Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An open letter to "The Revenant's"
 Friends and Readers

The time has come.  It's time for The Revenant to move on and as the Chevrolet slogan advocates, Find New Roads.
Just what that means is that at this point I no longer foresee being able to continue this blog since most of my time and writings will be directed to a totally new and exciting venture celebrating AMERICA'S SPORTS CAR.  Due to overwhelming support and requests from readers I am starting a my own professionally designed website designed for the serious Corvette enthusiast and collector.  The new site is known as  Corvetted.  All future posts about the Corvette, the Corvette Collector market, Corvette auctions, Corvette events and even some Corvette history will be on my new web site www.corvetted.com.  Currently the site is not accessible and is currently in the final stages of beta testing. The site should go live by May 1, 2014.  I think you will agree that Corvetted is greatly improved and a truly professional Corvette site designed for the serious Corvette enthusiast and collector.    Here is a brief overview of just what Corvetted is about. 

Enthusiasts - Start your engines!
   is about to launch
Corvetted © was created to offer every Corvette enthusiast, owner and collector interesting, entertaining, and historical stories of America’s favorite sports car.   Corvetted will report on and analyze the most current Corvette collector market conditions, outlook and trends as well as provide unbiased reviews of the major auctions which feature Corvettes.  We will look at upcoming Corvette  events.  In addition we will give an honest no-holds-barred review of Corvette vendors and dealers for both collector cars and new Corvettes, products, services, books and events without the pressure from advertisers or special interests which too often taint reviews on other sites who don’t want to jeopardize their advertising income or product “freebees”.  And when Corvetted reviews a dealer, business, service department or product that excels we will also let you know about them because as owners and enthusiasts of the finest sports car, shouldn’t you also have the finest experience when it comes to products and services.  Our commentaries are ever-popular, always engaging, frequently thought provoking, occasionally amusing and sometimes controversial.  And we will attempt not to copy or duplicate what other good sites are already doing.  So rather than tell the same story over and over we will post direct feeds from the best sites so you can read their stories on their sites.  In addition to the direct feeds from a select group of outstanding sites Corvetted will also have a section devoted to Corvette links by subject so you won’t have to waste your time searching for hours through frequently irrelevant internet search results.  Only the best and most accurate and trusted sites will be listed for your quick reference.  We will have weekly features centered on the Corvette experiences and a photo gallery to show our reader’s Corvettes as well as other interesting examples.  The best part is that the site is designed to interest all ages whether you’re still dreaming of your first Corvette or you’re an experienced owner or collector, which means we are flexible and will be adapting the site to offer more of what our readers are looking for in a Corvette site. 

We are busy at work putting the finishing touches on your Corvetted site and hope you will not only stop by when our site goes live in mid April but become a “vetted” daily reader and member of our Corvetted community. 

Thanks and I hope you will visit Corvetted daily.

Rick Tavel

Editor Corvetted®©


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Deciphering the Confusing 2014 Corvette Collector Market

Untangling the Corvette Market Mystery Mess
by Rick Tavel© April 4, 2013 All rights reserved


In a few days two prophetic auctions will take place that collectors of Corvettes will want to keep their eyes on whether they plan to bid at these auctions or not.  The two biggest sellers of collector Corvettes in the country, Mecum® and Barrett-Jackson® will be holding their second important collector auctions of 2014.  The reason these auctions are important is because after some mixed and difficult to interpret first quarter Corvette auction results, we should get a better read on the Corvette collector market and where it is headed for this year.   After a spectacular 2013 which saw new records set on “blue chip” Corvette prices, and while the Corvette segment of the collector market was strong for most rare and well optioned cars, at this point it is difficult determine whether last year’s strong market trends will continue for 2014. 

 Based on the mixed results of the first quarter auction events from the several auction houses, including the most important Corvette auction companies, Mecum® and Barrett-Jackson®, it has been difficult to predict whether the strength in the Corvette market will continue throughout 2014.   In January, Barrett-Jackson® had their best Scottsdale auction in history and their sales results showed an overall sales increase in the high single digits. The Corvettes at Barrett-Jackson® were impressive and enthusiasts got to see a new world’s record price for a Corvette sold at auction when a 1967 L88 Corvette was sold for $3.85M, breaking a record set just a few months prior at Mecum’s Dallas auction of $3.52M by another 1967 L88 Corvette.  At the same Barrett-Jackson® auction this year enthusiasts and bidders  also witnessed another record was set for a third generation Corvette when the world famous L88 racecar, “The Rebel,” was sold for $2.86M.  Normally when two Corvette world’s records are shattered in the same auction it would be a pretty good indicator that the market was definitely going to have another exceptional year ahead. 

A world's record price was paid for a C-3 at auction when "the Rebel" was hammered down for $2.5M at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale.  (Photo source: Barrett-Jackson)
But only a week later that projection was put on hold after Mecum’s, the largest of all collector Corvette auction companies, results were posted.  Sales and attendance at the world’s largest collector car auction in the world slipped from the prior year and more than a few of the most important featured Corvettes failed to sell.  But in the volatile collector car market things are not always as they may initially appear and in fairness there were several external factors at work which impacted those results.  It should be remembered that much of the country was snowed-in and as the automobile world has recently witnessed the weather has been a factor in automobile sales, new and used, throughout the country in January and February.  So it could be expected that attendance and sales for Mecum’s Kissimmee event would be negatively affected.  Even in light of the lagging attendance, Mecum did manage to sell almost 250 of the 400 Corvettes offered, a victory in light of the adverse weather and attendance.


