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Mecum's Anaheim Sale Shows You Can Be a Big-time, Old-school Baller on an Itty-bitty Modern Minicar Budget

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On: Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 5:19PM | By: Andrew W Davis


Mecum's Anaheim Sale Shows You Can Be a Big-time, Old-school Baller on an Itty-bitty Modern Minicar Budget

You, I am afraid, are more than likely a dork.

What do you drive? Some middling import toss-away? An American econobox you think’s cool ‘cause it has a tea tray bolted to its decklid? Look: I’ll bet you my salary for this article if you could pick your car out of a lot filled with a thousand random machines.

I could. In a heartbeat. She’s a 19-foot-long wood-sided station wagon, low and wide, and with just enough chrome to make a Chris Craft boat builder wish they could take credit for her design. Sure, I and the gentlemen at the local Shell station are on a first-name basis, but so many people stop me just to express their admiration for her still existing while memories are all that’s left of her assembly-line sisters that $80 fill-ups are always worth it.

Now station wagons may not be your thing, but that doesn’t exclude you from the Sub-$4k Cool Old Car Club I just started. All you need is a sub-$4k vehicle in great shape inside and out—including relatively as-new performance—a budget of about ten times that (often every month) to refuel and “fiddle” with it (and an AAA card when “fiddling” doesn’t suffice, which it NEVER does). But, hey, nobody ever said supreme coolness came cheap…

[Cars are listed in run order, earliest to latest (“T” is for Thursday, “F” for Friday). Any vehicle info set within quotations is taken directly from the auction company’s own information, printed, online or otherwise. All vehicles featured at Mecum’s Anaheim, CA, auction, Nov. 21-23, 2013.]

T34 “1984 Chevrolet Corvette 350 CI, Automatic” [sale price: $3,500]

“Brand new 350 Crossfire performance crate motor; rebuilt transmission; 2,200 miles on new motor; New paint; Air conditioning; Original interior; AM/FM/CD; Pop top [sic]; CANNOT BE REGISTERED IN CALIFORNIA”

Last time I checked, Anaheim was IN California, but what do I know? And why would someone spend ten grand on engine, transmission and paint improvements if they were just going to pull the ripcord when the bidding hit just three-and-a-half grand? Sure, price guides will tell you that they made 51,547 of these things, but they ALSO say prices should range between $5k and $7,500. Boy, if this thing moves under its own power without going off like an IED when you hit the gas, this buyer got a HELL of a deal, CA-eligibility or no…

T45 “1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL Automatic, Sunroof” [sale price: $3,000]

“V-8 engine; Burgundy interior and Champagne exterior; Sunroof; New tires have less than 500 miles on them; Mercedes-Benz mag [sic] wheels; Alpine radio and CD changer; Premium tint on side and rear windows; Believed to be 137,220 miles”

If you ever want to demonstrate the theory of depreciation to your little ones, just chart the starting MSRPs of exotic cars vs. their value one or two decades down the road. This Benz, for instance, has lost, um… a buttload of money in the last 28 years. Just try it: pick a 2013/14 S-Class Mercedes and tell the sales manager that you’ll bet your house on the fact that in 20 years that new Benz’ll be worth less than the $10k beater you have outside today. They might laugh you off, but in secret, they’ll never bet you because they know it’s true. This is not to say that Benzes are bad cars, of course, as this one in question seems quite lovely. But the real secret is that the second something stops working the price to even diagnose the problem will cost more than the car is worth. But, hey; it comes with a first-generation cellular telephone. That’s gotta be worth something on its own…

T58 “1989 Pontiac Firebird [Formula]” [sale price: $3,500]

“Miles are believed to be actual; Gorgeous Medium Maui Blue paint; Buckets and auto T shifter; Factory V-8 car; Alloys; CANNOT BE REGISTERED IN CALIFORNIA”

Here’s another car that sold for around half its value, and another with the “Thanks for Visiting California, Now Go Home” disclaimers. Coincidence? Maybe, but no. The second time I copied the disclaimer it dawned on me: California has unique “smog” regulations, the first of which is that every single piece of smog-fighting hardware the car left the factory with HAS to be there before they’ll even jam the probe in the tailpipe. Oh, and if you have a “49-state” car—one that didn’t have every performance-sapper the car company could devise to pass California-specific pollution regulations, well, buh-bye. Your tailpipe could emit Febreze-smelling sparkling spring water and you’re still S.O.L. with the state. So with this car it’s either ten grand in re-reducing its horsepressure or a quarter of a grand trucking it to Nevada, Arizona or some other non-Fascist state where they care more about robbing you with taxes than robbing your performance car of its very reason for living. [AZ and NV, accept my apologies. You were merely the closest states to CA, and I’m sure your tax rate is in line with blah, blah, blah…]

T145.1 “1987 Jaguar XJS” [sale price: $3,250]

“Two owner car; Excellent condition; 47,000 original miles; Brand new tires; Very good color combo; Books and factory tools; Nevada title; Clean CarFax”

There’s an old joke amongst Jaguar mechanics: A buyer of a brand new Jag stopped by the garage to ask the mechanics how long it would take before something expensive broke in his newly-bought baby. To which the mechanic, in all seriousness, replied “What time have you got?” Not thinking, the customer said “half-past three.” “Yep,” said the mechanic. “That sounds about right.” In all seriousness, best/worst of all, thanks to its extra cylinders and crappy British engineering, your XJS is even more likely to break something you can’t afford than the Benz. Still, it IS a beautiful-looking thing, so even if it becomes lawn art your neighbors won’t mind it so much and call the cops on you the way a beater Camaro might…

F24 “1975 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe 472 CI, Automatic” [sale price: $3,500]

“Unrestored; always garaged; 472 CI engine; automatic transmission”

Pound-for-pound there are no greater examples of American Iron—except my wood-sided Olds Custom Cruiser—than Caddies from the magical era when Snoop Dogg was just a pup and gasoline cost less per gallon than Brita-filtered tap water. I guarantee—GUARANTEE—that nobody will be watching any car but yours the first time you dock this beast. In and out this girl’s a gem, and her sales price in no way reflects her value. Just one more reason automotive journalists should get paid more like the word magicians we are (or at least as I am). So, anybody got a spare four grand I can use to bribe this person into “flipping” it to me? I promise everyone who sends a donation will receive and autographed copy of a photo of me beside my Big (literally) Pimpin’ mobile. Well, hell. It was worth a try…


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