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.

Spring Buying & Selling Season Begins

Here we are again. It’s starting to feel like spring in many parts of the country and collector cars and trucks that have been in storage all winter will soon be hitting the road. Sellers get their cars ready to show. Buyers begin to get serious in their search for a new ride.  Here at the Auto Appraisal Group, we see a growing interest as demand for our independent prepurchase inspection service increases nationwide.

Buyer Beware! One of the more blatant developments in recent years is the high percentage of car ads that appear to have been “photo-shopped”.  There has always been a desire to present a car in its best light but the use of computer programs to enhance the appearance of vehicles in ads is widespread. Our agents take dozens of photos during their inspection but when compared to the photos presented in the ad, some have questioned if it is the same vehicle.

As you read the vehicle’s advertisement look for descriptive words as clues to the overall condition of the vehicle.  Terms like excellent, new, best one known to exist, frame-off restoration, and numbers matching all imply a vehicle worthy of a top asking price.  But what is it really worth?  Ask for documentation of these descriptions to pre-qualify vehicles during your initial inquiry. Can they answer questions about who, what, when & where? Correctness and originality are still the most highly sought-after properties in vehicles and may prove to be the best investments over time. Cars that have been properly restored can be a good value because the labor has already been paid for.

Where do you find the best cars?  Look within your local car clubs first.  Are you a mechanic or do you know of a good one in your area?  Be sure you know who your mechanic will be before you buy an old car. What’s the best thing you can do before you close the deal?  Let us assist you with a pre-purchase inspection.  You may talk with our certified agent before and after the inspection so he can address your concerns and answer your questions. After you have reviewed the condition report and photos taken during the inspection, you then talk with us about the market value based upon the current classic and collector car market. We can help you buy or walk away with confidence that you’ve made the best decision.  We look forward to assisting you with all your prepurchase inspection needs.

Happy Motoring!  Larry Batton 1963 Austin Healey 3000 MkII

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

National Corvette Museum Sinkhole

sinkhole 2

“Life really is stranger than fiction” is a frequent statement heard from our founder and president Larry Batton.  Who could have ever imagined that the earth would swallow up some of the most significant Corvettes at the museum while most of us were asleep.  The recovery process has been an engineering marvel in itself.  Auto Appraisal Group is honored to have been chosen by the museum to assist with auto appraisals on each of the vehicles.  The museum has extensive historical documentation on these Corvettes  which will be utilized during our evaluations. Then we’ll continue to watch as the museum and GM work together to bring these cars back to life.

Check out this mini documentary by GM about the sinkhole.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q57YHiSt2I

 

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

 

Scottsdale 2014 Auction Value Trends

2014 Arizona Chart 1

Auction Results Comparison

¨ 2347 vehicles sold in 2014

¨ 2188 vehicles sold in 2013

¨ 159 more vehicles sold this year. $243M spent in 2014

¨ $222M spent in 2013

¨ Sales up $21M this year

¨ Stats are unofficial, includes buyer’s commission and does not include boats, planes, RV, trikes etc..


2014 Arizona chart 2

Top Arizona Auction Sales

in January 2014

¨ 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder. Sold for $8.8 Million at RM

¨ 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Series I Cabriolet. Sold for $6.6 Million at Gooding & Company

¨ 1951 Ferrari 212 Export Berlinetta. Sold for $3.2 Million at Bonhams

¨ 1966 Lamborghini 350GT early Production. Sold for $742,630 at Russo & Steele

 

AAG’s 2014 Value Trends Seminar is now available for presentation to your local car club or as a seminar at an upcoming event. The seminar includes Scottsdale Auction results wrap-up and forecast for classic car value trends in the near future. Contact our office for scheduling information. 800-848-AUTO

 

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.

So Long 2013. Hello 2014.

2013 has come and gone and during the year, the collector car market saw an up-tick in classic car values over all. It’s still all about condition, originality and horsepower (aka speed). Generally speaking:

¨ High end exotics are up 15 to 20%,

¨ Early 1920s and 1930s models are up 10 to 15%.

¨ 1940s are up 9 to 12%

¨ 1950s are up 8 to 12%

¨ 1960s are up 12 to 16%

¨ 1970s are up 8 to 12% and

¨ 1980s are up 4 to 8%.

Still the best bets are convertibles, hardtop coupes, limited production models and documented cars and trucks. Buy documented autos. If you’re selling, get the paperwork together before you attempt to market your vehicle. Watch for an early jump in values in 2014 due to the supply and demand at highly publicized auctions. Restoration is still a costly process. Better to buy a restored vehicle with documentation about who, what, when and where. This helps to increase the investment potential.

2014 may be a good time to buy at auction. Auction advertising that includes the vehicle ID number ahead of the sale assists in the pre-purchase inspection and qualification process.  Some of these autos are going to be great investments in the future. For the right autos, classic car values could double in the next five years.

Remember to always buy what you like and will enjoy driving and sharing with others. Car guys and gals are some of the best people on the planet.  I know this from my 45 plus years working in the automotive field. Also, remember that demand will continue to grow and supply will become less for the best.

Hope to see you on the road.  As always, safe travels for you and yours.   Larry Batton

 

Tips for Buying a Classic Car at Auction

I love auctions. The crowds, the chant, the bright lights, the bids. We all know it’s easy to get caught up in the excitment and emotions. So what do we really need to focus on? Here are a few tips when buying a classic car or any vehicle at auction.

1. Buy the one you want with the equipment, engine, color, options and history that you want. If you settle for something else, chances are you’ll find the one you want next month.  Then you’ll find it may be harder to sell your initial purchase than it was to buy.

2. Buy the one with documentation. When was it restored, who restored it, what was done at that time, what was it originally before it was restored?

3. Look at the title before you buy it.  This may tell you the motivation of the seller and can help you price your purchase.

4. Have someone look at it for you or with you. Love is blind. We all know that. Let someone look at the car from a more objective point of view. A pre purchase inspection could save you from making a big mistake or help you buy with more confidence.