By on November 17, 2016

1959 Volkswagen Samba red front quarter

It seems that I have much to learn about the classic car auction scene. A yearly January couch session with beer and remote in hand is clearly not enough to understand how cars go under the gavel. Depending on how I feel like keeping score, I’ve slipped well below the Mendoza line in my two short weeks handicapping vintage auto sales.

Fortunately, I have another chance for redemption this weekend. Once again, Mecum is doing the selling, this time in sunny Anaheim, California. I’m now seriously regretting not flying west to cover this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

2000 Corbin Sparrow

2000 Corbin Sparrow

Sorry. It’s ugly, I know. But how many other companies best known for making motorcycle saddles start building cars? This is such an interesting little vehicle.

Moviegoers of a certain age might recognize it from Austin Powers in Goldmember:

Otherwise, it’s a pretty basic three-wheel electric commuter.

My guess: $5,000.

1963 Jaguar E-Type Roadster

1963 Jaguar E-Type

Always a hit, the early Series 1 E-Types are beloved for the purity of the design — later cars lost the glass-covered headlamps, grew larger bumpers, and had the dashboard toggle switches replaced with plastic rocker switches. In classic British Racing Green, this is sure to be a hit.

I should have one of these in my garage. My dad very nearly bought one in the early 1970s when he lived in New Jersey. But for an unfortunate under-bonnet fire on his test drive, he would have bought it instead of an MGB.

Mercifully, this car has a fire extinguisher in the passenger footwell.

The market for a well-restored (or well preserved original) E-Type is always strong, with early cars consistently bringing well into six figures.

My guess: $145,000.

1959 Volkswagen Samba

1959 Volkswagen Samba red profile

I’m likely one of the very few auto enthusiasts who has little desire to drive a VW Microbus. It’s an icon, certainly, as symbol for the free love Sixties, and a supporting cast member in dozens of movies, but I can’t imagine driving one of these for any significant time can be anything but terrifying. Minimal horsepower and a tall, wind-catching profile have to make this slow and scary on the road.

Still, people love them. This one seems to be perfectly restored, and looks possibly better than new. They can bring some serious money if they are right.

My guess: $85,000.

2001 Qvale Mangusta

2001 Qvale Mangusta

It sounds so simple – a powerful Ford V8 in a lightweight European roadster. It’s been done plenty of times before, but the ‘90s brought us something completely different. It’s not the prettiest of cars out there, even though De Tomaso designed it, but it’s certainly eye catching. It should be plenty of fun to drive, with a then-current Ford Cobra powertrain. The convertible top is interesting, too — the center section can be removed to reveal a targa-like cockpit, and the rear section can rotate into the trunk.

My guess: $45,000.

Last Week’s Results

Carlisle doesn’t list the top bid price if the car doesn’t sell — which was the case for three of the five cars I looked at last week. The MG TC appears to have been withdrawn from the sale — no results are listed for it.

The only sale of my five picks was the bargain — the 1988 Buick Reatta. I guessed, apparently assuming there was either a gold brick or plenty of fine white powder in the trunk, a whopping $5,000.

It sold for $1,500.

So, please, rip apart my guesses again, and make some picks of your own. We’ll see how things turn out next week.

[Images: Mecum Auction, Inc.]

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34 Comments on “Across The Block: Mecum Auctions, Anaheim...”


  • avatar
    Old Man Pants

    OMG,. the marvelously clean, simnple and lovingly finished build quality of that VW is totally ME!

    And we are both comically outdated and unsuited for the modern motoring world of angry, armored, HP-crazed hamsters

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have absolutely no love for old VWs. These vans were quite dangerous, considering the front bumper wound up being one’s knees.

    Interesting that VW added the expense (and weight) of “standee” windows along the side, but were too cheap to put roll-down glass in the doors! I can only imagine how hot and uncomfortable that got driving and riding in one during warm weather.

    An acquaintance when I was on Okinawa the first time in late 1970 had one of these vans, and it did OK as the top speed limit on the island was 30 mph!

    ONE feature I did like were the flip-out windshields. Other than that, I’d rather drive a real, solid car.

    These auctions always floor me – and make me angry at the same time. I’m jealous and can’t afford anything cool!

