By on August 26, 2006

dsc049102222.jpg A $60 tip might not seem like much in Reno, but at a Taco Bell? A customer asked the manager if she ever gave anything away for free. When she handed him the entire meal for nothing, he threw her three Andrew Jacksons. The exchange was no more inexplicable than some of the deals going down at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center during the Hot August Nights (HAN) car auction.

HAN is a weeklong, self-professed “celebration of rock-and-roll and cars.” This year, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and their paid friends (a.k.a. The Beach Boys) entertained Baby Boomers to the tune of $50 to $75 a pop. Participants who preferred metal antiques could watch a nightly procession of chromed and metal-flake machines cruising up-and-down Virginia Street.

Meanwhile, Silver Auctions put some 900 vehicles up for grabs. I say “some” because gauging the exact number of vehicles for sale wasn’t easy. Towards the end of the auction, cars that hadn’t met their reserve (the owner’s pre-established minimum) were shuffled back and offered with “no reserve” (last bidder takes all).

shelby.jpg Anyway, on Thursday, two collectors proved it only takes two people to make an auction. Both guys wanted a 1966 Shelby-American GT-350 fastback coupe so bad they were willing to make the winner pay through the nose for the privilege. The car’s seller had stoked the fires by circulating a laminated sheet of paper listing the vehicle’s VIN number and the names of all the former owners. The provenance cited the original owner– an obscure (failed?) actor named Don Lococo-– and the date when the car’s color was changed to Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue. It found a new home for $120k (plus six percent buyer’s fee).

The battle marked the start of Shelbymania. A 1967 Ford/Shelby-American Mustang 500KR fastback went for $167,500 (plus six percent buyer’s fee). Of course, both cars were original and correct— which is auction speak for “you can pay stupid money for this car and soothe your savaged wallet by telling yourself (and your wife) that you bought ‘the real thing’.”

That said, thanks to well-heeled muscle car collectors, the pursuit of authenticity ain’t what it used to be. Many of the muscle cars on offer were announced as “tribute” cars. It seems that “clone” and “recreation” didn’t bestow proper respect on these meticulously modified machines; so “tribute” has become the mechanically correct adjective to describe muscle-car wannabes.

Well fair enough. Many of these tribute cars were indistinguishable from– and better built than– the original article. For example, Lot 174 consisted of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro powered by a 425 horsepower, 427 cubic-inch Chevrolet V8 connected to a Tremec six-speed manual. It was announced as a “Yenko tribute” car; a paean to the performance guru who convinced Chevy to build a limited run of 427 Camaros so he could plaster them with stickers and sell them at an appropriate premium. Sure enough, Lot 174 wore a full complement of Yenko decals and badges.

yenko.jpgThose who know about such things would have quickly scanned the Camaro’s VIN number and unmasked the imposter– if they somehow missed the six speeds atop the shift knob. And? The “Yenko tribute” Camaro was nice enough to fool most of the people most of the time. At $38,500, it was even something of a bargain.

Staying with the ersatz car theme, a couple of Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas “Hemi tribute” cars also went up for grabs. Again, because only anally retentive—I mean, extremely knowledgeable muscle car aficionados would smell a rat, the cars brought around $75k apiece. That’s not a bad deal for a non-factory Hemi-head look-alike, considering that Challengers and Cudas that were blessed with a factory-fitted hemispherical combustion chamber fetch high sixes and low sevens.

Woody wagons are hot as the beaches they once inhabited. One 1949 Pontiac station wagon sold at $51,250 with faux wood. The delicately hand-painted sides were so realistic that tapping on the painted metal (or attaching a magnet) was the only way to expose the ruse. As is the way of such things, the auctioneers forgot to share that tidbit. When the buyer discovered that he hadn’t bought a real woody, he accepted his fate. After all, by his own admission, he’d been drunk at the time. Can’t blame that on the auctioneers, eh?

bel-air.jpg The 1955-‘57 Chevrolets were the unofficial stars of the auction. It was buyer’s choice, from stock to pro-street. Prices ranged from $25,500 for stock two-door sedans to $75k to $85k for fuellie convertibles. Then there was a reminder of a simpler, goofier time: a 1958 BMW Isetta. The one-door wonder sold for an astounding $38,500 ($40,810.00 with buyer's fee). Why? Like the Taco Bell transaction, it was just another example of random financial chaos, adjusted, as always, for market trends.  

