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Mecum Des Moines: Home Of Great Original-Condition Oddities

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On: Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 1:16PM | By: Andrew W Davis

Mecum Des Moines: Home Of Great Original-Condition Oddities

It is a car collector’s most fervent wish that they find the vehicle they've been seeking in as-new, one-owner, low-mileage and perfectly-running and -driving condition. But as most cars that are desirable NOW were the same THEN—or were built for dangerous duties like racing—that almost never happens. And while you can restore a valuable car to better-than-new condition, the very fact that so many ARE restored has flipped the equation, making those in original condition the rarer of the two.

But for every multimillion-dollar original relic discovered there are thousands upon thousands of cars that nobody wants—apart from the weirdos that fastidiously maintained them—that feature all the buzzwords I mentioned up top, despite the fact that there's no "popular" reason for their preservation.

I found four such cars—OK, three cars and a truck-thingie—on-deck for Mecum Auctions’ July 15-16 Des Moines sale. They are proof of the adage that something's being rare does not make it desirable, nor does a desirable thing have to be rare. Even so, these vehicles are among the best examples of their kind you’ll find, so maybe it's best to think of this as your opportunity to buy some vehicles you never knew you needed…

Lot F114: 1981 Zimmer Golden Spirit automatic


What can be said about the Zimmer and its ilk will be covered in a later feature I’m dreading starting but strangely drawn to nonetheless. Well, guess what? That’s this thing in a nutshell. More than likely this is one of the T-Bird/Lincoln-based ones, but I can’t say for sure because the lot description is as short as the car is long: “Car was purchased at a farm auction in December 2010 (estate sale); 31,483 believed to be actual miles.” I could make a joke about how the farmer in question obviously wasn’t cultivating taste, but I won’t. Look, it’s not something I’d want to HAVE to drive, but there are certainly times I’d WANT to drive it. And seeing as how it’s in (for these) great shape—notice I did not say it HAS a great shape—and with relatively low mileage it would seem the fallen/former farmer felt the same way. Iowa strikes me as an odd place for one of these to turn up, but seeing as how there aren’t many farmers in Palm Springs or these beasts’ usual haunts, I feel safe in assuming that somebody didn’t mind flaunting his paid-to-NOT-grow-anything riches. You can too, for something in the neighborhood of ten to fifteen grand if the one—as in ONLY one—sold on eBay is any indicator.

Lot F128: 1972 Ford Maverick coupe 250 CI automatic


With an indicated 72k miles and Mecum’s assurance that it’s a “very nice original car” that “runs and drives great,” this little Ford has a lot going for it. With the largest six-cylinder engine available—the 4.1-liter “Thriftpower Six”—an automatic transmission and factory A/C it has good options, which means extra $$. Add the car’s (apparently) great condition inside as well as out and you have the recipe for a valuable car that will ring the register when it hits the block. Problem with THIS lot, however, is that it’s a Ford Maverick, which means everything I just said is nullified unless you find two Maverick geeks willing to fight over it financially, which is—even in Des Moines—a long, LONG shot. The closest comp I could find on eBay was a one-owner 1973 model which “sold” for the second-highest Maverick price in the system—$3,250—but has since been relisted. That one was (poorly) color-changed, was missing its A/C gear and was bubbling with rust despite its claimed Florida upbringing. Though it lacks the V8 engine and “Grabber” trim that’s usually required to bring the big (ha, ha) bucks, this clean and honest example just might surprise even me when the gavel falls.

Lot S30: 1974 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Sundance Coupe 318/150 automatic


Here is the perfect distillation of the valuable/rare maxim. This car—especially in this condition—is certainly rare, if not unique. Here are just a few of the value-adding phrases from the description: “This is a rare one owner Aztek Gold Plymouth Satellite Sebring Sundance survivor car; Sundance striping and complete interior are original; everything including cold A/C works perfectly; runs and drives beautifully.” The “Sundance” styling package is indeed rare, as is the model itself. “Spinnaker White” was the only other available color, and the “Sundance Styling Package”—with its exterior trim tape/paint add-ons and funky multicolored interior—was available this year on only the top trim level Satellite, the Sebring. Add in the fact that 1974 was the last year for the Satellite itself, and you have something akin to a perfect storm of car condition and attributes that should bring big bucks. And yet this car has very little market value, except for people that want to create a “clone” Road Runner/GTX out of it. Something else: check out the full description via the link above. This has to be the most first-person-voiced description I’ve ever read, with mentions of “I have known” and “my hometown.” This is a car someone grew up with, and it was loved all of its life. Cars truly cared for AND cared about are rare indeed. Hopefully the winning bidder realizes how special a vehicle they’ve purchased BEFORE they part it out or create a clone from it, though with eBay sales of around $1k for a stock (non-Sundance) Satellite and $5k for a "Roadrunner clone," rare, sadly, gets you only so far.

Lot S72: 1977 Chevrolet Blazer Chalet 400 CI automatic


While the Sundance Satellite generated intense interest in the people who owned it—or wrote its auction description—this odd-looking beast has what most folks would call “a following,” tiny though it is. Enthusiast sites like BlazerChalet.com can give you more information on this two-year (1976/1977) turtleback than most anyone would want to know. Here are some highlights: The Blazer seats two in the cab, and up to four, sideways, in the camper. The camper seats fold down to sleep two and some units came with fold-out upper bunks to sleep two more; The Chalet is surprisingly roomy inside; due to the headroom provided by the camper unit's extra height, even tall and/or wide people find the interior quite comfortable. Inside you'll find a propane heater and stove; water tank and sink, and either an icebox or a fridge. Shelves, closets and a removable tabletop round out the furnishings.” The description on this rig is similar to the Satellite’s, with statements like “I am sure it is the most mint Chalet on Earth” and “climate-controlled storage and only dry washed” leading you to suspect they were owned by the same fastidious person. Fact-wise it also says that “only 1,700 assembled; 54,000 original miles documented; Numbers matching engine with original chalk mark; Original door sticker; Highest option package including refrigerator and CB; Factory air blows ice cold; Factory clock still works; Starts on the first crank every time.” But at the end of the day, even Chalet-crazy folks like those at BlazerChalet.com list the vehicle’s value as just north of $6k in brilliant as-new condition.

All of these quirky vehicles aren’t just out of the collector-car-market’s “radar,” they’re actually on the other side of the globe. Each was meant to appeal to a broader audience than they achieved in the end, with the audience for them as used cars even smaller still. But if you’re looking for something unique—and want to buy the best example extant—maybe Iowa’s where you should spend a few days in mid-July…

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Pjky72 | 2:48PM (Wed, Jan 18, 2017)

We always planned to restore our 74 Sundance, but time has caught up with us. Do you think there would be interest for a young restorer?

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