Vintage cars hold special memories

Published 4:43 pm Friday, January 23, 2009

We all have our favorite TV programs.

After baseball and golf, I love the car auctions. There’s two worth watching: Mecum Auto Auctions and Barrett-Jackson. Mecum originates from Indianapolis, and Barrett-Jackson from Arizona.

Both are huge enterprises, attracting hundreds of buyers, rolling out all makes and models of classic vehicles, drawing bids sometimes up to a million dollars for a vintage memory.

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We all have our favorite cars—the ones we drove as teenagers, our first car and those along the way. Reminiscing, how many times have you said, “Wow! if only I had kept that car, it would be worth a bundle now.”

My favorite, which I never owned, but one my friend bought and drove in 1960, was a 1954 yellow Buick convertible. I’ve looked and looked for years for this car, but they are extremely rare. Recently, one appeared on the auction block, white with beige leather interior, white top and traditional white sidewall tires. It sold at auction for $80,000.

In the mid ’70s, I owned a print shop in Colorado, and had a 19-year-old college freshman delivery person, whose father owned a used car lot and gave him a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro as a high school graduation present.

Stevie grumbled about the Camaro. What he really wanted was a pickup truck.

I said, “Stevie, don’t trade the Camaro for a truck. Put it in a garage, jack it up on blocks and forget about it for about 25 years. It’ll be a classic by then, and be worth a bundle.”

Well guess what Stevie did.

I’ve seen these vintage cars at Barrett-Jackson go for a minimum of $80,000. One sold for nearly $125,000.

The auctions are fast-paced. They roll out the classics—mid ’50s Chevys and Fords, the first Corvettes, Mustangs, Packard convertibles, Hudson Hornets. Also the muscle cars of the ’60s—those Dodge Chargers and mid-size Chevys, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles with their high-powered V8s. These cars are usually restored to pristine showroom conditions. Sometimes, like last Thursday night, an early Camaro was on the line, in original condition and being sold by its original owner. The car still looked new and it got top dollar, close to $100,000.

We all have our first-love cars. My first car was a 1941 Mercury convertible. Egg-shell blue. My my, what would it be worth today?

My favorite was my pre-marriage 1962 Corvair convertible. Deep maroon outside, black interior, bucket seats, white top, four on the floor, and spinner spoke wheels. Ralph Nader killed the Corvair with his book, “Unsafe at any Speed.” It was obvious Nader never had a 1962, ’63 or ’64 Corvair convertible.

Faye’s pre-marriage car was a 1964 Chevelle super sport, two door. It was a great looking car, but it didn’t have air-conditioning. When we drove it in hot Florida summer weather, we had to keep the windows rolled up so her hair wouldn’t get mussed. Both cars soon vanished with the birth of our first child, opting for a 1967 full-size Chevrolet with air.

Another favorite car show is “Overhauled.” Old broken-down wrecks, restored and redesigned in one week by chief shop owner and designer Chip Foose.

They’ll take an old vintage rusted banged up clunker from someone’s back yard, keep them in suspense during the week, while the transformation takes place. Then with blindfold in place, the car’s owner is led into the garage where his miracle is unveiled. Everybody shakes hands, hugs, cries and says thank you a thousand times. It gets real emotional and personal. The restored vehicles are gems to behold.

But the auto auctions are fun. Every vehicle stirs a memory, whether you ever owned one or not. I wonder about some of the bidders. There they are in the audience, in shorts and extra-large T-shirts, to accommodate their beer bellies, blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars for 50- and 60-year-old classic Chevys.

Some people are really weird.