Category archives: Other Features

Silver shines in its niche in Copper State’s classic car auction marketplace

Four Peaks frame Silver Auctions site in Arizona | Photo by Larry Edsall
Four Peaks frame Silver Auctions site in Arizona | Photo by Larry Edsall

Another in a series of previews of classic car auctions in January

Mitch Silver likes his niche in the classic car marketplace.

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photo by Larry Edsall

“It’s great to see million-dollar cars, but I’m not a participant there and most everybody I know isn’t either,” said the college professor turned auctioneer (see photo) who founded his classic car sales company some 36 years ago.

“I go [to the other auctions and] look at those cars, but then I come back where I can play,” Silver added.

Where Silver and his customers play is with cars priced not at seven-figure elevations, or even rarely at six, but in the five-figure range. Last year at his 16th annual January auction in the Phoenix area, the average sale price at Silver’s event was right around $14,000.

“I look at the sales that grab the headlines, but I don’t see myself ever collecting those cars, and that’s the case for a lot of people,” Silver said at the time. “They’re fun to see and to talk about, but what I’m looking for is to buy a 1950s convertible or muscle car.”

Silver’s annual January sale at the Fort McDowell resort and casino in Fountain Hills will offer 350 — or a few more — vehicles over two days of bidding. While some of the high-end auction houses tout vintage Ferraris, rare Duesenbergs and gull-wing Mercedes 300SLs, Silver’s headliners include:

  • a 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser,
  • a 1960 Plymouth Fury convertible,
  • a 1963 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop,
  • a wonderfully preserved, “rock stock” 1956 Chevrolet BelAir convertible,
  • a 1940 Mercury coupe,
  • “a lot of nice trucks,”
  • “early Ford V8 convertibles.”

In other words, classics that are affordable, that fun to drive and to take to local car shows right now, and that could be candidates for restoration somewhere down the road.

Photos courtesy Silver Auctions

Silver always liked old cars and had bought and sold a few, including some he chased others down in barns and backyards. Then he saw an advertisement for a classic car auction in Seattle.

“I went and it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” he said.

Silver went back to Spokane, staged his own auction, and then others and 10 years later he left Eastern Washington University and turned Silver Auctions into a full-time business.

But he’s never really left teaching behind. As each car crosses the block at his auction, he often shares the history of the marque, the model, or even the specific vehicle.

Where else, he’s said, can you sit down and have a classic car come past you every three minutes and have someone who knows about those cars tell you the vehicles’s history and technical information?

“It’s a very efficient way of shopping,” he said, adding that all the while, “you’re learning.”

To make that shopping more efficient, Silver trimmed what used to be a four-day auction to two days.

“We’re running about the same number of cars,” he said. “We just made longer days.”

This year, he’s also streamlining the opening hour of his sale, which is devoted to automobilia.

“We tried to pack a little too much into that hour in the past,” he said of trying to push through as many as 120 items in an hour. “We’re backing that down to 60 to 70 items this year. We have a lot of pressed-tin toys, some real nice stuff, and all at no reserve.”

But Silver won’t be the only one selling automobilia on the Fort McDowell property this month. The new Automobilia Scottsdale, a room full of vendors, will be set up in the resort ballroom not far from Silver’s auction tent.

“I think that is outstanding,” Silver said. “I’ve very happy to have more activities there and new people coming. I’ll be over there taking a look myself.”

Silver also said that he’s eager for those attending the new sale to discover “that Fort McDowell is close [to Scottsdale] and easy to get to.”

And, he might have added, a place to buy very reasonably priced classic cars.

Artist explores the ‘birth’ and destruction of classic sports cars

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Don’t worry, no classic cars were harmed in the making of Swiss artist Fabian Oefner’s images.

Oefner is known for his ability to fuse art and science. His latest work involves classic cars — their creation and their destruction.

“What you see in these images is a moment that never existed in real life,” he said in a news release from the MF&B M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva, Switzerland, where Oefner’s work is on display through May. (M.A.D. is short for Mechanical Art Devices.)

“What looks like a car falling apart is in fact a moment in time that has been created artificially by blending hundreds of individual images together. There is a unique pleasure about artificially baulking a moment… Freezing a moment in time is stupefying.”

The images in Oefner’s Disintegrating series show the demise of three classic sports cars — a 1967 Ferrari 330 P4, a 1961 Jaguar E-type coupe and a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SRL Uhlenhaut coupe.

On the other hand, his Hatch series explores “the birth of a car” as if the car was actually hatching.

Oefner said Hatch was inspired by an image he saw of a hatching chick. He wanted to explore how it might look if a manufactured object was born like a living organism. His choice of object was a Ferrari 250 GTO.

