The 4th of January 2023 was a very important date: the Mecum sale in Kissimmee (FL) began on this day and ended on the 15th. This auction is important not only because it’s the first, but it’s also the biggest one of the year. After the records set in 2022 with 2,676 cars sold at a single auction that exceeded $200 million in turnover for the very first time, anything could have happened. This time, 2,951 cars were sold, equivalent to 77.66%, but above all a turnover of $224,729,090 (€207,615,970) with a growth of 11.7% compared to last year, and a higher average price, which passed from $75,178 (€69,455) to $76,154 (€70,355).
But is all that glitters gold? For Mecum it is without a doubt because growth is always an indisputable measure of success. The same can’t be said for a number of owners however, because the bidders were clearly a lot more attentive to prices and the off moment of madness was limited to a select few cases as we will see. What we can say is that a very positive realism emerged and appears to have prevailed. And you can’t say that’s a bad thing.
Let’s move on to the cars: two weeks ago I suggested following one or two cars with the potential to show us which way the winds of the market are blowing and now it’s time to take a look at how they fared.
The 1992 Ferrari F40 that I considered overestimated at $3.7m-$4m changed hands for $3,135,000 (€2,896,950), becoming the top lot of the sale at the same time. We saw that one coming, however.
The Rick Grant III collection changed the overall set-up of the auction: until Thursday, nine of the 10 most expensive cars came from this collection. At $2,970,000, the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 was the most expensive car (as expected, it sold above its estimate of $2.25m-$2.6m), followed by the 1959 BMW 507 S2 Roadster that sold for $1,760,000, a bargain right now.
However, the fate of the two racing muscle cars is a curious one: the 1969 Dodge Hemi Daytona was whisked away for $1,430,000 (€1,321,400), well above its estimate of $900,000-$1.1m. The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Berger, offered without reserve, went for $247,500 (€228,700). I had recommended not to steal those “national treasures” from the Americans, but at that price, even I would have ignored myself.
The two Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays 327/360 from 1963 were certainly interesting. One, estimated at $275,000-$300,000 went slightly above its estimate, changing hands for $302,500 (€279,500), while the previous day the other one went for below its estimate of $350,000-$400,000 and was sold for $321,750 (€297,300). The first Corvette Stingray, a red Convertible model also from 1963, was almost given away for $467,500 (€432,000) against an estimate of $600,000-$800,000. These are the risks of going in without a reserve price. Finally, six of the seven Ford GTs (2004-2006 series) that went under the hammer were sold. But beware, the sales prices were slightly down: the cheapest one (with 1,507 miles on the clock) flew away for $429,000 (€396,400), while one with just 262 miles since new reached $517,000 (€477,700). Even a 2006 GT Heritage Edition – by no means a garage queen with 5,269 miles under its belt – went for $473,000 (€437,100). The days of (fresher versions of) these cars going for over $700,000 seem somewhat distant.
Moving on in descending order of price, the most expensive car of the sale was a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster. The history of this model is slightly complicated because when it was just five years old, it was transformed to look like a 427 S/C and after 10 years, it also took on its current mechanical characteristics. Now, although a beautiful restoration was completed in 2022, this is exactly the kind of history that the current world of collecting doesn’t appreciate too much, which explains the estimate of $1.5m-$1.7m. But the market always dictates the terms and $1,430,000 (€1,320,250) was by no means a sign of true glory.
At the one-million-dollar threshold we find confirmation of one of the great collapses of the end of 2022. After having risen so much in the first half of last year (with several that touched and often exceeded the 2-million-dollar mark), prices for the Porsche Carrera GT have shifted into reverse. At Mecum they replicated the script we’ve already seen play out in previous months; either unsold (one) or sold at very low prices (the other). A yellow one from 2005 with 16,300 miles on the clock went unsold after receiving an offer of $1,000,000 exactly ($1,100,000 with commission), while a black one from the same year but with a slightly lower mileage (14,600 miles), managed to reach $1,072,500 (€990,185).
At $462,000 (€426,540), we find a 1993 Ferrari 512 TR. This version has always required a small extra over the normal Testarossa but lately the 512 TR is literally flying. Presented in the typical red with beige interior combination, its only major merit was that it had always belonged to the same owner. And even though it was in impeccable condition, the estimate of $400,000-$450,000 seemed high, but that wasn’t the case. The previous record was $313,500 (€289,500).
Almost the same fate for a blue 1967 Corvette Stingray Convertible, estimated at $300,000-$350,000. Among the many positive details: it had covered 35,600 miles and had received a nice score of 99 points out of 100 in the NCRS Top Flight in 2021. But the distance was on the odometer (so it could have been replaced) and the NCRS competition was regional. The estimate was decidedly ambitious (in the last three years only one has exceeded $300,000), but here it found a welcoming market: sold for $440,000 (€406,250).
Perhaps it will be remembered as the “phenomenon of the ‘10s” but Tesla was an industry game changer. With Tesla shares plummeting by 70% in the last year – who said that Tesla was the best investment? Here though, we are not talking about shares but about Elon Musk’s first creation, a rare “Founder’s Edition” version of the 2008 Roadster with just 1,332 miles on the clock. The last one to change hands, an example with just under 1,000 miles on the clock (therefore comparable to this one) was sold in August for $128,800, almost reaching the record of $140,000 for the model. This one from Kissimmee went all the way up to $220,000 (€203,115). Clearly, an electric car collection niche is forming…
American trucks are increasingly present in the collecting scene and the latest one to set a record was a Chevrolet 454 SS Pick-up. Black with red interior, it had travelled just 6 miles since it left the factory in 1990. The condition of the vehicle was, therefore, more Concours d’Elegance than a used pick-up. There was also the original invoice that stated a sale price of $18,295. 33 years later, that price became $110,000 (€101,550).
The cheapest car was also my favourite: a 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin. The sister of the well-known Polo Harlequin: only 264 units were produced for North America. The single-colour version of the MkIII 2.0 might be worth a few hundred dollars today, but the Harlequin jumped to $24,200 (€22,350).
I’d like to conclude with a curiosity: without engines and without instrumentation, the 1962 Lockheed 1329 Jetstar. Yes, an airplane, purchased by Elvis Presley himself in 1976. Not the only one. Little more than a fetish where the allure of the purchase lies in those seats that “who knows what they could tell”. Sold for $286,000 (€264,050), which is still far less than the $840,000 The King paid for it in 1976.