"Auctions Versus Reality: A Primer"

Speed Demon USA May 2004
By: Patrick Smith

Those of you who watched the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale extravaganza must wonder when prices went skyrocketing on cars. Looking around your neighborhood, youíll see examples of #3 and maybe even #2 condition cars but you wonít see the kind of asking prices observed at BJ. Itís a phenomenon created when rare desirable cars are exposed to over 3,000 buyers worldwide, with cable TV coverage there to record their every move for posterity to boot. Somehow a two-column black and white ďpower adĒ in the local Auto Trader doesnít quite compare does it?
Oh well, Andy Warhol said everyone can be a star for fifteen minutes. I guess this applies to automobiles and their prospective buyers. A serious question posed by the BJ hype is, if that í70 Chevelle SS 454 got $90,000, is my exact car worth that much? Letís take a look at two different auctions to get an answer, once removed from the spotlight and strong concentration of buyers. Letís see how RM Toronto Spring 2004 Classics fared.
This isnít a comparison. That would be pitting David against a Goliath and in the real world, Goliath has the upper hand. RM ran their own auction at the Arizona Biltmore the same month and did great business. The Toronto venue is held twice a year at the International Centre in Mississauga. This time they had 359 vehicles for sale and they had sold about 202 of them at press time. This approximates a 57% sales rate. Compared with other companies such as Kruse, Silver, Mecham and others, RMís is decent.
The selection ranged from European exotics to muscle cars. Looking for muscle we noticed the following cars: pair of 1967 440 Dodge Chargers $17,013 and $15,943, 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger $17,548, 1970 Dart Swinger $13,910, 1974 Swinger no sale at $15,500 and another í74 Swinger reached high bid of $5,600 but didnít sell. 1970 was the last year for factory 340 equipped Swingers with the documented exception of dealer special ordered Crosstown and Crestview cars. The Chargers were reasonably priced considering the big block power.
First generation Thunderbirds values went up. A 1955 was high bid to $49,000 and the owner said no sale, a 1956 sold for $39,858 and a Ď57 sold for $38,320. Another Ď57 T bird sold for $77,000 indicating a loaded car typical of the 1957model. The Ď57 T bird not only had more option choices greatly affecting market price, it is more desirable than a 1955 which came with 6 volt electrics and a uniform level of trim. A little over a year ago, the average price was $30,000 to $32,000 for the Ď55 T bird.
There were 19 Mustangs at RM Toronto and 14 of them sold. A 1969 Mach 1 grabbed $20,865, a 1970 Shelby GT 500 sold for $97,370, 1967 Shelby GT 500 high bid to $31,000 but no sale, 1966 coupe sold $12,038, 1967 Mustang sold $24,075, 1970 Boss 302 no sale high bid $49,000, 1966 GT sold $16,318. Certainly higher prices than you see in the classifieds, but not a single Ď64-68 model sold for more than $24,500.
We had a 1970 AAR Ďcuda high bid to $47,250 to no avail, a 1968 GTX sold for $28,355. RM Toronto was light on Chrysler muscle this time around. Any Mopar owner with a 340 or larger V8 can sell privately and keep ALL the money.
Pontiacs were hot. All six GTOs sold, even a Ď70 Judge clone. We had; 1967 GTO $33,705, 1967 GTO $46,545, 1968 GTO convertible $27,018, 1969 GTO Judge $38,520, 1970 Judge clone $16,264. A 1969 Trans Am sold $65,805, 1971 Trans Am sold $13,643, 1979 Trans Am sold $6,688. One of my favorites, 1958 Bonneville tripower, hit $52,000 but didnít sell. We leave with Chevelles. A LS6 1970 bid $78,000 but didnít sell. A 1970 Chevelle sold for $33,170. The 1967 Chevelle 300 model hit $16,000 no sale, a 1968 reached $26,000 but no sale, last another 1970 hit $27,000 before rolling away unsold. These high bids indicate stiff reserves. The preceding Toronto RM prices are in Canadian dollars.
The RM Amelia Island event is a catalog auction meaning a smaller quantity of cars are offered. These prices are US. It was here that a 1970 hemicuda sold for $121,000 along with a 1967Dodge Hemi Coronet at $78,100. At BJ, $121,000 got you a hemicuda convertible clone based on a 318 shell. Another Amelia Island sale was this 1966 Hemi Belvedere HP2 for $77,000. Hot Rods sold for scary prices here as well. 1932 Ford Hi Boy $63,000, Ď32 roadster $33,000 gives you an idea whatís going on. We just focused on a few muscle cars from this sale.
All fine and dandy but how do auctions compare to the real world? A quick look at your local auto classifieds answers that question. Solid number matching cars are selling for less than any of the auction prices Iíve listed so far. How about a 1972 442 ragtop 455 for $13,995 CDN? You canít restore one that cheaply.
PAT IN PRINT: Upcoming articles in various fine publications and web portals.
Old Autos Newspaper early May 2004: 1970 Chevelle SS 454 article
Old Autos Newspaper late May 2004: New Column! Super 60s & 70s. 1970
Dart Swinger 340 in Panther Pink.
Old Autos Newspaper: May 2004: Super 60s & 70s: 1969 Camaro SS 350.
Muscle Car News magazine June 2004: muscle car decal installation article. Get your free copy! go to
www.musclecarnews.com today.
Ford Truck Enthusiasts Spring 2004 F150 Lariat SuperCrew Road Test. Pat wrings out the Triton 5.4 liter for a week and comes away impressed. www.fordtruckenthusiasts.com