‘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.



‘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.

Two muscle-car icons at Mecum’s first Seattle sale

The ’71 Hemi ’Cuda is one of just four built by the factory with 4-speed stickshift | Mecum Auctions
The ’71 Hemi ’Cuda is one of just four built by the factory with 4-speed stickshift | Mecum Auctions

A pair of Holy Grail muscle cars – a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda 4-speed convertible and a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 coupe – will roar over the auction block next month during Mecum’s inaugural classic car auction in Seattle.

The hot Detroit performance icons will be among 600 collector cars, trucks, motorcycles and a 1951 Cockshutt farm tractor that will be auctioned off June 13-14 during Mecum’s sale at the CenturyLink Field Event Center.

The 1967 Corvette L88 is a performance icon | Mecum Auctions
The 1967 Corvette L88 is a performance icon | Mecum Auctions

The Hemi ’Cuda is an exceptionally rare and original piece of Mopar history, and it checks all the boxes of blue-chip authenticity as top-dog muscle cars regain value in recent years. It is one of just four convertibles equipped with 4-speed stickshift delivered in the U.S. and documented as the only remaining matching-numbers example in existence, according to Mecum.

Powered by its original 427cid, 425-horsepower Hemi V8, the ’Cuda’s factory broadcast sheet shows that it was equipped at the Hamtramck, Michigan, assembly plant with the New Process 4-speed transmission, Dana 60 rear end with 4.10 Super Track Pak, 26-inch radiator and power brakes.

The car was owned by famed Southwest cartoonist Russ Meyer, who eventually sold it to an Oregon buyer. Later, the muscle car was seized by authorities there as part of a drug bust and sold at auction for $405,000, an unprecedented figure at the time.

The ’Cuda interior was authentically restored | Mecum Auctions
The ’Cuda interior was authentically restored | Mecum Auctions

A complete restoration in its original Bright Blue with matching interior and black convertible-top was completed in 2000 by Mopar expert Julius Steuer of Los Angeles, Mecum said. The car retains its serious performance look with painted steel wheels, dog-dish hub caps and white-letter tires. The rare Shaker hood is held down by chrome pins, and the dashboard includes the desirable Rallye Instrument Cluster.

The Corvette L88 Sting Ray is another legendary muscle-car gem, one of just 20 produced in 1967 and a rare factory side-exhaust version of the first-year L88 documented with the original tank sticker, according to Mecum. The L88, developed under the guidance of renowned Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus Duntov, is powered by a heavy-duty, high-performance 427cid that was officially rated conservatively at 430 horsepower but known to deliver 560 horsepower at its sweet spot of 6,500 rpm.

The Corvette’s 427 can deliver 560 horsepower | Mecum Auctions
The Corvette’s 427 can deliver 560 horsepower | Mecum Auctions

The Marina Blue coupe was restored by the Naber Brothers of Houston and featured in multiple Bloomington Gold Special Collections over three decades.

The L88 retains its original Muncie close-ratio “Rock Crusher” 4-speed, heavy-duty power brakes, special sport suspension, transistor ignition and Positraction rear with 4.11:1 gearset.

After a brief racing career – L88 Corvettes won the GT class at both Daytona and Sebring and ruled SCCA competition in their day – the car has been in private ownership until now being offered as the grand prize at auction as the ultimate Corvette of its generation.

Mecums’ first auction in Seattle features a wide array of popular American muscle cars and classics, plus sports cars, exotics and such. The auction will be televised by NBCSN on a time delay; check local listings.

For more information about Mecum in Seattle, see www.Mecum.com.

Barrett-Jackson sets sail for Palm Beach auction

A restored 1958 Chevrolet Corvette convertible all ready for cruising | Barrett-Jackson
A restored 1958 Chevrolet Corvette convertible at auction and ready for cruising | Barrett-Jackson

Barrett-Jackson’s 12th annual East Coast collector-car auction happens April 11-13 at the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. As customary, the emphasis is on classic cruisers, convertibles and luxury cars that suit the relaxed Florida lifestyle.

The Palm Beach Auction comes after January’s highly successful sale in Scottsdale, Barrett-Jackson’s signature event that marked its 43rd year with a record $113 million total. Expectations are running high that the Florida auction will continue the level of success for Barrett-Jackson and the booming market for collector cars.

People like to get cars that they can just buy and drive.”

— Craig Jackson

South Florida is known for its winter vacationers, and Barrett-Jackson has timed its auction to catch seasonal visitors before they head back home, many of them to the Northeast and Canada, said Craig Jackson, Barrett-Jackson chief executive and chairman. The beach-resort atmosphere is reflected in the event.

“It’s more laid back in a lot of ways,” Jackson said in an interview. “There’s a different selection of cars. People like to get cars that they can just buy and drive, and convertibles are popular; you can use them year round.”

