If the auctions in the Phoenix area in January turn the ignition key on the annual classic car calendar, then the season shifts into high gear in March when the Goodguys launch their schedule the same weekend that the first major concours d'elegance of the year is held on Florida's Amelia Island.
A couple thousand hot rods and custom cars, their owners and admirers gathered at the WestWorld complex March 13-15 in Scottsdale, Arizona for the inaugural Goodguys Rod & Custom Association Spring Nationals.
We saw license plates from as far away as Washington and Illinois and heard car owners share heartwarming stories about their vehicles and their histories and restorations and modifications.
Two quick examples:
Rick Nantais used to run a car dealership in Sudbury, Ontario, a town something like 300 miles north of Toronto. Nantais remembers days when the thermometer read 50 degrees below zero. He moved to Arizona 25 years ago and had a shop called the Dream Field Toy Factory. His factory's latest creation is a hot rod based on a 1929 Mercury - a hot rod that Rick finished just the day before the Spring Nationals.
For the 1954 model year, Kaiser built 435 fiberglass-bodied, pocked-door Darrin sports cars. Brothers Lee and Gary Abrahams of Tucson, Arizona have owned two of those 435 Darrins. They bought the second one in 1965 and let there sister drive it back and forth to San Diego, where she went to college. They thought about doing a restoration, but both had young families and put the car in storage rather then spending their money and time. Families grown, then spent seven years returning the Darrin to box-stock appearance, though open the hood and there's a 502-cubic-inch Chevrolet Ram Jet V8. The Abrahams' first Darrin was one Lee bought when he was 15 years ago. He also modified that one, inserting a fuel-injected big-block V8 for drag racing. He sold that car 30 years ago, but has found it in Florida, brought it back to Arizona and hopes to have it restored to racing spec in time for the 2011 Kaiser Fraser Owners Club convention.
As part of the Darrin's restoration process, the Abrahams needed a new rubber grommet around the gas filler pipe. Unable to find new ones, Lee Abrahams contacted more than a dozen rubber parts manufacturers. Two that responded wanted to know how many thousand he wanted.
"I was thinking 10," he said, adding that was 10 units, not 10 thousand.
One company finally agreed to produce a couple hundred, which Abrahams now sells to others restoring their own Darrins.
Amelia Island results
Among concours d'elegance, Amelia Island has carved its niche in part by honoring race cars and drivers. There are even two top awards - best in show and best in show de sport. This year, best in show honors went to a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K special roadster while de sport accord went to a 1960 Maserati Tipo 61, the car Stirling Moss drove to victory in the 1960 Cuba Grand Prix.
Cars that raced in that Cuban event comprised a special category at the 15th Amelia Island concours, and Moss was to have been one of three racing veterans honored on the eve of the concours. However, Moss is recuperating from a fall down an elevator shaft so Carroll Shelby joined Richard Petty and Don Garlits on the legends of racing panel.
At the RM auction held in conjunction with the concours, four cars sold for $1 million or more, led by a 1930 Duesenberg Model J Sport Berline by Murphy that went for $1.705 million. The Duesie known as the Whittell Mistress Car was one of several cars offered from the collection of the late John O'Quinn.
The other million-dollar cars at RM were Ferraris. A 1967 Ferrari 257 GTB/4 Berlinetta brought $1.65 million, a 1967 alloy-bodied Four-Cam sold for the first time in 30 years went for $1.265 million, and a 1971 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spyder formerly owned by Edsel B. Ford brought 1.0175 million.
Overall, RM's 12th annual Automobiles of Amelia Island event posted an 88-percent sell-through that counted more than $19 million in total sales.
New on the island this year was a Gooding & Co. event that did $16.1 million in sales involving 81 percent of lots offered. The top-seller was a 1931 Voisin Mylord Demi-Berline that won best of show honors in the Amelia Island concours a year ago. The car sold for $2.75 million.
Also exceeding the million-dollar mark were a 1961 Porsche RS61 that brought $1.705 million and a 1932 Bugatti Type 50 Drop Head Coupe that went for $1.1 million.
Changes at Meadow Brook
The Meadow Brook concours d'elegance was founded in 1977 at Detroit's own classic car show and has grown to become the top such event in the Midwest. Now, however, it appears the event has even larger ambitions as it announces a major change for 2010: Henceforth, the official name is the Concours d'Elegance of America at Meadow Brook.
The event also has hired former publishing executive James McCarter as its new executive director.
Special classes for the event July 25 include celebrity owned cars of the "classic" era, space age sport coupes from the 1950s and ‘60s, speedsters and sport roadsters, cars that made Detroit great, winners of the Riddler Award presented at Detroit's annual Autorama hot rod show, and factory experimental drag cars of the 1960s.
Mark your calendars
15-19 - Classic Motorsports Orange Blossom tour, Florida
21-June 20 - The Allure of the Automobile, High Museum of Art, Atlanta
26-27 - Kruse/Leake auction at San Antonio, Texas
26-28 - RM auction at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
26-28 - Legends of Riverside honors Carroll Shelby, Riverside, California
27-28 - Goodguys All American Get-Together, Pleasanton, California
1-3 - Barrett-Jackson at Palm Beach, Florida
3 - Kruse at Chicago (Schaumburg, Illinois)
4-7 - 20th annual Copperstate 1000 vintage rally, Arizona
9-10 - Mecum auction at Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City, Missouri
9-11 - Goodguys Del Mar Nationals, Del Mar, California
23-25 -- VCRA Ruffneck Rally, Ponca City, Oklahoma
24-25 - RM auction at Novi, Michigan
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