Terry Michaelis' incredible concours winning  Z06 was bid to a healthy $900K at Mecum's Kissimmee auction but did not meet the owner's reserve. He must have been right since the car sold a few weeks later for an undisclosed price. (Photo source; Mecum)
But the results left the Corvette market with some serious questions.  Could the disappointing results be attributed entirely to the external factors or was there a shift coming in the previously strong Corvette market?  Analyzing the results, one important fact emerged, more than a few of the “blue chip” Corvettes did not sell in Kissimmee, and due to the heavy impact of these cars on the entire Corvette market those results raised a flag indicating a need to find answers and determine the actual direction the 2014 market was headed.  Of the top ten most important, rare and important Corvettes, of the 400 consigned, seven did not sell.  Though the weather and attendance may have influenced those results, normally the strongest “blue chip” collector cars are rarely affected by factors such as weather, since most serious, informed and qualified potential bidders have vetted the cars, developed bidding plans and contingencies for those investment lots well in advance of the actual auction.  If the weather or some other external factor arises those bidders are usually prepared to place their bids by phone, fax, or computer. So if it wasn’t the drop in attendance and if the collector whales had their plans in place, what was it that kept the cars from changing hands, were the bids too low or were the reserves too high?    Buyer’s reserves are something that the auction company has little control over and no auction company works harder to bring buyer and seller together than Mecum®.  The next step is to determine whether the bids placed were realistic in light of the strong Corvette market up to that point and were the bids at least “fair market value.”

Were the bids placed actually strong bids and realistically within range of market value for the cars crossing the block or was interest in the “blue chip” Corvettes beginning to ebb? And there lies what may be the mitigating factor to help arrive at a realistic analysis of the Kissimmee sale and more specifically the health of the Corvette market.  Failing to sell due to not meeting the reserve may just indicate that the sellers were being over optimistic in their expectations and trying to over-capitalize on the previous year’s otherwise strong market.  Based on the robust sales and record prices in 2013 more than a few sellers jumped on the band wagon to try and reap the benefits of a seller’s market and it is common to see owners of collector cars over react and project super-inflated values on their cars following record setting sales in the market.  Certainly there is little Mecum can do rectify unrealistic reserves aside from advising consignors on their reserve prices versus the actual market value.   Certainly no one works any harder to bring buyer and seller together than Dana and Frank Mecum and their auction teams,  but ultimately the decision as to the reserve price rests with the consignor.   And as many have witnessed in person and on TV consigners can be more than a little obstinate and set on their prices.  So let’s take a look at those top ten Corvettes, not from a “sold” perspective but more importantly for market analysis purposes, the final bid price. 

Dana Mecum on the Block trying to bring the buyer and seller
to an agreement.   (Photo source: Mecum)
 Below is a list of the top ten Corvettes and the selling price or the final bid price.   For the purpose of determining the market direction we will ignore whether the car sold or not and look at the final bid price versus the fair market valuation of the car at the beginning of 2014. 

Though the ’56 Corvette prototype and the 1963 Earl styling cars were disappointing that they did not sell, since they are unique cars they are difficult to consider in determining the health of the Corvette market.  More importantly are the highly desired Z06’s and L88’s where there is considerable prior market data to help judge the quality of bids placed.  


To help us in our analysis let’s look at only the cars in blue type since those are the cars for which we have some historic price data over time.  One of the best market guides available for determining both historic and current market values for collector cars is the Hagerty Price Valuation Guide®.   Hagerty® has compiled extensive data on the first four Corvette generations’ values over the last seven years based on the condition of the car and many of the the production RPO’s.  You can find information here: http://www.hagerty.com/valuationtools/

 The first thing which must be kept in mind is, with the exception of only a limited number of Corvettes with rare options, the vast majority of Corvettes, today, are not selling for the prices they were getting in 2007 according to Hagerty.  Many of the strong optioned cars are getting close to their market highs but most average optioned Corvettes are still selling below what they were being sold for in 2006 and 2007/  The biggest reason is that 2007 was the last year prior to the stock market and corresponding collector car market crash of 2008.  Two optioned Corvettes which are exceptions are the 1963 Z06’s and the 1967 through 1969 L88’s.  Both of these optioned Corvettes are bringing considerable more on average than they did seven years ago.  Even the rarer 1967 L89, of which there were only sixteen produced, is not bringing 2007 prices on average even though they have doubled their seven year low price of $217K .  But the reality is that most Corvette enthusiasts are not buying $250K + cars even though we may want to.  Most of us are buying the less rare but well to mid optioned and less costly cars.   While most of those cars’ values are still on average below the 2007 prices, the top dollar “blue chip” Corvette sales performance has a ripple effect on most other Corvette prices.  So, in short, blue chip prices impact the entire Corvette market, if not immediately, shortly thereafter.

One of the factors that have driven some rare optioned Corvette’s pricing to all time highs and helped them defy the trend for most of the Corvette market is the focus over the last several years with performance and racing optioned cars, especially those with documented heritages.  As a result not only have the prices of Z06’s and L88’s escalated well above their seven year highs they have influenced prices on other high performance optioned cars, as seen in the values of the high horsepower big blocks as well as the LT1, ZR1 and ZR2’s, though bargains can occasionally still be found. 

This exceptional 1969 L88 sold $510K at Mecum's world's largest collector car auction in January.  In Corvette L88 terms this could be considered a prudent buys.  (Photo source: Mecum)

So when the “blue chips” go up usually other Corvettes will follow almost in order of options and rarity.   In other words values of high optioned performance based Corvettes will go up in a quicker time frame than the lower optioned and horsepower cars.  And, though the overall Corvette market has been making a comeback towards meeting or exceeding their overall market highs of 2006 and 2007, at the end of 2013, mid and lower horsepower optioned Corvettes are still lagging well behind their highs and in many cases have shown little upside growth from their historic low prices.  So much of the otherwise strong Corvette market in the last two years has come from the concours condition restored or survivor, well optioned, condition 1 and 2 cars with a bulletproof provenance and even better if they had a documented performance heritage.  Various strong and weak examples can be seen In the “Affordable” chart below which illustrates that most examples are well above their “Market Low Value” but have not quite attained their value as of December 2006, and there is even an example of the current value being only $100 above the historic low value. 

