AUCTION ACTION REACTION: Classic car aficionados are in auto heaven at Mecum show
If these cars could talk, imagine all the stories they’d have to tell.
Enough stories to “burn our ears,” Glenn Hammack says as he slid a mirror beneath his pristine 1968 Chevy Malibu so prospective buyers could inspect its immaculate underbelly.
The yellow-and-black Malibu, parked inside the Las Vegas Convention Center’s central hall, was one of about 1,000 vehicles up for sale at the Mecum car auction that was held Oct. 10-12. Row after row of shiny classics sat waiting for their moments on the auction block as the smell of wax lingered in the air.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the convention hall, the auction was already underway. And anybody who has ever spent an interminable afternoon completing a purchase in a car dealership would appreciate the speed at which vehicles were flying off the block.
One crosses the block “every two minutes, nonstop until we finish,” Mecum Auctions’ Dave Magers said.
As CEO of the world’s largest collector-car auction company, Magers is a busy man. Las Vegas was the 11th of 13 stops for Mecum this year. “We travel the country, coast to coast and top to bottom, doing collector car auctions,” he said.
The Mecum Las Vegas car auction, now in its third year, is a relatively recent addition to the company’s lineup. (Mecum also holds a collector motorcycle auction at the South Point hotel and casino each January.) The Walworth, Wisc.-headquartered company, founded by Dana Mecum, held its first auction in 1988.
“We decided we should try taking cars to Las Vegas,” Magers said. “The reception has far surpassed what we expected it to be and has grown” each year.
Mecum Las Vegas was open to buyers, sellers and spectators. Bidders paid $100 to $200 to register for the show, while spectators paid $20 to $30. Organizers expected to draw about 1,500 bidders to the three-day event, along with many more browsers. The action also was broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
While the auction’s total take wasn’t immediately available (Mecum’s “Bid Goes On” program continues to close sales after the show), vehicles that scored the highest bids included: a 1959 Chevy Corvette convertible that sold for $159,500; a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback that sold for $134,750; and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird F-Code that went for $133,100.
In addition to vehicles, the auction featured hundreds of pieces of “road art” and, for the first time, about two dozen collector guitars, including six from the private collection of Geddy Lee (of Canadian rock band Rush). “It just seemed a natural extension of Mecum auctions,” Magers said of the guitars. “I suspect we’ll see it grow into a standalone event.”
But Mecum’s main draw remained the cars. Bidder Andrew Byrnes is a big fan — and buyer — of those offered at the company’s auctions. He regularly travels to Mecum shows around the United States, and stores most of his massive classic-car collection in a warehouse back home in Sydney, Australia.
“I have 140 cars,” he said at the Las Vegas auction, which he attended with his wife and 15-year-old son. “It’s a lot of Mecum cars there.”
Byrnes, the owner of a construction company, said he purchases up to six vehicles at a time. He has them trucked to Los Angeles and then shipped to Australia — a 21-day trip. The prolific bidder fell in love with matchbox cars as a child and “it progressed” from there. “I’ve never stopped buying cars,” he said.
Byrnes has collected so many cars that he’s run out of room in his warehouse. Still, he has no intention of curbing his collection. “I’m building another facility,” he said. Then he quipped: “The cars are cheap. It’s the real estate that’s expensive.”
Hammack, a classic car hobbyist from Rockford, Ill. and owner of the ’68 Malibu, is also a Mecum auction devotee. “I typically sell here because I truly believe that Mecum brings the difference,” he said.
But Hammack isn’t in it for the money. “If I can break even, I’m happy,” he said. He simply appreciates the history that comes along with each old vehicle and wants to help preserve it. “Instead of letting it wind up in the junkyard, I buy a car, fix it up and put it back out into history.”
Hammack’s Malibu wound up selling for $70,000. Now the car is off to make more history with its new owner.
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