  • avatar
    seth1065

    well your a glutton for punishment, I think your off on the jag and the VW bus as they will go for more, and I think you over on the Qvale but what do I know , I do not even spend the one day with a beer and tv remote, God that Jag is a work of art.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    “A yearly January couch session with beer and remote in hand is clearly not enough to understand how cars go under the gavel”

    Do you ever watch “Chasing Classic Cars”? Wayne has been in the classic car business his whole life and the market still frequently bewilders him. What makes a classic valuable is when more than one guy with a lot of money to spend has a strong emotional connection to whatever’s crossing the auction block. It’s pretty hard to predict that.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      Concur… Nostalgia is one of the biggest and most unpredictable motivators at auctions. People put big money into some offbeat stuff. eBay frequently posts articles about strange trends across their website and some unusual things trend, thanks purely to nostalgia.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Same with “What’s My Car Worth?”

      The hosts generally employ the Price is Right strategy of slightly undercutting the owner when they guess beforehand, but the actual sales prices are often not even close. In rare cases much higher, but often lower or no-sales.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    You’re too high on the Sparrow. I see it bid to $2,500 and not selling.

    I have no idea about the Jaaaaag. I’m going to say you’re low. $175,000.

    You’re too low on the VW. That’s going to bring over $100k.

    The Mangusta is not a desirable car and the 4.6 is doing it no favors anymore. Plus: “Must be sold to an out of state resident or licensed dealer.”
    You’re way too high on that one and it’ll barely bring $20k and not sell.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    The rose-colored glasses one wears when bidding @ $85K for an original Type II Samba are thick.

    In high school, a friend of mine had a VW Samba (and a 21 window at that). It was in unrestored but great condition. I asked for a ride home in it one fine June afternoon. The reedy-sounding air-cooled mill whistled up and we were en route.

    As we approached a large hill in the center section of town, tree-lined and bucolic, the Bluebird school bus ahead of us illuminated its yellow flashers. I noticed we were still driving towards the slowing bus, albeit at a reduced speed. As the bus came to a complete stop, my companion was still approaching the transport, and the line of minivans, first gen Tauruses, and a ’77 Z/28 behind us also continued creeping forth.

    As we closed to within 30 feet of the rear bumper, he screams – not yelling, mind you, a high pitched terror-filled scream – “MOVE THE DAMN BUS! I CAN’T STOP HERE!” Somewhat miraculously, the lumbering Bluebird took the hint and moved on.

    Mind you, the VW was moving *very* slowly at this juncture, but the whistley four-cylinder was thrashing. As we assumed cruising velocity again, he sheepishly turned and said, “I can’t stop on a hill… there’s no way I can get started again.”

    As an icon, they’re stainless. As a car, they’re rubbish.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      I suspect it was your friend’s driving technique that was rubbish. Do you really think that Volkswagen would produce a vehicle which could not start up hills? You need to be unafraid of thrashing it though. Rev the engine way up, let in the clutch slowly, and floor it. I once towed a Dodge Polara a short distance with a VW bus. Made it home, although 3rd gear was the upper limit.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I grew up in a neighborhood with short, steep hills (north Arlington, Va.). AIN fact the only way out of our neighborhood involved coming to a stop on a steep uphill grade through a non signalized intersection with a major thoroughfare. It pretty much guaranteed that we were competent using a clutch, unless we drove automatic transmission cars (not so common in the mid-1960s as today) We carpooled to high school, and one of the members of the car pool drove a VW transporter. I don’t recall her ever having a problem pulling out on to that street. The transporter had a lower final drive than the cars and the VW engine developed a lot of torque at low rpms. So, either your friend’s driving technique was poor, or his VW’s engine was shot. The VW bus — crashworthiness aside — was perfectly capable of carrying 3-4 boy scouts and their gear at 50-60 mph on the highway in rolling countryside.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      True_Blue,

      I concur with TR4 and DC Bruce. It seems like your friend would have had the same problem in any manual car.
      I’ve met people like that, but I don’t understand it. Starting on a hill has never been an issue with me. I learned from a driving instructor, maybe that’s a clue.

      From what I’ve observed, the people who can’t do it are the people who let it get in their heads. The panic you describe in your story is typical.

