The 25th edition of Mecum's Spring Classic was held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week, producing high-dollar sales on some of the most desirable automobiles in the world. Most of those sales made perfect sense. A couple of them surprised me.
The high seller of the week was a LeMans Blue 1968 Corvette L88 convertible that drew $600,000. This one was fairly predictable since only 13 such cars were built and this model is detailed to the most outrageous level, including original shocks and 1968 Redline tires. Where do you find tires made in 1968? My gosh. Those guys are good.
But since when does a 1969 Yenko Nova outsell at 1967 Yenko Camaro? Since last week I guess. A Rally Green Nova sold for a whopping $475,000 while a 427-equipped Yenko Camaro banked $325,000. I had the Camaro pegged as a candidate for the week's high seller and missed it by a mile.
A beautiful 1933 Lincoln KB Phaeton landed about where we expected. This majestic piece of American workmanship hauled in $375,000 and was still considered a good buy. Halfway through the 1932 model year, Lincoln switched from the KA model to the KB and upgraded the car with a V-16. The original engine remains in the car so I poked my head under the hood. Just seeing such a work of art was a great experience that few people will ever have. They really don't build 'em like that any more. I mean… seriously. They don't.
How does Mecum even find these cars? The whole system just amazes me.
The biggest news to come from this auction was the announcement that a pair of historic racecars will sell at Mecum's Monterey event in August. The first car is a massive blockbuster. The original 1972 Can-Am Champion Penske L&M Porsche 917 will go up for sale and likely draw bids into the millions. This is one of the most recognizable racecars in history and was wheeled by legendary road racers George Follmer and Mark Donahue.
The L&M Porsche won at Road Atlanta, Edmonton, Road America and Mid-Ohio while dominating the '72 Can-Am season. I knew this car well even as a child because Aurora sold an HO scale slot car replica of this legendary machine. I still have it and raced it against my 11-year-old son a couple weeks ago (slot car racing is one of the world's great losses from the 20th century, but that's another blog).
This car ranks way up there alongside cars like the Marmon Wasp and the Pennzoil Chaparral. The L&M Porsche 917 is expected to set an all-time world record for the highest sales price for a Porsche at a public auction. Visitors at the Hyatt Monterey can view the car at no charge August 16-18. Come see this car if you possibly can. It's worth the trip.
The other major announcement this week was the sale of Graham Hill's 1968 Lotus/Pratt & Whitney Indy car, restored to its original STP livery. The car has been in the personal collection of NASCAR legend Richard Petty for some time now and will also go up for auction at Mecum's Monterey event.
In his third and final Indianapolis 500, Graham Hill drove this car to 19th place. He might have contended for the win had a wheel not come off the car and sent him spinning into the Turn 2 wall just past the halfway point of the race. His Lotus stablemates, Art Pollard and Joe Leonard, fared little better. Both were threats to win with only ten laps remaining when the drive shafts on their fuel pumps gave out simultaneously, allowing Bobby Unser to cruise to victory.
Graham Hill racecars don't come along every day and this one is strikingly familiar. Fans of the Indy 500 will immediately recognize the unmistakable wedge shape, the STP logos and the brilliant orange/pink color. If you were wondering whether the trip to Monterey would be worthwhile this summer, these two legendary racecars should remove all doubt.
The behind-the-scenes TV news is all good. The 8-hour shows are pulling excellent ratings and drawing more fans than ever.
If you wanna know how real TV actually works, watch the last 10 minutes of the Indy show. I offered a few closing thoughts on resto-mods and the aforementioned L&M Porsche, after which I was supposed to “throw” to Bill Stephens to get his final thoughts as well. But despite repeated instructions from my producer, I got halfway into my on-camera piece and totally forgot whether I was pitching to Bill or sending it back to Scott Hoke and John Kraman at the main anchor desk.
So I did what a real TV professional does in clutch situations. I stared at the camera like a dimwit and stammered something like, “Well, I'm not really sure who I'm supposed to throw to now. What do I do, Scott?”
Hey, there was no point in trying to save that one. Besides, I knew I could count on the best crew in live television to make up for it. Sure enough, Scott jumped right in, the audio crew turned his microphone on in a split second, we laughed it off and threw to Bill who was totally unruffled and continued without a hitch. Television is orchestrated chaos.
When this show began, our EP (executive producer) told us that he wanted it to sound like four guys who were just sitting in their garage, drinking beer and talking about cars. There were no other directives. Personal stories and memories of cars from our youth were welcomed. It was supposed to be a little edgy. We were to talk about whatever we wanted. Above all, we were to be authentic and just have fun.
Five years later much of that formula remains, having (mostly) survived the political correctness and bureaucracy that universally plagues TV. And it still seems to work, largely due to an amazing crew of people who get along as well off camera as they do on air and the incredible support from the people at Mecum Auctions. They don't just look like good people on TV. They really are.
We've got eight weeks to catch our breath and then I hope to see you in Des Moines.