Monday, January 31, 2011

Barnfinder Bevy of Brits!

Like drawing a great poker hand from the well, sometimes things just appear in flushes and straights.
Consider this interesting bunch of British restoration projects that have "failed to proceed"...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Update

Catching up with the status of some of our older feature cars:

The 1967 Jeep M715 4X4 Firetruck that we featured here has been relisted on Craigslist

The Ferrari 250 GTE body that we featured here is still available for $3500. Contact for details!

The MG Midget Vintage SCCA racer featured here is still available and the price has been reduced to $1500! Contact for details.

The Mercury Marauder we featured still seems available here

Friday, January 28, 2011

Scenes From An Auction II: Scottsdale 2011

1934 Riley 12/4 "Ulster"
This car caught our eye as it was very similar to the Riley re-creation that we featured on Barnfinder! a few weeks ago. Little did we guess there was more in common than we could have known. This car was billed in the Gooding catalog as having pre-and-post war race history with possible connection to the 1935 RAC Tourist Trophy. As it rolled up to the auction block at Gooding's on Saturday, David Gooding soberly retracted all claims to any provenance and announced that it was a replica made from a Riley sedan. Ouch! Having said that, it's final sale price of $121,000 was only $29k off the low estimate for a real car, and considerably more than the high bid for the German replica we featured a few weeks ago. The bait-and-switch was unfortunate- and Gooding owned up- but the buyers for this car were already in the room and not going home empty handed. It's unfortunate that the seller was ultimately rewarded for his misrepresentation regarding the vehicle's history, and I doubt Mr. Gooding will extend the offer to consign again.

1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale
Alfa prices were clearly up this year and the Milanese marque will probably be featured strongly at Monterey in August. This car was an older restoration that was showing some wear. It gave away some of the purity of the early Giulietta SS, but made up for it with the eminently more driveable 1600 Giulia engine. Given that a North Scottsdale classic dealer sold a better car in the same color that same week for near money- this was a good car (and good time) to let go. The car sold at Gooding with commission for $79,750- which just about met it's high estimate. A very pretty car with classic Scaglione lines...but think of the Maserati that same money could buy right now...

1923 Dort 25-K Five-Passenger Sport Touring
Scottsdale was apparently not the place to sell obscure 20's era cars. This Dort was a jaunty looking bit-of-kit, but fared no better than many of the early cars in the Gooding catalog. No fault of the location or company, but merely reflective in the truth that these cars (and those that love them) are becoming ineffectual in the collector world at large. Pity because there is so much craftsmanship and appeal to these vehicles, and for the price of entry you cannot beat the experience. This Dort had a inline-six promising 45hp (which should even make it usable) and was striking in green and black with a saddle interior. The sale price of $15,400 would barely put paint on a car today. Previously owned by the Nethercutt and Harrahs collections.Offered at No Reserve, and bought cheaply. Wonderful value, and for under $30k you could have put it next to the matching green and black 1967 Eldorado featured earlier!

Required Experience:1958 Fiat 600D

Every real car collector should experience a Fiat 600 at one time or another. Some of the world's most prominent collections make room for at least one of these diminutive Italians. Conceived in Post-War Italy as a means to mobilize the masses, the Fiat 500 and 600 series became (and remain) cult cars for their incredible effective and efficient design. Getting upwards of 30 mpg. in the late 1950's, one has to wonder how far our motor development has really improved over half a century!

Here is another example of a car that I am listing so that I am not tempted myself. This car look like an absolute steal at $2500 or best offer. The car is listed out of St. Charles, IL. and certainly will not last long.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scottsdale 2011: A Tale of Two Maseratis

Scottsdale, Arizona saw two Touring-bodied Maserati 3500 GTIs cross the auction block this past week. One was at Gooding, the other at Russo and Steele. The cars were as different from one another as the venues; however they offered a good chance to pin an accurate value on a rare and appreciating Italian exotic.

