Pick of the Day: 1979 Corvette ‘Speed Racer Mach 5’

The Speed Racer Mach 5 is a drivable custom treatment of a 1979 Corvette
The Speed Racer Mach 5 is a drivable custom treatment of a 1979 Corvette

If driving a collector car is all about fantasy and nostalgia, then here’s a unique sort of custom Corvette that knocks that into the next galaxy.

“Go Speed Racer Go!” everyone would shout when they spot you in the Pick of the Day, an actual Speed Racer Mach 5 like the one featured in the Saturday morning adventure cartoon. The seller, a dealer in Katy, Texas, assures us that this is just a replica and not the real thing, although it sure looks like it just drove out of the Anime world. Continue reading

Maserati Ghibli heads Mecum’s flagship sale in Florida

The 1969 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 Spyder after its $920,000 sale | Mecum Auctions photos
The 1969 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 Spyder after its $920,000 sale | Mecum Auctions photos

A Maserati Ghibli Spyder led Mecum’s auction of just under 2,000 collector vehicles during the mammoth sale last week in Kissimmee, Florida, considered to be the biggest annual collector car auction in the world. With nearly 2,700 vehicles offered, the auction boasted a 75 percent sell-through rate and a total of $86 million in sales, not including auction fees.

The Road Art auction that accompanied the collector car sale had a 93 percent sell-though, with 1,260 pieces of automobilia, parts and collectables sold for a total of $2.5 million, not including fees.

Additionally, ticket sales were up 20 percent compared with last year, the auction house reported, and a record number of page views during the 10-day event were garnered on its website.

Mecum had a record number of ticket sales
Mecum had a record number of ticket sales

But the overall results were down from last year’s.  Sales totaled nearly $95 million with the buyer fees added, compared with the year-ago record number of more than $100 million with fees added. The 2016 auction was boosted by million-dollar-plus results for two Hemi-powered Plymouth ‘Cuda convertibles and a Dodge Challenger Hemi convertible, which added about $6.6 million to the bottom line.

This year, there were no seven-figure cars. The top-selling 1969 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 Spyder hammered at $920,000. The bright-yellow Maserati was followed by a 1967 Chevy Corvette 427 convertible, the only-known 435-horsepower Vette originally painted black with a blue interior, that went for $775,000. All reported Mecum results are hammer prices without buyer fees.

A modern supercar, a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, reached third-highest at $625,000, while a famed 1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11 race car with the nickname “Old Reliable IV” went for $525,000. A specially equipped 1957 Chevrolet Corvette “Big Brake Airbox” was hammered at $450,000.

The top-10 sales for Mecum’s annual Florida auction were:

1. 1969 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 Spyder at $920,000
2. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible at $775,000
3. 2005 Porsche Carrera GT at $625,000
4. 1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11 “Old Reliable IV” at $525,000
5. 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Big Brake Airbox at $450,000
6. 1963 Pontiac Catalina Swiss Cheese at $430,000
7. 1980 BMW M1 at $400,000
8. 1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11 at $340,000
9. 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition at $327,500
10. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window coupe at $300,000

(All Mecum sales results are hammer prices without auction fees)

Mecum’s next sale is its inaugural Los Angeles Auction, held February 17-18 at the Fairplex in Pomona, California. For information, visit the Mecum website.

2016 top stories: 2 – Muscle cars come roaring back

Veteran actor Burt Reynolds with a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from 'Smoky and the Bandits' | Barrett-Jackson
Veteran actor Burt Reynolds with a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from ‘Smoky and the Bandit’ | Barrett-Jackson

Pontiac GTOs, Hemi ‘Cudas, Olds 442s, Shelbys, big-block Corvettes – American muscle cars were back with a vengeance during 2016. High-horsepower Detroit iron gained in value, not just among the expected Boomer generation but with younger performance enthusiasts who embrace the classic muscle of the 1960s and early ’70s. Continue reading

Muscle cars, Corvettes take Chicago by storm

A colorful  circle of 1971 Boss 351 Mustangs at Chicago’s Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals | William Hall photos
A colorful circle of 1971 Boss 351 Mustangs at Chicago’s Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals | William Hall photos

‘We rolled out the cold weather for you,” I said to Bobby Unser. “You sure did,” replied the three-time Indy 500 Champion, who was making an appearance in Chicago for the 2016 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. Two days earlier, it was 70 degrees, but on this day, the thermometer read 28.

