By on December 1, 2016

1982 Phillips Berlina brown front quarter

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.

1982 Phillips Berlina brown rear quarter

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.

1982 Phillips Berlina hood ornament

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.

1982 Phillips Berlina brown profile

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.

1982 Phillips Berlina interior low angle

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

1982 Phillips Berlina hood ornament

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.

1982 Phillips Berlina badge

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.]

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30 Comments on “Across The Block Spotlight: 1982 Phillips Berlina At Mecum Kansas City...”

  • avatar

    A: Don’t beat yourself up about not being able to predict prices on classic cars. Look at how inaccurate the RM estimates are, and they’re pros.

    B: The Phillips has no particular desireability factor. It wasn’t penned by a famous designer, it’s not built by an exalted maker, it has no racing heritage, and it’s basically a more money than taste car. Unless there are two rich guys in the room who both want this, I’d be surprised if it gets a $20,000 bid.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Agree with the above comment. These were particularly exotic and hard to value beasts, and the auction was in a different continent.

      The low estimates are par for the course in the UK and Europe. I think they are set low to encourage bidder interest. I usually assume a car is going to sell for double the estimate.

      The first example, the Sierra RS Cosworth, that’s a real 1980s hero car in the UK with a very strong motorsport pedigree. Lots of guys now in their late forties or early fifties would have dreamed of owning one of those when they were in their teens. No way was it ever going to sell for as little as 10-12k.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Wow, I was WAY off on the Cosworth and INDY car, closer but still very low on the Lancia, but nearly got it on the Transport.
    Yeah, those auction estimates seem rather… awful.

    Someone in my neighborhood when I was a little kid had one of these, or something very similar – maybe an Excalibur. Even at a young age I had no appreciation for them. It is gaudy and tasteless in my eyes, but I bet there’s a lot of people who are into them.

    I’m going to say this will be bid up to $18,500 and no-sale.

  • avatar

    The official estimates are low on purpose. Think about it, would you bid on a $50,000 car that wound up selling for $58,000 if the estimated price was $60,000? Would you be more likely to bid on it if the $50,000 car was advertised to sell at $25,000? All you need to do at an auction is get people to put their feet in; the more who join the higher the price can go as they fight each other.

  • avatar

    Like the Excalibur and whatever else, this Phillips is pretty awful. Spending that kind of money in 1982 – eighty THOUSAND, really? On something with a cheap Corvette interior covered with leather. That’s more than an SL500 cost at the time, and it was actually a nice car.

    This is just a neoclassical trinket for uneducated people who happened into some cocaine money.


  • avatar

    The last one I saw at auction was in 2014 and went for $15,600. I doubt the market as appreciated much beyond that if at all.

  • avatar

    This car reminds me of Jay Leno’s review of Liberace’s Zimmer from the same era. It was based on a Mustang and Jay called it a piece of sh*t and also said its the worst car he’s ever driven.

    You’d think for $80,000 in 1982 they could have had some custom made floor mats instead of using GM mats with a big plastic “Corvette” embossed on them.

  • avatar

    I would rather spend money on an Auburn 851 Speedster. Either a Glenn Pray or replica.

  • avatar

    I saw an Excalibur-looking Beetle kit car in Albuquerque traffic a few weeks ago. I do dig those neo-classics, but simply for the tacky bad taste they represent so beautifully.

  • avatar

    Yeah, this is pretty aweful and I can’t comprehend how they sold ANY for that price in 1982. It is more attractive and better proportioned than many other “neo-classics,” though. Someone in my town drives a Tiffany around. The entire side profile, doors, and roof are undisguised Mercury Cougar of the era.

    There are a number of newer re-bodied Corvettes running around. The new trend seems to be making a C6 look like a C1 or C2, but the proportions are horrible and their asking prices incomprehensible.

    That said, there is a market for these and it appears to be in nice shape. I’d say somewhere between $20-$25k. I continue to be surprised by selling prices for odd cars at these auctions.

    • 0 avatar

      How did they sell any of these things? All I can say is that cocaine makes people do strange things.

    • 0 avatar

      The fact that any sold makes me suspect it was part of a money laundering thing of some sort. The price vs. desirability / cost to manufacture… yeah, that’s either tax dodge or (more likely especially in ’80s FL) money laundering.

  • avatar

    There may also be a legal reason for the lower estimates in Europe. In most US states, a vehicle sold with reserve has to have the reserve below or at the low estimate amount if an estimate is given. I imagine that in Europe that isn’t true.

    Why they would choose to undervalue an estimated selling price is beyond me, though. Perhaps potential bidders interpret this to mean that it could be bought for that much and it generates more bidding activity? Who knows? Auction psychology is always interesting.

  • avatar

    Do potential bidders at auctions like this get the opportunity to drive the car? I can’t see how you could bid on a car like this one without driving it.

  • avatar

    The only way I would have anything to do with one of these “El Kabong” cars (that’s what a friend in the 80s called them), would be if I had a buyer lined up with CIF [Cash in Fist].
    As noted by others, there were a lot of these things around in those days. Ranging from the Stuz and Excaliber to the aforementioned Beetle chassis cars. Everyone that I’ve seen up close was a mechanical and electrical nightmare. Often these things were assembled onto used chassis. When troubles made themselves known they were mostly unfixable due to the poorly designed bodies that blocked access to many components. Most owners might wish they could trade for a ’78 Volare.
    As mentioned by others these cars are only for those that want to pose cruising down some boulevard.
    As most of these ‘kit car’ companies are based in Florida I wonder if there is something in the water.

  • avatar

    Did the autocorrect eat your Pontiac Trans Sport?

  • avatar

    All of these neoclassical cars are white elephants, aren’t they?

  • avatar

    I’d drive it if it had a 6.7 Cummins or GMC TwinSix under the bonnet.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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