 The fact that most Corvette prices have not yet attained their seven year highs is good news for collectors who still want to get in the market, but many optioned Caorvettes are now rapidly approaching those highs.  Understanding this and the market direction adds some urgency to potential purchases if the market performs like it did in 2013.  To give you a feel for some of those values here are some Hagerty® historic and current valuations of some of the most affordable first through fourth generation Corvettes all rated in a strong #2 condition. (Note these are averages and deviations to these valuations will occur.)



Another helpful tool in valuating collector cars is Mecum’s Infonet® which allows Mecum members to find sales data on all cars crossing the block at Mecum auctions for the past several years. This can be found at http://mecum.com/ .   This tool is one of the best and even allows you to pull up a specific auction lot number, description from several years ago.  And another attribute of Infonet® is that it even if the car did not sell it shows the highest bid placed.  It illustrates Dana Mecum’s belief that an educated bidder is good for his business. 

 Over the past seven years Mecum’s Infonet® reports that eleven 1963 Z06’s have crossed the block since 2007.   Four of the eleven 06’s were sold, four failed to meet reserve and three show no bids and no disposition.   Sold prices ranged from a $250K bargain for a Nabers Brothers older restoration, from the Buddy Herin collection (the same consignor of the 1967 L88 which set a world’s record price of $3.5M at Mecum’s 2013 September Dallas event) to over $1M for the well documented historic Gulf Oil race car which sold in January of 2009.  The chart below shows Hagerty’s historic valuation on number 1 condition “Blue Chip Corvettes,” of which the 1963 Z06’s and 1967 – 69 L88’s make up an important piece of the “blue chip” segment.  (Note that the historic high price on all of these Corvettes is the current valuation and that all cars are significantly above their 2006 year end prices)  




By analyzing the data in this format we get a better perspective of the “blue chip” segment of the Corvette market.  Using this approach it appears that the bids placed on the investment Blue chip segment were at or above market valuation.  This finding would support the theory that in many cases the reserves were set to maximize, if not over-estimate, the potential value of the consignment.  Though this would support the theory that overall the current Corvette market appears healthy.  However, that being said there may be some softening or stabilization in the C3 market segment.  Of the seven C3 Corvettes on the lists, two were underbid/sold, three were sold above the current market value, and two were bid at market value.   But the second generation blue chip segment appears exceptionally strong based on the five L88, Z06, and L89’s offered for sale.  Every one of these cars were bid/sold above the current market evaluation, and most of those were substantially above the current values.  Based on this the ripple effect of these high value, investment cars should positively impact well optioned other Corvettes, particularly the second generation cars.

 But as previously noted, we should get a more definitive answer and 2014 market direction following the two auctions taking place later this week. Both auctions have some good examples of first, second and third generation Corvettes in every segment scheduled to cross the block and we will be watching, analyzing and reporting our findings.  Both auctions have more than a few Corvettes that will help us decipher the market direction.  You can learn more about the Mecum consignments at http://www.mecum.com/auctions/top_picks.cfm and the Barrett-Jackson Corvettes at http://www.barrett-jackson.com/palmbeach/ .
The Revenant's Auction Picks
Mecum's April Houston Auction 2014

An original 2996 mile survivor found under blankets, the American and Marine flags after the passing of its original Viet Nam veteran owner don McNamara.  The car was virtually unknown until discovered by a neighbor.  If this car doesn't become the most valuable Corvette sold in Houston it is certainly the most storied.  Don't be surprised if the car sells for $750K to $1M+.  This car will be a factor in determining the future 2014 strength of the Corvette market. 

Barrett-Jackson's  April Palm Beach Auction 2014
This won't be the most expensive Corvette to cross the block in Palm Beach.  That distinction will inevitable go to the buyer of the first production Corvette Z06 which will likely cross the block somewhere north of $1M.  But with the continuing interest in original survivors though this isn't nearly as storied as Don McNamara's 1967 Corvette consigned at Mecum's Houston event and it has nearly 16K more miles (total  19.1K) it is one of the most original 1967 427's out there.  Literally the car is a time capsule and has received the NCRS Chevrolet Bowtie Preservation Award, five NCRS Top Flight Awards, NCRS Performance Verification Award on the first and only attempt, NCRS Duntov Marque of Excellence Award, Bloomington Gold Historic Survivor, Bloomington Gold - Gold Certification, Bloomington Gold Benchmark Award, Gold Spinner Award and Triple Crown Award. Cars like this can be a challenge to put a price on since they are often bought to end up either as trailer queens or sitting idly in a museum in order to preserve their time capsule status and value.  It will also serve to illustrate the strength of  a benchmark survivor 1967 Corvete vs a concours restored 1967 corvette  which is also being sold from Rick Hendrick's collection.  Nevertheless I think this car will hammer for $350K+.  Unlike the McNamara Corvette at Mecum;s, this one will definitely be sold since it has no reserve.