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21 Comments on “Reno Auction Results: HAN Solo...”

  • avatar

    It must be a sign of the apocalypse when generic American iron, tarted up to look like something else, sells for $75k, AND an Isetta sells for near $40k. What’s next? An MGB for $65k?

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    By the time I can afford a ’66 Fastback, I’ll be too old to look hot driving it. ~Sigh~

  • avatar

    I am not a very sentimental person, so I often wonder why anyone in their right mind would collect such cars. The cool factor is high, for sure, but then most of these more pricey collector cars will not ever be driven or enjoyed. I would prefer a modern car modified to ridiculous power and tasteful esthetics, but to each their own. Now resto-modding…that is something I plan to look into. :)

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    You’re right – to each his own. I’d sell my kids for a ‘cuda, mustang GT or Olds 442… but I don’t have any.

  • avatar

    It is the memory these people want to catch back. I think someday my sons or grandsons will question my mind if I say I wanted to get an Integra Type-R from 1998, or an MR2 turbo from 1992, for $200k.

  • avatar

    When I was in highschool in the early 80’s, people were practially giving away Mustang Fastbacks. Of course, by giving away, I mean more than I could have afforded at the time.

    A friend of mine bought a decent enough, if fairly rough, 67 for $850. They were just “old” cars.

  • avatar

    I like the idea of old sheetmetal wrapped around a thoroughly modern motor. But I want that sheetmetal to be a 300SL Merc.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Well Pandabear, the 1999 Acura Integra Type “R” and the last generation Toyota MR2 are my picks for “future collectibles.” I use quotes, because the future is almost impossible to predict, especially in terms of what becomes collectible.
    But having driven both those cars when they were new, it seems the dynamics for collectibilty is there: good exterior design, good engineering and that memory factor you mentioned.
    But several decades out, they’ll also probably be “Type ‘R\'” tribute cars, standard Integras slammed, painted the same bright yellow and with red Rs, supplied by some clever aftermarket types. If so, maybe “real” ones will bring $200K and “tribute” cars will bring what the Type “R” brought when new (or more).
    It sounds weird to me too; but then, Hemi ‘cudas with “matching numbers” going for $2 mill sounds pretty weird to me also. But after all, if you’re 65 with a bad ticker and you’re worth, let’s say, $20 million in combined assets, the saying, “It’s only money means something.”

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Correction to last post, start of next to last paragraph: instead of the horribly mangled “But several decades out, they’ll also probably be ‘Type R’ tribute cars,” it should be “But several decades out, there will also probably be….” or maybe “there also will probably be…” “Type R” tribute cars.
    That’s what I get for trying to write anything after driving home on the frreeway, 45 miles, in summer heat with the top down (on a loaner 2006 BMW Z4, nice enough for autocrossing perhaps, but with a tight suspension that kind of beats your filling out, when you drive over expansion joints). That trip came after also spending four hours in the midst of one man’s salvage yard – the late Harold LeMay – whose family had Mather Auctions once again, auctioning off parts cars left over from grandad’s collection (the world’s largest privately held auto collection, according to the Guinness Book of World Records – about 3,000 vehicles in museum shape and about another 2,000 parts cars, left from the restoration of the former). There might be another piece in that, after all.

  • avatar

    For around 50 years, a super nice old car or custom car was worth about what a new average car cost. This ratio held for nearly 3 generations. Most of those years, that price was about what it cost you to fix the old car up not including labor. So building one yourself to sell was rarely anything other than a losing proposition. I am referring to the more desirable of normal cars. Old 30’s Ford’s and Chevy’s that sort of thing.

    The equivalent in those older cars, and up into the 60’s Muscle cars seems to suddenly have escalated into a much higher bracket. Maybe it is because more car people buy them rather than build them lovingly in their garage.

