We’ve barely put away our ugly Christmas sweaters and haven’t even given up on New Year’s resolutions yet, but auction season is upon us. Indeed, January is the biggest month of the year, with back-to-back mega events in Kissimmee, Florida and in and around Scottsdale, Arizona. After the duesy of a year that was 2022, Scottsdale is looking smaller, with fewer auctions and fewer headline-making cars. Mecum’s Kissimmee auction, however, is getting our attention as much as ever. The 2022 event was Mecum’s biggest ever, with over 3300 vehicles crossing the block, and it became the first single car auction to break $200M in total sales. Surprisingly, this year might be even bigger.
Mecum has been in the auction business since 1988, and in the 2010s it became the biggest and busiest company out there, at least in terms of vehicles sold and events held. During the pandemic years, it was the only company to pull off “normal” in-person auctions, with relatively few major interruptions. Last year Mecum held 14 collector car sales, plus a handful of tractor and motorcycle sales. The biggest of them all, though, is their January event in Kissimmee, near Mickey Mouse’s hometown of Orlando. It’s not just Mecum’s flagship—it’s the biggest collector car auction in the world.
What began in 2004 as a single-tent sale with $4M worth of cars is now a 12-day (Jan 4-15) buying bacchanalia that takes up more than 60 acres in Osceola Heritage Park with multiple indoor spaces and tent after tent after tent lined pole to pole with vehicles for sale, shielding them from the Florida sun (and occasional burst of Florida rain). Even if you’re just kicking tires it’s a destination, simply because there’s so much interesting metal in one place.
Like Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, Kissimmee is a muscle car mecca. From 2012 to 2022, a grand total of 1721 Mustangs, 1700 Camaros and 3437 Corvettes have raised bidder paddles at the central Florida sale, and this year there is a bumper crop of Detroit iron. In some years Kissimmee consignments have numbered more than 3000, and despite some market cooling in late 2022, Mecum is claiming its highest ever consignment total, for 2023 at over 4000 vehicles, including cars sourced from three dozen different private collections.
Sound overwhelming? It is. Even narrowing in on the highlights is a challenge, especially since Mecum is still announcing some heavyweights. [In fact, shortly after we hit “publish” on this article, the company announced it had consigned a Detroit street-racing legend, the so-called “Black Ghost” 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T. You can read about that here.]
Like Pontiac GTOs? Who doesn’t! There are over 60 up for grabs, and many of these Goats boast the top specs. There 13 Ram Air IV GTOs, including two convertibles. Top-shelf Pontiacs are further represented by an uber-rare Ram Air IV 1969 Trans Am. If you’re more of a Mopar fan, there are eight Plymouth Superbirds (including four Hemis) and eleven Dodge Daytonas (including three Hemis). Classic Shelbys number over 30, headed by five genuine Cobras. Search “Corvette” on Mecum’s website and you’ll have five pages to scroll through.
It may be mostly muscle, but if you have foreign tastes there is a surprising swath of European classics this year, including a BMW 507, a Porsche 718 RSK race car, three Mercedes 300SLs, several classic Ferraris and a Bugatti Type 57, plus modern favorites like three Lamborghini Countaches and a Ferrari Enzo. There’s even JDM royalty like an R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R LM Limited and a Mazda Cosmo, while race fans will flock to historic treats like the Shelby/Cooper King Cobra, Ford GT40 Mk IV, and Mario Andretti’s title-winning 1984 Lola Indy car.
Another fun part of such a big auction is stumbling across the oddballs peppered in between all the Mustangs and Chevelles, cars that you’ve never seen or maybe never even heard of before. How about a Brazilian-built Puma GTE? Or a multicolored VW Golf Harlequin, a Giugiaro-designed Isuzu Impulse, an ugly but fun Mosler Consulier, or whatever this thing is? Even Elvis’s airplane is up for grabs.
There are always flashy headline sales here — like the $3.74M Bullitt Mustang — but Kissimmee is worth watching for other reasons, too. Most of the consignments are on the attainable side. There are whole tents filled with cars under $50K. You know, the kind of stuff that most of us enthusiasts actually own and drive.
This is also the first major heat check of the wider collector car market since the Monterey auctions last August. True, auctions are a small part of our hobby in the grand scheme of things, and that's why we track all segments, from private and online sales to insurance data. But these big live events are public (and broadcast on TV), and they have a way of setting tone and expectations among buyers and sellers in a way that private sales don't. The results remain to be seen, but since Mecum Kissimmee is on its grandest scale yet and Scottsdale finds itself a bit off its prior pace, we'll be keeping a particularly close eye on Florida this month.
We'll be reporting on Kissimmee's most significant cars and results once the 12-day event wraps up, so stay tuned.