In 1936, George W. Vanderbilt III banded together with Boston Braves owner George Marshall, and Eddie Rickenbacker, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to revive a major event from the early days of motorsports, the Vanderbilt Cup. Continue reading
This Pick of the Week is not your Uncle Olaf’s Saab. It’s an ultra-rare 1970 Saab 96 V4 factory rally car, a full-on dirt-road warrior built for FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) competition.
The seller says the car is outfitted with “a bare-metal race-car interior, full roll cage, racing seats with 5-point harnesses, Halda Tripmaster, gauges, dead pedal for the navigator, dual fire extinguishers, battery cutoff switch and many extra toggles on the dash.”
“Opening the hood reveals many unobtainium Saab race bits both seen and unseen,” the seller notes. “The 1,850cc motor was built by Saab engine guru Bengt-Erik Strom, (Strom built virtually all of the factory rally engines, including those of Per Eklund and Stig Bloomqvist), and features dual cross-flow manifolds feeding the dual Weber carbs. The valve train … includes many one-off machined pieces, and the engine is good for 145-150 horsepower.”
Painted in the brightest of blues, the rally Saab is listed for sale on ClassicCars.com by the Classic Car Gallery of Southport, Connecticut, with a list price of $24,900. That’s a pretty cheap entry point to the world of vintage rally racing, and the seller notes that if it were a Porsche or BMW similarly equipped, you’d have to add another zero to the price tag.
“This particular car has been written about extensively in Saab circles, is well-known, and one of the rarest Saabs,” the seller says. “With full FIA papers, and known history from new, this car is the most collectable of all Saabs, and would be a great addition to any collection.”
Watch for Pick of the Week cars every Friday on ClassicCars.com.
In the enthusiasm of the late 1920’s, Cadillac developed its trend-setting 16-cylinder engine of 452 cubic inches – developing 175 horsepower.
While it is true that Packard introduced the landmark Twin-Six, its 12-cylinder engine, in the 1916 model year, it was the Cadillac V16 that set off the American “cylinder wars” at a time when car sales were plummeting due to the escalating economic depression. Continue reading
Orange County may be the sweet spot within Southern California’s classic and exotic car culture, but it has been a very tough nut — well, actually, a tough-skinned fruit — for classic car auction houses to crack.
“It’s arguably the car Mecca of the planet,” said Drew Alcazar, founder of Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions, which holds its second annual Orange County sale June 19-21 at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort in Newport Beach.
While the car-crazy OC may seem an obvious place for a classic and collector car auction, it turns out that the peel on the orange can be difficult to penetrate.
“It’s like a Ferrari Daytona,” Alcazar said. He explained that while the fabled Italian sports car can be very complicated, what with 6 carburetors and 12 cylinders and such, “you’d think it was nervous — until you drive one.” Far from nervous, the Daytona is a joy to drive, with one proviso, as Alcazar pointed out. “There’s no power steering.”
“Orange County is very similar,” Alcazar said of the degree of difficulty the local classic car community has presented to auction houses.
“We’re the last bastion of hope,” he said, immediately considering what he’d just said and added, “with Dana at the Convention Center.”
While other auction houses may have tried and then left Orange County, Dana Mecum and his Mecum Auctions is in its third year in the community, staging a sale in late November in the Anaheim Convention Center.
“Everyone else has tried and everyone else has died,” Alcazar said.
Even Mecum hasn’t had overwhelming success. Last year, it offered more than 800 vehicles for bidding. Barely half of them sold, and only two for more than $200,000.
At Russo and Steele’s inaugural two-day OC sale last year, among some 400 cars offered up for bidding, just four cars — a 1970 Olds 442, a Porsche Carrera GT, a 1968 Aston Martin DB6 and a Bugatti Veyron — accounted for one-third of total sales.
Each summer on the Monterey Peninsula, the problem faced by auction houses is oversaturation — there are simply so many of them, Russo and Steele among them, competing for attention. That’s not the issue in Orange County, said Alcazar, who is undaunted by the OC’s unique challenge, in large part because of what on Wall Street could be considered insider trading.
Classic and collector car enthusiasts in Orange County are “unique and savvy and demanding and a close-knit group,” Alcazar said.
And he ought to know. While Russo and Steele is based in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Alcazar and his wife, Josephine, leave the desert heat each summer for life on the beachfront in Orange County. “From Easter to Halloween,” as Alcazar puts it.