For Disintegrating, the news release reports, Oefner “first sketched on paper where the individual pieces would go, before taking apart the model cars piece by piece, from the body shell right down to the minuscule screws. Each car contained over a thousand components.

“Then, according to his initial sketch, he placed each piece individually with the aid of fine needles and pieces of string. After meticulously working out the angle of each shot and establishing the right lighting, he photographed the component, and took thousands of photographs to create each Disintegrating image.

“All these individual photos were then blended together in post-production to create one single image. With the wheels acting as a reference point, each part was masked in Photoshop, cut and then pasted into the final image.

“These are possibly the ‘slowest high-speed’ images ever captured,” he said. “It took almost two months to create an image that looks as if it was captured in a fraction of a second. The whole disassembly in itself took more than a day for each car due to the complexity of the models. But that’s a bit of a boy thing. There’s an enjoyment in the analysis, discovering something by taking it apart, like peeling an onion.”Fabian-Oefner-working_Lres

In Hatch, Oefner “presents his interpretation of how cars might be ‘born’. The first two images show a Ferrari 250 GTO – again a detailed scale model – breaking out of its shell. The third image shows one of the empty shells left behind among several others yet to hatch”

Oefner started with a latex mold of the model car. The mold was filled with a thin layer of gypsum to create a shell.

“Several dozens of these shells were made in order to complete the next step: smashing the shell onto the car to create the illusion of the vehicle breaking out. This step had to be repeated a great many times until the desired results were achieved.

“To capture the very moment where the shell hit the model, Fabian connected a microphone to his camera, a Hasselblad H4D, and flashes, so that every time the shell hit the surface of the car, the impulse was picked up by the microphone which then triggered the flashes and the camera shutter.

Oefner, who turns 30 in 2014, was 14 when he saw Harold Edgerton’s photo of  a bullet piercing an apple.  The photo inspired Oefner to buy his first camera.

“I have always experimented with all different kinds of art forms,” he said. “Photography turned out to be the form of art that I was most interested in.”

His previous work includes photographing “nebulae’”formed in a fiberglass lamp and bursting balloons filled with corn starch. He has photographed crystals of color rising in reaction to a speaker’s sound waves, captured the patterns created by magnetic ferrofluids pushing paint into canals, and taken color-crazy photos of paint modeled by centripetal forces.

“I am trying to show these phenomena in an unseen and poetic way,” he pauses, “and therefore make the viewer pause for a moment and appreciate the magic that constantly surrounds us.”

Oefner shared his ideas and artwork during a TED Talk, which includes several of his non-automotive of his images.

Mecum eyes 3000 vehicle plateau at Kissimmee auction

David Newhardt photo courtesy Mecum Auctions
David Newhardt photos courtesy Mecum Auctions

Another in a series of previews of classic car auctions in January.

When Dana Mecum staged his first classic car auction in Florida, it was held in conjunction with the annual Florida Corvette show at Cyprus Gardens.

“We started out with 40 cars in the parking lot behind the laundry at the Hilton Hotel,” said Mecum, whose Mecum Auctions returns to Florida in January, 2014 for an auction that will offer a quite few more than 40 cars.

“The auction doubled in size every year,” Mecum said, explaining that it wasn’t long before the original venue could provide no more than 250 places to park the auction cars.

“But we had consigned 400 cars so we had to move,” Mecum said.

Mecum moved from Cyprus Gardens to Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, a community known for hosting lots of visitors (Osceola Heritage Park is a 12-mile drive from Disney World).

Again, consignments doubled each year. Well, until the last couple of years, when the growth slowed, though for good reason. After all, there are only so many classic cars available for sale at any given time, and last year Mecum’s Kissimmee event offered up bidding on 2,500 of them.

Cars, cars and more cars.
Cars, cars and more cars.

“But 3,000 is our goal,” said Mecum, adding that consignments for the 2014 auction are running ahead of the pace they arrived for the 2013 event.

“That would be something to brag about,” he said of reaching his goal of 3,000 cars at a single auction.” That would be something our company can do and no other company has the infrastructure to put together and handle that many cars.”

To put the scope of Mecum’s Kissimmee event in perspective, that one auction offers about the same number of cars as all six sales taking place during the Arizona Auction Week.

“The whole industry has settled around Arizona,” Mecum said. “We sat down one day and said, ‘there’s a lot of cars east of the Mississippi, too’.”

Now, he added, Kissimmee “has become our flagship.”

But it’s not only the number of cars available at the Kissimmee auction that has doubled and then doubled again and again. Mecum recently signed a three-year contract with NBC and its Sports Group of channels to televise many of his company’s auctions, starting with Kissimmee.

“For more than 20 years, we lived with our main media partner being Hemmings, and it still is our primary print partner,” Mecum said. “But it has 250,000 subscriptions.