  • avatar

    It would seem to me someone would be swapping better engines into these old Microbuses, provided they actually intend to drive them, and not just display them.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      I know for a while the “H6” flat-six in Subaru SVXs was a hot ticket, as well as EJ205s and other Subaru engines. Would completely change the character of the vehicle while simultaneously destroying its value. I’ll take “driveable cars” for $500, Alex.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Or hell, putting bigger cylinders on to boost power and torque.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      You don’t really want more power and torque in a vehicle with the stability of a full wine glass. But, yes, lots of people have put Subaru flat-fours in “driver” buses. Not so much in highly collectible ones like this.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        “You don’t really want more power and torque in a vehicle with the stability of a full wine glass.”
        .
        Clearly you’ve not talked to many of the kids who like to fool around with old air cooled VW’s =8-) .
        .
        Me, I prefer to buid them carefully, like the air pumps they are so I can run them as hard as I want all day long and not have short engine life but most like to just slap in the biggest cylinders they can squeeze plus some multiple carbys they never bother to properly synchronize .
        .
        Driving an old VW Van across America is tricky and often scary ~ I doubt I’ll ever do it again, the last time was in the European 1963 version of this fine looking # 241 DeLuxe . it had a peppy single port 1600 C.C. Engine that had no difficulties flat towing a 1957 Canadian Spec. Beetle filled to the brim with spare parts collected from the private VW Junk Yard I bought the ’57 from .

        -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Dal with all his high-falutin physics examples.

        Plastic cup o’ Kool-Aid!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I guess it’s just because I’m an elder curmudgeon, but have zero interest in watching these over hyped auction deals. But somebody is watching because they continue to proliferate on cable/sat/streaming channels.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      I prefer watching the early days of both Mecum and Barrett, because that is usually when you’ll find cars that mere mortals like myself could maybe…possibly…afford. Saturday evenings? Forget about it.

  • avatar
    Old Man Pants

    Mangusta looks like a Miata that just can’t stop eating. Read “Wheat Belly”, poor little car!

  • avatar
    jimf42

    I think you are light on the Jag maybe 15-20K …but on the Mangusta,despite its good specs, looks pretty ugly in person. I would guess more like 35K on that one. The rest of your guesses seem pretty reasonable.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Sadly, rich jerkhoffs who don’t actually love old vehicles have pretty much ruined the vintage auction scene .

    I certainly don’t want another Typ II VW van (that’s a #241 DeLuxe Micro Bus BTW) but well North of $100,000.00 ?!? that’s insane .

    The Sparrow was a straight scam, too bad .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Zekas

      “Sadly, rich jerkhoffs who don’t actually love old vehicles have pretty much ruined the vintage auction scene .”

      +1

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Thanx Jeff ;

        Luckily the rich NON jerkhoffs I know gladly (maybe ‘kindly’) invite me to run with them and don’t laugh/point too much at my old rigs =8-) .

        Being a Journeyman Mechanic means I get invites to places most other Blue Collar guys only dream about .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    05lgt

    What happened to listing the Mecum estimates on the cars? Meh, I like the Jag, hate the VW and the trike, and don’t care enough to have an opinion about the Mangusta.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    23 window with roof? Way too low. For the large number of devoted Busheads out there, that is the ultimate prize.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Best way to buy a classic car: wait until everyone who ever wanted that car has bought one… or died… or is too old to drive… then prices come down, as the fans have all gone to the great beyond.

  • avatar

    E Types have gotten very expensive, particularly the early cars but it better be very, very nice for $145K.

    That’s a 23 window Samba and they’ve gotten some silly prices so $85K might be low.

    Split Window VW Buses are slow and a handful in the wind, but they are fun to drive in their own way. Not very safe, though. Your knees are the front crush zone. My two older kids grew up in them but I wouldn’t want them to drive my grandkids in one.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      I sold my 1964 E Type roadster 10 years ago, I probably should have held onto it and would have got a lot more. However, selling it paid off my house and that was a good feeling.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        “Not very safe, though. Your knees are the front crush zone. My two older kids grew up in them but I wouldn’t want them to drive my grandkids in one.”
        .
        Just so ~ a guy I knew had me resurrect a ’57 # 211 3/4 ton Panel Truck and is was rusty at the pinchweld across the front ~ I waned him this was very unsafe in even a minor crash, he ignored me and was traveling about 45 MPH when a stupid woman turned left in front of him, now he only has one leg .
        .
        Most older vehicles are serious death traps regarless of condition .
        .
        The woman was not only unrepentant, she yelled at him .
        .
        -Nate

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You need to consult me before you go yellin about $5k <'90 Reattas. That'll learn ya.


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