1953 Chevrolet Corvette

53 Corvette

At some time in 1952, GM President, Harlow Curtice and the General Manager, Thomas Keating met with Harley Earl head of the company’s Art & Color Section, which was responsible for the design of all new GM products.  The purpose was to view a mock up of a project that Earl and a few trusted members of his team had been working on in secret.  Earl felt this car would stimulate Chevrolet sales and add glamour and prestige to what was a fairly unexciting range of family cars.

When Earl raised the curtain he revealed a sleek, low-slung, two seat sports car, something that no other American volume producer had in their line-up.  Both Curtice and Keating were impressed with the car and Earl’s enthusiasm for the project.  Construction of a prototype for display at the company’s 1953 Autorama show was started immediately but the final production depended very much on the car’s reception at those shows.

The first Motorama show of 1953 took place in New York City in January and the Corvette was a runaway success.  As the show progressed to other venues across the country, Chevrolet was bombarded with enquiries about the sports car.   Everybody wanted to know when it would be available and how much it would cost.  GM wasted no time in putting the car into production.  With the new innovative fiberglass body and devotion to sports car ideals, Chevrolet’s great sports car experiment was about to begin.  Anticipating low production numbers for the first year, Chevrolet used it’s tried and proven 235 CU inline six cylinder engine. It was coupled with the stock Chevrolet Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission.  By years end 300 Corvettes were built.

As planned, production for 1954 models moved to a renovated St. Louis facility and began in December 1953.  As 1954 drew to a close, the Corvette was in big trouble.  In all, 3640 Corvettes had been built for 1954 and half were still unsold when the 1955 model was ready.

The 1955 model introduced the V-8 engine and other exterior paint colors but unfortunately only 700 cars were ordered.

It looked like the end of the road for the Chevrolet Corvette but an unexpected savior appeared to keep the Corvette alive!  The Ford Thunderbird!  Chevrolet was not to be defeated by its primary competitor and decided to keep the Corvette in production to deny Ford that particular segment of the market. And as they say, “the rest is history”.

   ~submitted by Tommy Mallory, AAG Agent, Ashland Missouri

What’s trending with Corvette values?

1953’s are up 3 %

1956’s are up 2%

1959’s are up 1%

1966’s are up 2%

1969’s are up 5%

 

 

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

56 MB 300 SL

Ask a classic car expert to name the five most collectible automobiles ever built and chances are very good that the 1954-1957 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing is on the list. Instantly recognizable by its upward swinging doors, the Gullwing was a stunning accomplishment at the time, with the prototype of this motoring icon being tested less than six years after the devastation of WWII left the Mercedes factories in ruins. Borrowing liberally from existing Mercedes models, the early racing versions of the 300SL achieved great success on the track, including an improbable 1-2 finish upon their first attempt at the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race, in 1952, with other successes at the Nürburgring and La Carrera Panamericana, the treacherous Mexican road race.

The coupe’s defining characteristic, its hinged-at-the-roof doors, were actually necessitated by the use of an extremely rigid space frame chassis, a first, which had unusually high sides and precluded horizontally opening doors. The unusually wide door sills of the 300SL also bear witness to this construction.  Another unique feature of the car was the mounting of the dry sump engine at an angle 50 degrees from vertical.  This allowed the 300SL to have an extremely low hood profile, essential for the aerodynamic efficiency required to be competitive against its more powerful competition from Jaguar and Ferrari.

The street version of the 300SL bowed in 1954 at the behest of Mercedes’ U.S. importer, the irrepressible Max Hoffman, who claimed he could sell 1,000 if they were built.  In fact, over the Gullwing’s four year run, approximately 1,100 were made to U.S. specification, confirming Hoffman’s confidence. With only 1,402 made, the 300SL coupe is a rare car, but in fact the rarest of the Gullwings are the 29 built in 1955 & 1956 which were ordered with bodies made entirely of aluminum alloy. The alloy option package also included revised camshafts, a special rear end ratio, highly desirable Rudge wheels, and plastic side and rear windows for further weight savings; all this for the not unsubstantial premium of $1,307 above the nearly $7,000 base price of a ‘standard’ 300SL.