Fortunately, this annual gathering of iconic American automobiles takes place inside the toasty, modern Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare Airport, away from the brisk winds outside. Continue reading

Mecum returns to Denver rippling with American muscle

The 1970 Buick GSX is a multiple award winner
The 1970 Buick GSX is a multiple award winner | Mecum Auctions photos

Mecum Auctions returns to Denver for the second year with an expected 700 mostly American collector cars in the Colorado Convention Center for the July 8-9 sale. Mecum’s inaugural Denver sale scored $12 million in total sales with 396 cars sold for a 66 percent sell-through rate last year. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1964 Chevrolet Corvette convertible

This little red Corvette is offered for sale in Nevada
This little red Corvette is offered for sale in Nevada

We’re all grownups here, so I suppose most of us know that Prince’s song “Little Red Corvette” wasn’t really about a car. But in honor of the fallen superstar, the Pick of the Day is an actual little red Corvette, so “I guess that makes it all right…”

The 1964 Chevrolet Corvette roadster was repainted in the factory-correct Riverside Red during a total exterior restoration, according to the Henderson, Nevada, dealer listing the car for sale on ClassicCars.com. Continue reading

Unique ‘Gold Corvette’ headed for Mecum’s Indy auction

The 1962 Corvette was restored as it was designed for a styling evaluation | Mecum Auctions
The 1962 Corvette was restored as it was designed for a styling evaluation | Mecum Auctions

Chevrolet in 1962 wanted to celebrate its 50-year golden anniversary in style, so the General Motors Styling Department set out to produce a special-edition color scheme to mark the occasion. Continue reading

’63 Corvette Z06 Tanker heads up Mecum’s Houston auction

The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette is equipped with a 36-gallon fuel tank | Mecum Auctions photos
The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette is equipped with a 36-gallon fuel tank | Mecum Auctions photos

A multiple-award-winning 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Tanker, one of only 63 equipped with a 36-gallon fuel tank, is among the top attractions for Mecum Auctions’ fifth annual Houston sale April 14-16. Continue reading

‘Purple People Eater’ Corvette heads for Barrett-Jackson auction

The champion ‘Purple People Eater’ Corvette will be auctioned by Barrett-Jackson in January | Barrett-Jackson photos
The champion ‘Purple People Eater’ Corvette will be auctioned by Barrett-Jackson in January | Barrett-Jackson photos

For one week in the summer of 1958, the Number 1 song on the American pop charts was the tale of a one-eyed, one-horned flying creature that ate purple people and had come to Earth to get a job with a rock ’n’ roll band.

Written and performed by Sheb Wooley, “The Purple People Eater” would share its name with various enterprises, including a 1988 movie featuring Neil Patrick Harris, Ned Beatty, Shelley Winters and assorted early rock stars (including Wooley); the defensive line of the Minnesota Vikings professional football team; and three very special Chevrolet Corvette race cars. Continue reading

1955 ‘Kelley Blue Book’ shows how things have changed

The rare and valuable 1953 Porsche 356 America roadster was just another used car in 1955 | Bob Golfen
The rare and valuable 1953 Porsche 356 America Roadster was just another used car in 1955 | Bob Golfen

Did you know that in 1955, you could have purchased a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette for between $1,700 and $2,150? Or a 1952 Porsche 356 America Roadster for the same amount? These are six-figure collector cars today, but back then, they were just used sports cars that had depreciated after leaving the showroom.

I came upon these numbers while digging through the rubble of my desk, where I unearthed an interesting relic. It’s a Kelley Blue Book that’s nearly 60 years old.

The May-June 1955 used-car value guide for the dusty Arizona-Nevada region comes from an era when “The Blue Book” had a real mystique. Only dealers could get them, it seems, and the average person would kowtow to the concept of “book value” handed down by the car salesman, who usually had one stashed in his back pocket.

My 1955 Kelley Blue Book is well preserved | Bob Golfen
My 1955 ‘Kelley Blue Book’ is well preserved | Bob Golfen

Oh how things have changed, especially now that the Internet provides the average car shopper with an endless supply of value guides. But back in the dark ages of the mid-20th Century, this was pretty much it, and the information was essentially unobtainable for anyone who didn’t know the secret handshake.

After six decades, my little Blue Book has remained in remarkably good condition, obviously thumbed through loads of times but still intact. I’ll bet the survival rate for these things is miniscule. When the new books came out, the old ones were trashed.

The slim 1955 KBB guide lists cars sold after World War II from domestic automakers and a scant number of “foreign” brands. The foreign jobs are essentially a number of British makes – most of which have gone by the wayside – plus Porsche and Volkswagen.

