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Find Cool Cars For Camry Money At Mecum's St. Paul Sale

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On: Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 9:35AM | By: Andrew W Davis

Find Cool Cars For Camry Money At Mecum's St. Paul Sale

If there’s one thing that you learn as a long-term automotive writer it’s this: math and science—no matter how bad they sucked—were worth working at as they seem to be the key to affording the automotive baubles you only get to borrow.

Sure, having a new car or two just appear clean and full of fuel in your driveway every week is great, don’t get me wrong. But when what I call “Seventh-Day Disease” kicks in—named for the last day you have a car you REALLY wish you owned and don’t want to give back—you start wishing that you’d have checked the “Doctor” or “Lawyer” box on the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” form instead of “Writer/Pauper”.

There is an antidote that works most of the time, though: a “cheap-yet-cool” set of wheels you can call your own. (With your spouse’s permission; DO NOT forget that part. I CANNOT stress that enough. Trust me on this.) And one of the best places to find that vehicle is at one of the smaller “local” automotive auctions, like Mecum's upcoming St. Paul sale.

Both “cheap” and “cool” mean different things to different people; the basic ingredients are the same: It has to be affordable, reliable, fun, semi-practical, desirable—to you or your spouse—and, last but not least, yours.

Now I’m a station wagon guy, but you might not find my Montana-sized 1989 Olds Custom Cruiser wagon to your liking. You may not find a rear-facing third-row of seats, a two-way tailgate—with its power rear window, naturally—or a boxy body coated with enough exterior wood appliqué to cover the Pentagon desirable.

[That’s because you’re nuts, frankly, but I digress.]

Anyhoo, the fine folks at Mecum Auctions are taking a break between selling six-figure Hemi ‘Cudas and seven-figure Duesenbergs to millionaires to offer a few five- and four-figure cars to us regular folk.

Come June 17-18 they’ll be at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in—wait for it—St. Paul, Minn. Don’t get me wrong; there’ll be a few expensive cars there, too. But as proof that regular-old-you—no offense—can find something you want and can afford at an automotive auction, I submit the following four “possibly cheap but definitely cool” cars.

Lot F67: 2000 Lotus Exige “race car” LHD coupe [average retail: unknown]

This pushes the bounds of “practical”—you’ll have to talk your state into letting you put plates on it—but if you can fit inside it, it’s undeniably cool. This thing’s all about exclusivity, too, as the description mentions that according to the “Exige Registry” this is one of 595 built worldwide, one of 177 with left-hand drive, one of 14 with “race car specs,” one of 13 in the U.S., and the only one here in “Laser Blue.” Though 190 horsepower may not seem that racy, when coupled to the Exige’s ultralight 1,727 lb. curb weight, it makes this teeny coupe a star on track—or, if you’re lucky—off.

Lot F77: 1994 Ford [SVT] Lightning pickup [average retail: $5,200]

If you can’t commute in an Exige you’ll want to tow it to a track day, and here’s a good go-to for the job. Though its seating situation is similar, this second-year Lightning is way more practical (or as practical as a “dropped” regular-cab short-bed F-150 with a 240 hp 5.8-liter V8 can be). This particular example wears the rarest paint color offered in these first-gen Lightnings—1,165 were red, 1,382 black and 1,460 white—and seems in great shape inside and out for a pickup nearing 100k on its odometer. Let’s hope the miles weren’t put on one quarter-mile at a time…

Lot F87: 1978 Lincoln [Continental] Mark V coupe [average retail: $7,625]

Now we’re speaking my language. I have no idea why I love these battleship-sized beasts, but somewhere in my DNA is the gene that craves these things, the longer, lower, and more luxurious the better. Mecum is actually offering two different Lincoln luxo-barge Continentals here, a ’71 Mark III [Lot F40] and a ’78 Mark V. I like the more rectilinear looks of the later Lincoln, and as it tends to sell for half as much, that’s the one I’m going with here. [It also hasn’t “been in hibernation” since 1979!] It is said that smart buyers get the “best” example they can afford as a cheap buy-in ends up costing more after repairs. Here you have a car that’s covered just 9,650 miles, with 4,950 of those appearing after the second owner purchased the car in 2001. This looks to be as factory-fresh as you’d ever hope to find, and as it’s not exactly the kind of car consumers clamor for these days, you stand an excellent chance of picking up this beauty for a song. [I’d be there bidding if I could convince the missus we needed another 20-foot-long behemoth blocking her side of the driveway…]

Lot F63: 1982 Mercury Cougar Gran Sport station wagon [average retail: $2,600]

You just knew I’d get a wagon in here, and here it is. Problem is, there’s not a whole lot of info on this lot, nor is the model itself that well-covered. See, the “modern” Mercury brand seems allergic to this body style. They tried—and then killed—a Cougar wagon in 1977, and this 1982 follow-up was a one-year-only model, too. I’m not sure why they chose to use the “Gran Sport” name for this gussied-up Ford Grenada—the ’77 wagon was a “Villager”—as it is neither grand nor sporty, but with 19,294 built, there are more than twice as many GSes out there than Villagers. Sure, in white-over-blue it’s not very sexy, and even if it has the optional V6 it’s no rocket, but apart from its having incorrect wheels this is as nice and near-new (just 34,717 miles) an example as you’ll find.

I can’t promise that you’ll find your dream car at a local auction like this, but if you keep an open mind and a realistic view of vehicle values, I’ll bet that you can find something that’ll ring more bells for you than the soulless Taurus or Corolla you’d otherwise be sentenced to.

[Just stay away from the wood-paneled whale-size wagons. Those are mine.]

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imwithcoco | 11:04AM (Thu, Jun 23, 2011)

Mecum has an auction center near me in Kissimmee, FL. I would love to go sometime!


imwithcoco | 11:04AM (Thu, Jun 23, 2011)

Mecum has an auction center near me in Kissimmee, FL. I would love to go sometime!

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