Archive for the ‘Classic Cars’ Category

10 of the more unusual cars sold at Barrett-Jackson 2015

Friday, January 30th, 2015

If you’ve never been to the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction be sure to put it on your list of destinations. For a Northerner like me a few days in sunny Arizona surrounded by thousands of beautiful classic cars is the perfect anecdote for the winter blues. A Barrett- Jackson auction feels like as much a sporting event as it does a car auction. The usual classics are well represented and the thirst for American muscle is as strong as ever, in fact I think I saw more Mopar Hemi cars in this single auction than I had seen in my entire life. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see unusual cars you’ve never seen before or didn’t even know they existed. Some of these were well promoted concept cars and others are just rare models or customs.

Here is a list of 10 of the more unusual or rare cars I saw at Barrett-Jackson:

1) 1968 Plymouth Barracuda “Mod Top”


Flower Power collided with the automotive world in 1969-70 when floral interiors and tops could be ordered for a $98 charge on Plymouths. The idea was panned by the automotive press and only 937 Barracudas were ordered with this option. Today only 118 are believed to exist. This Barracuda had a 2 year restoration that was completed in 2010 and sold for $33,000

 2) 1957 Studebaker Provincial Station Wagon


Station Wagons were avoided like the plague by collectors for many years probably because of our negative associations many of us had to them as children. After all, why did Dad have to get a Kingswood when we could be driving a Chevelle SS396 instead? Now Station Wagons are cool and of the coolest ones I saw at Barrett Jackson was this 1957 Studebaker Provincial. As it is 1957 Studebakers are fairly rare to see but a Studebaker station wagon is a rare sight indeed. This fully restored Provincial was absolutely stunning and a bargain selling at $26,400

 3) 1959 Fiat Jolly


Micro cars have become extremely collectable in the past few years and like a puppy dog they’re hard to pass by without a smile. The Fiat Jolly body was built by Carrozzeria Ghia and used the Fiat 600 chassis. The fringe cloth top and wicker seats add to the Jolly’s adorable demeanor.  Jolly’s were popular resort vehicles among the European jet set in the 1950’s. This beautiful example sold for an astounding $71,500.

4) 1967 Pontiac Beaumont


To avoid Canadian tariffs placed on Chevrolet in the 1960’s some unusual hybrid Pontiac-Chevys were created.  This Beaumont was a Chevelle utilizing a Pontiac grill and tail lights with a GTO dash. Powerplant was a Chevy 396. Anyway you slice it, it’s still a beautiful car. This example sold for $47,300.

5) 1951 Crosley Hook and Ladder Firetruck


Built as an amusement park attraction this firetruck is a Crosley pickup truck with a custom ‘Hook and Ladder’ trailer. Kids sat safely between the ladder rungs and fun was had by all! This example was lavishly restored to include all the fire equipment details and sold for $115,500

6) 1929 Ford Custom Pickup “Gone Fishing”


This bar on wheels is the perfect partymobile for any event. Vintage tractor seats create the bar stools and a fold down bench provides seating for extra party goers. A fold down staircase provides easy access for guests. A 4 cylinder Flathead engine powers the truck. Hopefully a bar owner purchased this as it would make for a great promotional vehicle for any drinking establishment. Sold for $44,000.

7) 1990 Concept Sky Commuter Aircraft

Screen shot 2015-02-11 at 3.22.56 PM(Barrett-Jackson)

It seems like flying cars were every futurists vision in the 1950’s. The idea of flying above the traffic gridlock in your own personal vehicle at speeds far exceeding anything a conventional car could obtain was the ultimate exercise of personal freedom. Ford created the ‘Mach I Levacar‘ concept that floated on a thin layer of compressed air but that was about as far as development went in the 1950’s.

In the 1980’s a team of Boeing engineers working for Concept Sky developed 3 prototypes of a personal aircraft called the Commuter Aircraft. Although this prototype is non functioning, power for the Commuters was to be provided by an onboard gas turbine engine linked to each fan via helicopter-based drive shafts for both flying and driving. Sold for $71,500

8) 1954 Kaiser-Darrin Convertible


Conceived in part to compete with the European roadsters that were increasingly  being imported to U.S. shores, the Kaiser-Darrin was arguably the first true American sports car. With sliding doors that rolled on tracks into the front fender and a fiberglass body that preceded the Corvette the Kaiser-Darren truly was an innovative automobile. Unfortunately difficulties with production, a high price tag and a lack of consumer confidence quickly killed the Kaiser-Darrin. Only 435 were built and just a handful remain. This spectacular example sold for $187,000

9) 1950 General Motors Futurliner

Used for “GM’s Parade of Progress” the Harley Earl designed Futurliner was used to show futuristic exhibits to towns and cities across the U.S.. Microwaves, jet engines, televisions and radar were just some of the technological achievements on display. Weighing in at over 30,000 pounds, nearly two stories tall and with a top speed of only 38mph it must have been quite a site to see when a caravan of these rolled into town. Only 12 were ever made and just three remain that are restored to “Parade of Progress” configurations. The Barrett-Jackson Futurliner sold for $4,000,000 with proceeds going to charity.

