I've been to a lot of car museums, but not Bruce Weiner's Microcar Museum, and now I've missed my chance, because the museum's collection is being sold off at what should be a spectacular RM Auction February 15-16.
Weiner, who was born in Ohio, raised in Florida, educated at Tulane in New Orleans and has his museum at Madison, Georgia, has been collecting things since he was a kid, most recently assembling the world's largest collection of microcars. More than 200 of them.
But now he's ready to move on to another group of vehicles so he'll selling his microcars and the affiliated memorabilia.
Microcars are basically a European phenomenon, using motor scooter and motor cycles engines to propel small three- or four-wheeled vehicles.
You not only need to be able to fold yourself like origami to fit into a microcar, but you probably should have a good sense of humor as well. That spirit extends even to the auction catalog, which isn't RM's usual format but is hardbound in a book 5 inches tall and wide and 2 inches thick.
Within those 2 inches are 828 informative and entertaining pages, and I've gone through each of them just as lustily as I would the catalog for any other major auction.
And I have some favorites -- the 1961 Isetta 300 pickup truck, the 1958 Zundapp Janus, the 1959 Frisky Family Three, the 1957 Voisin Biscooter C31, the 1959 Scootacar Mk I, the 1960 Berkeley T60, and the 1954 Mi-Val Tipo MO Mivarlino that looks like a pale green frog.
Pre-auction estimates are typically in the 20K to mid-40K range, with only a few expected to reach six figures in the bidding.
Small scale, big dreams
Even smaller than Weiner's microcars are the 1/12-scale model cars built until 1968 by teenagers entering the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild competition sponsored by General Motors (see photos). Several of those teens -- now well into their 60s and beyond -- brought their models to a reunion held in Phoenix in conjunction with Arizona Auction Week.
The models were spectacular and the stories were heart warming, often about how the scholarship money -- as much as $5,000 -- made it possible for someone to go to college. Several of the winners went on to careers as car designers.
Between 1930 and the end of the program in 1968, some 8 million teenagers participated in the guild program, typically investing 700-800 hours on each model, which was designed and built from scratch using wood, plaster and metal.
The $618,200 difference and other AZ auction notes
What's the difference between a real car and a reproduction tribute? In the case of the 1947 Cisitalia 202 Spider Nuvolari, at the Arizona auctions the difference was $618,200.
Cisitalia went into production after World War II with coupes and sports cars so stunning one became part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
And Cisitalias were much more than just another pretty, flirty Italian. In the 1947 Mille Miglia, and though he was aging and ill and in an underpowered car, Tazio Nuvolari drove a Cisitalia roadster to an impressive and now legendary second-place finish, earning his car and the 27 or so others like it to be dubbed Spider Nuvolari.
One of those Spider Nuvolari roadsters with its wing-style rear fenders was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale. It sold for $650,000.
Meanwhile, across town, a nicely crafted reproduction of a Spider Nuvolari crossed the block at Russo and Steele. It's sales price -- $41,800.
* The Hagerty Price Guide tracks sales of the Toyota 2000GT, early Celicas and Supras, but what caught the insurance company observers' eyes during Arizona Auction Week was the Land Cruiser FJ40, 13 of which were offered at Barrett-Jackson, Gooding, RM and Russo and Steele. A dozen of them sold, for prices averaging $42,000 with a high-sale of 88 grand.
* A lot of attention is paid to the most expensive sales at the auctions, but have you ever wondered how inexpensively you might buy a vehicle at such sales? Well, according to Hagerty's observers, the least expensive winning bid at the Arizona auctions was $1,350, which bought a 1994 BMW 530i at Silver.
427 Cobra tops $71-plus million Mecum sale at Kissimmee
Mecum opened its 2013 classic car auction year with a 10-day sale at Kissimmee, Florida, where 2,610 vehicles crossed the block and 1,811 of them sold for more than $71.6 million, though Mecum expects after-auction sales to boost that figure to $75 million.
"Mecum has gone where no auction company has ever gone before by hosting the first true collector car marathon, and we did it successfully," said Dana Mecum. "Kissimmee broke last year’s record by more than 25 percent offering 2,610 cars on our march to 3,000, and we look forward to reaching our goal of breaking the 3,000 car barrier next year in the sunny state of Florida."
The high-dollar sale of the event was a 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra that went for $735,000. A 1969 Boss 429 Ford Mustang brought $417,000, a 1966 Mustang prepped for SCCA racing went for $400,000, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda with only 12,000 miles on its odometer sold for $320,000, a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 got $310,000 and a 1963 Corvette coupe brought $275,000.
Dana Mecum also announced at Kissimmee that his company will continue to sponsor the Panther DRR racing team’s No. 22 entry in the Indianapolis 500 for two more years. Panther is owned by former Indy car driver Robbie Buhl and Indy auto dealer Dennis Reinbold, whose grandfather, "Pop" Dreyer, was an Indy car builder in the 1930s, '40s and '50s.
Bikes bring bucks at Las Vegas
Bonhams reports that its third annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction did more than $2.6 million is sales, led by a 1939 BMW Rennsport 255 Kompressor that sold for $480,000. A 1954 BMW Rennsports 54 with sidecar went for $167,800. A 1952 Vincent Black Shadow brought $134,800.
The Black Shadow is going into a collection in the Middle East, but the 1920 Mars Type A20 that used to be in the Otis Chandler collection and sold for $86,250 at the Bonhams sale will be going to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Alabama.
Quite fittingly, a sculptor in the design department at Harley-Davidson bought the 1920 Harley Pea Shooter what won the Australian speedway championship bike that had been hidden away in a barn for the last 75 years.
At the other end of the Vegas Strip, MidAmerica held its annual motorcycle auction. Hemmings reports that the 71 MV Agusta motorcycles offered last year at a Mecum event as a single lot -- no sale despite an $800,000 bid -- were sold separately at MidAmerica and those that sold brought nearly $850,000. Those that didn't meet reserve likely will be offered again at other sales, Hemmings reported.
Orange County celebrates centennials and more
Speaking of bikes, motorcycles will be included in the inaugural Orange County Collector Car & Motorcycle Weekend, June 21-23 in conjunction with the Dana Point concours d'elegance. The weekend will include an exclusive and first-time guided tour of Camp Pendleton.
Featured at the concours will be the centennials of Duesenberg and Aston Martin, the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, the 25th anniversary of the BMW M3 and a special display of concept cars.
Remembering a hometown hero
"On the Road to Glory: Fred Lorenzen" is a special exhibit at the Elmhurst (Illinois) Historical Museum near Chicago that runs through May 19. Lorenzen, who is ailing, won the 1965 Daytona 500 and became the sport's first "Northern" star.
"When we research subjects for our history exhibits, we look at a lot of factors," said the museum's curator of exhibits Lance Tawzer. "But most of all, we look for a compelling story that hasn't necessarily been told. Fred Lorenzen's life is that kind of story: it has grit, heart and glamour, and it tells how a regular guy from the neighborhood made it to the pinnacle of his sport through hard work and determination. The more we found out about Fred's life and career, the more we knew this was an important story for us to bring to the public."
The Lorenzen family, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame near Detroit all have loaned artifacts for the exhibition, including trophies, photographs, movies, Lorenzen's helmet and more. A duplicate of the 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Lorenzen drove for Holman-Moody will be at the Museum February 1-3 from 1-5 p.m.
Other special events, including presentations on the business of stock car racing, and a discussion of NASCAR: From Beaches to Billions, are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. See www.elmhursthistory.org for details.
Click here for event calendar.
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