With the Big 12 college basketball championships taking place just down the street, it’s tempting to categorize Mecum Auctions’ spring sale in downtown Kansas City as March Madness. But, said John Kraman, consignment director for the classic car auction house, madness isn’t quite the atmosphere for the sale in the Kansas City Convention Center.
“The basketball tournament adds a bit of excitement to downtown Kansas City,” Kraman told Classic Car News.
Kansas City may be Mecum’s most low-key sale, however, and one of its most enjoyable, he added.
Kraman said KC not only is one of Mecum’s most-visited auction locations — usually twice a year since the company’s first sale there in 1993 — but it has become one of the favorites for staff and customers alike because everything is in one big room, and because the sale has evolved into an event known for affordable classics, with only a few cars selling in the six-figure range.
“It’s typically our smallest auction,” Kraman said, adding that while Bartle Hall is a quarter-mile in length, no more than 700 cars can be included on the docket, a contrast to the 2,600 cars offered earlier this year at Kissimmee, Florida, or the 2,000 expected in May at the company’s annual sale in Indianapolis.
“This sale is primarily entry- and mid-level cars and it really keeps us connected to the entry-level sellers and buyers,” Kraman said. “Not everyone is a six-figure buyer.”
He said it’s partly the building and partly Midwestern values.
“The auction has evolved with a reputation as a great place for someone who wants to spend a more modest amount of money,” he said. “It’s pretty low key but also a lot of fun.”
And while “the stakes are not as high,” Kraman noted that the KC sale annually produces very strong results for Ford products.
“It’s a very strong Ford market,” he said, “as strong as any auction for those cars.”
Kraman said Mecum’s KC sale features mainline American classics, “’50s through early ’70s, a few late-model cars, not a lot of pre-war cars, not a lot of European exotics. By far the heart of this auction is American cars from the ’50s through the early ’70s.”
And, he said, the auction includes a lot of social involvement.
“In some ways,” Kraman said, “it feels more like a car show than it does an auction.”
With only 700 cars to be sold over the course of two days, the auction often ends by 7 p.m., leaving plenty of time to walk down to KC’s Power and Light District, the city’s reborn entertainment hub near the Sprint Center where the basketball tournament will be played.
“We won’t hit $10 million in sales at this auction,” Kraman added, “but what drives Mecum is a passion, the anticipation of an auction and the execution of it.
“This one is more like the heart and soul of the average car collector looking for a Mustang or Chevelle, a high-quality driver, and getting a nice car without having to pay investment-grade prices.”
While cars may typically sell in the $25,000 range at the auction, there figures to be several six-figure sales as well at Kansas City.
For example, there’s a three-owner 1968 Shelby GT500KR Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet with a four-speed manual, a 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible with a single owner from new until 2005 when the car underwent a complete restoration, a 1970 Plymouth GTX coupe and a 1970 Plymouth Superbird with a four-speed.
Also on the docket are several late-model Chevrolet Camaros from the Matt Wagoner collection of low-mileage modern muscle cars.