10) 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special


One of the better known Motorama Concept cars the Harley Earl designed Bonneville was reportedly conceived after Earl witnessed land speed records being broken at the Salt Flats in Utah. Two were built, a bronze one that debuted at Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf in New York and this green one that was first seen at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. The green version eventually toured GM dealers throughout the U.S. This one sold for $3,300,000


Sport Magazine gave away Corvettes to MVPs- Sorry Pete Rose!

Friday, May 31st, 2013

For years Sport Magazine would choose an MVP for each of the major sports championships and award them with a brand new Corvette. Sandy Koufax, Johnny Unitas and Frank Robinson were among the sports icons who walked away with a snazzy Corvette for their athletic accomplishments. At a time when many athletes worked in the off season to make ends meet winning a $5,000 Corvette was a significant prize.

Strangely, in 1975 Pete Rose was given an AMC Pacer when he was awarded the MVP from Sport. Pete doesn’t look to disappointed about the Pacer, and with a salary of $175,000 he could easily afford any car he wanted but is that the car a big shot athlete wants to bee seen driving around in?

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Johnny Cash finds his Plymouth Savoy

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

In 1972 Johnny Cash was hired to do a series of radio commercials for Plymouth. During a break he he got to talking about the best car he ever owned and declared it was a 1954 Plymouth Savoy. Johnny was at the beginning of his career when he owned the Savoy and the memories of driving from gig to gig with his brother probably made the Plymouth as special as the Cadillacs and Rolls Royces he would drive when he became an established star.

A savvy ad man at the recording session had Johnny say it again and “The best car I ever owned” was recorded and another successful radio commercial was in the can.

Taking it a step further a Chrysler-Plymouth sales manager named F.G. Hazelroth thought it would be a great marketing idea to reunite Johnny with the car he loved so much and a contest was announced to find the nicest ’54 Savoy in the country. In exchange for the old Plymouth, the winner would be given a brand new Plymouth Fury Gran Coupe and be sent all expenses paid to the Indiana State Fair to present his or her car to the Country legend.


Entry forms were available at local Chrysler-Plymouth dealers and entrants were required to send interior and exterior photographs along with a detailed description of the vehicle. In all 319 entries were received and from that a final field of 6 was chosen. The final 6 cars were personally inspected by James Bradley who was the Director of the Automotive History Department of the Detroit Public Library.

Choosing the winner proved to be easy as Mrs. Edith Hild, a 77 year old retired school teacher from Tacoma, Washington had a pristine example with just 14,226 miles on the odometer. Despite just driving the car a few miles every week, she would faithfully bring the car into Stevens Motors every Fall for a complete service and waxing.


On August 28th, 1972 Edith was at the Indiana State Fair where she presented Johnny her 1954 Plymouth in return for a brand new 1973 Plymouth Fury.


Plymouths for sale on Collector Car Ads.

10 Automotive Turkeys

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The Edsel

Introduced in 1958 at at a development cost of 400 million dollars which is equivalent to 3.026 billion dollars in 2010, this turkey is the greatest automotive failure in history.  Ernie Breech, the chairman of Ford said “someone hopped on that front end and called in a toilet seat and it was dead from that minute” After disappointing sales in 1958 and 1959, the plug was pulled after only 2,846 models were produced in 1960. Luckily for Ford, the Mustang wasn’t to far off.

Studebaker Scotsman

This car was so bare bones buyers probably felt lucky to have wheels. Introduced in the Fall of 1957 the Scotsman went 0-60 in a whopping 21 seconds.  Every expense was spared in the Scotsman. Exterior chrome was on the bumpers only and almost all Champion body trim was removed or painted. Paint colors were Lombard Green, Admiral Blue and Highland Gray, all flat and industrial looking. Utilitarian interiors came with “breathable Naugahyde and pin-grain vinyl” upholstery, fiberboard door panels, no armrests, a single visor and vacuum operated windshield wipers. To top off the features of the Scotsman, turn signals and a basic heater were included.  If you wanted a radio,  whitewalls or a cigarette lighter you would have to look elsewhere. Even the dealers were prohibited from adding these extras.

Ford Pinto


As a former Pinto owner I can attest to what a turkey this car was. I will give it credit for always starting. It didn’t always run but at least I could fire it up. Knowing that these cars could explode on impact Ford ruthlessly weighed the cost of fixing the problem for $121 million versus potentially paying out victims for $50 million. Way to go Ford.

Pontiac Aztek


I think the term “fugly” can be traced back to the Detroit auto show when this monstrosity was unveiled.  It’s bad enough the car was so ugly,but the colors of these beasts were just as bad. The coroners report listing Pontiacs cause of death has listed  the Aztec as a contributing factor.

1958 Packard Station Wagon

What do you do when two automobile companies merge and there’s no money to retool? You take parts from both, hire a welder and come up with the “Packardbaker” the sad result of once proud Studebaker and Packard desperately trying to survive.

