Category archives: News

Petersen’s plans, Monterey money, and Barrett-Jackson’s ‘Hot August’ nights

We’ll get to the results of the auctions and other action on the Monterey Peninsula in a moment, but first, an update on the plans for the Petersen Automotive Museum, which is not going all French cars and Art Deco on us (as has been reported elsewhere).

As we reported and as the Petersen confirmed at a press briefing at Monterey, the museum plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014 with “a complete exterior transformation and a dynamic redesign of the interior, resulting in a world class museum that will showcase the art, experience, culture and heritage of the automobile. Displays will feature the prominence of the automobile in Southern California, as well as cars, trucks and motorcycles from around the world. In addition to the facility upgrade, the new Petersen will feature a refined and upgraded permanent collection and an expansion of rotating displays, galleries, technology and story-telling, providing visitors with fresh, new experiences throughout the year.”

Further, “The L.A. cultural landmark will showcase Southern California’s rich automotive heritage and will serve as a gateway to the city’s “Museum Row.”

Money generated by selling off a bunch of cars that had been taking up room in the museum’s parking garage and basement, as well as a few true classics, will be used to upgrade and update the displays. A separate fund-raising effort has begun to pay for the architectural alterations.

The goal is to transform the museum’s exterior into “one of the most significant and unforgettable structures in Los Angeles,” with ribbons of stainless steel — designed to evoke the imagery of speed and the organic curves of coach-built cars — wrapped around and over a deep red building. As you can see from the photograph of the proposed interior, the theme will carry into the building as well.

“Our plan is to work with the best and brightest minds in architecture, automotive history and interactive design to give the people of Los Angeles and the world a place where they can be immersed in the culture, sights and sounds of the greatest vehicles ever built,” said museum chairman Peter Mullin.

Those changes, plus the addition of 15,000 square feet of display space, are designed not only to appeal to first-time visitors, but to draw people back for repeated visits.

Enjoy your classics while you can

I also chatted recently with Jim Hery, owner of Chalfant Motor Car Company, a classic car restoration business in Belfast, Tennessee. It was at the Concours d’Elegance of America that I was admiring the big aqua blue 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I that Hery was polishing (see photo).

I asked if he was the car’s owner. He wasn’t, he said. But he had recently completed the car’s restoration, and he told me the owner’s story.

The car was shown at the concours by Helga Knox, who’s husband, George Knox Jr., died just a few months earlier.

Hery said George Knox Jr. had been in the equipment rental business. According to Knox’s obituary, his passions included classic cars — he was an original member of the Antique Car Club of Chester County — flying his Piper Cherokee (he also once flew a hot air balloon over the Alps), wildlife and domestic animal protection, and volunteering for missionary trips and doing equipment repair in several central African countries.

Hery said that Knox had collected 50 classic cars and planned to restore them after he retired. Sadly, he added, the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease meant that when it was time for those cars to be restored, Knox didn’t even know they were his.

Petersen cars among those sold at Auctions America’s Burbank sale

$5,775 for a very stock-looking 1976 AMC Pacer. $6,325 for a 1995 Hyundai Elantra that once-upon-a-time raced up Pikes Peak. $57,750 for the 1967 Boothill Express, a hot-rodder’s vision for someone’s last ride — and rites. $77,000 for a big beverage can on wheels, the 1970 I-coulda-had-a-V-8 vehicle commissioned by Campbell soup and built by George Barris. And $407,000 for a 1952 Cunningham C-3 coupe (see photo) and the parts needed for its eventual restoration.

Those reportedly were among some of the 64 or so vehicles pulled out of storage at the Petersen Automotive Museum and sold at Auction America’s California auction in Burbank.

The Cunningham coupe was among the top-5 sales at the auction, where 313 of the 389 cars were sold, along with 13 motorcycles and a bunch of memorabilia, all totaling $17.27 million.

Why would a museum sell a rare Cunningham? Most likely because of how much money and time would be required to restore it into any sort of showpiece condition. Besides, that $407,000 represents a nice chunk of the money the museum needs to proceed with its plans to update and modernize its displays. Details of those plans are promised during car week this month at Monterey. (For background, see our earlier article at http://classiccars.com/articles/le_july2013c.aspx.)

The top-dollar sale at the auction was $825,000 for a 1964 Shelby Cobra, one of the few that left Shelby America with an automatic transmission. A 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster formerly owned by actor Robert Stack (see photo) brought $808,500, a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona went for $401,250 and a 1974 Ferrari 246 Dino GTS sold for $291,500.

Overall, 313 of 389 cars sold — for a combined $16.8 million — as did 12 of 13 motorcycles.

“This auction proves that with the right vehicles and the right team, Southern California can host a lucrative and successful collector car auction,” said Auctions America executive Ian Kelleher. “The location in Burbank was central to most Los Angeles residents and the fact that we were just a few blocks fro several major movie studios while cars with serious Hollywood history rolled over the block helped, but many of the top cars sold were simply outstanding cars that were highly sought-after.”

Speaking of Hollywood, a 1946 Indian Chief motorcycle formerly owned by Steve McQueen sold for $143,750 and three cars built for the 2000 “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie each went for around $35,000.

And if you’re still fretting about the Petersen selling some of its cars, calm down. For one thing, it’s supposed to be a museum, not a storage facility. For another, I had a long conversation last week with a long-time classic car collector, auctioneer and museum director who has brokered a bunch of such sales — and many purchases as well — for various museums, including some of the most respected institutions in the country. He said car museums often sell cars and buy others, but they try to do it quietly so as not to have an undo impact on transaction prices.

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.