing to see what’s there, including several cars formerly owned by Steve McQueen, a couple of concept cars, the bulletproof limo the White House ordered the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the specially built Ferrari used in the TV show Magnum P.I., specially built so actor Tom Selleck could fit inside the cars tight cockpit.