“Others haven’t made the connection of spending time there,”
— Drew Alcazar
“But others haven’t made the connection of spending the time there,” he said of the other auction companies. “They don’t know how close-knit it is. I’ve been going to events there since the early ’80s. It’s unique there.”
Such a local presence and the Alcazars’ participation in the local car scene should give Russo and Steele an edge. Locals, Alcazar said, see “me playing with my cars whether there’s an auction or not.”
As a result, he hopes, Russo and Steele is seen as part of the close-knit cadre of local collectors, not as a big auction company swooping into town looking to deal and depart.
The local car community, Alcazar said, has to “feel as if you’re one of them.”
In fact, Alcazar said his OC auction may grow smaller to become more successful.
“We’re open and welcoming to the general public,” he said, “but in years to come, it may become a bidders-only sort of thing… a client-based event… with a small, close-knit and compressed environment.
“They have to feel as if you’re one of them,” he continued. “Russo and Steele is probably best-suited to make that fit work.”
Multi-national Ford Motor Company has — regardless of market — charted a fairly conservative path through the years. Unlike dedicated eccentrics SAAB, Citroën and even American Motors, it has produced few cars that could be fairly characterized as weird, but here are five from Ford (and its Lincoln and Mercury divisions) that still have us scratching our heads:
|1982-85 Ford Escort EXP: The EXP (along with its twin the Mercury Lynx LN-7) was simply bizarre. It was supposed to be a sporty two-seater version of the Escort compact, but the styling was incomprehensible. It was touted by Ford as a modern, affordable and efficient version of the concept that brought the car world the classic two-seater 1955-57 Thunderbird. But where the T-Bird was graceful and elegant, the EXP was just odd, and the squinty, hungover look to the headlight treatment was particularly strange.|
|1963 Mercury Monterey Breezeway: The Monterey and its predecessor, the Turnpike Cruiser, were fairly standard 1950s and 1960s full-size Ford Motor Company products, but it was the backward-slanted rear roofline and a rear window that lowered for ventilation that added a truly strange look to the car, as well as providing ready ingress for exhaust fumes.|
|2002 Lincoln Blackwood: The Blackwood was a one-year-only Lincoln luxury pickup designed to compete with the Cadillac Escalade XLT. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the answer to a question that nobody was asking—a shortbed luxury pickup that was too nice to actually haul anything in. Less than 3,500 were made in that single year.|
|1959-67 Ford Anglia 105E: Famous as the flying car from the “Harry Potter” series, this English Ford sported a distinctly American feature — the bizarre, backward-slanted rear window that Lincolns and Mercurys had sported in the U.S.|
|1996-08 Ford Ka: Another odd duck Ford not seen in the U.S, the Ka was both an oddly named and strangely styled city car that measured just over 142” overall. Performance was largely theoretical as the Ka was powered by a derivative of the ancient four-cylinder that powered the Anglia. Handling was at least said to be entertaining.|
For the first entry in our new ClassicCars.com feature, Pick of the Week, we have a popular low-mileage piece of classic Mopar muscle that the seller claims to be an all-original car in great shape. The blue 1968 Dodge Coronet Super Bee coupe has just 30,843 miles on its odometer, and it is a numbers-matching car with black interior and bench seat, according to the seller in Fulton, Missouri.
