Honestly, RM Auction in an Online Only Event
By Larry Edsall
If nothing else, this is going to be a very interesting experiment. Come this Sunday (at noon Eastern time), RM Classic Cars, the highly respected collector car auction house and classic vehicle restoration team from Blenheim, Ontario, is going to stage an online-only auction.
Usually, RM stages its auctions in rather glamorous locations, often in conjunction with a major concours d'elegance. The atmosphere is as much party as it is purchase as well-dressed bidders and their friends - and those who wish they could afford to bid - gather around gleaming vehicles, which are described in rich detail in a thick and glossy catalog.
But this RM auction is going to be different. The gathering will take place via the Internet. The vehicles will be viewed online. The catalog isn't slick and heavy, but it is amazing in what it has to say about the vehicles, and I wonder if this new form of classic car auction catalog might set a new standard for the business.
The catalog is available on RM's website (www.rmauctions.com), and I find it fascinating in its honesty.
If you call up the catalog, it has thumbnail photos of each of the cars. Click on a vehicle and you go to its page, which includes four photos and information about the vehicle, and that information is very different from what you find in the typical auction catalog.
Consider Lot 80, a 1958 Mercury Meteor Rideau, a version of the Mercury Monterey that was sold exclusively in Canada. The car's online catalog page displays the VIN, says it has a 332 cid engine, automatic transmission, that the odometer shows 76,134 miles, and estimates that it should sell in the $14,000 to $18,000 range in U.S. dollars.
It also says the car passed its mechanical safety inspection two years ago, was just recently refinished, including a new exhaust, and that it looks, sounds and runs "great,"
Haven't we all heard that one before?
But for this online auction, RM backs up that statement with what it calls a "condition report." Since bidders can't inspect these cars, RM had its own staff - a staff that does Pebble Beach-winning restoration work - do that inspection for you, with each vehicle's various components rated poor, fair, good or excellent, often with an added note of explanation.
Thus we're not only told that the Meteor's grille is in excellent condition, but that it has been rechromed; that the paint is "good," and was recently redone but nonetheless has "very slight surface texture;" that the headliner and sun visors appear to be new; that the front carpets are worn but the rears are "very nice;" and that the passenger-seat backrest cloth is beginning to shred and the vinyl is torn on the driver's-side backrest.
As if such descriptions aren't fair enough, you can click on the "More Images" button and scroll through 51 photographs that show the car from all angles – including underneath – and that show both the "excellent" rated dash and steering wheel and that rip in the driver's-seat backrest.
And that's not all: Should you actually bid on this vehicle and emerge as its new owner, there's a button you can click to find out what it will cost to have the vehicle shipped to your driveway.
Whether such online-only classic car auctions continue, let's hope this new type of condition report gains traction when it comes to collector car ownership transactions.
Back in the non-virtual world
While RM goes virtual this coming weekend (and again a week from now at Monterey), last weekend it staged its annual and traditional real-world collector car auction in conjunction with the Meadow Brook concours d'elegance outside Detroit.
Though the theme for the weekend was the "Best of Detroit," the car that sold for the most money wasn't from Detroit, but instead was built in Indiana – a 1935 Auburn 851SC boattail speedster, the ninth such car built, and in this case built for display at the Chicago auto show. The car sold for $462,000.
A 1933 Chrysler CL Imperial sport phaeton, one of only 36 built, did uphold Detroit's pride, selling for $319,000.
Other top sales included $253,00 for a 1936 Packard Twelve convertible, $225,000 for a 1931 Chrysler Imperial dual cowl phaeton, and $220,000 for a 1950 Mercer Model 22-70 Raceabout.
Overall, nearly 80 percent of the more than 100 lots sold for a total of $5.44 million.
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Click here for the RM Online Auction