Which explains the high number of late-model specialty cars that are on the docket, including 15 Bentleys (with two Azure convertibles and a 2006 Arnage sedan once owned by NBA star Lebron James) and a number of modern-era Jaguars and Mercedes-Benzes. Two of the featured cars are recently minted: a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder with less than 1,000 miles and a 2005 Ford GT.

Featured 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder | Barrett-Jackson
Featured 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder | Barrett-Jackson

Ford hit a grand slam with its instantly collectable GT mid-engine sports coupe, Jackson noted, making them a staple at auctions and in high-end collections. “Those are hot as heck,” he said.

Naturally, there is a wide variety of Camaros, Mustangs, muscle cars and customs that make up the heart of Barrett-Jackson auctions. Resto mods – vintage cars that have been restored in appearance with modern drivetrains and suspensions – are popular in Florida because they are designed to be driven.

“Typically, resto mods bring even more money there than they do in Scottsdale,” Jackson said.

Consignments for the Florida auction have been solid, he added, which he attributes partially to the impressive results of the Scottsdale auction.

“We’re north of 500 in the catalog right now, and they’re still processing some,” Jackson said Tuesday. “That’s pretty strong. We’re riding the wave of Scottsdale.”

The 2013 Mustang from 'Need for Speed' | Barrett-Jackson
The 2013 Mustang from ‘Need for Speed’ | Barrett-Jackson

Last year’s sales for the Palm Beach auction totaled nearly $21 million, including $1.8 million raised to benefit charities. Among charity cars this year are the first retail production 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, donated by General Motors with all the proceeds benefitting the Karmanos Cancer Institute, and the radically modified 2013 Ford Mustang featured in the movie “Need for Speed” donated by Ford with all proceeds benefitting the Henry Ford Health System. Both cars go over the block during the “prime time” sale on auction weekend Saturday.

Live television coverage of the Palm Beach auction will total 21 hours with a multi-platform, interactive broadcast with three Fox networks trading off time slots. Broadcasting begins Friday, April 11, at noon (Eastern) on Fox Sports 2, then continues on Fox Sports 1 at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., the broadcast switches back to Fox Sports 2, then to Fox Sports 1 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

The National Geographic Channel provides eight hours of continuous coverage on Saturday, April 12, starting at noon. Fox Sports 1 covers the final day Sunday, April 13, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Interactive features include the Barrett-Jackson Social Garage of Facebook postings and Twitter connections driven by @Barrett_Jackson and #BarrettJackson.

Viewers can compete for prizes in the popular Hagerty Fantasy Bid Game, in which contestants vie to estimate the sales results for select cars on the docket. To sign up, see www.foxfantasybid.com.

For more information about the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction, see www.barrett-jackson.com.

Mecum heads into final days of huge Florida auction

The winning 1963 Corvette ZO6 race car campaigned by Dick Lang will be among Mecum’s weekend  offerings. (Photo: Mecum Auctions)
The winning 1963 Corvette ZO6 race car campaigned by Dick Lang will be among Mecum’s weekend offerings. (Photo: Mecum Auctions)


Mecum’s massive classic-car auction at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla., continues through Sunday, Jan. 26, with more than 3,000 cars, trucks, motorcycles and what-have-you offered during the nine-day super sale. There were also more than 3,000 pieces of automobilia to be sold.

Highlighted by an enviable collection of Corvettes – including a couple of rare high-performance L88s, a famous ’63 ZO6 race car, a ’67 convertible formerly owned by astronaut Gus Grissom, and the historic 1956 SR prototype known as The Real McCoy – Mecum cranks into the weekend with a vast range of vehicles to fit most any wallet. Mecum has a grading system for values at its auctions, ranging from general to featured to stars to main attractions.

The 1930 Duesenberg Model J convertible could fetch $2 million. (Photo: Mecum Auctions)
The 1930 Duesenberg Model J convertible could fetch $2 million. (Photo: Mecum Auctions)

Some other top dogs of the Mecum auction include a 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra factory race car valued in the $2 million range, 1969 Mustang Boss 429, 1969 Yenko Camaro, 1973 Porsche 911 RS and a 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda. For fans of true classics, there’s a lavishly restored 1930 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Berline convertible, formerly part of the Harrah and Imperial Palace collections, as well as the notable collection of the late John O’Quinn. Value estimate for the Duesey runs from $1.5 million to $2 million.

After the rising tide of classic-car values shown during the recent Arizona auction week, Mecum can most likely look forward to a strong finale for its flagship Florida sale.

If you can’t make it to sunny Florida, you can catch the action during nearly 50 hours of broadcasts on NBC and the Esquire cable channel. Check the listings for times or see Mecum.com for more information and a complete auction catalogue.