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Resource Guide
Auction Central
By Larry Edsall
Back to Community

Recession? What recession?
By Larry Edsall
1963 Corvette Z06

"We're declining to participate in this recession," Dana Mecum said after his company's Kissimmee, Florida, auction late last month generated sales of $16.5 million, $1.3 million more than the same event the previous year.

Mecum suggested that the collector car market isn't experiencing recession, merely stabilizing where it was in 2004-2005, before the feeding frenzy.

Mecum's auction included some 750 vehicles, with 58 percent selling, led by Gulf One, a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 racer that sold for $1.05 million (hammer price, excluding commission. Known as Gulf One because of the number it wore for racing, the car recently was restored to its appearance in the 1963 12-hour race at Sebring, where it wore unique rear fender flares, mandated just before the race to cover its extra-wide Firestone tires.

Gulf One was one of the first two Z06s delivered from Yenko Chevrolet to the Gulf Oil team, which actually picked up the car at the Corvette plant in St. Louis and drove it to Gulf headquarters in Pittsburgh, where the car was prepped for the Puerto Rico Grand Prix, where Dr. Dick Thompson, the racing dentist, posted a GT-class victory in the car's debut.

After another class victory at Marlboro, Maryland, Thompson finished a stunning third overall at Daytona (then a 3-hour race), trailing only a pair of powerful Ferrari 250 GTOs while finishing a lap ahead of the leading Shelby Cobra.

At Sebring, Thompson completed only 14 laps before transmission problems sidelined Gulf One. From Sebring, Thompson drove the car to victories at various venues, including Marlboro, Dansville and Road America.

Mecum's next event is March 20-21 in Kansas City.

The "love affair" continues
In his monthly newsletter, Terry Michaelis of ProTeam Corvettes writes:

"The love affair is still hot as car collectors spent over $170 million in January 2009 on collector cars at ten public collector car auctions [in Arizona]. This all goes against the grain when you listen to the news about the US economy but at least owning a collector car rewards the owner with something tangible that other investments lack. The media pundit's "doom and gloom" forecast was over shadowed by the car collector's passion and enthusiasm which shows our hobby's resiliency and in many cases an opportunity, where as, one may have the chance to buy a rare car today that may not ever present itself to the market again, at least not in the short term."

Bugattis bring $7.7 million at Bonhams Retromobile event
A pair of Bugattis accounted for more than half of the $13 million generated at Bonhams' auction at Retromobile in Paris.

British auction house Bonhams opened its classic car auction schedule February 7 at Europe's biggest collector car gathering, where a "barn-find" 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante sold for $4.45 million and the 1913 Bugatti Type 18 "Black Beauty) brought $3.22 million.

The Atalante originally was owned by Earl Howe, first president of the British Racing Driver's Club and a close friend of Ettore and Jean Bugatti, and its survival, with only 26,284 kilometers on its odometer, was known only to a "handful" of people.

Meanwhile, the Retromobile event was the first time the "Black Bess" Bugatti had been offered at an auction. The nearly 100-year-old car is one of only three surviving examples of the seven Type 18s built. The car was originally delivered to French aviation pioneer Roland Garros. After Garros was shot down in World War I, Ettore Bugatti named his last child Roland in Garros' honor. The car was nicknamed "Black Bess" by its third owner, Ivy Cummings, who raced the car from 1919-1924. The nickname came from a race horse of the same name.

Third-highest sale at the Retromobile event was a 1973 Citroen DS23 convertible that sold for $439,000. Not selling though offered at the auction were the 1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy convertible that had won best-in-show at Pebble Beach and short-wheelbase 1961 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta.

Bonhams sets inaugural LeMay Museum auction
Bonhams' American outlet, Bonhams & Butterfields, has been chosen to stage the first Pacific Northwest collector car auction in conjunction with the Kirkland (Washington) Concours d'Elegance and the LeMay – America's Car Museum. The event takes place September 11-12 and will be a "no-reserve" auction featuring vehicles from the LeMay Collection, believed to be the world's largest with some 2000 vehicles.

As with any major collector, the collection is culled from time to time.

The collection will be the basis of the new $100-million, 1000-vehicle museum complex scheduled to open in 2010 in Tacoma, Washington.

RM at Fort Lauderdale hits $11.5 million
The RM auction at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 7-8 had sales totaling $11.5 million with 66 percent of the lots selling, led by a 1936 Packard Twelve coupe roadster that went for $220,000. A 1948 Ford Sportsman convertible coupe brought $199,100 and the 1966 Ford Mustang convertibles formerly owned by Sonny & Cher and sold as a set went for $198,000.

Among lots bid but not sold were a 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 that was bid to $610,000 and a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" coupe that got to $510,000.

Up next:
February 13-14: Kruse in Hawaii
February 27-28: Kruse at Tucson
March 6-7: Kruse at San Diego
March 14: RM at Amelia Island, Florida
March 20-21: Kruse at Las Vegas, Mecum at Kansas City
April 3-5: RM at Toronto
April 9-11: Barrett-Jackson at Palm Beach
April 25-26: RM at Novi, Michigan


Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.

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