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Resource Guide
Auction Central
By Larry Edsall
Back to Community

Petersen cars among those sold at Auctions America's Burbank sale
By Larry Edsall

Cunningham $5,775 for a very stock-looking 1976 AMC Pacer. $6,325 for a 1995 Hyundai Elantra that once-upon-a-time raced up Pikes Peak. $57,750 for the 1967 Boothill Express, a hot-rodder's vision for someone's last ride -- and rites. $77,000 for a big beverage can on wheels, the 1970 I-coulda-had-a-V-8 vehicle commissioned by Campbell soup and built by George Barris. And $407,000 for a 1952 Cunningham C-3 coupe (see photo) and the parts needed for its eventual restoration.

Those reportedly were among some of the 64 or so vehicles pulled out of storage at the Petersen Automotive Museum and sold at Auction America's California auction in Burbank.

The Cunningham coupe was among the top-5 sales at the auction, where 313 of the 389 cars were sold, along with 13 motorcycles and a bunch of memorabilia, all totaling $17.27 million.

Why would a museum sell a rare Cunningham? Most likely because of how much money and time would be required to restore it into any sort of showpiece condition. Besides, that $407,000 represents a nice chunk of the money the museum needs to proceed with its plans to update and modernize its displays. Details of those plans are promised during car week this month at Monterey. (For background, see our earlier article at

The top-dollar sale at the auction was $825,000 for a 1964 Shelby Cobra, one of the few that left Shelby America with an automatic transmission. A 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster formerly owned by actor Robert Stack (see photo) brought $808,500, a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona went for $401,250 and a 1974 Ferrari 246 Dino GTS sold for $291,500.

Overall, 313 of 389 cars sold -- for a combined $16.8 million -- as did 12 of 13 motorcycles.

Auctions America "This auction proves that with the right vehicles and the right team, Southern California can host a lucrative and successful collector car auction," said Auctions America executive Ian Kelleher. "The location in Burbank was central to most Los Angeles residents and the fact that we were just a few blocks fro several major movie studios while cars with serious Hollywood history rolled over the block helped, but many of the top cars sold were simply outstanding cars that were highly sought-after."

Speaking of Hollywood, a 1946 Indian Chief motorcycle formerly owned by Steve McQueen sold for $143,750 and three cars built for the 2000 "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" movie each went for around $35,000.

And if you're still fretting about the Petersen selling some of its cars, calm down. For one thing, it's supposed to be a museum, not a storage facility. For another, I had a long conversation last week with a long-time classic car collector, auctioneer and museum director who has brokered a bunch of such sales -- and many purchases as well -- for various museums, including some of the most respected institutions in the country. He said car museums often sell cars and buy others, but they try to do it quietly so as not to have an undo impact on transaction prices.

Enjoy your classics Enjoy your classics while you can

I also chatted recently with Jim Hery, owner of Chalfant Motor Car Company, a classic car restoration business in Belfast, Tennessee. It was at the Concours d'Elegance of America that I was admiring the big aqua blue 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I that Hery was polishing (see photo).

I asked if he was the car's owner. He wasn't, he said. But he had recently completed the car's restoration, and he told me the owner's story.

The car was shown at the concours by Helga Knox, who's husband, George Knox Jr., died just a few months earlier.

Hery said George Knox Jr. had been in the equipment rental business. According to Knox's obituary, his passions included classic cars -- he was an original member of the Antique Car Club of Chester County -- flying his Piper Cherokee (he also once flew a hot air balloon over the Alps), wildlife and domestic animal protection, and volunteering for missionary trips and doing equipment repair in several central African countries.

Hery said that Knox had collected 50 classic cars and planned to restore them after he retired. Sadly, he added, the devastation of Alzheimer's disease meant that when it was time for those cars to be restored, Knox didn't even know they were his.

Mustang brings $398,000 for young fliers

You know Spanky Assiter as the chief auctioneer at Barrett-Jackson, where he's used to charity cars going for lots of money. But he called the recent auction of a new Ford Mustang for $398,000 "really something to see."

Assiter was handling the auction of a special Mustang built by Ford and sold at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture Show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The car was painted to match the red-white-and-blue F-16 Falcons flown by the U.S. Air Ford Thunderbirds. Even it's belly pan was painted to match the jets.

"Ford builds a car every year to be sold at auction to benefit the EAA AirVentures Young Eagles organization, which encourages interest in aviation among young people and has provided free introductory flights to more than 1.7 million youth since 1992," said Assiter. "The Thunderbirds theme had special meaning this year because it commemorates the flight team's 60(th) anniversary."

The Mustang, which wore serial number 0001, was just part of an auction that raised $1.129 million for the Young Eagles.

As for Assiter, he left that auction to handle the sale of two ranches and then was on his way to Reno/Tahoe for Barrett-Jackson's inaugural Hot August Nights auction, where the last 2014 Shelby GT500 convertible will be sold to benefit the Brain Injury Association of America, an organization championed by famed auto racer Parnelli Jones, who will be on the block for the car's bidding.

Blackhawk begins its 25th anniversary celebration

Barrett-Jackson's Hot August Nights auction isn't the only classic car event serving as a prelude to the big gathering in the middle of the month on the Monterey Peninsula. This Saturday, the Blackhawk Automobile Museum launches its 25th anniversary year with a gala that will feature actor/car guy Ed Herrmann and signer Franc D'Ambrosio, the longest-running performer in the "Phantom of the Opera" (he also played the role of Al Pacino's son in the film "Godfather III."

After the Monterey week, on August 22 the Blackhawk hosts some 120 cars and their owners participating in the driving tour that is part of the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association's annual West Coast Nationals.

Click here for event calendar.


Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.

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