Auctions America California 2013 – Auction Report

Auctions America by RM, Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel, Burbank, California August 1-3, 2013

Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor

Southern California is the heart of car culture in North America. Its influence reaches far and wide, to every continent where automobiles are built. Its trends are mimicked everywhere.

Why has it been the graveyard of collector car auctions?

Pretty much every successful collector car auction company has come to Los Angeles or Orange County, put on a show … then been rebuffed by the southern California cognoscenti and retreated.

It’s not fair to name them, because the experience isn’t traced to any organization’s effort. It’s the venue.

Every southern California weekend offers a multitude of competing, and in many cases compelling, collector car events. Every highway seems to have a succession of dealers selling classic Porsches, Corvettes, ‘Cudas and even V-16 Cadillacs, not to mention late model Bentleys, BMWs, Porsches and Teslas to the delectation of the car-centric southern California population.

In that environment it takes a lot to pull in deep-pocketed collectors and put them in a buying mood.

Auctions American by RM achieved that in Burbank this August. They assembled a compelling consignment that spanned the diverse interests of southern California collectors, helped in no small part by something like a hundred cars from the reserve (i.e., stored and neglected in the basement) collection of the Petersen Museum.

They put the sale on TV in their new deal with NBC Sports Network.

The site, although lacking parking for day trippers, was otherwise ideal for the 400 cars on offer. The Airport Marriott did a great job hosting it, even accommodating a magicians’ convention at the same time.

The trees in the parking lot evaporated some sap onto the cars below them, and the sun was bright, but this is southern California. Sap happens.

For a first-time sale in southern California this was a triumph, its $17.2 million sale total far better than any auction has done before with a consignment sale.

The cards and hat trick magicians weren’t the only ones at the Burbank Airport Marriott this weekend. Auctions America pulled a few rabbits out of its hat, too.

Now, it remains to be seen how Auctions America does in subsequent years without the Petersen Museum cars. But, they’ve shown it can be done, and that is no mean accomplishment.

This should become a destination event for LA, the most car-centric place in the world.

Auctions America by RM Burbank
Cars Offered / Sold
Sale %
Average Sale
Median Sale
Total Sales
399 / 322
$29,425 [55.1%]

These are heroic numbers for a southern California consignment sale.