Gooding's car, a 1964 coupe, could charitably be described as "full of patina". That is not a bad thing as Gooding's strongest sales of the weekend included a barnfind Tucker, a one-owner unrestored Fiat 8V Supersonic and a time-warp '62 MB 300SL Roadster- purposefully untouched by the detailer as to preserve its quarter-inch of accumulated dust. This Maser's grey paint was aged, the headliner rotting, and the pesky Lucas mechanical fuel injection stumbling. The brighwork was dull and the brakes non-existent (which made for a suspenseful entrance onto the auction dais). The car was offered at No Reserve but languished for an opening bid of $50k- it's only and final bid- as the room expressed palpable disinterest in the car. It was sold to a dealer in the New York metro area which specializes in lower-end condition cars and it will be interesting to see what he'll list it for. I spoke with another Maserati specialist who regretted missing the car at that price. Apparently the smart money is bullish on 3500 GTI appreciation potential?

The second car, a 1965 Touring Coupe which ran across Russo and Steele's stage Saturday night, was a fish out of water amongst the American Muscle consignments. Perhaps that was the genius of the venue selection, for it was sold at a hammer price of $100k. Recently repainted in striking dark blue basecoat/clearcoat full of minor flaws, with a just-fitted grey interior and spotless engine crankcase, the car gave every impression of being tarted up for sale. Cars like these worry me as much as the unrestored for they have not been fully vetted after reassembly. However, this one did seem to run well up to the block, undoubtedly aided by the triple Weber setup which replaced the stock fuel injection. Only the most puritan Maserati fan would cherish the Lucas system, which is truly arcane and flawed from inception, and a cottage industry exists in providing conversion kits. Nonetheless, I had the car pegged at $85k...but the excitement of the Russo circus propelled it over the top and free of the seller's reserve.

So what was the best Maserati 3500 value of the weekend? Stay tuned for my take....

Scenes From An Auction: Scottsdale 2011

Apologies to those who have missed our daily posts...a computer crash caused a loss of data that put us behind a few days.

Barnfinder! visited the Arizona collector car auctions last week to get a feel for market values and trends. And we even found a few interesting deals under the nose of thousands of educated buyers. Let's break them down into Well Bought and Well Sold, shall we?

1967 Cadillac Eldorado
This car crossed the block at the RM Auctions at the end of the day on Friday as the bidding room was nearly empty. The buyer couldn't believe the lack of interest and bought the car with a single bid of $15,000. Now (despite some previous posts) big American cars are really not our thing; however the innovation and styling on these full-size front wheel drive cruisers make them ripe for future appreciation. The car wore California black plates and was the same top quality as most of RM's offerings that weekend. The new owner was entertaining offers (not sure he had a garage big enough to house his win!) at a $5,000 markup. Well bought, and shows that serious bidders should be the first to enter and the last to leave an auction.

1935 Fiat Balilla Sport Spider 508 S Coppa d'Oro Corsa
Gooding & Company sold this amazing car for a hammer price of $110,000...$15,000 under the low estimate. Powered by a one-liter Siata motor and eligible for virtually every vintage event in existence, this beauty is now going to a new home in Chicago. Many of the larger collections were kicking themselves for passing this one by. The level of preparation on this car was wonderful; the bonus was that the car came with plenty of documents, photos and history. What a great (and cheap) ride for the Mille Miglia.

1955 Arnolt MG Bertone Coupe
Sold at a hammer price plus commission of $38,500 at RM on Thursday. This car (which really is much shorter in person) had lots of cross appeal. It utilizes a supercharged, twin SU carb MGTD engine and chassis and came from the Gene Ponder collection. Coachwork was by Bertone under commission from "Wacky" Arnolt and was limited to 67 units. Where can you find ANY car in this condition, with exclusive Italian coachwork, interesting Arnolt history and the hot rod MG motor at anything near this price? Cheap admission to any Italian or British concours. To put it in perspective, a chrome bumper 1967 MGB Roadster sold for $27,500 to that same room of bidders. Somehow this car fell between the cracks of the British and the Italian enthusiasts and someone got a great deal.

