If I could I’d own a house with a twelve-car garage, each bay filled with a classic automobile. I’d drive around all the time in my various cars – posh prewar grand tourers, spry little sports cars, tall-finned and chrome-laden coupes, at least one ginormous 1960s cruisemobile, and a couple old pickup trucks for good measure. The house could be two drafty rooms for all I’d care; I’d go there only to sleep.
Of course, that would take wealth of the sort I have no desire to try to earn.
But I can dream, and I can live vicariously through people who do have that kind of wealth. That’s why I make time every year to visit the Mecum Spring Classic, a huge classic-car auction held each May here in Indianapolis. They auction off hundreds of classic cars, mostly muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s. They have an overwhelming number of Camaros, Mustangs, Corvettes, Challengers, Chargers, and Barracudas. When faced with too much of any good thing, you tend to take it for granted, and that’s certainly the case for me at the Mecum Spring Classic. So I spend my time looking for the unusual – prewar cars, offbeat cars, luxury cars, average family cars. There weren’t as many of these this year as there were when I visited in 2009 and 2010, but I still found enough to satisfy me. Here, then, are my favorites from this year’s auction.
The older I get, the more I’m charmed by the Model A. This coupe is from 1930.
I had only ever seen the Chrysler Airflow in photographs, so I was thrilled to come upon this 1935 sedan. This car’s styling was radical in its day, so much so that Chrysler’s more conventionally styled cars sold far better. But the Airflow influenced automotive design for years to come.
This 1941 Buick Super business coupe is my favorite car from the auction. It is such an attractive design. I wanted to get inside and drive it away! Business coupes were aimed at people who traveled for work, such as salesmen. They usually lacked a back seat so the traveler could carry more gear.
Another car I’d only ever seen in photographs is the Kaiser Manhattan, so I was excited to find this one from 1954 waiting for its new owner to take it away. This is a remarkably tall car, and while it’s not especially large it somehow gives off an air of being massive.
I fell hard for this 1957 Buick Super convertible. Unfortunately, I came across it after the batteries in my two good cameras had both died – I took almost 1,000 photos at the auction this year. So I whipped out my cell phone for this shot. It couldn’t handle all the light coming through that window, but at least you can still make out the rich blue on this great automobile.
Because I’m from South Bend, you know I have to like this 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk. The seller invited me to open the doors and even sit in the driver’s seat – he must have thought I was a buyer. Sorry to delude him!
Chevrolet looms large at the Mecum Spring Classic, and you’ll find lots of Impalas, Bel Airs, and Biscaynes from the 1950s and 1960s. Pontiac made a line of cars with the same body style and sold plenty of them, but they just don’t turn up very often at the Mecum Spring Classic. That’s why I enjoyed this 1961 Pontiac Ventura so much.
That doesn’t mean I don’t dig the corresponding Chevys. I think Chevrolet had some of the best automotive styling ever from 1965 to 1968, and this 1965 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport is a leader in that pack.
In the 1960s, the big three went through a phase of producing quirky utility vehicles, mostly vans but occasionally pickups, where driver and passenger sat over the front wheels and astride the engine. This 1966 Dodge A100 pickup is a prime example.
Finally, I’d heard about the DeTomaso Pantera but had never seen one. I came upon two, both from 1972. This one is the better looking of them.
If you’d like to see all the photos I took, including those from 2009 and 2010, check out my set on Flickr. It’ll keep you busy for a while – it contains more than 800 photos.
As much as I love seeing these cars, I go to the auction every year for another reason, too. I’ll share that reason with you in my next post.
I’ve only ever owned average cars, but I do have stories, such as about the Renault that was so slow it couldn’t get out of its own way. Read the story.