The classic car auction season opens in January in Arizona, and then moves to another warm winter state, Florida, where major events are held at Kissimmee (Mecum), Amelia Island (RM and Gooding), Fort Lauderdale (RM) and Palm Beach (Barrett-Jackson) before, like those Arizona and Florida snow birds, the migration heads back north for the spring and summer months.
RM's "Collector Cars of Fort Lauderdale" event posted sales of $16 million with 79 percent of lots being sold. Cars from the collection of the late John O'Quinn accounted for some $7 million of that figure, including the highest price paid at the event -- $211,750 for a 1935 Auburn 851 SC convertible sedan.
Other high-sellers were a 1931 Cadillac Model 370-A V12 convertible coupe for $209,000; a 2008 Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, also for $209,000; a 1954 Buick Skylark convertible for $187,000; a 1935 Packard Twelve convertible sedan for $165,000, and a 1969 Ford Boss 429 Mustang for $151,250. The Packard and Mustang were O'Quinn estate cars.
RM announced it will offer another dozen O'Quinn cars at its annual Monaco auction, scheduled this year for May 1.
The top seller at Barrett-Jackson was the first 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Special Edition, which went for $297,000. Only 500 such cars, a tribute to 50 years of Corvette racing at Le Mans, will be produced.
Other high-dollar cars at Barrett-Jackson were a Platt & Payne Signature Edition 2005 Ford Mustang GT for $190,000; a 1965 Shelby Cobra custom roadster for $184,000; a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible for $165,000; a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air custom hardtop for $162,250 and a 2005 Ford GT for $161,700.
Ferrari auction benefits Haitian relief
The first Ferrari 458 Italia available in North America was among the items up for charity auction staged by the Italian automaker to benefit Haitian relief. The star-studded event, held in Los Angeles, raised $601,000 for the Catholic Medical Mission Board and the William J. Clinton Foundation. That first 458 Italia went for $530,000. Also auctioned were a Ferrari F1 racing suit and two trips to the Canadian Grand Prix.
Priced reduced on Nichels' Superbird
You may recall that last summer, the jet-chasing 1970 Plymouth Superbird (see photo) built by stock car racing legend Ray Nichels had been restored and was up for private auction with a starting bid of $3 million. Nichels Engineering built the car under contract with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which needed a high-speed vehicle equipped with on-board diagnostic equipment to chase down runways after commercial aircraft so pollution, noise, tire dust and other items could be tracked. The EPA used the car from March 1972 until October 1973. It eventually was sold at a government auction in 1979.
The current owner had the car restored by E-Muscle of Middlefield, Connecticut, a process that took three years.
Since declaring the car available for bids, it has appeared in magazines, newspapers and on automotive television shows, but no one has come up with the $3 million.
"The owner has had his fun with the car," said Brian Chaffee of E-Muscle, who added that the price of the one-of-a-kind vehicle has been significantly reduced.
If you're interested, visit www.everythingmuscle.com and click on "restorations."
Renault, Rambler should draw interest
Crossing the block at RM's Automobiles of Michigan event (April 24-25 at Novi, the town that gave its name to the famed Indy car engine) will be two cars of unusual interest. One is the very first 1983 Renault Alliance, which, believe it or not, won Motor Trend Car of the Year honors. The Alliance at Novi has a mere 22 original miles on its odometer.
The Alliance was so named because it was the product of the alliance of French automaker Renault and American Motors. Also being offered at the RM sale is the 1963 AMC Rambler coupe owned by George Romney, who was AMC chairman from 1954-62 and governor of Michigan from 1963-69.
Also of interest should be the auction April 17 at Grand Rapids, Michigan of 125 vehicles from the R-11 Auto Museum of Burr Oak, Michigan. According to Old Cars Weekly, the museum closed and its cars are being sold, among them a one-of-a-kind 1966 Cadillac station wagon and one of 452 1948 Lincoln convertibles.
Sire of Mustang dies
Don Frey, who was, basically, the father of the iconic Ford Mustang, died last month. He was 87.
While creating the Mustang may have been Frey's greatest accomplishment as an automotive engineer, is was just one highlight of a career that included pioneering work in home video entertainment as well as in cable communications and the creation of the CD-ROM.
Frey held a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from the University of Michigan. At Ford, he was chief engineer and assistant general manager and told Automotive News that, "A few of us… were sitting around one day in the early 1960s and thought it would be a good idea to produce a small, sporty car that would appeal to a mass market. We were a bunch of guys in our 30s and early 40s then."
Frey pitched the idea to Ford chairman Henry Ford II. "The company was just getting over the Edsel flop and really didn't want to gamble on another new model," Frey reported.
But the young engineers were undaunted and simply developed the car in secret, using funds they had buried in the vehicle development budget.
The fifth time they approached Ford for approval, he finally relented, Frey said, adding, however, "I'm going to approve your Mustang, and it's your ass if it doesn't work."
It did, though in 1968 Frey left Ford to become president and chief operating officer of General Cable. He later became CEO of Bell & Howell. He retired in 1988 and taught engineering and business innovation courses at Northwestern University.
Mark your calendar
9-10 – Mecum auction at Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City, Missouri
9-11 – Goodguys Del Mar Nationals, Del Mar, California
11-13 – Copperstate 1000 vintage rally, Arizona
16-17 – The Branson Auction at Branson, Missouri
17 – Specialty vehicle program (fire engines, ambulances and funeral cars) presentation, Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Auburn Hills, Michigan
23-25 -- VCRA Ruffneck Rally, Ponca City, Oklahoma
23-25 – Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, Lake Como, Italy
24-25 – RM auction at Novi, Michigan
1 – RM auction at Monaco
14-16 – Kruse Spring at Auburn, Indiana
15-16 – Goodguys Orange County Get-Together, Costa Mesa, California
16-21 – New England 1000, Stowe, Vermont
19-23 – Mecum auction at Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis
21-23 – Goodguys Nashville Nationals, Nashville, Tennessee
Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.