Auctions America Southern California 2013 – Auction Report

1959 Pontiac Catalina Convertible
Lot # 143 1959 Pontiac Catalina Convertible; S/N 159C10662; Red/White, Grey vinyl; White vinyl top; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $21,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $23,650. No Reserve – 389, 2-barrel, automatic, P/S, heater, wheel covers, whitewalls – Quickly repainted, probably over white. Sound interior and chrome. Grungy old original engine. The grey upholstery and dash top would look good with the original white, but spectacular with a Metallic Grey. They look bad with red. – A decent driver but without equipment that sets it apart from any others and deficient presentation that makes this price generous.
1983 Ferrari 400iA Convertible Conversion, Body by Straman
Lot # 164 1983 Ferrari 400iA Convertible Conversion, Body by Straman; S/N ZFFEB06B000043385; Black/Black leather; Black top; Visually maintained, largely original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $18,250 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $20,075. No Reserve – Automatic, dual A/C, polished alloy wheels. Ex-Rod Stewart – Neglected and sad. Hole in dashboard. The cut job was ascribed to Richard Straman here, but it hasn’t been so clear before. – This car has gone steadily downhill in both condition and value since it was sold at the Kruse Scottsdale auction in 2001 for $44,520. It is no bargain at its price today and will cost a fortune to be made usable, let alone presentable. Its best and highest use probably is as a parts car.
1930 Hudson - Powered Champ Car
Lot # 165 1930 Hudson – Powered Champ Car; S/N 98; Cream, Maroon frame/Black leather; Competition car, original as-raced, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $21,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $23,650 – Hudson Hornet 308 six, dual Stromberg 97 carbs, headers, quick change axle, disc rear brakes only, centerlock mag front wheels, wide 5 rear wheels – Quick old repaint while assembled. Model A frame randomly (and thoroughly) drilled. Transverse leaf spring suspension with lever shocks. A neat old car with potential. – One of several intriguing oval track racing cars offered at Burbank with real potential for taking a star turn in an historic feature at any of a number of short tracks. The increasing interest in, and potential uses for, vintage oval racing cars like this is apparent in the price it brought.
1959 Fiat 1100 4-Dr. Sedan
Lot # 190 1959 Fiat 1100 4-Dr. Sedan; S/N 103H669257; Ivory, Beige roof and accent/Beige, Brown vinyl; Unrestored original, 3 condition; Not sold at Hammer bid of $10,000 – 4-speed column shift, Motorola underdash AM radio, hubcaps, narrow whitewalls – Sound but dull original paint, sound original interior. Decent chrome. Cracked steering wheel, pitted interior chrome, yellowed gauge face and control knobs. Straight body, doors close well. An aged but pleasingly original Fiat that needs only attention, polish and lots of elbow grease to be a very cute driver. – ‘Cute’ only goes so far, but the Burbank bidders failed to look deeply at this Fiat and recognize its potential. It would not have been a bargain at the reported high bid, but neither would it have been expensive at a few thousand dollars more as a potentially rewarding project car.
1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder
Lot # 195 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder Convertible; S/N 20967M252534; Red/Red vinyl; Black vinyl top; Visually maintained, largely original, 4- condition; Hammered Sold at $11,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $12,650. No Reserve – 150hp turbocharged flat six, 4-speed, AM radio, wire wheel covers, white letter Cooper tires – A fairly despicable car with a fresh, really cheap, repaint and older seat upholstery. Grubby inside, knobs and interior trim look like it sat outside with the top down for years. Filled lower body, missing side window guide felts and soft, gooey body seals. A bad car. – Not a bad price for it, though, a result that should make the seller extremely gratified. Definitely an acquired taste, in this case acquired rather expensively for its many needs.
1960 Fiat 1100 4-Dr. Station Wagon
Lot # 200 1960 Fiat 1100 4-Dr. Station Wagon; S/N A010445; Light Grey, White roof/Blue, Grey vinyl; Visually maintained, largely original, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $10,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $11,000 – Column shift 4-speed, aluminum hubcaps, blackwall tires – Quick, erratically masked recent repaint, otherwise a sound but aged original car. – A better car, bought at a better price, than the 1100 Sedan that passed earlier at the same high bid. The buyer here got all the car for the money, and the wagon is way more desirable than the sedan. A sound value.
1968 Excalibur Series I Phaeton
Lot # 201 1968 Excalibur Series I Phaeton; S/N 6042; Black/Red leatherette, Red carpets; No top; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $22,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $24,200. No Reserve – 327/300hp, automatic, chrome wire wheels, narrow whitewalls, wind wings, Lucas driving light, leatherette covered rear-mounted spare – First owned by Phyllis Diller, documented with copy registration. Delaminated wood steering wheel rim. Sound paint, chrome and interior. Good older repaint, otherwise sound and original. – Somehow this Excalibur and Phyllis Diller were destined for each other. Designed by Brooks Stevens and built in his facility as a series production model, this is a real car and it’s in decent condition for its age. It was worth this much without the Phyllis Diller history. It also was worth this much with the history.
1970 Fiat 850 Sport Spider
Lot # 205 1970 Fiat 850 Sport Spider; S/N 100GS10129288; White/Red leatherette; Black vinyl top; Unrestored original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $6,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $7,150. No Reserve – Heater, aftermarket alloy wheels, radial blackwall tires, luggage rack – Quickly repainted, otherwise tired and original. Faded upholstery, dirty interior, dead top, fair trim chrome but peeling front bumper. Body is straight and sound except for rust blisters behind the left front wheel. Engine is original and looks its age. Rear springs sag. In fact, the whole car sorta sags. – This may represent the new value paradigm. The old one was ‘any car that runs and drives is worth $2,000’. The result for this 850 Sport Spider may tell us at ‘any car that has a top that goes down, runs and drives is worth $6,000.’ There is so much work waiting to be done that attending to them only to a decent driver standard will represent a mid-$20K total investment. There are better ways to spend that much money, and ones less fraught with unseen complications.
1960 Peugeot 403 4-Dr. Station Wagon
Lot # 210 1960 Peugeot 403 4-Dr. Station Wagon; S/N 2859122; Light Green, Ivory/Light Green, Ivory vinyl; Visually maintained, largely original, 3+ condition; Hammered Sold at $17,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $18,700. No Reserve – Hubcaps, blackwall tires, column shift, heater, grey painted roof rack – A surprisingly nice, well-maintained mostly original Peugeot with a decent older repaint. Original interior is sound but stiff and scratchy. Chrome is sound but dull. Power washed engine compartment. Body is straight and sound. Doors (all five of them) work flawlessly. Spare wheel and tire, jack and tools under the rear deck. An unusual and very appealing wagon. – Peugeots have a terrible reputation in the US, so much so that when they were selling these things new they became known as ‘Pigouts’. That reputation has mellowed into a hazy recollection of lovable peculiarity. The bidders thought this car was worth far more than Auctions America did, nostalgia and the appeal of the station wagon body winning out over reason, but not enough to call the result expensive. And it is really rare, too.