“We went from that to Discovery/Velocity [TV outlets]. When we started, there were  15-18 million households [with those channels available]. It has grown to be in the 35-40 million range.

“But now we’re moving to NBC Sports and moving from 35-40 million to 80-90 million. We’re doubling our exposure. It’s a very big deal.”

Mecum also is expanding his company’s exposure by adding new events. The inaugural sale at Harrisburg, Pa., will be July 24-26 and plans are being made for another new sale, this one in Seattle.

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‘The Real McCoy’ 1956 Chevrolet Corvette racer

But first come the MidAmerica motorcycle sale Jan. 9-11 in Las Vegas (Mecum is buying the long-time motorcycle auction house from its founder) and the Kissimmee sale that runs from Jan. 17-26.

With nearly 3,000 cars available at Kissimmee, there figures to be something for everyone. Mecum grades cars from general to featured to stars to “main attraction.”

This year the big attractions at Kissimmee include a couple of Duesenbergs, a couple of L88 Corvettes, a Boss 429 Mustang and the auction superstar, “The “Real McCoy” Corvette.

Mecum says his Florida auction “started as a Corvette auction and our roots are very much Corvettes. Last year we had 700 Corvettes at Kissimmee.”

The Real McCoy car is a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR prototype that some will tell you is the car that kept the Corvette in production. Ford launched its two-seater, the Thunderbird, for 1955 and sold 16,000 of them while Chevy found buyers for only some 700 of its fiberglass-bodied roadsters.

Chevrolet engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov knew his pet project was in jeopardy, so he stuffed a special V8 engine under the hood and headed off to Daytona Beach, where, on the eve of General Motors’ big Motorama show in New York City, he set a two-way, flying-mile speed record. Duntov then worked with three-time Indy 500 winner Maury Rose and legendary mechanic Smokey Yunick to prep the car for the Sebring endurance race, in which John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove to ninth overall and first in their production sports car class.

Chevrolet touted the car as “The Real McCoy” in an advertising campaign.

“The Real McCoy,” said Mecum. “This is the car that saved the brand.”

Subscribe below to be notified of the next in this series of January auction previews.

 

It’s like Stonehenge, except made from cars

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‘There are no big stones out there,” Jim Reinders said of the Nebraska Sandhills where he grew up on the family farm. “But automobiles are about the same size as the stones at Stonehenge, and they’re easier to move because they have wheels on them.”

Reinders’ work as an oil exploration and production engineer took him to England for much of the 1970s. While there, he became fascinated with Stonehenge, a circle of intricately positioned slabs of bluestone which ancient people somehow transported and then assembled in what may be an astronomic calendar, a cemetery or some sort of religious site.

“Whenever visitors came to see us, we went to Stonehenge,” Reinders said, who was fascinated to the point that, “When I reached retirement age, I thought it would be nice to duplicate it out of something.”

That something would be automobiles. While we don’t know the reason or purpose Stonehenge was constructed, we do know what Reinders and his friends and relatives were doing, they were creating a memorial to Reinders’ father, who died in 1982.

Five years later, a sort of friends and family reunion was held to create Carhenge in a field at the corner of the Reinders’ farm. Carhenge is made from 38 automobiles positioned to mimic Stonehenge. The circle is nearly 100 feet in diameter.

Since it’s creation, the Carhenge site has expanded to include an automotive art gallery, the Car Art Reserve which includes several other large sculptures made from cars and car parts.

Carhenge is located a few miles north of Alliance, in the Nebraska panhandle that reaches up above Colorado and bumps into Wyoming. Alliance is east of I-25 and north of I-80.

At first, officials in Alliance saw the structures as an eyesore and (even though the farm and structure were outside the city limits and their jurisdiction) they sent the sheriff out to figure out how to tear it down. However, others in town recognized the structure’s potential as a tourist attraction.

Ownership of the site eventually was transferred from Reinders to the Friends of Carhenge, and in the summer of 2013 to the city of Alliance and its visitors bureau.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help cover the nearly $40,000 a year in maintenance costs. Even though it’s 80 miles from the nearest Interstate exit ramp, Carhenge annually attracts some 80,000 visitors.

 

Presents delivered, Santa swaps reindeer and sleigh for some classic horsepower…

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photo by Larry Edsall

Now that he’s put away the sleigh and fed the reindeer, Santa’s swapping his tall back snow boots for his favorite pair of Pilotis and he’s heading out on the road in his classic sports car for a nice long drive. What classic car activity are you doing this holiday season? (Tell us about it in the “Share your thoughts!” box below.)

Regardless your ride — be it a classic or brand new — from the Jolly One, and from all of us at the ClassicCars.Com Blog, have a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

Congratulations to our pre-launch grand prize winner!