The attrition rate of cars from the mid-disco to late Reagan-era is huge. And while we’d love to see someone somewhere driving any one of the cars on this list, in truth, we can’t remember the last time we saw any of them. Here are five of our favorite nearly extinct cars:
|1971-77 Mercury Capri — Few people remember the 1980s Fox-body Mustang’s near-identical twin, the Mercury Capri. Fewer still can recall the Australian-built front-wheel-drive convertible Capri. This isn’t either of those cars— it’s not even the first to wear the Capri badge. It’s the German Ford mini-Mustang Capri. Sold in the U.S. through Mercury dealers and marketed as “The Sexy European” with an assortment of four- and six-cylinder engines, it was nice looking and great to drive—at least we’re assured of this from vintage road tests. One Capri recently offered on Bringatrailer.com was the first that we’ve seen in ages.|
|Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion — The Conquest was the captive import twin of the Mitsubishi Starion. In the hottest turbo spec with 197 HP, these cars would put the fear of God into Porsche 924/ 944 owners who had the privilege of paying almost twice as much for less performance. Where have they all gone?|
|1969-75 International Harvester Travelall — The Travelall was the Scout’s big brother, and while Scouts are still regularly seen (particularly in the summer with tops off), the Travelall has all but disappeared. In reality, it was one of the pioneers of the modern SUV and one of the first vehicles to offer anti-lock brakes. Sadly, it was completely overshadowed by the Jeep Wagoneer.|
|Chrysler Laser/ Dodge Daytona Z Turbo — The K-car platform saved Chrysler in the 1980s and underpinned nearly everything that they built, including the sporty Laser/Daytona twins. The car was nowhere near as bad as the foregoing would suggest; 2.2- and 2.5-liter turbo fours produced anywhere from 175 HP to 224 HP in their hottest states of tune. Carroll Shelby versions of the Daytona are somewhat collectible, assuming you can find one.|
|1975-81 Volkswagen Scirocco MKI — The Scirocco was the spiritual successor to the Karmann-Ghia. It followed the same formula of a pretty Italian body over more pedestrian underpinnings (in this case a body designed by Ital Design clothing Rabbit-derived mechanicals). No matter, it was a decent handler and quick enough for the day. Today, there are probably more Bentley Continentals on the road than MK I Sciroccos.|
The 1990s had a fair amount going for it, in terms of both pop culture and automobiles. And while you can argue the merits of Nirvana and Green Day over Duran Duran and White Snake all day, nearly every car on this list is a vast improvement over its 1980s counterpart. Here are five of our favorite forgotten 1990s cars:
|1996-99 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi: GM’s H-body platform made for a more than competent front-wheel-drive full-size sedan. It took Pontiac to actually make it a driver’s car. The marketing slogan “We build excitement” was actually true in the case of the Bonneville SSEi, one of the few American sedans to sport a factory supercharger. Although both the SSE and SSEi were available with an Eaton supercharger that raised the output of the GM 3.8-liter V-6 to a massive 240hp, the latter had all of the options and trim. While the Ford Taurus SHO is remembered by nearly everyone, the Bonneville SSEi has sadly been purged from the puny ’90s vintage 1GB hard drives of all but the biggest fans of the era. In theory, less than five grand buys a great one, although we have to confess, our cursory search revealed no decent examples.|
|1990-95 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Convertible: Oldsmobile got a convertible version of the W-body, and it was somewhat rare with only around 25,000 built. And while front-wheel-drive and its inherent understeer aren’t exactly the first choice of many enthusiastic drivers, the Cutlass Supreme convertible did come with a high-output version of GM’s Quad Four and double overhead cam 3.4-liter V-6, and it was available for two years with a very rare Getrag five-speed manual transmission. Inexpensive four-seater American convertibles with decent performance are thin on the ground at this price point. Around five grand for a good one; a bit more for one with a manual transmission.|
|1993 Ford Mustang Cobra R SVT: The Cobra R may have been the ultimate Fox Body Mustang: It was a track day special with stiffer suspension, and power steering, A/C and rear seat were deleted to save weight. It sported about 30 more horsepower than the standard five-liter GT and was capable of near-13-second quarter-mile times out of the box. Sadly, it has been left in the dust by more recent Shelby and Boss 302s. Only the most dedicated Mustang fans remember the ’93 Cobra R, and for now, they’re a bargain.|
|1992-94 Porsche 968: Porsche devotees have only grudgingly accepted the concept of water cooling. Engines in the front are for those who simply must have a Cayenne or a Panamera. Sadly, this means that truly great sports cars and GTs like the 944 and 928 don’t get much love. Perhaps the saddest case of this prejudice is the 968. Barely remembered by anyone, it combined much of what was great about the 944 and the 928, and was likely the best front-engine sports car that Porsche produced. Built both in coupe and convertible form, these cars are rare and not particularly expensive — at least for now. At some point, the world is bound to catch on. With a small rear seat and the ability to carry more than a toothbrush, between this and a used Boxster, we think there’s no contest for about the same money.|