    Over the years the old car market also seemed a trailing economic indicator. Old car prices would always spike up a bit for the 6 months or year after a big stock market downturn. Then be followed by a stagflationary period as the economy improved. By this I mean prices would be up and go up more yet few sales of the cars took place.

    The current climate seems to have followed that trend by starting just after the stock drop of a few years ago. Only it has lasted longer and continued going up longer than usual.

    I think this happens when people pull money out of investments they are unhappy with, and wish to buy something real. And some small number of those buy old cars. Seems a safe investment, something you can see and hold, and brings up memories of better times in their youth.

    I think all this fits the current price of old cars rocketing upward. Why it is so extreme this time, not sure, a few ideas come to mind. What worries me is what does this signify for the economy in general? Bottom line is supply and demand. The supply is limited, and the demand can be and is pretty large. Hence the appearance of tributes, clones whatever you call them.

  • avatar

    Want to see this for yourself in 30 years? Here’s some advice to all you whippersnappers(anybody under 35) . Buy a Crossfire SRT6 roadster(less than 500 made).I bought a new one for 38k.Don’t mess with it and don’t beat the crap out of it.

  • avatar

    Its all a question of want you want vs how much dough you got I`d love to have a 57 chevy rag .Reality tells me to stick with my 2000 FIREBIRD drop top I can afford to drive it, insure it ,it fits my budget and it fits in my garage
    [in canada we park em for 5 months so size does matter]
    But hey I`m 1 lottery win from buying the chevy and a bigger garage.

  • avatar

    Not feeling the love with this. I do appreciate custom cars but do not appreciate the muscle cars of the 60s. Back when I was a young punk back in the 80s ;) you could have had one of these for literally dirt because they were just old cars. They were a dime a dozen. I had a 69 Mach 1 that I restored in my parents garage. Even after the restoration the dam thing was always broken ;) – new trannies, new brakes, new axle, new seals, new fuel system…. on and on. It was never ending. My favorite was when you would drive down the road and the screws would unscrew themselves in the interior and land on the floor ;). Quality is job 1 ;). Swilled gas like no tomorrow and drove like crap. Treacherous in bad weather, so bad in fact I used to put bags of cement in the trunk :). When I went to sell it I could not even get people to buy it even though it was in mint condition. I remember it took like 6 months to sell it.

    When I finally came to my senses when I was 19 or so I went out and bought a VW Scirocco MK 1. That Mustang was my first and last American car I am sorry to say. Once you get in that group with those cars from the fatherland you are never going back to American cars – front wheel drive, rack/pinion steering, power disk brakes and fuel injection.

    So the nostalgia fascination with these cars I am just not getting. Give me a Porsche and now we are talking ;)

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    When I did an article on the burgeoning market for collector cars in the late 1980s (which ran in the May 16, 1988 issue of AutoWeek), I interviewed Rick Cole, who staged the first collector car auctions during the Monterey Historic Weekend. When asked why people were investing in cars, he responded, “There’s a couple of reasons why: the stock market is shakey (the interview came shortly after the 500 points free-fall of October 1987); gold doesn’t make any sense; silver doesn’t make any sense; with art, who knows? And everybody has always loved cars.”
    Well, what was true then, is still somewhat true. The stock market is less shakey; and those who loved cars when young, still do – even if only as a passing fancy.
    But some other words still ring true, from that article, those of New Jersey-based collector car restorer Dick Meyers (who I lost track of and may have passed away, since he’d been a restorer for 34 years at the time of my article’s publication).
    “It’s not like investing in coins, stamps or anything else,” said Meyers. “You never want to restore a car that can be bought cheaper. Never buy so much that you put yourself in the position of having to sell the car yourself. (Meyers also made his living taking people’s cars to auction for them and representing them during the sale.) Rich people’s cars are still rich people’s cars. Everybody hopes to get a million dollar car. I never look at values; I buy what I like. I just bought a 1911 Rambler for $9,800 which needs restoration but is lovely to look at. In good shape, it could bring $50,000.”
    Enzo Ferrari passed away in August, 1988 – shortly thereafter – and the market for Ferraris spiked until sometime in 1992. Now it is muscle cars. But the rules of engagement are still pretty much akin to what Rick Cole and Dick Meyers said in late 1987 and early ’88.

