Even though his RM Auctions has grown to become the largest classic car auction company in the world, Rob Myers still claims his primary interest is the restoration business. Myers started restoring old cars in a single-car garage in Chatham, Ontario, in 1976. The shop and its inventory grew to the point that in 1991, Myers started staging auctions to sell his projects and other people's classic cars. Last year, RM Auctions did nearly $200 million in sales.
On July 1, Myers announced that he's undertaking yet another restoration project. RM Auctions has purchased the former Kruse Auction Grounds in northeast Indiana. Through a new Auctions America by RM subsidiary, the company will stage the annual Labor Day auction this fall and will develop a series of other "mainstream" classic car auctions in 2011.
RM purchased the real estate - some 235 acres -- from Dean Kruse and his Kruse International company, which recently lost its auction license. The deal involves real estate only; RM did not buy Kruse's auction business or its liabilities.
"I've been coming to the ACD (Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg) Festival and the Kruse auction since 1975 when it was held at DeKalb High School," Myers said at a press conference in the A-C-D Museum, former showroom and headquarters for the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automakers.
Myers explained that RM has been a "boutique" auction company, holding sales of 100-150 vehicles in exclusive settings and with those vehicles presented by glossy catalogs.
But, he added, consigners have asked him to expand RM's schedule.
"In the last five weeks, I've turned down several hundred cars," Myers said. "We didn't have a venue."
Now, he does.
Auburn, Indiana, has held a festival celebrating its automotive history since 1956. In 1971, the Kruse family, which had been in the real estate and auction business since soon after World War II, added a collector car auction to the festival's roster of events. Kruse International grew into what was the largest classic car auction company in the world, with as many as 3,000 cars selling at its annual Labor Day weekend event. In 1989, Kruse moved its event from the high school to its own auction park adjacent to Interstate 69.
Myers said his team hopes to have between 1000 and 1500 vehicles available for bidding at the Labor Day event, and in the spring of 2011 will revive the annual spring auction at the facility. Myers said his company plans to do extensive renovation work, including paving, painting and updated electronics.
While not acquiring any part of the Kruse auction company, Myers said Auctions America by RM will employ some former Kruse staffers and will be doing additional hiring. He said Auctions America by RM also will honor Kruse VIP cards at the Labor Day event, and will institute a five-day turnaround between receiving payments from buyers and making payments to consignors.
Donnie Gould, an RM partner and Florida-based car collector who started attending the Labor Day sale as a 14-year-old and who met his wife at the event (her father was a DeKalb High School teacher), is president of Auctions America by RM. RM's Michigan based car specialist Ken Wallace will move to Auburn as general manager.
Auburn will be RM's third U.S. office, joining offices in Ypsilanti, Michigan and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. RM also has an office in London, England, and headquarters in Blenheim, Ontario, Canada.
KRUSE SAYS HE'S PYAING CONSIGNORS
Speaking at the Auctions America by RM press conference, Dean Kruse said he still owes money to 62 car consignors.
"I carry the list with me," he said, adding that as he pays another person he crosses their name off his list.
"The State of Indiana gave me three years to pay consignors," Kruse added. "I want to pay them earlier than that."
BARRETT-JACKSON DOES $15 MILLION AT ORANGE COUNTY
The inaugural Barrett-Jackson auction at the Orange County Fair & Events Center drew some 58,000 people and reported sales of nearly 400 vehicles for more than $15 million and raised more than $1 million for charity.
Two of the top 10 priced vehicles were charity cars. The No. 2 sale -- $250,000 for a 1970 "Project American Heroes" Chevrolet Chevelle SS custom coupe -- benefiting the Armed Forces Foundation and the No. 10 sale -- $150,000 for a replica of Darrell Gwynn's 1990 Coors Extra Gold Top Fuel Dragster - benefitting the Darrell Gwynn Foundation that provides wheelchairs for children with disabilities.
Other top sales were a 1970 Chevelle SS 454 convertible for $253,000; a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner custom two-door hardtop for $187,000; a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible for $181,500 and a 1940 Willys custom two-door coupe for $181,500 each; a 1931 Packard 840 Roadster and a 1938 Packard Victoria convertible that formerly was owned by Barrett-Jackson co-founder Russ Jackson, each brought $175,500; a 1936 Ford custom five-window coupe for $165,000 and a customized 2004 Maybach 62 four-door sedan for $154,000.
MECUM DOES $4.5 MILLION AT BLOOMINGTON GOLD
Dana Mecum's annual all-Corvette auction in conjunction with the Bloomington Gold Corvette gathering resulted in sales of more than 300 Corvettes for $4.5 million. The top sales figure was $150,000 for a 1956 Corvette convertible. Also topping 100 grand were a 1960 convertible, a 1959 convertible and a 1958 convertible.
A Corvette also headlines Mecum's second annual Monterey auction August 13-14 with the famed and former Tony DeLorenzo L88 roadster crossing the block. Mecum says 400 vehicles of various marques will be offered at Monterey.
DON'T FORGET THOSE JULY 9 CLASSIC CAR SHOWS
Yet one more reminder that the U.S. Senate has declared Friday, July 9 as "Collector Car Appreciation Day" and there will be a variety of special local cruise-ins and shows across the country that will help celebrate the occasion.
Click here for ClassicCars.com event calendar.
Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.