1987 Fiat Bertone X1/9 Convertible
Sold at RM on Friday for $3875 with commission.I would really, really love to know the true back story about this consignment. Was this a last minute addition for a cancelled lot? A prescient nod to a future collectible from the RM staff? A way to draw a younger entry level demographic into the auction world? Or was it simply illegally parked in the Biltmore garage and sold for parking fees? Make no mistake..there will be a time and place when these interesting but much-maligned cars see their day in the sun. As it was, on this sunny day this car made full retail for it's consignor.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Plate: 1967 AMC Ambassador $1300

Sometimes I post cars in the hope that they will be quickly bought and save me the anguish of considering them. This is one such post.

"Black Plate" , for our foreign readers, indicates a car of 60's vintage that was originally registered and continually kept in the State Of California, and issued the distinctive black and yellow license plates. Like the buffalo, the west was once filled with Black Plate Classics. But the age of the Internet has dispersed them to the far ends of the earth. Cars like Cudas and Roadrunners, GTOs and 442s are long gone as daily drivers in California. But every now and again you find an oddball still out there....kind of like some prehistoric fish caught in a receding tidal pool.

The thing about currently registered Black Plate cars is that they are usually well kept...meaning they have good tires, exhaust, brakes, and tune. Great for flying in and taking a nostalgic roadtrip! And the plates stay on the car after the sale, reducing your risk of an Alabama State Trooper pulling you over with a scribbled piece of cardboard in the back window claiming "L.A.F." (License Applied For). Black Plate cars carry a premium at auction as they are a nearly bullet-proof link to a rust free history.

 The sad downside is that taking an old car out of its native environs diminishes the overall habitat. Part of what makes California great is all the "little old ladies from Pasadena" still driving such an interesting array of cars. San Diego County will be a poorer place by the sale of this great old Rambler.

AMCs are underrated cars. Some of the fastest cars I've ever been in were AMCs. They are pretty rare, but parts never seem to be a problem. Mercifully, this one is a fastback and also a two door. Lets hope it has a V-8 ( 290, 343 or 390 ) as well. Enjoy the eccentric styling touches such as the interesting grille and integral driving lights, or the vertically mounted radio. At $1300 bucks I don't know how you can go wrong.


Cheap and Clean: 1984 Porsche 911 $8950

I must admit to some bemusement regarding the passion of Porsche enthusiasts, but then again I have never owned one. They just seem too common for me. However I do consider the mid-Eighties Porsche 911s to be a balance of good looks and dependability and have long entertained jumping in on the right car at a fair price. Unfortunately, loyal followers of the marque have kept the prices up in the teens for good examples and there are just too many other options out there at that money.

Which is why this seemingly clean Southwestern car jumped out at me. It is at an Infiniti dealer in the Phoenix area and is at least $3000 under the low end blue book. It was advertised on Craigslist as low as $8950 at one time. The dealer describes it as a great runner and the paint and interior look tidy enough. But why so cheap then?

A quick check of the Carfax shows a long history in San Diego County- as well as a frontal hit and a disturbing odometer discrepancy. Neither are deal breakers at this price.The mileage is probably truer to 170k if one reads the records correctly. I know plenty of guys who are looking for a Sunday track car and give not one whit about a clean Carfax.

Maybe this is a case of a high end Japanese dealer with a loss leader Porsche on their floor to drive customers? It is an odd fit at an Infiniti dealership. I would expect that they would be straightforward about the car and not risk their reputation on the cheapest car on the lot. Judge this car by its merits.

Phoenix will be awash with thousands of collector and sports car enthusiasts next week for the January auctions. The best deals in the valley are not always those crossing the block. I'd expect this car to be gone quickly to an understanding home- and I hope it does so that I am not tempted myself.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Luxo Barges: 1970 Mercury Marauder and 1972 Montego GT

First a 1975 Torino, now a couple of full-size Mercs? Just when I think I have my taste buds figured out, I strangely crave broccoli and engage in luxo-barge fantasy.

These two Neo-Muscle offerings from Mercury are the most unlikely of performance vehicles. By 1970 Mercury was already the redheaded stepchild division of Ford-Lincoln-Mercury. Known mostly for providing full size cars to an aging and nostalgic demographic, they jumped on the Muscle Car bandwagon in the early 1970's with eclectic results.

