Back in the late 1980s, Dana Mecum ran a used car dealership that specialized in Corvettes, Camaros and Chevelles. But he'd taken in trade nearly two dozen more traditional classic cars and he wanted to move those cars, and others, so he decided to stage an auction.
To have enough room for the 250 or so cars to be auctioned, Mecum rented pavement at the nearby Rockford, Illinois, airport. The day of the auction arrived, but so did a tornado.
To recoup his losses, Mecum staged another auction a year later, and then a third and now... "While I had no intention of even holding a second auction 25 years ago, this auction has taken on a life of its own," Mecum said after his 25th Mecums' Original Spring Classic auction, held for the past several years at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.
"I'm very pleased and proud that we've touched so many people for so long. The Spring Classic is the flagship event for our company, and it never ceases to amaze me just how large the auction has become."
How large? Well, this year the more than 2100 vehicles offered at the auction filled several huge pavilion-style buildings at the fairgrounds, as well as several gigantic tents, and even spilled over into surrounding parking lots.
Nearly 70 percent of those vehicle were claimed by new owners, who spent $52.6 million.
The high sales figure was $600,000 for a 1968 L88 Corvette convertible that is believed to be one of only 13 remaining. A Yenko-tweaked 1969 Chevrolet Nova went for $475,000. The first 1969 Camaro ZL1 brought $400,000. The 1933 Lincoln KB Phaeton that won its class at the Meadow Brook concours in 2010 went for $375,000. Six other vehicles also sold for a quarter-million or more.
On display at Indy were Gary Kohs' collection of 71 MV Agusta motorcycles, which will be offered as a single lot at Mecum's Monterey auction in August. Also on display at Indy in anticipation of bidding at Monterey were the turbine-powered Lotus driven in the 1968 Indianapolis 500 by Graham Hill (the car is part of the Richard Petty Collection), and the Porsche 917/10 that Mark Donohue sorted out and George Follmer drove to the 1968 Can-Am series championship for car owner Roger Penske.
Up next for Mecum is the sale, with no reserve, on the 140 vehicle Salmon Brothers Collection of muscle cars and classics, June at North Little Rock, Arkansas. The Salmon Brothers Collection spans a century of vehicles -- from a 1908 Maxwell to a 2008 Rough Mustang.
Auctions America springs ahead to fall preview
Classic car auction action this week moves just up the road from Indy to Auburn, where Auctions America by RM stages its annual Auburn Spring event at the Auburn Auction Park.
Even before the June 1-3 event this week, Auctions America is promoting its big Labor Day weekend sale in Auburn, where the docket will include a 1931 Ford Model A specially modified to pull a 20-foot camper trailer (see photo) built for J.M. Keely, a marine products sales rep who touring the country selling wares that included Rain-Beau fishing lines and Sea Horse tackle. Vintage fishing gear including several outboard motors are included with the trailer.
Leake celebrates 40 years at Tulsa
Dana Mecum may have been staging classic car auctions for a quarter of a century, but his company is just a pup compared to the Leake Auction Company, which stages its 40th annual Tulsa auction June 8-10.
Featured this year will be nearly a dozen Shelby Mustangs.
"Like everyone in the automotive industry, we were saddened by the death of Mr. Shelby," said Leake president Richard Sevenoaks. "Carroll Shelby transcends generations and his name is synonymous with muscle cars. There is not a guy out there who does not lust after a Shelby."
Leake held its first auction in 1964 when Jim Leake ran out of storage room and had to sell off part of his car collection. He staged his second auction in 1972 and his company has been holding auctions on a regular basis ever since.
RM selling Dingman's cars, signs
When I worked for AutoWeek magazine, I knew Michael Dingman as a race car driver and Ford Motor Company board member. But I didn't know about his collection of cars and auto and petrol signs. I do now, because the big catalogs arrived from RM, which will sell The Dingman Collection June 9-10 at Hampton, New Hampshire.
The cars are impressive, especially if you're into 1930s and ‘40s Fords (especially Woodies) and Lincolns, but the signs are simply overwhelming -- in neon (see photo), metal and porcelain. There are so many signs they fill 246 pages of their own catalog!
Viva Elvis, and the Packard Proving Grounds
Upcoming car shows to note (and attend if you're in the area):
-The third annual Elvis Presley car show June 1-2 should include several hundred classic vehicles on the grounds of his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.
-From June 8-10, the Hershey Hill Climb and The Elegance at Hershey (Pennsylvania) celebrates both classic French design and automotive athleticism with a sprint up the The Grand Ascent for some 50 pre-1962 vintage race cars.
-"When Life's a Drag is Good" is the theme of the annual Cars'R'Stars show June 10 at the historic Packard Proving Grounds north of Detroit in Shelby Township.
"Our plan is to display these historic racers in the remaining Proving Grounds race track, giving the display an exciting and authentic appeal," said Don Sommer, Cars‘R'Stars board member and founder of the Meadow Brook concours d'elegance. Board Member. Sommer was founder of the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance.
In addition to several significant historic drag racing machines, the proving grounds will host all sorts of classic cars, motorcycles, commercial and military vehicles.
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LeMay museum grand opening this weekend
The grand opening of the LeMay -- America's Car Museum -- is June 2 at Tacoma, Washington. Based on the 3500-car collection of the late Harold LeMay, the museum includes nine acres of display space indoors and out to showcase the automobile and the automotive lifestyle.
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