Simply reading the big, bold headlines from this year’s Arizona Auction Week is enough to make the average enthusiast’s wallet crackle and curl. Record prices! $266 million in total sales! Average sale results are up, up, up! This is neither sensationalism, nor your imagination—it’s getting tougher out there for a gearhead on a budget.
Tougher, but not hopeless. Our observers at Scottsdale noted that even at these hot auctions, there were points in the week (usually mornings) when bidding rooms were quiet and cars hammered for surprisingly low prices. If you keep a keen eye on the sale catalogs and pay sharp attention to the bidding tastes in the room, you can walk away with a bit of a bargain—at least far as this superheated market goes. Don’t believe us? Check out five relative bargains from this year’s Arizona Auction Week.
1932 Ford Hi-Boy Custom Roadster — $22,176, Gooding & Co.
Forget relative bargains—this Hi-Boy Deuce roadster is an unmitigated steal. Careful—that’s s-t-e-a-l, not “steel,” as this is one of many replica Ford roadsters bodied in fiberglass. The flexy, fibrous red-over-white body might not carry the cachet and show cred of a legit steel-bodied Deuce, but for a selling price lower than the MSRP on a new Honda Civic, who cares? Gooding & Co.’s presale estimate between $30,000 and $50,000 was appropriate, meaning, even for replicas, this was outrageously well-bought.
Really, this is a few metric tons of fun for the money paid. The Chevy 350 small-block and accompanying Turbo 350 automatic transmission is hardly the most evocative and/or exhilarating combo, but this rumble is all you need for cruising your local strip and capturing the attention of your local Cars and Coffee.
1970 Ford F-250 Camper — $24,200, Barrett-Jackson
Another classic the buyer didn’t have to sell their house for. Hey, even if they did, there was probably no better choice than this fantastic 1970 Ford F-250 with rare, period-correct Goldline bed camper. The information on the listing is scant, and the photos aren’t as detailed as we’d like, but this “unrestored” truck appears to be in at least Condition Rating #3. Our price guide lists a Condition #3 truck with this desirable 390ci V-8 at $15,400 and Condition #2 at $30,000, meaning this would have been considered a solid buy without the bed camper. We’ll keep an eye out for this rig at Overland Expo.
1964 Ford Thunderbird — $30,800, Gooding & Co.
Gooding’s fabulously original Thunderbird is proof you can still find some seriously high-quality classics for an incongruously small amount of cash. At a smidge under $31,000, this T-Bird streaks past our Condition #1 (Concours) price guide value of $22,700, but fails to take into account this black coupe’s stunning preservation-class condition. With just 36,000 miles recorded at the time of cataloguing, it’s an untouched and well-maintained example that would be a great buy for a few thousand more than it claimed. It might be a smidge too well-preserved to serve as a guilt-free weekend cruiser, but its condition makes it a shoo-in for awards at local shows and potential appearances at major events around the country.
1972 Citroën SM — $44,800, Bonhams
Fortune favors the bold, but in the case of Citroën’s French-Italian duet, you’ll need to be both bold and already possess a sizeable fortune to keep this Parisian Maserati floating down the rue. Or is that strada?
We digress. The alluring and endlessly enigmatic SM is likely worth the effort, especially as Bonhams’ striking green example sold right within the range of its Condition #3 rating. The secret sauce here is this specific SM’s status as a Euro-market car, lending added value for the retro-chic non-DOT headlights, along with the desirable five-speed manual transmission and Weber carburetors. Hagerty Price Guide publisher Dave Kinney said it best; “A weak US example might have brought $28,000 more or less; this is twice the car for less than half the price. That’s why it’s important to look for more than just the numbers.”
1997 Bentley Continental R California Edition — $56,000, Bonhams
Bonhams’ Scottsdale sale proffered a trio of big-body Bentley Continental coupes, each a bargain. As a general rule, these pre-Volkswagen Bentleys remain undervalued in the marketplace, so any clean, well-documented Conti represents a rare opportunity for the average-moneyed enthusiast to get in on (or near) the ground floor before the collecting sphere realizes how tremendously special and capable these barges are and spikes prices to the hand-stitched, leather-lined moon.