In collecting circles, the Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing ticks all the boxes: revolutionary yet timeless design, great performance, and possibly the most important determinants of current collectability — it was rare, expensive and special when new. And so it is today. With  prices  for  good  to  great  Gullwings now ranging  from  $1,000,000  to  over $2,000,000, the market has spoken on this blue-chip collectible.     ~submitted by Michael Leven, AAG Agent, Turlock, California

Why do Collectors Favor the 1957 Bel Air over the 1957 Fairlane?

57 Ford Fairlane

Back in 1957, I was a high school freshman, not quite old enough to have my driver’s license.  Even though I could not legally drive, I was already a certified car nut.  The fall introduction of the new cars was a big deal.  When I first laid my eyes on the new 1957 Ford, my initial reaction was “Wow”!   It was love at first sight.

1957 was the year when most American cars, except for Chevy and Pontiac, were  dramatically longer, wider, and lower than their 1956 predecessors.   In the case of Ford, the new Fairlane series was five inches lower, had a two-and-one-half inch longer wheel base and measured more than nine inches longer overall compared to 1956 models.   The Custom and Custom 300 were three inches longer overall and had a one half-inch longer wheel base. The difference in dimensions and style is a good example of creating a clear distinction between the lower and higher priced models in the same brand (Ford).

One way to make the 1957 models looks was to change from fifteen inches diameter wheel rims to fourteen inches.  Another unique feature on all Ford Motor Company models for 1957 was a rear opening hood.  And 1957 was the year Ford introduced the mini-fin on all models including the Thunderbird.   These fins enhanced the side look of the Fairlane 500 series, especially when in a two-tone color combination.  The lines and
color flowed in a symmetrical ideal of great “Art Form.”

About ten years later in 1967, I had the distinction of owning two different 1957 Fords.  The first was a beat up Ranch wagon with the 223 cubic inch 6-cylinder engine with a three-speed manual column shift.  The car had lots of cargo room, comfortable vinyl bench seats, and rode well.  Also during this time span, I bought a low mileage 272 cubic inch V8 Custom 300 four-door sedan with the two-tone blue and white color combination. This was a solid middle class sedan that had reasonable pickup and passing power and, despite not having power steering, handled well.

To me and others, one of the mysteries in the collector car hobby is why the 1957 Chevy Bel Air’s are much more sought after than 1957 Fords.  The average values of each brand tell the story of this demand. While both 2 door hardtop models sold for within $200 of each other as new models, today the Bel Air sells for over twice as much as a Fairlane in comparable condition. The question remains: Why do collectors favor the Bel Air over the Fairlane?

~Submitted by Patrick Costello, AAG Certified Agent, Green Bay, Wisconsin

We’d like to hear from you!  Tell us which of these 1957 models you prefer – the Bel Air or the Fairlane and why.

1937 Cord Model 812

Tan Cord

The 1936 Cord 810 and the 1937 Cord 812 were in the second generation of Cords produced by the Auburn Automobile Company. Those Cords were the first to have unibody construction, hide-away headlights, concealed door hinges, taillights built into the car instead of being bolted on separately, no running boards, and the hood opened like an alligator mouth instead of a two-piece hood that folded over. Those Cords were also powered by a Lycoming flat aluminum head V-8 with 125 horsepower or 175 horsepower with the supercharger, which far exceeded Ford’s flathead V-8 with 60 horsepower during the same period. If you could see exposed exhaust coming from under the hood, it was a supercharged engine; if not, it was the basic engine. The Cord was priced at twice the price of a Cadillac or Lincoln.

