Category archives: Auctions

Top 10 classic car auction highlights of 2013

Photo courtesy Mecum Auctions

Soon, we’ll start previewing the upcoming Arizona Auction Week events and the highlights of consignments at the various venues. But before we look ahead to 2014, we need to check the rearview mirrors and do a little review of the classic car auction year 2013.

We’re limiting this top-10 list to auctions held in North America, so don’t expect to read about the all-time at-auction sales record for a single classic vehicle — the $29.65 million and change someone spent at a Bonhams auction in England this year to buy one of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196Rs that Juan Manuel Fangio drove to his second World Driving Championship.

Actually, I guess you just read about it. Oh well, on with our top-10 auction highlights for 2013:

10. RM does a one-day sale of much of the collection of Texas auto dealer Dan Davis. The sale realizes $21.2 million, including a record $1 million for a Japanese car, albeit a true classic Japanese sports car, one from the few dozen 1967 Toyota 2000GTs exported to the U.S. market.

9. One of 20 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 convertibles sells for $3.2 million at Dana Mecum’s auction in Dallas. Provenance matters, the Corvette came with the time slip from its sprint to the NHRA A/Sports national championship.

8. There were new players in the auction scene and some familiar faces were playing in new places. Consider: RK Motors staged its first two auctions, including one with a remote bidding parlor in Abu Dhabi; Motostalgia did its first auction; Barrett-Jackson added Hot August Nights in Reno; Russo and Steele added Newport Beach and Las Vegas to its travel itinerary; the tiny town of Nocoma, Texas, rekindled its automotive history with a Vicari auction and big cruise-in; and Auctions America visited California (more on that in a moment).

7. An amazing amount of money was left on the table as consignors refused to relent on their reserve prices, even in the face of million-plus bids. For example, at Amelia Island, consignors convinced their cars were worth even more declined bids totaling some $6.5 million. It also happened in Arizona and elsewhere and shows just how strong the classic car marketplace was this year.

6. The famed Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles sold off several dozen cars at auctions in 2013 (including the Auctions America event at nearby Burbank) and some people were in an uproar because they didn’t understand that museums sell parts of their collections from time to time and that most of what the Petersen sold wasn’t really part of its “collection” but just cars that had been donated to the museum, were taking up space in its parking garage, and in many cases weren’t worth the cost of restoration.

5. The auction year opened in Arizona, where sales exceeded $200 million for the first time where two Ferraris sold for more than $8 million each (at Gooding and RM) and where the original Batmobile brought a lot of excitement and $4.62 million at Barrett-Jackson.

4. Monterey saw Arizona’s $230 million and raised to more than $300 million during its auction week, which included a North American auction-record $27.5 million price for one of the 10 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spyders at RM’s sale.

3. RM and Sotheby’s set out to convince New York City fine art collectors that classic cars were, indeed, fine art. The result: some $63 million in sales during a two-hour auction.

2. This one may surprise you, because we rank the highly publicized and nationally televised VanDerBrink auction out in a farmer’s field in Nebraska of leftovers from the Lambrecht Chevrolet dealership No. 2 on our top-10 list.  So what’s No. 1?

Photo © Darin Schnabel / Courtesy of RM Auctions
Photo © Darin Schnabel / Courtesy of RM Auctions

1. The Lambrecht sale may have been a big deal with the general public, but within the classic car community, tiny cars were the big thing back in February when the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Georgia sold off its collection at an RM event and proved that big fun does come in small packages.


Preview provides perspective on Arizona Auction Week

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photo by Larry Edsall

Will you be in Arizona in January for the classic car auctions? If so, the Phoenix Automotive Press Association hopes to provide you with a way to sort through the half-dozen auctions taking place at locations in three cities in the Valley of the Sun.

For the fifth year in a row, the local auto writers group — PAPA — will stage its Arizona Auction Week Preview event. This year, it begins at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 14 in Singer Hall at the Phoenix Art Museum.

The evening begins with a dessert buffet provided by your favorite website,, The program starts at 7 p.m. with brief presentations by each of the auction houses, following by a panel discussion featuring experts in the classic car hobby.

Panelists this year — three are confirmed and another one or two are pending — are:

John Carlson, chief judge for the new Arizona Concours d’Elegance. He also is chief judge of the concours Hilton Head, Cobble Beach, Crescent Beach and Louisville concours, a Master Judge for the Classic Car Club of America, and a Chief Class Judge for the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance.

Corky Coker, president of the family-owned Coker Tire Co., which produces tires for all vintage vehicles. He also is head honcho for The Great Race, proprietor of the Honest Charley Speed Shop & Garage, a car and motorcycle collector, and in February will launch a new television series, “Backroad Gold.”

Keith Martin, founder and publisher of Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines and author of the new book, Strange but True Tales of Car Collecting: Drowned Bugattis, Buried Belvederes, Felonious Ferraris and Other Wild Stories of Automotive Misadventures.

Tickets are $20 each. Since PAPA is a non-profit organization, proceeds will go toward scholarship programs for college students studying journalism or classic car restoration. Tickets can be purchased through the www.eventbrite website.

In addition to the program, goodie bags will be distributed and several items — including an autographed copy of Keith Martin’s new book, will be offered as door prizes.

800-plus cross the block at Mecum’s Anaheim auction

The folks at Mecum Auctions anticipated 750 vehicles would cross the block at their second annual autumn event in the Anaheim Convention Center, but “consignments came in droves” and bids were accepted on 812 vehicles.

Seems, however, that sellers were more eager than buyers, because only 412 of those vehicles sold, though for nearly $14 million.

Tied for high-dollar transactions were a pair of Ford GTs, a 2005 and a 2006, each of which brought $210,000.

The list of top-10 vehicles is an interesting mix. At $180,000 was a 1969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro, but then came a 1953 Hudson Hornet Twin-H convertible at $150,000.

Next on the list was a quartet of vehicles sold for $132,500 as a single lot — a 1955 Chevrolet 210 resto-mod, a 2005 Harley-Davidson Roadglide, a 2006 Ness Lowliner bike and a 2008 Adventure motor bike trailer.

Selling for $130,000 each was a pair of 1954 Buick Skylark convertibles. A 1956 Chevrolet Nomad resto-mod brought $125,000, the 1938 Harley WLD Solo Sport formerly owned by Steve McQueen also went for $125,000, while a 1955 Chevy Nomad traded ownership for $120,000.

Mecum ends its 2013 auction year December 5-7 at Kansas City, and then launches its 2014 calendar with a motorcycle auction January 9-11 at Las Vegas, followed by its huge — some 3,000 vehicles huge — sale January 17-26 at Kissimmee, Florida.

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.

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

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.