  • avatar

    >>Well Pandabear, the 1999 Acura Integra Type “R” and the last generation Toyota MR2 are my picks for “future collectibles.” I use quotes, because the future is almost impossible to predict, especially in terms of what becomes collectible.

    I always think of the question, will that car be at Hershey in 25-30 years? By that standard, I can’t help thinking that a lot of cars that get gushed over for style in the car mags aren’t going to make it. Cadillacs, for example. I would expect to see Magnums and 300s, though. And the last generation Caprices as well as the first generation Saturns. I’d also expect to see the Volvo 940s and 740s. These were the cleanest versions of the boxy Volvo style. But I don’t think most of the modern Europeans will be much in evidence (except for the roadsters), or most of the modern Japanese. In fact, it’s sad how little of what’s on the roads today is likely to be sought after in a couple of decades.

  • avatar


    Something you mention is part of what I don’t like about rich people investing too heavily in old cars. It prices out people who do simply love a car. Like Mikey above and his 57 Chevy ragtop.

    To me the best reason to buy something is because you like the car. Too many are buying because they think it a good investment. Prices go up, and someone who simply dreams about that car has to anty up a lot more or forego the pleasure altogether.

    Not so naive as to think that will change. But I don’t much like it.

  • avatar

    >>Its all a question of want you want vs how much dough you got I`d love to have a 57 chevy rag .

    About 13 years ago, there was a guy in Mt. Raineer, MD, a funky town just across the northeastern border of DC, who had five ’57 Chevies, including two red hardtops and one red convertable (or maybe it was the other way around). He lived across the street from someone who had a bunch of Peugeots. I remember at least one 403, a 404, a 404 convertible. The town was a mecca for classic cars.

    My favorite US classic is the 1960 Valiant. I can’t think of a more art deco car. I’d also love to have a Peugeot 404 wagon, which is the car I took my first legal drive in, and in which my family of origin wandered around Europe for two months several years earlier.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Hey David, I sure do agree with you about the 1960 Plymouth Valiant; and you make some interesting points about what might show up at Hersey, in the future.
    I live adjacent to a park-and-ride lot for commuters taking the bus. Every once in a while, there is a 1960 Valiant, with Montana license plates (probably belongs to a student, since the University of Washington is in the city I live in – Seattle), parked in that lot. It is an interesting shade of metallic bronze; might not be an original color but it sets well on that car.
    As you might know, the way the deck lid has the imprint of a tire bolstering out of it, has led some to call it “the toilet seat trunk lid.” The horizontal leading edges, from the upper portions of the sides, are typical of the industrial design of that time; wherein surface development and how the highlights would fall, were determined during the course of the drawings of the car and the clay model made from same.
    That may be one reason the American auto industry – save for Chrysler – is so lost. Of course, even Chrysler is borrowing from itself. It would be neat to see them do a modern version of that vintage Valiant (whose body was also shared with the Dodge Lancer). They could put a V6 version of the Hemi in it and make it something to market to the same people they aim to sell the Dodge Caliber to.

  • avatar


    There’s one in my town, Lexington MA, that belongs to an aging veteran, but I see it only about once a year, if that. I have gone to a lot of car shows, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one at a car show. It would be a very interesting style to try to redo in a modern idiom. I’d also like to see a remake of the second generation Corvair.


    regarding the cost of old cars being driven up by the wealthy, this phenomenon is probably made worse by the increasing income inequality in this country. You see it in an increasing number of places like Aspen Colorado where only the very wealthy can afford any sort of house.

  • avatar

    I like it.

    Let’s have more like this one.

  • avatar

    There’s one way to afford that 60’s muscle car you’ve been dreaming about (well, as long as it’s not something to rare like a hemi cuda). That’s to buy one that needs restoring and put a lot of labor into it. the downside is no instant gratification. The upside is that wehn you are done (provided you stick it out), you will have car that is part of you because you built it.

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