Sunday, March 9, 2014

Terry Michaelis Selected for Bloomington Gold Great Hall

Terry Michaelis Selected for Bloomington Gold Great Hall

by Rick Tavel © March 8, 2014

Terry Michaelis with his celebrated "Last Sting Ray"    (Photo: ProTeam Corvettes)
The Corvette hobby has millions of enthusiasts but few as recognizable and well known as Terry Michaelis, president and co-owner of Pro Team Corvette in Napoleon, Ohio, and Corvette collector who has owned some of the most important Corvettes ever produced.  In addition to amassing one of the finest and largest Corvette collections in the country, he has notably impacted both the Corvette hobby and enthusiasts over the past forty years that he has been consumed with America’s sports car.  Chances are if you love Corvettes and are a student of Corvette history then you have been impacted in some way by Michaelis’ involvement in the hobby, whether just enjoying one of his historic Corvettes that are frequently invited to be shown in shows across the country or by the years of work Michaelis has devoted to archiving and sharing important details about the car and its history.  That is why Terry Michaelis has been selected by the Bloomington Gold selection committee to be inducted into the Great Hall during the celebrated Bloomington Gold three day event held annually in Champaign, Illinois, June 27th through the 29th.  Michaelis will become one of the 50 people or organizations who have most impacted and influenced the Corvette hobby since the car’s inception and will be one of only ten people and organizations to be inducted during this, the final year for inductees.

Bloomington Gold Great Hall  (Photo: Bloomington Gold)
This year marks the end of a five year program honoring ten individuals or organizations and ten Corvettes as the most important in the history of the car, culminating over five years with  the 50 most significant and influential people or organizations and the 50 most influential and historic Corvettes, throughout the Corvette’s legendary and storied 62 year existence.  Michaelis will join nine other 2014 inductees such as Larry Shinoda, Vince Piggins, Karl Ludvigsen, Ronnie Kaplan, Irwin Kroiz, Bob Gold, Al Grenning, and organizations the National Corvette Museum and Cypress Gardens  as well as noted past inductees such as Zora Arkus-Duntov, Bill Mitchell, Jim Perkins, Reeves Callaway, Mike Yager and Kevin Mackay to name just a few.

 Michaelis has bought and sold over 10,000 Corvettes since his first purchase and sale back in 1971 and is a leading authority on the Corvette, its design, parts, options and engineering.  He has written several scholarly articles on the Corvette    (see TMichaelis Corvette Perspective  http://www.tmichaelis.com/tag/classic-car-community/ ) and has owned some of the rarest and most sought-after Corvettes ever produced.  In addition to traditional methods of amassing an important Corvette collection, he has also miraculously found and restored several “barn finds” which have turned out to be historically significant.  But the word “miraculously” is misnomer because it’s not miracles but rather hard work that has paid off for his collection and business.  Michaelis puts untold hours researching specific Corvettes before and after he acquires them and then usually subjects his acquisition to a detailed restoration often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

Michaelis' Dick Lang Z06 restoration cost over $225K
Over the years Terry Michaelis’ collection has been a virtual dream team of Corvettes. While many collectors salivate like a Pavlovian dog at the thought of one day finding and restoring any forgotten Corvette tucked away in a barn, a few years ago, within months of each other, Michaelis discovered two separate “barn find” Corvettes.  But these were not ordinary forty-five year old barn finds, they were 1963 Z06’s both had racing history.  After acquiring the cars and thoroughly documenting their provenance he restored the important cars and then sold them. 

Enthusiasts may have also seen the six part TV documentary, “The Last Sting Ray,” about the restoration and history of another one of Michaelis’ finds, the documented last 1967 Sting Ray ever produced.   After a very costly, world-class restoration it sold on TV at Barrett-Jackson’s auction for $660K in 2007.  Those who got to see the car cross the block also got to see Terry kick off the sale of the silver coupe and also observe one of qualities that has made him so successful over four decades; like P.T.Barnum, he is known for “over the top” marketing. 

And he is relentless in his continual quest to find other Corvettes to add to his stable. A stable that has at one time included several of the Great Hall's fifty most important Corvettes. 
Most recently he has shown and taken home several ribbons and awards at concours and judged Corvette events throughout the country with his 1963 Z06 “tanker” formerly raced by Dick Lang.  And when he puts one of his Corvettes up for sale, the buyer must keep in mind that he will be bartering with the consummate Corvette collector and expert who knows more than the buyer does about the Corvette and the Corvette collector market.  His Lang Z06 crossed the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale but the Corvette failed to meet Terry’s reserve even though it was bid to a healthy $900K.  Simply based on the restoration, the history, the significance and the awards, the car was worth more and Terry knew it and wasn’t going to be “low-balled” with a mere $900K bid!  And he must have been right because the Corvette subsequently has sold. 
Michaelis snatched up this important 1969 L88 for less than $300K
 Over the past several years several Corvette collectors watch Michaelis to see what he is buying, like stock investors watch Warren Buffett, realizing that he is usually ahead of the market.  Terry was avidly seeking out the iconic and recently record setting L88’s before they were selling for $3+M.  And savvy “Michaelis watching” collectors know that Pro team’s president is reeling in some big catches, especially when it comes to third generation L88’s.   In January 2013 he snatched one of the best buys at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction, paying less than $300K for a third generation 1969 L88 and then in September brought the car back to auction and this time at Mecum’s Dallas event the car was bid to over $400K but did not meet Terry’s reserve.

1953 Daytona Beach Time Trials NASCAR  headed to Amelia Island
Winning awards is not unusual for one of Michaelis’  Corvettes which always seem to be featured at concours events throughout the country.  The awards, though a satisfying testament to the quality and accuracy of the restoration, ultimately add value to the car when it if offered for sale.  One of his cars, a first generation 1953 Corvette, which he refers to as his “Beach Car,”  is the oldest known competition Corvette, one of the three first generation Corvettes to run at the 1955 Daytona Beach Time Trials, and has been invited to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.  This is one of three Corvettes that were prepped for the NASCAR time trials where the Corvettes ultimately proved to be a worthy competitive sports car and played an important part in the survival of the Corvette brand. 

