Up for Bid: Arizona Auctions

Mark C. Bach
Up for Bid: Arizona Auctions
By the time you read this the country is starting to warm up but nothing compares to how hot it was in January, 2020 when eight auction companies held classic car auctions in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Between January 10-19, 2020 eight car auction firms - MAG Auctions, Leake, Worldwide Auctioneers, RM Sotheby's, Bonhams, Gooding and Company, Russo and Steele and Barrett-Jackson auctioned 3,867 cars with 2,994 of these vehicles being hammered sold for a total price of nearly $250 million.
If you haven't followed along before, most auctions allow a seller to establish a reserve price which is not disclosed to the public. If the bidding doesn't reach that lower limit the car is not sold and it goes back to the seller. But if the price reaches at least their reserve limit the car gets sold to the highest bidder. The auction houses typically charge at least a 10% commission to the seller on top of the final bid price. Likewise they subtract a similar 10% of the bid from the seller's proceeds. So a car that you see being "sold" for $75,000 will cost the buyer $82,500 while the seller will only net $67,500. The difference of $15,000 the auction keeps for themselves. No wonder EIGHT auction companies set up shop this year! For this article all prices noted reflect that 10% buyer's commission.
Of course some auction houses charge a higher commission for putting a reserve on the car, or additional fees for wanting a specific time period to sell the car or placing it in a specific area of the displays. There are a variety of cars and trucks offered at these auctions, some you have seen over and over and some marquees you may never have heard of before.
People ask me all the time if these cars are as detailed and pristine as they look on television. Frankly it is like most car shows; some cars look nice and others you can tell the owner has cut corners. Many sellers will quickly engage an on-site detailer for a last minute detail when they see the level of competition. Under bright lights and with a little polish and glaze, the cars glisten as they cross the auction block.
At last year's fall auctions in Monterrey, California the prices seemed stagnant and the same trend seemed to continue here in Arizona. This year's total was less than in 2019 but there were actually more cars sold. People were willing to pay for exceptional cars, like a 1995 Ferrari F50 which was the highest selling car at all the auctions with a final price of $3,222,500 but there were also bargains to be had.
It seems that the classic car auction is split, with some buyers interested in cars that are period correct and authentic, while others prefer a classic that has been modernized and outfitted with newer engines, automatic transmissions and other creature comforts. It also seems that as the buying market changes demographics to a younger crowd, the cars of interest and demand is likewise moving towards the muscle cars of the 1960's and 70's. Older collectors probably already have an early classic in their garages, if they wanted one, and fewer younger buyers lusted over a 1940 Ford in their high school years. Here are some of my favorites. You can guess the final selling price (with buyer's premium) and see how close you are. The prices are at the bottom of this article.

A) 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham - CAD MAD
I was looking forward to seeing this car as it was the 2019 Ridler award winner from the Detroit show. Tragic back story is that the original owner died before it was finished so his brother continued to pay for the Escondido, CA shop to finish the build. They took a 1959 Cadillac and make it into a wagon by grafting a Nomad roof to it. They chopped 18" off to shorten the look, 4" from the width and an additional 2" section to make it look svelte. The engine is a massive 632 CI V8 from Chevrolet with a pair of turbochargers for over 1000 HP. It was widely reported that it cost over $2 million to build!
B) 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS
A 327 V-8 and a four speed manual transmission (matching numbers) with less than 35,000 original miles. Nicely restored with a ton of NOS parts, this Impala SS sported power steering, brakes and air conditioning. Black bucket seat and a black vinyl top made this baby pop.
C) 1956 Chrysler Plainsman
Worldwide Auctioneers held a one day show in my hometown and while the selection was low the quality was high, like this Chrysler Plainsman concept wagon. It was a Virgil Exner design that was hand built by Ghia. Seats eight and they used calf skin for the seats. The original motor was replaced with a 440 CI V8 while it resided in Australia. The cargo space was over 100 cubic feet with the seats folded down and that roofline is one of a kind. I'll give you a hint on this pricing. It sold in 2014 for $176,000 before its recent restoration.
D) 1969 Camaro
It seems every auction has to have at least one Camaro from 1969 with the Indy Pace Car insignias. This one also was at Worldwide was an older restoration but with highly judged documentation. Yes it is the RS/SS Indy Pace Car convertible with matching numbers.
E) 1963 Corvette Split Window
RM Sotheby's had this nicely restored Corvette offered but it was a no-sale as the reserve was not met. It comes with the 327 fuel injection engine and the Z06 package with the big gas tank (36.5 gallons) option. It was restored after 2006 and is well documented and authenticated. The Z06 package alone was a nearly a $2,000 option back in 1963 so not many left Detroit this way.
F) 1968 Shelby GT350
The Shelby name still commands attention and this one got it! Matching numbers K Code 289 V8 engine with a four speed manual, along with the Shelby touch of fiberglass hood, Plexiglas rear quarter windows and side scoops. This candy apple red mover was spotted at the RM Sotheby's Auction.

©2020 Mark C. Bach

Prices  Slide your mouse in the area below to see the selling prices
A) $302,500
B) $61,600
C) $742,500
D) $51,700
E) Didn't sell but the catalog estimate was $600,000- 500,000
F) $162,400

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