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Story by Doug Stokes
Pictures by Albert J.K. Wong
Pomona, Calif. The Mecum Auctions (surely you’ve seen one on television … right … way cool cars, trucks, motorcycles, even man cave memorabilia all being paraded across an open stage in front of a raucous crowd, each barely slowing down as they cross from left to right, only to pause for what seems split seconds with an auctioneer shouting, cajoling, challenging, and quite unsubtly suggesting prices that ratchet show on a gargantuan overheard scoreboard that flashes the current bid in bucks, euros, and two or three other basic world currencies) were just in town.
The Mecum people took over a baker’s half dozen of buildings on the sprawling LA County Fairgrounds property on Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of February and brought something like 600(!) vehicles to market in a march which seemed as inexorable as it was rapid. No two alike (for the most part), each with its own back story, and each with some sort of a siren call to (surely more than) someone out there.
SOLD! was the second most used word at the 2017 Los Angeles edition of Mecum’s cross country car show ,er, Auction that will also visit Kansas City, Davenport, Iowa*, Houston, Indianapolis, Muscatine, Iowa*, and Portland, Oregon between now and June 16th. Excuse me, you were wondering the first-most used word was, right? It wasn’t really a word, more of an expression that just permeated the air. It sounded something like “wowlookitthat”, and once one was inside the giant bubble that the Mecum people pump up right on site, one can say it in any direction and be very correct.
There were some 600 vehicles that scampered across the auction block in two days at the Fairplex—a good 70 percent of them sold on the spot for at least what the owners wanted (or more, and some a bunch more!) and had set the reserve or lowest price that they would take for them. The Kansas event next month will see 700 machines; a thousand are expected at Houston in April, and right now the Indy auction call sheet is expected to top two thousand vehicles.
One of our best LA Car snappers, Albert Wong, was on assignment at Pomona on Friday and got a nice selection of shots of some of the more interesting auction offerings. Whatever the breed: whether hot rods, resto-mods, unrestored barn-finds, off-road machines, out-and-out classics, racing cars, and even a few, er, question marks. None escaped his lens. Take a look.
Of course AJKW’s shots are all stills, silent reminders of this delicious cast of characters, all at rest. What can’t be photographed, nor even understood/felt while watching any auction (even a Mecum one) on television is the sound and, better still, the animation.
Each machine from a rusty, un-restored VW bus; to a gilded, hemi-powered, high-boy hot rod, a blood-red Ferrari Maranello or a cute-as-a-bug BMW Isetta, every darn one of those (supposedly) inanimate devices seemed to sense that it was “on” and the effect was understood directly by the appreciative crowd, many of whom were all trying to buy that particular machine all at the same time. You love that car, you want it? Then fight for it! What fun!
Oh, and about the idea of a “classic” … there are variations on that theme enough for all at every one of these events. A ’59 Buick in all its flat-finned glory and a 1947 Lincoln Continental, the formal reminder of how it was before the war, both qualify as do a rough and ready 1970 Ford Bronco and a slicker than soup ’55 Chevy BelAir … The rhyme and the reason are both there in all of the above and many, many others.
Yeah, prices are hard to predict and there are bargains to be had, but the deal here is, if you’ve looked at the car and you want it, and you’re wearing a bidder’s credential, and the price stalls where you’re still comfortable (and the kids won’t go hungry, or the power won’t be cut off) … well … you know, they’re not making any more of those.
There’s a term you sometimes hear: “Beer Goggles”, meaning that the use of alcohol can, at times, have the effect of “helping” us to think, act, and react somewhat differently than we would sober.
Even though you couldn’t see them, it seemed everyone donned a pair of invisible “Car Goggles” as they came though the front door at Mecum. No, they weren’t drunk, intoxicated with the show yes. Mine worked quite well as you may have noted … In fact, I’m still wearing them a day and a half later.
*Both auctions are aimed at the just-as-hot TRACTOR and classic farm implement collectors who love old IH, Farmalls and John Deeres every bit as much as the car and bike people love their Hudsons, Indians and Harleys. Did you know that Porsche at one time made farm tractors?
Mecum is a family-run company with headquarters in Walworth, Wisconsin. They show (and SELL) some 20,000 cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tractors, annually in auctions that take place across the country on average about one a month.
They’re very aggressive in looking for great machines to put up for auction at their events and invite people with such vehicles that they’d like to sell to contact them in Walworth at (262) 275-5050. That same number may be used to find out how to become a bidder (and hopefully a BUYER) at an upcoming auction.
One more thing, Mecum publishes a full-color monthly magazine (eponymously named the “Mecum Monthly”) that not only deals with their auctions, but that contains features on significant cars and motorcycles written by some of the top people in the business. Honestly it’s the next best thing to being at the auction and (I’m sure) helps to keep the juices flowing between auctions for many fans. It’s the same number above (262) 275-5050, to sign up for an annual subscription. The February edition, for example has a great article about Dan Gurney and his race-winning 1967 Eagle F1 car written by old friend Pete Lyons along with auction results, and in-depth information about some of the featured vehicles that were to be sold at the LA event. -DS
And finally … Here’s how the folks at Mecum saw their weekend in L.A.:
$9.4 Million Rains Down on Mecum Los Angeles
First Auction at the Fairplex California, Deemed Successful
WALWORTH, Wis. – Feb. 22, 2017 – - Sales totals at Mecum Auctions’ inaugural Los Angeles classic- and collector-car auction climbed to more than $9.3 million when the auction company returned to the Golden State last weekend. Despite record-setting rainfall across Southern California, a total of 283 vehicles were sold over the course of the two-day auction, and more than 116 pieces of Road Art® left Pomona in the hands of new owners.
American and European sports cars claimed the top-3 seller slots at the auction, with a 2006 Ford GT hammering at $305,000 to claim the title of No. 1 highest seller at the Los Angeles auction. Two Ferraris, a 458 Italia and a 430 Scuderia Spider rounded out the top 3, each bringing in more than $200,000 individually.
The complete top 10 sales at the Mecum Los Angeles 2017 auction include (individual prices do not include buyer’s premiums):
1. 2006 Ford GT at $305,000
2. 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia at $230,000
3. 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia Spider at $215,000
4. 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible at $200,000
5. 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe at $150,000
6. 1960 Porsche 356B T5 Roadster at $125,000
7. 1967 Shelby GT500 Fastback at $110,000
8. 2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost at $102,500
9. 1934 Willys 5 Window Coupe Street Rod (Lot S109) at $100,000
10. 2011 Bentley Mulsanne Sedan (Lot S54.1) at $97,500
… And there’s a whole lot more of cars and the prices that they fetched in Pomona on the Mecum.com website