The 1970 Marauder X-100 surely had the most imposing name of any car of that era. It was a pastiche of styling elements: faux rear quarter brake extractors (seemingly oxymoronic with the optional fender skirts), hidden headlights, recessed rear window, steel sport wheels and tuck-and-roll bucket seats. The X-100 option offered the 360hp 429 motor, but the ungainly weight of these full-size cars made them Turnpike cruisers at best. Less than 5000 units were produced in 1970.

                                        1970 Mercury Marauder X-100

By 1972, Muscle Cars were fully on their way out, but that didn't stop Merc from re-tooling their midsize Montego and giving it a completely new body. Twin snorkel hoodscoops (with functional fresh air induction)and sweeping rear sail panels gave a racy look, but none of this translated into performance as the car simultaneously gained weight and neutered horsepower from it's smog compliant V-8 line. The 400 c.i.d. motor in our feature car eeked out a factory rated 172 horsepower. Hemmings Magazine recently did a great write up on these cars which further delves into the details of these rare Mercs.

                                         1972 Mercury Montego GT

With that said, these cars represent an extravagant and excessive era of car manufacturing. They were among the last short run, individually conceived and marketed cars before badge engineering  and divisional homogenization took over. Sure, build quality is marginal, performance is disappointing, and fuel consumption borders on being criminal. But I like them for their quirky (if not desperate) styling, passionate owners clubs, and cheap buy-in point.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rorty Sorbet: Top Gear 1975 Lancia Fulvia 1.3s

Viewers of the television show Top Gear America  might wonder what all the fuss is about- (apparently Britishisms like "Rorty Sorbet" aren't the only thing that don't translate well here)- but the BBC's original Top Gear is something of a global phenomenon. It is the world's most popular automotive show...and having your particular car featured on it would be an easy slamdunk for a sale.

This very car- the one used and enthused over in the show- has become available in the U.K. Asking price is £8500 (about $13,600) with one caveat; prospective buyers must provide a loving home and bleed Lancia Blu. Contact the Barnfinder! for the owners contact info.

This particular car is done up in a Monte Carlo paint scheme with leather interior and five point harnesses. The engine has been dyno tuned with twin Dellorto DLHB35s and velocity stacks- apparently responsible for much of that "Rort". Brakes have been upgraded, and the car has a new baffled alloy fuel tank out back. She is ready to run and has many standing invitations to U.K. events.

We have gone on about Fulvias before, so I'll let Jeremy Clarkson wax poetic in this clip from the show:

From the North American perspective, this price is a very, very good deal. The RHD configuration is not as much of a deal breaker in the U.S. as LHD seems to be to the Brits. Also, the cachet of a television car in America (even on a British show) is worth a premium. However, we'd like to see the car pass to someone local to the current owner- someone who could share the passion for these great cars.


Guilty Pleasure: 1971 Manta Montage

From a purely anthropological view, the era of fiberglass American kit cars in the late 1960's and early 1970's was a time of entrepreneurial innovation and wild excess. It bucked the notion that car design be dictated to the consumer by corporations and safety regulations, and offered the layman a chance to drive (if not build) something expressive and exotic.

Some of the best (and worst) of that lot lifted designs from existing automobiles- with Ferrari being a particular target. I believe the proliferation of Ferrari Dino rip-offs depressed and diluted the market for real Dinos for years. People wrongly judged the appeal of the real cars by their cheaper knock-offs, and no Ferrari owner wants to be asked, "Is it real?". Gazelle SSK replicas similarly diluted values of Excaliburs (SSK replicas in their own right) which were in fact factory built cars. Cobra replicas of course have become so numerous that they have become their own sub-species, with lesser and superior phylum and genuses. However, replicas of GT40s and McClaren M6GT's -like the Montage shown here- did no harm as those cars were never available to the proletariat. Therein lies the charm.

This Montage offered out of Washington State impressed me with one simple selling tool: the video. The images of peeling out and ripping down the road in great aplomb and the view from behind the wheel had me smiling. The dual Weber VW motor makes a great sound. The fact that things like the wipers and blinkers worked (just imagine!) let me know its reasonably well sorted. And that the owner was willing to get the car up to speed on a winding road gave me confidence. How many units could Manta sold in period with such marketing?

