Across The Block Spotlight: 1982 Phillips Berlina At Mecum Kansas City

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

It seems that I’m not good at handicapping auctions. I’m sure it’s a skill that can be acquired through practice and repetition. But between the drudgery of a day job and wrangling a pair of kids, in-depth sales analysis will always get pushed to the back burner.

Still, exploring a single interesting car is never a problem. Maybe call it a Digestible Auctionable?

As I digitally strolled through the over six hundred lots offered this weekend at Mecum’s Kansas City sale, today’s 1982 Phillips Berlina stopped me cold, returning me to my teenage years and, of all things, my cheap toy-store mountain bike.

I rode that thing everywhere. As a socially incompetent fat kid, much of my spare time was dedicated to seeking distraction. My trips to Dairy Queen, the convenience store, and the library followed a path that took me past decaying cars I dreamed of owning. The rotting Austin 1100 and sagging Triumph TR7 were fine dreams of their own, but one seemingly abandoned fast-lube garage always had a white classic peeking through a glass workbay door.

I always assumed it was an Excalibur, or perhaps a Zimmer — the only neo-classics I knew of in those pre-Web days — but I’m thinking now that it was a Phillips Berlina like this one. Nostalgia is a helluva drug, which explains this car, as well as my immediate attraction.

According to the defunct-but-Wayback-Machine-accessible, Phillips Motor Car of Pompano Beach, Florida built these Berlinas, inspired by prewar Mercedes-Benz 540Ks. Built on a stretched version of the then-current Corvette C3 chassis and wearing a retro fiberglass body, the Berlina was a $80,000 car at a time when a new ‘Vette stickered around $20,000. Unsurprisingly, fewer than 90 were sold.

This one wears a magnificent two-tone brown finish (hi, Sajeev!), and looks basically new on the outside. The leather interior, mostly borrowed from the Corvette, looks similarly clean, though the deep-pile carpets look discolored. If one were so inclined to drive it often, it shouldn’t be a challenge to keep running considering the readily available GM running gear.

Indeed, this is a car to drive, and to be seen in. No, it’s not for me. Twelve year old me, maybe.

I don’t know that I can even hazard an intelligent guess on the Phillips Berlina. Do I price it like the Corvette underneath? Or base it off the original MSRP? Mecum doesn’t list an estimate, so I’m completely in the dark. Let’s say $55,000. It’s not like I have anything riding on it.

Last Week’s Results

Utter crap.

Seriously, this makes me wonder why I’m even doing this. It doesn’t help when the RM estimate in three of the four examples I chose was less than half the eventual selling price. Did a pair of recent lottery winners descend upon Milan with a massive car hauler?

1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

RM estimate: 10,000-12,000 EUR

My guess: 14,000 EUR

Selling price: 26,880 EUR

1990 March 90C-Alfa Romeo

RM estimate: 20,000-30,000 EUR

My guess: 45,000 EUR

Selling price 95,200 EUR

1970 Lancia Fulvia 1.6HF

RM estimate: 35,000-40,000 EUR

My guess: 30,000 EUR

Selling price: 63,840 EUR

1991 Pontiac Transport

RM estimate: 1,500-3,000 EUR

My guess: 400 EUR and/or a wheel of cheese

Selling price: 2,240 EUR

So, thoughts on this funky fiberglass retro beast? Would you drive it?

[Images: Mecum Auction, Inc.]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Russycle Russycle on Dec 01, 2016

    In college I had a friend whose dad had an Excalibur. It was something to behold. He bought his kids had a 4-speed TransAm and a Corvette, so he had that going for him.

  • LTDwedge LTDwedge on Dec 04, 2016

    Had a "boss" audition once ; he pointed me in the direction of a pseudoItalianboathullfiberglaswired"vehicle" . Inconveniant indoor parked "car", NO lift, good luck newbie. From what I could tell, the chalk red dust was a true predictor of the not so far future, that THIS kit car,, was never going to "reanimate". The implication was it was supposed to be British, the valve covers were in a Chevrolet style that had been radical in th 50's, made of the finest white metal castings that the James Dean could sell. Wiring and wires hung with impervious disdain from dark recesses of wheel wells, cowls, plastic/resin door "jambs", and where a trunk/hatch might rationally be located, more wires. No sense of wtf happened to the donor car or even WHAT it was. I spent 10 minutes of my life knowing, to my core, this was never going to happen or happen to me again. No, I opened my own shop shortly afterwards instead. That was 1985. The owner of the chalk red British l roadster also owned the shop wanted the car fixed for free. 30 years fast forward, its still sitting.

  • Picard234 I can just smell the clove cigarettes and the "oregano" from the interior. Absolutely no dice at any price.
  • Dartdude The Europeans don't understand the American market. That is why they are small players here. Chrysler Group is going to die pretty soon under their control. Europeans have a sense of superiority over Americans that is why the Mercedes merger didn't work out and almost killed Chrysler. Bringing European managers aren't going to help. Just like F1 they want our money. We need Elon Musk to buy out Chrysler, Dodge and Ram from Stellantis.
  • Michael S6 I would take the Mustang for the soundtrack. However, practically a BMW M340ix or M240ix would be my choice.
  • Michael S6 Took my car for oil change on Friday and dealership was working on paper. Recently one of the major health care system in our area was hacked and they had to use paper backup for three weeks. What a nightmare.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Once e-mail was adopted by my former employer, we were coached about malice software as early as the 90's. We called it "worms" back then.They were separating the computers that ran the power plants from the rest of the system in the early 00's. One plant supervisor loaded vacation pictures from a thumb drive on his work PC. His PC was immediately isolated and the supervisor in question was made an example of via a disciplinary notice. Word spread quickly!!Last I heard, they still had their own data center!! Cloud Computing, what's that?!?! 🚗🚗🚗