Congratulations to Gary Loar from Cresson, Pa., on being the grand prize winner in our pre-launch drawing! Gary has won a great prize package for a classic car fan:

  • An autographed copy of Larry Edsall’s Masters of Car Design
  • A handsome ClassicCars.com stainless steel travel tumber with velour bag
  • A ClassicCars.com mouse pad
  • A set of ClassicCars.com ball-point pens

Gary was kind enough to share his story about his beautiful 1954 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe, which we posted earlier today.

Gary, we hope you’ll enjoy all of the above every day as you visit the ClassicCars.com Blog!

We’re walkin’ in a Willie’s wonderland

(Editor’s note: One of the features we hope to include as a regular part of this blog are  photos and stories from those often unexpected but usually very pleasant surprises found while exploring the rust and dust of the old roads. Let us know if you’ve come across such places so we can share your stories and photos as well.)

Photos by Larry Edsall
Photos by Larry Edsall

Bobby Troup wrote about Flagstaff, Kingman, Barstow and San Bernadino, and for some reason he didn’t forget Winona, though I’ve been there and saw nothing that might be a reason for memorialization in a song. Unless, perhaps, Winona wasn’t just the way station between Gallup and Flagstaff but a woman who shared the town’s name?

Regardless, Troup didn’t include Newberry Springs in his lyrics for (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, perhaps because even back in 1946 Newberry Springs was little more than a watering hole in the Mojave Desert (they wouldn’t film the movie Bagdad Cafe there until the mid-1980s), or maybe because Vartan “Willie” Kalajian had yet to establish his business in Newberry Springs.

We were driving the California section of old Route 66 when we spotted what appeared to be an auto salvage yard hidden behind trees and protected by a big fence. However, it never — well, not usually — hurts to see if you can get in, so we followed a long, sandy driveway to an open gate.

There sat Willie himself, wrenching on a spotless white Karmann-Ghia he was building up for his daughter.

Willie mind if we wandered around and took some photos?

Help yourself, he said.

Later, we got to chatting and realized that if we’d have asked to stay for dinner, Willie likely would have been accommodated.

Willie’s business is Willie’s On & Off Road Center, which specializes in Volkswagens and in using VW parts to build dune buggies, he said. After our trip, we checked his website (www.williesoffroad.com) and learned he also scouts locations for movie shoots, and provides vehicles for those movies and location support for film crews working throughout the region.

 

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.

The Classic Cars of Perry Mason

Decades before modern day Law and Order, Perry Mason ruled the TV court room and the roadways too. Airing from 1957 to 1966, the show followed a ruthless Los Angeles defense attorney commanding the court room with crafty cross-examinations, often revealing unexplored evidence and solving murder mysteries in his client’s favor during the proceedings. Perry was just as notable on the highway as he was in the courtroom. Perry and company drive from episode to episode in some of the most coveted classic cars in the collector’s world.

Although Perry drives a myriad of automobiles during the shows nearly ten year run time, he’s most often seen in classic Ford and General Motors models in the early episodes. Take a look back through time at some of Perry’s retro rides.

Cadillac Series 62
Throughout the first few years of the series, Perry seems to favor the Cadillac Series 62, which is no surprise considering General Motors was a major advertiser for the program and network. Perry cruises from crime scene to court room in the convertible model known for its unique tail design. He is seen in the 1957-1959 models most. The body featured iconic bullet shaped tail lights embedded in a fin shaped bumper, a departure from the more rounded shape of prior models.

The Cadillac Series 62 was a fairly diverse model. It was available as a 2-door and a 4-door, and also as a coupe model. Production of the Series 62 continued into the mid 1960’s, until it was eventually replaced by the Cadillac Calais.

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A 1958 Cadillac Series 62 featured in Perry Mason

Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
Perry also favored the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. Produced from 1957 to 1959, the Skyliner might seem like a standard convertible to the laymen. But classic car lovers can agree that the Skyliner was an innovative model for the 1950’s: featuring a unique a retractable hardtop, the first of its kind at the time of production. Perry is seen in the model both at work and at play. He is seen driving around town with the top up, and charming ladies on night time cruises with the top down.

The retractable roof fueled sales for the only three years of production. But aside from the novelty of the roof, consumers were relatively unimpressed with the build and performance compared to other Ford models of the time. Especially because of the price. The Fairlane 500 Skyliner was priced a lofty $400-$500 above similar convertible models. Production plummeted from over 20,000 models in 1957, to a little over 12,000 in 1959. But because of the unique hardtop function, it’s still a favorite for classic car collectors.

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A Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner featured in Perry Mason

Check out more of Perry Mason’s favorite cars at the internet movie cars database.