Market and auctions

Indianapolis. Mecum puts on a record auction

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: Mecum

Mecum’s big attraction party in Indianapolis, an event that spans several days in which hundreds of cars, motorcycles, boats and memorabilia are sold in presence, is something every enthusiast should experience at least once in their lifetime. And, if you do, don’t be surprised if at some point your hand raises on its own and an extraordinary car ends up in your garage – bear in mind that there are some very reasonably-priced car shipping firms that regularly set sail for Europe, so it’s all rather easy). 

Just like behind the wheel, everything you need to know to fully understand the situation

This year, among the 1,578 cars sold out of 1,930 on offer, that yielded a turnover of of 96 million dollars, the top lot was a pre-war car, which perhaps has never happened in the thirty-odd years this event has been held, certainly not in the last 10.

The numbers of a great performance

If you read our comments about the charms of Amelia Island (you can find them here), you will know that cars produced before the 1940s are in great demand these days, but the fact that one of them was “awarded” the title of most expensive car at Mecum really amazed me. It was a 1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Victoria with coachwork by Rollston, the only model in this configuration to be Supercharged from the Factory, with its almost 7-liter engine producing over 320 hp some ninety years ago. Originally, the car came equipped with a LeBaron Barrelside Phaeton body, but in 1935 the second owner had it replaced with its current Rollston Convertible Victoria conformation. A very-well-documented history. It was one of the few on sale with an estimate, and the $2.75-3.25 million was spot on as it sold for $2,970,000 (€2,434,286).

1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria
1930 Duesenberg Model SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria sold for $2,970,000 (€2,434,286)

However, the Duesenberg briefly risked not being the top lot of the sale; one of the 12 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertibles from 1971 reached bids of up to €4.8 million (€3,934,200) before being withdrawn – the seller was aiming for $5.75 – $6.5 million, a decidedly high estimate in my view. I would have accepted anything that started with a “4” given the recent results of similar models that go for anywhere between $3.2 and $3.5 million, but the seller had other ideas…

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible
1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible went unsold at $4,800,000 (€3,934,200)

The silver medal among the many sales at Mecum went to the much-anticipated 1969 Ford Bronco “Big Oly”. The most famous of all the Broncos thanks to Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe, who famously won the gruelling Baja 1000 with it in 1971 and in 1972. The catalogue referred to this car as a special vehicle that forever changed the design principles and construction for off-road racers, and it’s true because this is the equivalent of the Jaguar D-Type that won at Le Mans: a game changer in every respect. Sold for $1,870,000 (€1,532,700) the new owner can sleep easy knowing he took home a great win.

1969 Ford Bronco 'Big Oly'
1969 Ford Bronco ‘Big Oly’ sold for $1,870,000 $ (€1,532,700)

The average of the 1,578 cars sold at Mecum (81.76% of the cars on offer) was $60,872, which means there were some absolute bargains to be made for every pocket. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Take for example the 1966 Shelby Cobra Daytona replica produced much more recently by Factory Five. It was an exact photocopy of the model driven by Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant and for this reason alone it was iconic. The Mustang-derived Small Block Ford 302 with 4-barrel Holley carburettors would have put almost everyone else behind it both on the track and at the traffic lights and it’s also pretty easy to maintain. Plus, it was practically new as it had travelled just 4,700 miles from new. No, it wasn’t an original, of course, but the selling price of $51,700 (€42,375) was one tenth the value of one of the eight built at the time. We don’t like replicas, but when they are openly declared and very well made, any temptation is fully justified.

1966 Shelby Cobra Daytona Replica
1966 Shelby Cobra Daytona Replica sold for $51,700 (€42,375)

It may seem like a bet but the 1982 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car Edition is one to put in the garage: the 80s are back in fashion and this is the perfect example of a car from Radwood. The $38,500 (€31,555) sale price is not an extravagant one, although this car didn’t have any significant history.

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car Edition
1982 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car Edition sold for $38,500 (€31,555)

If you were aiming to go to the next Cars & Coffee with something unique from Mecum, you were spoilt for choice: a Ford Custom Roadster based on a 1939 Ford V8 Flathead. A design with a very strong personality, beautiful and stylish interior and just $42,900 (€35,162). This was the final sale price.

1939 Ford Custom Roadster sold for  $42,900 (€35,162)

Alternatively, something truly extreme and equally unique: the 1957 Astro Sled Bubbletop, a true forbidden dream. $99,000 (€81,142) for the perfect example of beatnik style, an “object” that looked like it came straight out of a 1950s comic book. Although it was recently built by Dave Shuten, it had all the right period components 1957 Chrysler 354 CI V-8 engine, 1957 Chevrolet rear end, 1959 Cadillac taillights) so much so that it looked just like one of the magical creatures by the legendary Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth from the golden age of hot rods.

With everything I saw at this auction I am convinced: in May 2022 I’m taking a plane and I will be there too!

1957 Astro Sled Bubbletop
1957 Astro Sled Bubbletop sold for $99,000 (€81,142)