But as busy as he is with his Corvette business and collection Terry is never too busy to take some time out of his schedule to talk with and help Corvette enthusiasts and collectors and to share his vast knowledge on Corvettes.  Whether it is a question on a correct restoration part or to tell the story and history of a car Terry takes the time to help a new Corvette enthusiast just starting out in the hobby just as he would for one of his repeat customers.   And he recognizes the role those Corvette friends and acquaintances have played throughout his career.  When asked about his induction into the Great Hall he says, “As flattered as I am to accept entry into the Great Hall, I don’t enter alone. I take along the decades of indelible friendships and memories.”  




Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mecum’s® Houston Event = Two Compelling Corvettes

Mecum’s® Houston Event = Two Compelling Corvettes
By Rick Tavel© February 18, 2014

Bunkie Knudsen's Styling Roadster to be auctioned at Mecums in Houston  (Photo: Mecum)
It appears that Mecum® is off and running for 2014 after a weather induced slow start in Kissimmee.  Their Houston event is shaping up to be typical of the high quality consignments that usually characterizes their events with some outstanding Corvettes scheduled to cross the block from Thursday, April 10th through Saturday, April 12th.  As I was reviewing Mecum’s® latest on-line catalog (http://www.mecum.com/auctions/top_picks.cfm?AUCTION_ID=HA0414),  two Corvettes jumped off the page to capture my attention.  Certainly no Corvette enthusiast could ignore the Bunkie Knudsen Corvette, after all it is not only the auction headliner, it is one of the most interesting Corvettes ever made, as well as the personal car for then Chevrolet General manager Bunkie Knudsen.  The second Corvette, perhaps not as well known, is the stunning 1967 Corvette coupe once owned by former Marine and Viet Nam veteran,  Don McNamara, and put into storage with less than 3K miles on it, has a bullet proof provenance and literally may be the finest 1967 “survivor” in existence. 

The McNamara Patriotic Corvette survivor with less than 3K miles to be sold in Houston (Photo: Mecum)
The McNamara Corvette just might end up being the brightest star among many Corvettes at the Houston event, even considering the tough competition from the Knudsen styling car and a 1966 “big tank” coupe.  The fascinating story of McNamara, returning from Viet Nam and winning $5K in Las Vegas during his retirement celebration, then subsequently ordering his dream car is certainly interesting enough on its own, but what happened after that is even more compelling.   Strangely after putting 2996 miles on the Corvette it suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.  An unusually private person, when asked what happened to his Corvette, McNamara simply said he no longer owned the car, though rumors persisted that the Corvette was hidden in his single car heated garage.  Not until his death in 2011 was the Corvette found by a neighboring couple he befriended later in his life.  Only then was it discovered that McNamara secretly put the car in storage where it remained hidden away from family and friends.  When the car was discovered it was sheathed in a car cover, and covered with storage blankets and Marine Corp and United States flags, which preserved the car as it appeared over 45 years before.  His next door neighbor for 22 years who discovered it had never seen the car before that day.

Passenger seat never sat in (Photo: Mecum)
Don McNamara’s patriotism was his inspiration for ordering the car in Ermine white with a red stinger and interior and to complete the patriotic theme he replaced the black wall tires with white and blue double stripe rubber.  McNamara was intensely private, was never married and never even had a credit card or checking account.  So finding the Corvette treasure hidden safely in his garage did not seem so out of character by the very few people that knew him. After the first year of ownership, not wanting to pay insurance, registration and license fees, he put the car away.  Until the mid 1980’s he only drove it occasionally at night until the mileage approached 3K when he put the Corvette away permanently.   The Corvette had only been driven by McNamara, the passenger seat had never been sat in and until discovered the Corvette had never been touched by water, never in rain or washed!

Other than a few personal touches like Edelbrock valve covers and four Corvette decals on the air cleaner the car remains as it was when ordered  with the L36 427/390 HP engine, M20 4-speed manual transmission and 3.36 Positraction rear end.  In addition tinted glass, telescopic steering wheel, AM/FM radio, side exhaust and bolt-on aluminum wheels were also added pushing the original invoice to $5.504.  With the help of his father a dealer was located that would keep the Marine’s dream alive and sell the car just below McNamara’s $5K limit.   This beautiful example of the last  year of the second generation Corvette will be sold along with the original window sticker, showroom sales brochure, Chevrolet warranty book with Protect-O-Plate, the original keys and fob and a duplicate set of keys; the original owner’s manual and plastic pouch, dealer record book issued by Ray Motor Co., a cashier’s check for a deposit and a receipt for the balance of the purchase price, the original State of Colorado license registration and title issued to McNamara dated May 22, 1967 and the NCRS Shipping Data Report confirming delivery at Ray Motor Company in Lamar, Colorado.  Lot S128 will cross the block on Saturday, April 12th.

Don McNamara added his personal touch of additional Corvette insignias to the air cleaner  (Photo: Mecum)
Former Chevrolet GM Bunkie Knudsen's personal Corvette 1 of 4 built with this custom exhaust (Photo: Mecum)
The featured car of the entire auction is Bunkie Knudsen’s personalized Corvette roadster, styled by GM, copying the modified 1963 Corvette shown at the New York Auto Show that year.  As many Corvette enthusiasts know Bunkie Knudsen was the General Manager of Chevrolet from 1961 through 1965 until he was elected executive vice president of GM®.  This is one of four second generation Corvettes modified by GM that included the custom exhaust pipes which exited through the body of the Corvette.  Last October Mecum offered another styling car which had the same modified exhaust feature and belonged to Harley Earl which was the top seller of the auction and sold for over $1M.  Knudsen’s  is the third “styling Corvette” offered since the October Chicagoland auction last year, the second was a pink 1963 roadster owned by Mrs. Harley Earl and failed to meet reserve in Mecum’s January event in Kissimmee.  But unlike the other two Corvettes, this one has been impeccably restored by noted Corvette restored Werner Meier . 