In 1935, automobile manufacturers had to produce 100 cars of a given model in order for it to be eligible to be displayed at the New York auto show at the end of the year. The first 100 Cords were hand-made to make this objective. It was hoped they would save the Auburn Automobile Company during the great depression, but their quality suffered from this rush to market. New owners experienced many problems with the cars, and local service station mechanics did not want to work on them. Cadillac, Lincoln, and Packard dealers were flooded with used Cords on their car lots, and the Cords soon became worth close to nothing before World War II.

The Auburn Automobile Company produced cars from 1900 to 1937, 1964, and 1967 to 1981. The name was changed to Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company in 1938. The first generation of Cords was produced in 1929-1932, when E. L. Cord was in control of the company, and the car was named after him. The price of the Cord was set in the range between the Auburn brand and the Duesenberg brand. About 5,000 of these first generation autos were manufactured. These cars have a very long aluminum hood due to the front wheel drive, and the hoods brought a premium in salvage values during World War II.

About 2000 second generation Cords were produced in 1936 and 1937, and the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg (http://www.acdclub.org/) club estimates that about 1,000 still exist today. The Cord was available in a 4-door sedan Westchester, a longer 4-door sedan Beverly, a one-seat Sportsman convertible, and a two-seat phaeton convertible. The third generation of Cords were produced in 1964, which is referred to as the Glenn Pray Cord because he bought the company in 1960 and moved it from Auburn, Indiana, to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
~Submitted by Joe Smith, AAG Certified Agent, Sand Springs, OK

1969 Camaro RS/SS 396

The 1969 Camaro was significant for being the last of the first generation of Camaros, and the last year that a convertible was offered until 1987.  It sold in the highest numbers of those first three years (almost a quarter of a million examples), and remains the most sought after year among collectors.  To set it apart, the ‘69’s received restyled fender and quarter panels which changed the shape of the wheel openings; and to satisfy every taste, there were almost 100 options to choose from, along with 18   exterior colors  This year of Camaro is also famous for the COPO options 9560 and 9561 which introduced either an alloy or iron 427 engine under the hood.

69 Camaro

These were interesting days at Chevrolet, and all of General Motors.  The engineers were struggling with how to meet new emissions requirements in future years, which would lead to lower compression ratios on all their engines in 1971 so they could run on unleaded fuel.  New safety regulations were also presenting a challenge, and this would affect the designers as well as they started sketching the 1973 models which had to meet new impact (bumper) requirements.  GM factories were increasingly dealing with labor strife, notably at the Norwood plant where Camaros were built, culminating in lost production due to strikes for better working conditions.  This had an enormous impact on the early years of the 2nd generation Camaros and Firebirds.

The Camaro for 1969 is a popular choice for collectors both old and new.  High production means that there are many to choose from today, although stock, unmodified  examples are a bit harder to find.  The buyer has a choice of two different appearances, standard, or Rally Sport (RS) like our featured car.  Add that to the Super Sport (SS) and Z/28 models, along with the numerous drivetrain packages, long list of options, and the myriad color choices, and it   becomes possible to create a unique car to stand out from all the other Camaros you will find at the shows.  Strong aftermarket support also makes this a popular choice for restorers, as virtually every single part, including bodies, is reproduced.  But buyer beware:  SS and Z/28 clones are ubiquitous, so it is highly recommended that one employ the assistance of an expert when considering a purchase.

~Submitted by AAG Agent, Owen Griesemer, Maryland

 

1931 Cadillac Sport Phaeton

1931 CadillacThe Auto Appraisal Group will be running a series of articles about cars featured in one of our 2014 wall calendars. This month’s focus is on the 1931 Cadillac Sport Phaeton from the GM calendar. We asked AAG certified agent Tim Pawl of Detroit, Michigan, curator and past president of the Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum & Research Center, for some comments about this noteworthy vehicle.

What was happening at Cadillac during the time of this vehicle’s production?  This was a defining time for Cadillac. In 1930 they shocked the motoring world by offering the first V16 engine. In 1931, they followed up with a new V12 engine, which complemented the already successful V8 engine, and vaulted Cadillac to the top of the luxury car market.