Ford Probe

I’m sure this is a perfectly fine automobile but what the hell is a Probe?  Is it a car or a proctological procedure? What marketing genius came up with this one?



Never has a car been the butt of so many jokes. Here are a few.

Q. How do you double the value of a Yugo?
A. Fill the Tank

Q. What is found on the last two pages of every Yugo owner’s manual?
A. The bus schedule.

Q. Why do Yugos come with heated rear windows?
A. To keep your hands warm while you’re pushing them

Q. What do you call a Yugo with brakes?
A. Customized.

Q. How do you make a Yugo go faster downhill?
A. Turn off the engine.

AMC Gremlin

Take an AMC Hornet, chop off the rear end and your left with the Gremlin. A turkey that competed with two other turkeys, the Vega and the Pinto. AMC actually sold a lot of these cars and they had a loyal following. These cars were as brutal to drive as they were to look at.

1960-1962 Plymouth Valiant

Chryslers entry into the compact market in 1960 the Valiant had  controversial “Italian Styling”  but the questionable styling was the least of Valiants problems. The Valiant was plagued with problems- leaks being one of them. Drivers were known to find puddles of water on the floor and trunk after a heavy rain.  On a positive note, Valiants were equipped with an indestructible slant 6 engine.

Chevy Vega


When I think of the Vega I think of rust. Visible rust within a couple of years of leaving the dealership was common. If the rust didn’t kill your Vega the engine did. Engines routinely failed at the 50,000 mile mark. Maybe the vertical shippping method that Chevy used to ship its cars by rail was the problem.

The Original Bond Cars

Friday, October 8th, 2010
1959 Bond Minicar Mark F
1959 Bond Minicar.  Image via Wikipedia

When you hear the words ‘Bond car’ you immediately think of sports cars kitted out with everything from Stinger missiles to ejector seats…but, in reality, the original Bond cars were something very different.

Founded by Lawrie Bond in Preston, UK in 1948 Bond Cars Limited were renowned for making economical three-wheel family cars.

The first of these produced was the Bond Minicar Mark A, a four-seat family car that was powered by a front mounted, 122 or 197cc, single-cylinder, two-stroke Villiers engine. As you can see from the posters, it was cheap on gas, tax and insurance!

As this was effectively a motorcycle engine the car could be driven on a motorcycle license. The downside of this was that the car had no reverse gear but, as the engine, gearbox and front wheel were mounted as a single unit, the car could turn a full circle within it’s own length by turning the steering wheel up to 90 degrees either side of the straight-ahead position.

Van, estate and convertible variations were also available and the last version ever made, the Mark G, rolled off the production line in 1966.

The Minicar was then superseded by the Bond 875, a much more powerful three-wheeler, relatively speaking,  that was powered by a rear mounted, 875cc four-cylinder four stroke engine.

In 1970 Bond Cars Limited were bought out by Reliant, another British company famed for their three-wheelers, who commissioned Tom Karen of Ogle Design to come up with a prototype for a fun sports car.

A two-seat, three-wheeled sports car, the Bond Bug  ran on a front mounted 700 cc Reliant light-alloy four cylinder engine and it’s design and color could not have come from any decade other than the 1970s!

One final note, designer Tom Karen was also the man that designed the Land Speeder for 1977’s Star Wars movie…the comparisons are there for all to see!

The $100,000 Volkswagen

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

1963 volkswagen bus

$100,000 Chevelles, Cudas and GTOs are pretty standard these days at Barrett Jackson auctions but seeing a 1963 Volkswagen 21 window bus sell for that price was pretty shocking. Yes this is a fantastic vehicle and I’m sure it’s perfect in every respect but it’s hard to imagine a car that was designed as a utilitarian vehicle could demand such a price.  Nada Guides lists these cars  high retail price  at $44,300. Time to resurrect all those abandoned  VW buses!

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Vertical Car Shipping

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

In an effort to cut shipping costs with it’s brand new 1971 Vega Chevrolet worked with Union Pacific to develop “Vert-A-Pac” which allowed 30 cars to be shipped versus 18 that a normal boxcar could carry. Because of the vertical shipping method, the railcars were taller than normal forcing the railroad line to follow special routes to avoid low overpasses.

According to Collectible Automobile The Vegas had four removable steel sockets inserted into the undercarriage. As the Vert-a-pac car doors were lifted and closed the Vegas would roll forward an catch on hooks on the doors. When the doors were fully shut the Vegas were suspended side by side, roof to roof.

The Vega’s engine oil pan had a special baffle to keep oil from seeping into the number 1 cylinder while the cars were vertical. The battery caps, carburetor float bowls and windshield washer fluid reservoirs were also designed to prevent fluids from leaking during shipping.



Mod Top MoPars

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Flower power collided with the automotive world in 1969 and 1970 when Mopars could be ordered with the ‘Mop Top’ option. Buyers had the choice of choosing from several floral patterns and colors:

  • Mod-Top with floral interior.
  • Mod-Top without floral interior.
  • Regular vinyl roof with floral interior
  • Convertible Barracuda, with a solid color top, and the floral interior.