Knudsen's favorite Firefrost Metallic also used on the interior (Photo: Mecum)
The car was finished in Knudsen’s favorite custom color, Crimson Firefrost metallic lacquer  and accented with a full-length white stripe and white soft top (the car also retains a matching hard top). This combination was also carried through in the modified interior, where a unique custom shift console assembly was flanked by 1964-type seats upholstered with white naugahyde and maroon accent stripes.   In addition slotted stainless steel floor grille plates replaced the stock floor mats which was common GM styling cars of the era. A custom twin-spoke steering wheel featured two types of wood on the rim and 1964 instrumentation was used in the color-matching dash. The interior was later upgraded with changes to the instrumentation and the addition of 1967 seat belts.  The car was equipped with power brakes and windows as well.

GM stylists used Chrome and black paint on the engine (Photo: Mecum)
The 327 fuel injected engine and engine bay was also modified, substituting chrome plating and crinkle-finish black paint in place of the cast aluminum surfaces on the small block engine. The engine bay had to be modified to accommodate the special exhaust system which required trimming the heater box for clearance and relocating the battery to the area behind the passenger seat.

 After Knudsen finished with the car it was returned to stock appearance and passed through several owners who allowed it to fall into disrepair before being rediscovered by Corvette collector Wally Abela in a garage being used as part of a scaffold.  After buying the car Abela consulted Corvette expert and restorer Werner Meir who was able to trace its ownership and confirm its important heritage.   In 1984 Abela turned his Corvette over to Meier for a full restoration.  The unusually complex restoration took four years to complete and required eight different machine and fabrication facilities to complete the complicated exhaust system.  But when Meier finished the exquisite Corvette was invited to the Meadowbrook and Hilton Head concours events and has been shown numerous times in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection.  From its opening in 1994 until 2001 the National Corvette Museum had the car on permanent display.   In 2003 the car was sold and has resided in several collections until finding its way to Mecum’s Houston event.  Knudsen’s personal, unique Corvette, Lot S119, will also cross the block on Saturday, April 12th.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014 Barrett-Jackson® & Mecum® SuperAuction Results: A Study in Contrasts

2014 Barrett-Jackson® & Mecum®  SuperAuction Results or
A Study in Contrasts

By Rick Tavel © January 30, 2014

The hammers are silenced and have been put away while the teams at Barrett-Jackson® and Mecum® try to catch up on some much needed rest after staging the two best collector car auctions in the world.    During the two weeks of auction excitement which took place on opposite sides of the country, Barrett-Jackson® in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mecum® in Kissimmee, Florida, several outstanding cars crossed the block including over 500 Corvettes.  Mecum® lived up to their claim of the Kissimmee event being the “World’s Largest Collector Car Auction” offering 2750 collector cars and almost 400 Corvettes.  Barrett-Jackson® cemented their reputation as being “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction” by expanding  their Scottsdale lifestyle extravaganza, which is a mix of the world’s great automobile museums, Disneyland®, Hollywood and supported by a diverse cast of sports, racing and media celebrities ranging from racing great, Sir Stirling Moss, to rock legend Bret Michaels.  This year Barrett-Jackson® did it in an all new bricks and mortar facility which offered enthusiasts larger, more comfortable and convenient amenities. 

Aerial view of Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale event at Westworld        (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)
Aerial view of Mecum's Kissimmee event at the Silver Spurs Arena Osceola Heritage Park (Photo: Mecum)
Barrett-Jackson® proclaimed their 2014 Scottsdale event to be the best in their history 43 year history with sales topping $113M (+4%), selling 1399 cars  (+4%), raising over $4.4M for charity and setting a few world’s records along the way.  This year Craig Jackson, CEO, and his team impressively staged their extravaganza in an all new permanent facility that was completed just days before the annual eight day event kicked off January 12th.
Collectors and enthusiasts flocked to sunny Arizona from January 12th through the 19th to enjoy the six annual major auctions which take place in and around Scottsdale.  Hagerty®, the insurance company and acknowledged collector car expert, estimates that 15% of all collector cars sold at auction during the year change hands in the six Arizona January auctions.  As such the collector world closely watches what happens at these six auctions to help gauge the upcoming auction year.   All but one of those six auctions reported strong sales and sell thru percent improvements over last year, producing a combined total of $253M in car sales.  Based on those encouraging results, it looks like 2014 is shaping up to be a good year for the collector car market.
1967 L88 Set a new world's record selling for $3.85M  (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)

 Clearly Barrett-Jackson® is the main event and draw of the six January Arizona auctions offering over 1400 of the world’s most collectible cars and 150 Corvettes.  Mostly a “No Reserve” auction, Barrett-Jackson® sold over 99% of their consignments which were up over 2013 and set three world’s records in the process.   A 1967 L88 Corvette coupe was sold for $3.85M making it the most expensive Corvette ever sold at auction, a 1969 Corvette L88 race car, known as the “Rebel,” sold for $2.86M a record price for a 1969 Corvette and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird “E” set a record selling at $330K.   And for the first time, the world got to witness on live national TV two hours of what makes Barrett-Jackson® Scottsdale one of the most elaborate and exciting extravaganzas in the automotive world.