What is significant about this model? In 1931, there were three engines available in the Sport Phaetons: V8, V12, and V16. Since the automatic transmission would not appear for almost another decade, the high torque available at low rpm in the V16 engine meant that the driver could launch the car in third gear and never have to shift again. Combined with its resistance to stalling, the V16 engine was a new driving sensation.

Why buy the 1931 Cadillac Sport Phaeton instead of any other cars available in 1931?  With the advent of Cadillac’s Hydramatic transmission in 1941, the V8 engine became the model of choice. Until then, Packard had their ‘Twin Six’ twelve-cylinder, but the only competition Cadillac had for the V16 engine was Marmon. GM’s 1931 Cadillac remains a desirable collector car for that reason.

Why do we only use AAG Certified Agents?

Because we care about the integrity of the people we work with and the quality of the auto appraisal service that we provide. When we started AAG in 1989, there were very few auto appraisers who weren’t also dealers.  Today there are so many appraisers advertising on the internet that it’s hard to tell everyone apart. Add to that the fact that some of them have chosen business names that are very similar to ours, and the windshield gets pretty foggy.

As we’ve always said, they can copy our name, our brochures and even our inspection reports but they can never be us. We believe in what we’re doing and in the agents we work with. We know all of our agents personally and each one not only brings personal experience but has taken and passed our certification course. That’s why we welcome the opportunity for all pre purchase clients to talk with the inspecting agent before and after prepurchase inspections.  After speaking with the agent, clients then talk with our Master auto appraiser about classic car values that pertain to their inspection report.

Don’t be fooled by look-a-likes.  Call AAG @ 800-848-AUTO (2886) for all your auto appraisal and pre purchase inspection needs.

 

My AAG Story—“Great cars and fantastic people”

Griesemer I originally joined AAG over 20 years ago when I was looking for some part-time work that would provide extra income.  I’ve been involved in the collector car hobby most of my life (as owner, restorer and judge), and being involved in appraising collectible vehicles sounded like interesting and fun work, and so it has been.  Not only have I seen some great cars, but you meet some fantastic people along the way.

Far and away the most fascinating assignment was being involved in the auto appraisal of the Harold and Nancy LeMay collection of over 3,000 vehicles.  I took a week off from my full-time job to fly to Tacoma, Washington to work with a half dozen other agents.  What an amazing collection, and a task that only a company with the reputation and the size of the AAG could handle.

Another interesting assignment took me to a remote corner of Utah to do a pre-purchase inspection of not one, but two 1963 Z-11 Impala’s, plus one of the eleven ’62 prototypes.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to examine these rare pieces of drag racing history up close, and I learned a lot about them through my pre-inspection research and the inspection itself.

One recent assignment of note came last year in 2012, when I went to inspect two Shelbys, a 1966 GT350 and a 1967 GT500.  Not only were those two cars great, but the owner, president of a large trucking company, had a 50-60 car collection of Cobras, Shelbys, Boss 429 and Cobra Jet Mustangs, and was a personal friend of Carroll Shelby himself!  You just never know what or who  you’ll encounter on an AAG appraisal!

Submitted by: Owen Griesemer, Maryland Agent

 

Mike Jones joins AAG Group of Certified Agents

Jones CertificationAACA’s National Director, Mike Jones has considered moving into the field for some time. After the class he told us, “I was impressed with the thoroughness, volume and breadth of information included in the class binder. The fact that there were six class members of varying ages and backgrounds-all coming from a diverse geographical locale-  speaks volumes. It is undeniably clear to me that the Auto Appraisal Group is the industry leader and that they far exceed what other agencies are capable of offering.”

The four day class includes a review of AAG principals and standards, appraisal techniques, photographing and grading automobiles, prepurchase inspections and some ideas about how to successfully build your local agency.

Are you Interested in attending an AAG Certification Class in Fort Lauderdale FL in November 2013?  Submit this agency application to our office and we will be in touch to answer all your questions.