While perhaps not as evocative as a Lamborghini Diablo or Ferrari 550, there’s really nothing that approaches the Continental R’s character-per-dollar ratio as of this writing. These bruisers are hand-built, over-torqued interstate cruise missiles with bones of granite and seats from a smoking lounge.
In Scottsdale, Bonhams moved a 1998 Bentley Continental T Mulliner RSE Edition ($98,000) and 1997 Continental T Coupe ($84,000), but it was the white-over-tan 1997 Continental R California Edition that had us perked-up. Only six of these were made, each wearing bespoke aesthetic touches pulled from the more performance-oriented Continental T, including flared wheel arches, wheels, and a boost gauge in the center stack.
$56,000 bought this Bentley, some $40,000 down on the modestly more powerful RSE. Add in the fact the California Edition comes with $28,000 worth of maintenance and service over the past three years, and this was a keen, pragmatic purchase in a market where flush collectors are burning stacks of cash on far more dubious, less interesting cars.
It seems when the market has been down over the years so was my income. When my income took a big leap upwards so did the market. I have owned a lot of fun cool cars and trucks over the years but seldom my dream vehicles. Oh well it is still fun watching.
I hear you Rick McCarty, my timing has never been right.
Please e mail me some information on value of a true 87 I ROC Z28 5.7 TP 66k original miles
Brad, your Z28 in top #2 condition would fetch between $14K to $20k in todays market.
Thanks for once again presenting a nice selection for the I’m not a millionaire group. I really like the Thunderbird and while its condition and milaege can justify never driving it and continiung preservation, the price point also removes the guilt of enjoying it and driving it. I would be honored to put 2-3,000 miles a year on that car and I would smile for every one of them.
I fully agree with you. I too would DRIVE this beauty. As our friend Leno always says,
cars were made to be driven. Not to locked in a garage ! Or worse, to be over-restored ans become a trailer queen.
Well where are those unloved c4 corvettes? I’m the original owner of a 1993 white base coupe with 150,000 trouble free and fun miles that I wouldn’t even consider selling for what it would bring at auction.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s hard for me to imagine a situation where a Citroen SM would be a good buy at nearly any price.
Don H, I agree. They are however a marvel at innovation with the engineering to accomplish such.
Not my cup of tea.
You simply have to test drive one. Amazing.
And not expensive to maintain one for people in the know.
Why can’t Ford build a mid engine sportscar that can compete with the Chevrolet Corvette? It baffles me year after year. Their T-birds from the 50’s still look classy today. They don’t look like 40’s cars. The GT 500 is beautiful. It should be costing a million dollars. Make me a car I want Ford. And don’t go over $72000 for the base.
Hot Rods are cooling in general. A fiberglass body has always been looked down on in the traditional community. At 222K this was a good deal but by the time you paid taxes and shipping not much left. Seller must have felt real pain!
Should have said 22K !
With respect to the Citroen SM, $44,800 was a premium price to pay. Granted, it has the Euro lights and it was a 5-speed, but as Citroenvie pointed out on their website on Jan 24; “a ripped rear seat, a resown lower section of the drivers’ seat in leather that is an obvious non-match, and a missing Citroen chevrons badge that should be on the steering wheel, makes one wonder who is going to pay that kind of money? Moreover, the engine bay sports the original piston AC compressor, (rather than the rotary type fitted after-market by many owners), so how soon is the engine going to need some service because of the strain induced by it over years?” The one big plus was that it had the desirable original Continental Edison radio found on European models, but then again there was a bad rip and poor fit of the side console cover.
There’s no such thing as a budget Bentley. The purchase price may fall under the definition of affordable, but that’s just the down-payment for the full ownership experience, which will be sprinkled with heart-attack repair bills. As the description noted, $23k(!) in repair documentation. That won’t be the last. Great car, but not a budget collectible.