The "Rebel" sold for $2.86M A record for a 69 Vette (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)

"Two records
were set by
Corvettes at
A 67 L88 Coupe
sold for $3.85M
and a 69 L88 sold
for  $2.86M"
Stirling Moss in Gullwing (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)
Barrett-Jackson’s® diverse consignments ranged from Simon Cowell’s Bugatti Veyron  which sold for $1.3M to a 1955 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing which was ushered to the block by Sir Stirling Moss, world champion race car driver and champion who during the 1950’s drove for the Mercedes racing team.  In addition to the two record-setting Corvettes, sixteen “Salon Collection” cars were sold that hammered for over $22M.  These cars were some of the finest “blue chip” collector cars spanning all years, ranging from a pre war 1929 Duesenberg SJ LeBaron  Dual Cowl Phaeton to a 1999 Ferrari F300 racecar. 

As usual the Barrett-Jackson® team orchestrated a venue that packed the auction facility everyday with excited enthusiasts and bidders.  Over 300,000 enthusiasts packed the main building, display tents and vendor areas to participate in the incredible happening at Barrett-Jackson® which took place at their traditional location in WestWorld®.    When the dust settled, anyone who attended the Barrett-Jackson® experience has a better understanding why the Scottsdale extravaganza is known as “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction.”

The week following the Scottsdale events, Mecum® staged their annual “world’s largest collector car auction” over two thousand miles away in Kissimmee, Florida.  This year, however, due to the frozen vortex which blanketed most of the country, thousands of airline flights were cancelled making the pilgrimage to Mecum’s “promised land” difficult at best.   Due to the weather related transportation difficulties throughout most of the country, it was surprising and a testament to Mecum® loyalists that attendance only fell 6%, still drawing 70K spectators and enthusiasts.   Even the weather in normally sunny, warm Florida failed to cooperate, with temperatures in the 30’s overnight and not getting much above 60 during the day.

Mecum's Kissimmee home Osceola Heritage Park (Photo: Mecum)
But more than the weather disappointed those enthusiasts who fled the frozen north for a week of auction heaven in Florida.    Though Mecum® heavily promoted their 2750 consignments almost 1000 of them went unsold, resulting in a disappointing 64% sell through, which was also 6% behind last year’s results and low by industry standards where a 70% or better sell through is expected.  The  unsold cars were the biggest contributor to the significant sales loss -11.4%, down over $8M and totaling $63.435M for the event.  The average selling price of cars also slid by 8% to a little over $36K.  
"The main feature of the Kissimmee auction was a 1956 Corvette SR Prototype that was hammered sold for over $2.3M, then the deal fell apart due to a third party dispute over  ownership of parts used in the restoration."

The 1956 "Real McCoy" Sale Fell Apart (Photo: Mecum) 
 Even Mecum’s® recognized strength, the Corvette, could not mend the slumping sales performance.  Though several important Corvettes were consigned, only three of the top ten Corvette lots were actually sold, unheard of in a Mecum® auction.  The main feature of the auction, a 1956 Corvette SR prototype, known as the "Real McCoy" was hammered down at $2.3M, far off the anticipated world’s record price that it was rumored to bring, and then the sale fell apart afterwards due to third party claims of ownership of parts used in the restoration.   An analysis of the close to 400 Corvettes that were on hand for the sale showed that the sell thru was less than 58% and on Saturday when the best Corvettes cross the block the sell thru was even more disappointing at less than 50%. 

The 1963 Z06 originally driven by Dick Lang  (Photo: Mecum)

 "The Dick Lang 63 Z06 was bid to $900K and failed to meet the seller's reserve.  A staggering seven of the top ten Corvettes failed to sell."

And sales weren’t much better for other premier cars in the auction.  More than a few of the “featured” and “star” cars simply did not sell, due to high reserves.  To illustrate, in a January 6, 2013, press release (read it here: http://www.mecum.com/news/news_detail.cfm?NEWS_ID=2358)  Mecum® touts eight important featured consignments, five of them Corvettes.  Of the eight cars featured in their press release, unbelievably, only one of the eight sold, that calculates to an unheard of 12.5% sell thru.    The five Corvettes promoted in Mecum’s press release included the main auction attraction, the highly promoted 1956 Corvette SR Prototype (Lot S132), a concours winning  1963 Corvette Z06 race car originally driven by Dick Lang (LotS148), a 1963 Corvette “Styling”  car formerly owned by Mrs. Harley Earl (Lot S153), the famous 1988 Corvette Callaway “Sledgehammer” (Lot F259) and another pristine 1963 Corvette Z06 (Lot S150.1 ).  Add to those important cars another five of the most important Corvettes in the auction: three third generation L88’s, another 1963 Z06 and a 1967 L89 and you have, arguably, the top ten Corvettes of Mecum’s 2014 Kissimmee event.*   Of these important, “blue chip,” ten Corvettes an astounding seven did not sell!    
Frank Mecum closing a deal (Photo: Mecum)

"Dana’s son Frank, director of consignments, adeptly stepped up and following in his father’s footsteps put together some seemingly stalled deals." 

Clearly the frustrating Saturday results did not go unnoticed as the auctioneers goaded the sedate audience to get behind the bidding and “make some noise” while at the same time openly begging bidders to up their bids and pleading with sellers to take their reserves off the cars.  And if all that weren’t enough, Dana Mecum, founder and president, known as the “Dealmaker,” was noticeably not feeling well, curtailing his “dealmaking” with his “down-home” colloquialisms.   Dana’s son Frank, director of consignments, adeptly stepped up and following in his father’s footsteps put together some seemingly stalled deals.  Frank along with his co director, John Kraman, has put together the best and most important Corvette offerings throughout 2013 and cemented Mecum’s reputation as the “king of Corvettes.”