Thankfully, the VW powerplant has been worked over and offers enough of the period "go-fast" stuff that makes it evocative and interesting to me. Some of the other touches could easily go: the chrome dog dish wheels and older rubber could be updated to great effect, and I'd lose the cheesy steering wheel for something more vintage.

As an aside I have to admire the seller, who goes by the YouTube I.D. of Schmitty1944. His video collection reveals a past history with seemingly well-heeled replica and eclectic cars. Apart from living on a great driving road and being an interesting videographer, he seems to not give one whit about so called "legitimacy" and owns these cars solely for their driving experience. Check this video of him flogging the Montage on a road rallye: Granite Falls Vintage Rally or this one of his garage, appropriately set to James Horner's theme from the movie "Aliens": Schmittys Sub Level 03. Viewing this concludes that this particular fellow either married a saint or is a lifelong bachelor!

At the current bid of $6600 with No Reserve and multiple bidders, I say no harm here. It is always best to pay a fraction of the builder's investment..however eccentric his tastes.


Craftsmanship: 1937 Riley 2 1/2 Litre Special

Certain cars defy market values and need to be evaluated on their merits alone. This is one such car. While the current bid is considerable money, it's probably only scratching the surface of the costs to build this Special.

Built in Britain between 1980 and 1990, this car has just the right look. English panel-pounders are still the best in the business and crafted a great looking body for this shortened Riley Adelphi frame. The dash and gauges look terrific, and I bet you'd be surprised how much legroom was built into it. I love the blued stainless exhaust, and the detailing extends to the use of correct nickel plating over more garish chrome.

Many of us long for a 30's era competition roadster but are simply priced out of the market. If you can obtain a true example you then have to deal with its fickle nature. This car seems very well vetted, having been previously owned by a series of engineers and marque specialists. Certainly it produces more horsepower than period vehicles, rides on modern reproduction tires and undoubtedly utilizes better electrics. That it is street legal and a two-seater makes it all that much more usable.

In my mind, this car represents all that is Grand and Great about English sports cars- at a fraction of the price.

The car is located in Greisbach, Germany.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Buy Direct: Alfa Romeo Giulia TI 1300

Unless you've already owned one, it is hard to describe the allure of the seemingly-utilitarian Alfa Giulia TI sedan. Arguably the world's first sports sedan, the boxy Giulia is really rather svelte; its sublime shape gracefully honed in a wind tunnel until it actually achieved a lower drag coefficient than period Porsche 911's.

But finding a good one in North America is tough, and prices are on the rise. Expect to pay $13k-$15k for a good club car, and up to $25k-$30k for a show car. Right now these are one of the few models where the price difference and scarcity makes sense to import.

The downside is that many of the cars in displacement-taxed Italy are the 1300 c.c. version. These are a bit tedious to drive on American roads. 1600 c.c. cars, or "Bisciones" in Italian, tend to be the later cars and give up some of the nicer trim found on the earlier, cleaner models.

The car featured here looks identical to a car shown at the big Padova Mostra Scambio this past fall. It was listed as sold on the floor at Padova, which was a shame as it attracted lots of admiration. The light greyish/blue color was attractive -and like a lost puppy- there would be no way your wife could say no to this one.

The asking price is 6500 Euros, which today stands at around $8550. Despite what some freight forwarders will tell you about shipping cost to the U.S., figure on $4000 as a safe number. Shop around for a direct referral. I would still personally inspect the car in Italy and make a nice vacation for yourself out of the experience. Generally, I find that most old cars in Italy seem to run very well and are very clean, but usually have a bit of orange peel to the paint and are perhaps just a notch below in aesthetics.

My experience is that Italians do not like to negotiate very much. They seem to take offense to such things. However, as this car is offered by a dealer, it is his business to negotiate. This particular car has been available for some time; feel free to make a lower offer. Otherwise, check Unlike the U.S., there are always a variety to choose from.