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.
“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.
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.”
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