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.