For those of us of modest means, auctions are off limits for finding an affordable classic. Travel, accommodation, entry fees, buyers’ premiums and shipping put the bargain level hammer price into the over-priced category. Limited opportunity to do a close inspection also adds to the risk of over paying. Nonetheless, auctions are great entertainment. I have been able stay in the old car game by buying local. I like to find abandoned projects that are non-runners. I can put some work into the vehicle to make it roadworthy and if it does not meet my expectations then I can sell it and move on to the next project. The wrench/ride ratio that works for me is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is my way to stay in the game. I’m pretty sure that a Type 35 Bugatti is not in my future, but my clapped old MG TC still puts a smile on my face.
You are exactly right! I have done it for Years. Alot of satisfaction to say I did it myself.
Alan, you’ve always done well in the old bike, old car game! Can’t wait to get over there and see your collection.
a buddy sent me a text with a link to a $51,000 TR6 BaT result today… nothing “cool” about that. I don’t care how nice the car was.
I’ve never been sure that auctions are an indicator of anything besides herd lust and, as the highest bidder, the
only person in the room who thought the thing was worth that much money. I get a lot of heat about this. But I have been in the Hobby a long time, and I buy my cars off the street, in carports, wherever they are parked. My profits, when I sell, have been good. I love the cars and the Hobby.
The Bentley owner has only started to spend. These are a black hole for money when it comes to repair and service.
An old proverb: “There is nothing in this world more expensive than a cheap Rolls-Royce/Bentley.” I bought my ’99 Bentley Arnage Green Label for under $20k expecting to spend another $10k which wound up doubling that. They are wonderful cars, but if you have to ask…
I have a really beautiful 73 Grand Prix SJ 455 sunroof every option in the book, plus Vogues and Spokes, hidden stereo w 2000 watts of sound, always wonder what it’s worth
Thank you! These are not all completely affordable (for me), but at least they’re not trophy buys for the millionaires club. The “bargains” are always far more interesting to me!
The T-Bird makes me wish I had kept my ’66 that I sold for $3,000 in 1990. One of the best driving cars I ever owned but I needed the money to remodel my house. Just missed a black ’64 last year for $16,000, local Ford dealer’s wife’s car with less than 50,000 miles. As Mastro1 indicated, auctions make some people go over the top.
I have a 65 conv. that I need to sell. Great body restoration but still needs interior work ($6,000 or more I am betting). Bet I won’t get more than $15 or $16,000. The delicate sequentials and the various hydraulics for the “buried” conv. top cost me lots of dough and tears through the years. The car was probably too much of a rust bucket when I bought it to restore in 1995. But it remains one of the most beautiful cars on the road, at least when it is running. I even had two frame rails put in during the body rebuild, as the ragtop had a tendency to collapse a few inches under the doors because of the relatively weak understructure of the original unibody. Many of my problems also could have been caused by the sharp business practices of the restoration shop I chose, who just seemed to want to do body work on the resto, not the more boring but critical wiring, sequential tail lights, engine and other less glitzy, but really important stuff.
$59,000 is a bargain??? Seems I’m WAY outta my league, here. I still get admiring looks for my REAL bargain – 1979 El Camino. The G-Bodies barely top $10K for a clean, well-running example. But don’t look for one at Barrett-Jack or Mecum. Its the most beloved car, that nobody wants.
My Gosh If its still on the market..there is .A t birdjust like the one picturd ..for sale on cars . com ..just like the t bird pictured here..but white instead of black..and they want around 7000 for it
Agree with most but there are still bargains. recently got a clean 97 cobra convertible for under 11 from mecum, still have an old sho and a Mitsubishi eclipse turbo, so I can work on water I want. al for about 30k still bargains if u look hard enough I guess. But maybe it’s time to trade up a few. When is the right time. Is the hardest question. Answers?