Sunday, April 15, 2012

LIVE: Mecum Classic Car Auction from Houston


L-R: John Kraman, Scott Hoke, Bill Stephens, Stephen Cox 
The first-ever Mecum auto auction in Houston kicked off in style this weekend with a packed house and buckets of money flowing like the Rio Grande.

I've hosted the Mecum auction for nearly 5 years on Velocity channel but I don't know that I've ever seen cars sell like they did at this show. About 80% of the cars that crossed the block found new owners. That has to be some kind of record for a reserve auction.

The Mecum crew set up 1,600 seats at Houston's Reliant Center on Friday and I couldn't find an empty one. On Saturday, several hundred seats were added but the place was still packed.

I really enjoy reminiscing on the show about the old slogans and advertisements used by car manufacturers during the 1950's and 60's. We had a 1964 Buick Wildcat cross the block on Friday. Buick's sales slogan that year was – brace yourself - “Sports lovers of the world, unite... let's all go Wildcatting!”

Seriously? Whoever concocted that advertising slogan must have ended up working at the same McDonald's as the dude who dreamed up New Coke. The Wildcat must have been a great car to overcome an advertising slogan like that.

This auction was a bit light on high-end cars, but that doesn't bother me. Watching an endless parade of outrageously priced garage queens holds limited interest for many. An automobile, by definition, is a means of “automating” the act of “mobilization.” If it is not used for automated mobility, then it is not an automobile. It's a museum piece.

Yes, there's a place in the world for uber-expensive, undrivable cars. But I'm an automobile enthusiast, not an automobile snob. I enjoy the real cars that real people really drive. Real cars get washed, not dusted. So when this weekend's high seller was a modest $177,500 Ferrari California Spyder, it didn't bother me a bit.

A number of Shelby GT 500's crossed the block, and thankfully we had some real variety among them. The “King of the Road” models with the 428 Super Cobra Jet engines are highly prized, but many of the standard Police Interceptor 428 GT 500's slip by unnoticed. We have a pristine example of a garden-variety GT 500 that sold for a crisp $95,000. Our photographer, David Newhardt, captured a beautiful image of this car.

Along with my co-hosts and some of the crew, I went out for dinner at Vic and Anthony's Steakhouse on Texas Avenue just before the show. “Filet mignon” is French for “small, dainty fillet,” but there was nothing dainty about my 12-ounce steak. Everything really is bigger in Texas. This steak was the size of a brick. I attacked it and won. It was one of the best steaks I've ever had. I'll be hitting that restaurant again next year.

One final weird note about this show. Departing Indianapolis International Airport the day before the show, I saw a young Russian hockey player in front of me at the ticket counter. He was carrying several hockey sticks on his trip back to Moscow and was told that it would cost an additional $470 to take them home.

That is not a misprint.

And since the packaging didn't meet airline policy, they added insult to injury by charging him another $12.50 to wrap the box's loose ends with fifteen cents worth of plastic.

If you're not an automotive enthusiast before you go to a U.S. airport, you will be afterward.

Unaware that Americans have to pay more (and more and more) to ship their own freaking baggage, he was astonished. He turned to me with a questioning look. I really felt bad for the guy. Completely embarrassed, I responded, “I'm sorry. It didn't use to be like this here.”

The last time I saw him, he was headed toward the TSA checkpoint where he undoubtedly thought he had time warped back to the Soviet Union.

The more time I spend at airports, the better I like my Ford Torino.

Stephen Cox
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auctions on Velocity
Driver, #21 Packs Racing/Boschett Timepieces/McGunegill Engines Chevrolet

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other party. 

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