|1990-1999 Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4: That this car wound up on a “forgotten” list is painful in and of itself. Perhaps it’s more a function of Mitsubishi’s status in the U.S. market than a commentary on the inherent goodness and cool factor of this car. Twin turbo with all-wheel-drive and four wheel steering with nearly 300hp, it’s essentially a well-built V-6 F-body Camaro or Firebird with all-weather capability. If you can’t deal with the stigma of driving a Japanese nameplate, the same car was sold in the U.S. as the Dodge Stealth.|
Automotive designers have cribbing from each other since the dawn of the automotive era. Often it’s less obvious to borrow from far away than from your own backyard. Witness the countless European-inspired American cars we’ve seen over the years (like the 1989-97 Ford Thunderbird, a virtual copy of the 1977 BMW 630 CSi). Europe has been known to return the favor on occasion, too, as anyone who has ever seen an Opel GT (which looks for all the world like a 2/3-scale ’68 Corvette) can attest. The cars on this list dispense with any of that “hands across the water” nonsense. They couldn’t have come from anywhere else — they’re as proudly American as it gets:
|1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird: As over-the-top as anything got in the golden age of the American muscle car, the wild, aerodynamic nose cone and 11-story rear wing were designed to ensure NASCAR domination back in the days when the race cars actually had to resemble something you could go into a showroom and buy. Add the massively powerful and virtually handmade 426-ci hemi V-8, and you’ve got another “only in America” classic.|
|Jeep CJ-5: The CJ-5 was actually a variant of the Korean War-era military Jeep. Far more suited to civilian use than the WWII-era Jeep, the CJ-5 was a hot seller for American Motors, which took over Jeep’s parentage from the old Kaiser Automotive Group. Its familiar face is in every “greatest generation” newsreel and our favorite WWII/Korea movies from “Patton” to “M*A*S*H.” Few things say “America” like a Jeep CJ.|
|1959 Cadillac Eldorado Seville: Not only was the name of this car over-the-top (combining two names that would do just fine on their own), but it marked the high-water point for the tailfin fad inspired by the WWII Lockheed P-38 Lightening fighter plane. These were the Empire State Building of tailfins, with twin rocket-like tail lamps embedded in them. Any ’59 Caddy is a simply stunning work of art from an era of unmatched American optimism.|
|1964 Pontiac GTO: The Goat (which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year) can reasonably lay claim to starting the muscle car craze. The idea was to stuff a gigantic 389-ci V-8 into the smallest body possible (the Pontiac Le Mans). And although the name was a direct theft from Ferrari, nothing else about the GTO could have come from anywhere else but America. With Pontiac gone for good, another revival seems unlikely. May it rest in peace.|
|Ford F-Series: America invented the pickup truck with the 1925 Ford Model T pickup. And although everyone from Toyota to VW has dabbled in them, the center of the pickup universe will always be in the U.S. Perhaps the most quintessentially American pickup is the 1948-52 Ford F-Series.|
Nearly 30 years ago, Rick Cole had “a crazy idea.” His idea was to stage a classic car auction in conjunction with the Monterey Historics vintage races and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Cole, who regularly drove in those races, noticed how his fellow racers were buying and selling cars among themselves in the Laguna Seca Raceway paddock.
“I went to Steve Earle [the vintage racing founder] and said, ‘There’s a lot of money being traded out here in the paddock. Why don’t we hook up and I’ll do an auction?’
“Steve said, ‘That’s nuts,’” Cole remembers. “So I went down to the (Monterey) conference center and the Rick Cole Auction in Monterey was born.”
This summer, Rick Cole is returning to Monterey with another classic car auction, though without an auction block or even a room full of bidders.
That first Monterey auction was held on Friday night in the summer of 1986 and offered what Cole remembers as “great cars,” drew a standing-room-only crowd and was a success from the start.
Several world auction-record prices were set at the sale, though as Cole remembers, “the entire gross was about half of a (Ferrari) 275 GTB sells for today.”
Before long, the auction spanned two days and sales results had increased fivefold. The Monterey weekend calendar now stood on three legs — vintage races, an auction and the concours.
Cole sold his auction company to RM in 1997. “I’d been in the auction business for 23 years or something like that,” he said. “I was kind of tired. I kind of dropped out of the scene.”
However, he added, he continued to keep an eye on and occasionally even a hand in the classic car business when he shifted gears and started a company that worked with DuPont to develop and produce material that enabled run-flat tires for military vehicles, and thus kept them moving for 30 miles at 30 miles per hour even after tires had been punctured.
“I’m very proud of the fact that we enabled a lot of guys to get out of harm’s way on the battlefields,” Cole said.