On top of all this, adding to the disappointing Saturday results, unbelievably, only two hours of live TV coverage were broadcast on Saturday, the auction’s premier day.  The two hours of live coverage on Saturday were the least important time of Saturday’s auction, absurdly not broadcasting live the most important attractions.  More than a few loyal Mecum® viewers lit up social media with their disappointment in the TV coverage and format this year.   If the format change was made to improve and excite Mecum® fans it was clearly a “fail” from a view perspective. 

Contrast Mecum’s Saturday coverage with the over-the-top two hour broadcast on Fox® network TV of the exciting peak two hours of Barrett-Jackson® Scottsdale, where viewers saw two Corvettes hammered down for over $2.5M each.   One, a 1967 L88, set a world’s record selling at $3.85M.   By comparison there was no "live" TV of the best hours on Saturday.  Instead Mecum planned  a one hour taped delayed broadcast on Sunday scheduled to cover some of Saturday’s peak auction highlights, but even that fell apart, first being preempted for an hour by a hockey game and then the scheduled one hour broadcast was cut to only a half hour, most likely because so many of the featured cars did not sell.  Most likely this was a decision by NBC and not by Mecum.  Clearly this is not in keeping with Mecum’s past efforts to help enthusiasts and collectors closely follow their events and search past and future auctions with their excellent Mecum InfoNet® program.

Of course the main objective of an auction is to sell cars.  The TV coverage, the weather, and even the enthusiasm and excitement in the arena are only catalysts, all secondary to selling cars.  But the fact is even though they are only catalysts, they are important ingredients to hearing the auctioneer shout “sold”.   Of course the biggest catalyst to a great auction is to have a balanced array of quality consignments that attract bidders, an area Mecum® has excelled in prior years .  In addition to historic “blue chip” collectibles, one of Mecum’s unique strengths has always been to offer first time buyers a good assortment of entry level cars and as in the past Mecum once again came through.   At the other end of the balance spectrum is to entice owners of rare and important cars to consign them to be sold, with “to be sold” the key phrase.  Good consignments are those from sellers that truly want to sell their cars and as such put realistic reserves on their car. And though “size matters”, size for the sake of size does not make sense, especially when the cars do not sell.  

Though several factors negatively impacted Mecum’s® premier auction, some of those factors were outside the control of the staff who work hard to stage a great auction, particularly the world’s largest collector car auction.  Of the over 1759 cars that changed hands, 232 of those were Corvettes that generated almost $12M despite the weather and drop in attendance.  Those that made the trip got to see some historic cars, despite the fact that many did not sell, and enjoy one of the premier automobile events in the country . 
          *Top Ten Corvette Lot Results Mecum® Kissimmee 2014
S132     1956 Corvette SR prototype                                   No Sale    High bid $2.3M Postponed

S148     1963 Corvette Z06 Race car                                    No Sale    High Bid $900K

F259     1988 Corvette Calllaway “Sledgehammer”          No Sale    High Bid $600K

S153     1963 Corvette “Styling” Mrs. Harley Earl’s Car    No Sale    High Bid $340K

S150.1  1963 Corvette Z06                                                      SOLD       High Bid $475K

S172      1963 Corvette Z06                                                    No Sale    High Bid $550K

S163      1969 Corvette L88                                                    No Sale    High Bid $735K

S165.1   1969 Corvette L88                                                      SOLD      High Bid $510K

S179      1968 Corvette L88                                                       SOLD      High Bid $520K

S225.1   1967 Corvette L89                                                     No Sale    High Bid $425K


          Top Ten Lot Sales Mecum® Kissimmee 2014

               1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda (Lot S143) at $560,000

1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Coupe (Lot S179) at $530,000

1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible (Lot S165.1) at $510,000

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Tanker (Lot S150.1) at $475,000

1964 Chevrolet Corvette Big Tank Coupe (Lot S181.1) at $350,000

2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition (Lot S196) at $320,000

1967 Plymouth Barracuda Hurst Hemi Under Glass (Lot S200) at $300,000

2006 Ford GT (Lot T181.1) at $242,500

1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe (Lot S156) at $240,000

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback (Lot S141) at $240,000


Top Ten Lot Sales Barrett-Jackson® Scottsdale  2014

                 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 2 Door Coupe Lot #5035 at $3,850,000 WORLD'S RECORD

                 1969 Chevrolet Corvette #57 Rebel Convertible Race Car Lot #5022 at $2,860,000

                 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe  Lot #5044 at $2,090,000

                 1998 Ferrari F300 at Lot #5080 at $1,870,000

                 1963 Shelby Cooper Monaco King Cobra Lot #5063 at $1,650,000

                 1929 Duesenberg SJ Lebaron Dual Cowl Phaeton Lot #5048 at $1,430,000

                 2008 Bugatti Veyron 2 Door Coupe “Simon Cowell’s” Lot #1319.2 at $1,375,000

                 1954 Plymouth Belmont Concept Car  Lot #5066 at $1,320,000

                 1939 Alfa Romeo 6c 2500 Sport Touring Lot #5053 at $997,500 –

                 1972 Plymouth Duster Hot Wheels “Mongoose” Funny Car,

                  4 Vehicle Package Lots 5040-5043  at $990,000  Snake-Mongoose cars and transporters 1970 Plymouth

                       Barracuda Hot Wheels “Snake” Funny Car, 1967 Dodge D-700 Hot Wheels

                      “Snake” Ramp Truck, 1967 Dodge D-700 Hot Wheels “Mongoose” Ramp  Truck