Sunday, April 1, 2012

Affordable bargains, six-figure gems, and one heck of a car show. 750 photos from the Mecum Spring Collector Car Auction in Kansas City

The inside of Kansas City's Bartle Hall is 388,800-feet. Now they can do lots of things in there--home shows, religious conventions, RV shows--you name it, they can fit it in there. But as far as I'm concerned, the best way to utilize eight football fields of indoor space is to fill it up with cars.

Luckily, the folks at Mecum Auctions share that opinion, and once again they managed to draw more than 750 sparkling vehicles to the Kansas City Convention Center for the Mecum Spring Classic Auto Auction.

I think Mecum does a great job branding themselves. Whether you see one of their auctions in person, or watch one of the live broadcasts on the Velocity Channel, you won't mistake it for any other auction company. Everything really ties together so well--the red, black, and yellow color scheme, the Mecum logo and neon treatment, the clothes that the auction officials wear, and even the design of the glossy, four-color admission tickets give these events a really professional feel.

They also draw a wide variety of vehicles. Something ridiculously rare and expensive could cross the block one moment, followed immediately by some old $1,200 beater. That's part of what makes actually attending one of this events fun. You just never know what you're going to see.

For example, the most expensive car sold at this event was a 2012 Mercedes S600, which hammered for $133,000. Now, I took more than 700 pictures, and this car wasn't one of them. Heck, I walked right by it, and it never even tripped my radar. It just looked like another new car to me. As it turns out, it was a very expensive new car. Maybe it'll return to the auction in five years and I'll remember to snap a shot of it when it sells for an eighth of that price.

One car that always catches my attention is '67 Corvettes, and four of the top-ten sellers happened to be '67 Corvette 427 Roadsters. The most expensive one, and the second highest seller of the entire auction, was a perfectly lovely white one with red guts and a red stinger. The loaded, 435-hp big block sold for a healthy $120,000.

Mecum typically places reserves on many of the cars they run through the sale, so not all of them actually sell. One example of that was a breathtaking 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta. This was the car that was featured on much of the promotional material for this sale, and at first glance I assumed it was the same one they had at this event last year. I mean, how many white and red Fiestas can there be? But the more I looked at it, the less I am convinced that it is the same car. Frankly, the other one was a little nicer. This one looked like an older restoration that was starting to show its age. But even at that, it was still the most awesome car in the place for my money. You just don't have the chance to look at one of these cars very often.

While I was looking at the entry list before going to the auction, I mentioned to my wife that I was going to come home with a little '49 Divco Milk Truck. I mean, it was cute, and it had the Borden's cow painted on the side. Unfortunately, it sold for $52,000, which was much higher that my old milk truck budget.

A Dark Cherry Metallic '96 Impala SS with only 21,0000-miles failed to sell, with a high bid of $15,000. Now my daily driver is a '96 Impala, and I'd be perfectly fine with driving one of these forever. The one at the auction was still sitting on its original BF Goodrich Comp T/A tires. If I had unlimited funds and a place to store it, I would have snatched this car up as a backup and stored it until mine ran out of juice someday.

There also seemed to be an unusually large number of '77-'81 Camaro Z28's at this sale. I don't know how many there were, but every time we turned around, there was another one sitting there in another color. If you were looking to buy one of those old cars, Mecum had the market cornered.

Honorable mentions included an extremely well restored Pueblo Tan '56 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop that didn't sell with a high bid of $86,000, a really pretty rose-colored '57 E-Code T-Bird that didn't sell for $75,000, and a very impressive '34 Cadillac Series 20 long wheelbase sedan that was worth the $52,500 selling price in all its Art Deco glory.

I've been taking car pictures in Bartle Hall for years, and I've never been able to make them look good under the harsh lights in there. Now if you're a real photographer, you're still probably going to cringe, but I think these are the nicest pictures I've ever taken in that room. I've been figuring out a few secrets on the new camera now, and most of these are not horribly blurry or discolored. The slideshow is big, though--more than 750 pictures. I think you'll like them, though.



  1. not through the entire set yet, but the shots look pretty good to me, craig. tried to go that other site, but the page wouldn't load. could be because i'm trying from work. anyway, nice pics. - mike