Cole also is proud of his long involvement with classic cars. He was 16 years old when a buddy’s father opened one of the first classic car dealerships in the country, in Santa Monica, California.
“We used to go and hang out there,” Cole said. “I started washing cars and then detailing cars and then selling cars. I spent more time there than I did in high school. I fell in love with the whole process.”
Before long, the store’s owner hired another youngster, 23-year-old Don Williams, to manage the dealership. Williams would go on to buy, own and sell many of the world’s greatest classic cars, and now operates the famed Blackhawk Collection in northern California.
“He was 23 and I was 16 and we became great friends,” Cole said. “I learned the business. We’ve known each other for 44 years.”
Still short of his 20th birthday, Cole was hired by Indiana-based Kruse Auctions to manage its West Coast activities.
“In four years with Kruse,” Cole said, “I learned what not to do.”
But Cole learned those lessons and when the time was opportune, he started his own auction company. In 1978, the hotel where Kruse had staged an auction in Newport Beach called Cole because the company had not paid its bill.
“If I pay, can I have the date (for an auction of my own)?” Cole asked.
“Bring your checkbook,” he was told.
The collector car business has grown exponentially since my early days,”
— Rick Cole
“The collector car business has grown exponentially since my early days,” Cole said. “Back then, we were lucky to see a couple of guys from Switzerland and England and maybe one from Japan at events. Now it’s Russians and (east) Indians and so many others. It’s completely a global market, especially in Ferraris, and it’s fascinating to see.
“I never turned my back on the hobby,” Cole added. He and an old friend and fellow car guy, Terry Price, entered a partnership a few years ago “and have done a lot of heavy lifting as far as moving important cars,” Cole said.
He also went back to Scottsdale to revisit the big Barrett-Jackson auction, rekindled an old friendship with Craig Jackson that dated back to the days when both were teenagers growing up in the business, and Cole found himself — as well as Don Williams— helping to populate Barrett-Jackson’s high-end Salon Collection of vehicles.
“After a year, a lightbulb went off,” Cole said. “I’m going to be 60 years old and I need something to do in retirement that’s not so difficult. The Marriott (in Monterey) became available and now I’m back to doing my own thing.”
That thing may be old, but Cole is giving it a very new twist. What he’ll do is to gather together 3-4 dozen outstanding classic cars, display them in the Marriott ballroom and foyer, but there will be no on-site bidding, just viewing. To bid, you’ll use your smart phone and Cole’s proprietary app.
“There are 25 or more events at Pebble Beach/Monterey now,” Cole said. “Everybody’s running around crazily trying to get from place to place.
“I don’t want to try to attract warm bodies from another event, but if I fill the room with great stuff, people will come and see it. But let’s figure out a different way for people to bid.
“I provide pretty significant cars to a pretty elite clientele on a regular basis,” he continued. “The guys I deal with don’t (even) need to see the cars. If I call them and tell them I have this car with this history and this color and these details and I’ve had one of my guys look at the car it’s X amount of dollars, the guy will say ‘I own it’ (meaning he’s agreed to the price) or ‘I don’t want it.’”
For the new Rick Cole Auction at Monterey, bidding will be done by smart phones while the potential buyer is somewhere else, maybe even at another auction.
To bid, all you need to do is to show Cole your driver’s license and your bidder’s pass from any of the other Monterey auctions taking place. He’s happy to let the other auction houses do the due diligence on your bank account. Besides, he pretty much knows everyone who might have an interest in the cars he’s offering.
Early consignments already include a 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4, a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupe, a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB and a Ferrari 275 GTS.
No one’s told me I’m nuts.”
— Rick Cole
Cole plans to keep his bidding live a few hours after the last of the other Monterey auctions has ended.
A year or two ago, he attended the Gooding & Company auction at Pebble Beach on behalf of clients. He had $6 million of their dollars to spend, but three times in a row, he was outbid for the cars they wanted.
“I had $6 million in my pocket with no place to go,” Cole said.
Now, someone still looking to buy can simply punch some numbers into a smart phone.
“I think it will work just fine,” Cole said.
“It’s all pretty simple,” Cole said. “I’m kind of surprised I’ve gotten so many calls from guys saying this is ingenious. This is the new thing. It’s clever. It’s the next wave. No one’s told me I’m nuts.”