No Italians at all. No Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia or even Ferrari. Perhaps their post-war numbers in the U.S. through 1955 were too scant to make the grade.

And among the domestic brands, there is the sobering rendition of those that have gone away: Studebaker, Hudson, Packard, Nash, Rambler, Willys, Crosley, De Soto, Kaiser, Plymouth, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

Even sadder are the prices from 1955, particularly for those merely used cars back then that are valuable collector items today. I have the latest Kelly Blue Book guide for post-war collector cars, so I compared values between then and now. I also checked the current Hagerty Price Guide, which generally lists higher values than KBB.

A 1953 Chevrolet Corvette sells for six figures today | ClassicCars.com
A 1953 Chevrolet Corvette sells for six figures today | ClassicCars.com

So let’s see, that inaugural year ’53 Corvette is calculated by KBB as having a value today ranging from $43,900 for one in fair condition to $263,600 for an excellent car. Hagerty’s valuation is higher, from $123,000 to $323,000.

And that 1952-53 Porsche America Roadster, a rarity that is one of today’s most highly desired Porsche production cars, would set you back around $311,000 to $853,000, according to KBB. Hagerty doesn’t have a separate entry for the America Roadster, but any early Porsche model from that time goes into six figures.

Inflation only accounts for a fraction of today’s values. According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1953 would be equivalent to about $8.87 today. So if you only consider inflation, the high value of $2,150 for that 1953 Corvette or Porsche would be about $19,000 today. Try buying one of them for that.

Some other comparisons for cool ragtops from then and now:

You could have purchased a wood-bodied 1947 Chrysler Town and Country convertible coupe in 1955 for the meager price of $120 to $220. Today, that car would fetch $56,500 to $154,900, according to the latest Kelley Blue Book, noting that you would add 10 percent for Highlander trim. Hagerty says today’s value is $84,800 to $236,000.

A 1947 Chrysler Town and Country was once a cheap ride | Barrett-Jackson
A 1947 Chrysler Town and Country was once a cheap ride | Barrett-Jackson

In 1955, the groundbreaking 1950 Jaguar XK120 roadster would have been valued at only $950 to $1,275, with no differentiation noted in the old Blue Book between the steel-bodied Jag and the lighter, more-desirable alloy model. KBB says that today, a steel XK120 would sell for $50,000 to $137,100 and an aluminum one would get $141,300 to $387,500. Hagerty has the XK at $80,800 to $153,000 for steel and $284,000 to $490,000 for alloy.

A 1953 Buick Skylark convertible was valued in 1955 for between $1,750 and $2,210. The latest KBB rates it at $65,500 to $179,700. Hagerty has it at $74,500 to $192,000.

A 1948 Lincoln Continental cabriolet powered by a V12 engine would have sold for just $650 to $900 in 1955. Today, KBB values that car at $39,200 to $107,500. Hagerty does not have a separate listing for this model.

It’s too bad there are no listings for Ferraris in the 1955 Blue Book because the difference in those values between then and now would be truly eye popping.

The 1955 value guide also has some new-car prices, and if you do the inflation math of multiplying by 8.87 for today’s money, they still seem like a bargain. Some examples of what you could have bought brand new in 1955:

A Chevy Bel Air sport coupe for $2,605.

A De Soto Firedome Sportsman two-door hardtop, $2,986.

The first-year Ford Thunderbird, $3,192.

A Rambler Custom station wagon, $2,233.

An Oldsmobile Holiday coupe, $3,115.

A Plymouth Belvedere Club Sedan, $2,302.

A Pontiac Star Chief Catalina coupe, $3,163.

Back to Porsche, it’s interesting to note that the 1955 356 Speedster was something of a stripped-down model marketed as the cheapest way to get into one of those relatively pricey German sports cars. According to KBB, the Speedster was priced at $2,995 for the 1500 and $3,495 for the more-powerful 1500 S. The other Porsches were more expensive: a 1500 S coupe would have cost $4,395 while the top model, the 1500 S cabriolet, was $4,695.

But look at what that budget 356 Speedster is worth now. These lightweight and much-loved roadsters go for $117,100 to $321,000, according to the latest KBB, while Hagerty has them listed at a more-aggressive $208,000 to $508,000. Note that a 1958 Speedster in “preserved” but needy condition sold for $484,000 at Gooding’s recent Scottsdale auction.

For now, I’ll put away my 1955 Kelley Blue Book in a safe place to rediscover sometime in the future, when I’ll marvel yet again at how much things have changed.

 

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