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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‘Reborn’ 1963 Corvette Z06 race coupe going to Mecum auction in Monterey

The 1963 Corvette Z06 has been restored as Paul Reinhart raced it | Mecum Auctions
The 1963 Corvette Z06 has been restored as Paul Reinhart raced it | Mecum Auctions

A 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Z06 race car with a storybook tale of loss and rebirth will be up for auction during Mecum Auctions’ Monterey sale in August.

The Z06 was originally owned by Oakland, California, racer Paul Reinhart, who was a powerful force among Corvette competitors during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his 1957 roadster, Reinhart won back-to-back championships in SCCA Pacific Coast B-Production racing in 1960 and 1961.

When the newly minted 1963 Corvette Z06 performance coupe – a Chevrolet factory race car project spearheaded by legendary Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus Duntov – became available in 1962, the Union 76 dealer was among the short list of proven racing stars selected for the initial batch of six cars. That impressive list included Dave McDonald, Doug Hooper, Jerry Grant, Bob Bondurant and the “Flying Dentist,” Dr. Dick Thompson.

But unlike the others who were backed by sponsors, Reinhart bought his own car to drive in competition. Reinhart ordered his Sting Ray coupe, number 0895, during the summer of ’62, but his career with the Z06 was star-crossed by circumstances out of his control.

The Sting Ray coupe is one of the first six Z06 cars | Mecum Auctions
The Sting Ray coupe is one of the first six Z06 cars | Mecum Auctions

One was the fierce competition from Carroll Shelby’s new Cobras, which were taking their toll just as the specially prepared Z06s were hitting the track. The other was Chevrolet’s unexpected announcement in February 1963 that it was pulling factory support from racing.

“Dispirited, Paul Reinhart began racing in regional events: Pomona, Riverside, Laguna Seca, Santa Barbara, Del Mar, Vaca Valley, Cotati, Stockton, and other West Coast venues,” according to the Mecum catalog description. “He put 0895 up for sale at the end of the 1964 season.

“Commenting on the period years later, he said, ‘It took years to get over the Z06 in terms of racing in form again’.”

Reinhart did decide years later that he would go at it again, this time in vintage racing. He began searching in 1982 for a suitable Corvette. And here’s where the magic comes in.

Searching the classified ads in the San Francisco Examiner, he found a 1963 Corvette race car for sale. Amazingly, when he went to examine it, he found that it was his old race car, number 0895. It was pretty worn out and in need of restoration, but it was all there, including Reinhart’s own performance tweaks to the engine, suspension and brakes, and its 36-gallon fuel tank.

The Z06 is powered by a 327/360 hp V8 race engine | Mecum Auctions
The Z06 is powered by a 327/360 hp V8 race engine | Mecum Auctions

So not only was he able to re-ignite his Corvette racing passion, he was able to do it in the very same car. He restored old 0895 and started in 1983 to compete in vintage racing events including the Monterey Historics, Wine Country Classic and Coronado Speed Festival.

He sold the car in 2000 to fellow vintage racer Susan Armstrong of Issaquah, Washington, who continued running it in the same events for years until she sold it to its current owner.

The 1963 Corvette Z06 coupe ticks some important boxes for collectors, such as being among the first batch of six factory competition cars, its ownership by an elite West Coast racer who added his own performance enhancements, and the car’s rediscovery and rebirth to become a fixture in West Coast historic racing for more than 30 years.

The Corvette has once again been completely restored, according to Mecum, and is ready to resume its place on the vintage racing circuit.

Billed as “The Daytime Auction,” Mecum’s Monterey sale happens August 14-16 at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course.

Bloomington Gold show revels in Corvette glory

A lineup of 1960s Corvette coupes draws attention at the Illinois show | Bloomington Gold
A lineup of 1960s Corvette coupes draws attention | Bloomington Gold

The Bloomington Gold Corvette Show has seen plenty of changes since it started in 1973, especially in recent years, but it has kept the faith through the decades as an unmitigated celebration of Chevrolet’s fiberglass sports car.

During that time, the longest running Corvette show in the country has become synonymous with Corvette excellence, featuring intensive judging to high standards and cars vying to meet prestigious Bloomington Gold Certification ratings for authenticity.

The 42nd annual Bloomington Gold show, to be held June 27-29 in its second year on the grounds of the University of Illinois in Champaign, also includes just about everything imaginable for Corvette enthusiasts, with a number of competitions, shows, workshops, swap meets, vendors, dealers and car corrals of Corvettes for sale.

Chevrolet will have the new Corvette Z06 coupe and convertible on display, as well as a complete rolling chassis of the C7 Z06, a 2015 Stingray Pacific and a 2015 Stingray Atlantic. This show’s Gold Year display will feature the 1964 Corvette.

One thing that won’t be there, however, is a Corvette auction. Mecum Auctions, which has held Corvette-only sales at Bloomington Gold events for a number of years, announced recently that it was pulling out of the event starting this year, citing falling consignments and results.

For more information about Bloomington Gold, see www.bloomingtongold.com.

Mecum cancels Bloomington Gold Corvette auction

A competition Corvette crosses the block during a recent Mecum auction at Bloomington | Mecum Auctions
A competition Corvette crosses the block during a recent Mecum auction at Bloomington | Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions has canceled its all-Corvette auction at Bloomington Gold, one of the nation’s largest and most-famous Corvette gatherings. Mecum had been scheduled to host its 18th annual all-Corvette sale during the June 27-29 weekend.

In a posting on the Mecum.com website, the auction company said the decision was made to close the Corvette auction in Illinois because of flagging interest and strong sales of Corvettes at other Mecum classic car auctions throughout the year.

“As the number of successful auction events on the Mecum calendar continues to grow, the Corvette collecting community has regularly been opting to buy and sell Corvettes at other Mecum auction locations in their respective regions throughout the country as a matter of convenience,” the Mecum notice said. “Mecum now holds auctions coast to coast all year long, and Corvettes are a significant segment at all Mecum events as witnessed by their results on the block.

Interest in the auction held in conjunction with Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA has waned.”

“Due to these and other variables, interest in the auction held in conjunction with Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA has waned, and subsequently, the auction had to be canceled. This late notice is regrettable, but it is only because of Mecum’s unwillingness to have to take such measures.”

Dana Mecum, the founder and head of the auction company, was not available for comment Wednesday.

The Bloomington Gold event, renowned by Corvette aficionados for its high standards and dedication to the heritage of Chevrolet’s sports cars, was owned by Dana Mecum from 1997-2012. The Bloomington auction once had been the only venue in which Mecum sold Corvettes, but now they are standard fare at all Mecum collector car events.

Sales at Bloomington Gold have dropped from a high of $7.7 million in 2008 to around $1.8 million in 2013. The total number of cars offered has declined from more than 300 Corvettes over two days to just 130 cars last year in a single-day auction.

Mecum’s top sales of Corvettes in recent years have happened at auctions other than Bloomington. One of the headliner cars being offered at Mecum’s inaugural Seattle auction June 13-14 is a rare, high-performance 1967 Corvette L88 coupe, which should go well over seven figures on the block. Fully restored by the Naber Brothers, the car has been Bloomington Gold Certified.

With the cancellation of the Bloomington Gold auction, Mecum has 19 annual car, motorcycle or tractor auctions.