Four Speeds and Drum Brakes: The Big Show

In spite of a very mild winter so far the warm breezes of the Arizona desert called my name again last month. That and the sound of the auctioneer yelling “SOLD, SOLD, SOLD”. Of the auctions held in Scottsdale every year the largest is Barrett Jackson. Mostly Hot Rods and vintage American iron, this year had a few cars that seemed out of place. The first Big Dog was a steel bodied Mercedes 300SL Gullwing . It was silver with tan and fully restored, included fitted, matching luggage. In the Porsche world we just hope the engine and transmission are matching, in Mercedes Benz circles the luggage counts too. The total rang up to $3.41 million, far exceeding the market value of less than $2 million.

There were a couple of notable P cars, a 2015 918 Spyder in Acid Green and a 2005 Carrera GT Fayence Yellow (?), both with very low mileage (1500 miles and 2535 miles respectively).  My guess is that they are scary to drive.              

The Carrera GT brought $1.87 million and the 918 $1.78 million. In Mass, the sales tax alone on these two could start a new school lunch program. Both were easily 30% higher that expected. Even average P cars brought good bids. A ’55 Speedster (driver), white with black interior brought $255k. The owner said he had the car for 20 years but didn’t know the five digit vin when asked. That is the one thing that long term owners always know by heart. Seemed strange.  A 1970 911T, the only other vintage model we saw brought $155k, strong money but not off the chart. 

After that the numbers really started to get silly. A Restomod ’63 Corvette split window coupe had been done over with a new chassis, new drive train, new brakes and new everything. It reminded me of George Washington’s axe. You know, the one in the museum that he had used to chop down the cherry tree. The metal head had been replaced due to rust years ago and the wood handle was new because of termites but it was the original axe that he used. The display sign said so. The sign on the Corvette had a similar statement. Doing all that work and parts replacement could easily run up the bill to low six figures but the gavel fell at $1.1 million.

If there is a Chevy C10 pickup Club out there somewhere and I’m sure there is, they’re all drinking Champagne this month. There were a bunch at the auction, most with lots of horsepower and air bag suspensions. Four of them brought over $200k each with a blue one at $258k.  These are pickups built between 1967 and 1972 most are driven to the dump with the dog up front. You can buy them off Craigs List all day for $20k and that would be a nice one.  Throw in a big engine, some paint and even if you overpaid you wouldn’t drop another $60k. I just don’t know how the bids get to the present level.  My guess is that buyers just don’t want to go through the restoration process and they have the money to avoid it. It takes a few years to really restore or build a restomod and from the looks of it most of these bidders don’t have that kind of time left. They would just rather write a check for a car that was all done and drive off into the sunset. At a very high rate of speed.

The vendor area did not disappoint as all manner of products were offered. Those huge displays must work because every year the exhibits get bigger. What started out as just car parts, garage lifts and vibrating loungers now include  everything from signatures of  Presidents (both dead and alive) and famous baseball players(mostly dead) to a life size brass moose (free shipping) and bucking broncos.

Even boats have started to drift in. How about a 700hp pontoon boat for you and 25 of your best friends? That’s enough power to also tow a couple of skiers at the same time.

We did get into the car buying spirit of things and grabbed a BMW 330 off Craigs List for one of the grandsons. He had just flipped a Mercedes CLA 250 that was my ride for a couple of days so I needed something interesting to get around in. It was high mileage but solid and cheap ($2500) and with the headlight covers replaced and a good cleanup it looked like  $6k ride. We’ll see what the latest used car dealer in that family can do.

Arizona weather didn’t disappoint and sunny with 75 degrees was easy to take. There still isn’t anything like the change of seasons in New England so it was back to the big blue jet and off to Boston. I hear that Spring is coming.

-Tom Tate, KTF