Old Cars, Photography

Living vicariously through wealthy car collectors

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.

1930 Ford Model A coupe a

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.

1935 Chrysler Airflow a

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.

1941 Buick Super business coupe a

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.

1954 Kaiser Manhattan a

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.

1957 Buick Super convertible a

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!

1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk a

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.

1961 Pontiac Ventura (2) f

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.

1965 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport a

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.

1966 Dodge A100 pickup a

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.

1972 DeTomaso Pantera (2) a

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.

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63 thoughts on “Living vicariously through wealthy car collectors

  1. Lone Primate says:

    Man, ALL those cars make your eyes wanna get nekkid (esp. the Venturea). :) Except for the 1966 Dodge A100 pickup… that thing looks like something went wrong in utero… and early on, too. FugggggLY!

    …But still better than a Honda Cube, the most artless car every created by man. Assuming it was.

  2. Fantastic! Thanks for taking us along to the car show. I owned and drove a 1953 Kaiser Manhattan several years. Beautiful automobile. I used to salivate over the Golden Hawk, but could never swing the deal.

  3. I just finished a story for a regional magazine about the Harrah National Automobile Museum; for the photo shoot, I got to TOUCH a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Special Roadster, owned by the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

    Retail value: $3 million.

    I could deal with that!

    Mikalee

    Check out my latest post, “My Big Fat Poop Wedding,” at http://www.mikaleebyerman.wordpress.com.

  4. The Chrysler Airflow is lovely. How do you feel about square vehicles? I take it foreign companies are building their cars like they’re growing their watermelons. Square.

    • I’m not crazy about the cube cars. Five or ten years from now you’ll be able to pick used ones up dirt cheap because the fad will have faded.

    • Growing up in South Bend in the 70s, Studebakers were everywhere. I took it for granted. Then I moved away, and now I miss them!

  5. Thanks for sharing….

    LOVE classic/vintage cars so much. I was very lucky last July while visiting Victoria, BC to stumble across a huge show of them, with proud owners from across Canada and the U.S. I dream of owning a 1949 Ford pickup. Why? Not sure. But it’s in there.

    • Nothing wrong with a ’49 Ford truck! If you’re from Canada, you could also choose a ’49 Mercury truck! The very idea seems wildly exotic to us in the States.

  6. I absolutely love the 41 Buick, after seeing the pictures I’m actually considering using it for my wedding (If I can ever find one for rent)

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        • Michael says:

          I kind of dig that pickup though they really could have done something better for the front end. I bet it wasn’t the stock engine with those sidepipes and fat tires. Of course, maybe they were just trying to make it LOOK like it could haul. :)

  8. Some great photos.

    The motor industry went through a bleak design decade or so from the 90s. I think we’ve gradually been emerging from that “design by committee” blandness over the last five years, but I’m not sure we’ll ever get back the commericial daring that permitted some of the designs you’ve highlighted here to reach the marketplace.

    Fun Freshly Pressed; well done!

    • I’d say the bleak period began in the 80s, but was absolutely in full swing in the 90s. I’m not crazy about all the designs now, but at least the automakers are trying to be interesting.

      • You’re probably right (late 80s, maybe), but I have a fondness for the angular design aesthetic some of the more exotic cars of the 80s (the Testarossa, the Countach, etc), so can’t write off that decade. Even supercars in the 90s didn’t have pleasing lines!

        • Yes, but you have to admit that the 1980s Chevrolet Citation, the Pontiac Grand Am, the Buick Century — all so unfortunate.

  9. I will swap out any of my ringtones for any of these cars! Thanks for sharing. And congrats on being Freshly Auctioned…oops, I mean Freshly Pressed.

    Blessings,

    Ava
    xox

    • If I ever buy a classic car, I’ll give you a call and take you for a ride! Just make sure you choose a good ringtone for me!

  10. i must say, i have a hard time understanding car collecting…they’re big and expensive and some people never even drive them. but i try to compare it to my shoe collection…small and expensive, and i’m sometimes afraid to wear the really nice ones. i get it.

  11. I am so glad you posted this and got Freshly Pressed!!! I am from Indiana and I was out there two nights this year. I have lots of pics but have not done by blog yet…stale news now, :0) but I will post it anyway, it was SOOO fun!!! My husband went four nights….I cannot believe how they used almost every building and over half the parking lot for this thing! I went to their first one and it was nothing like this! Over 2000 units! I started working my first real job at an auto auction in Indy. I have ALWAYS loved cars, so this was great! I think I have read you before too! :)

    • I wish I had time to keep going back every night. I know cars come and go over the days of the auction, and I know I’m missing some! I’m with you, it’s hard to believe how much of the fairgrounds the cars take up.

  12. Hey, congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Well deserved!

    Well, you know how I feel about all this! I would have been drooooooling. At a car show once, I was parked next to a Pantera. The guy who got out of it had to 6’4″. How on earth did he fold himself up to get in it???

    Your camera phone takes a decent picture!

    What I love about the vintage Chevy’s and Pontiacs and Buicks are the trunks! They’re HUGE!

    • Thanks!! If you ever go, your drool would leave a trail that would make you easy to find!

      My phone’s camera does ok. I have a Palm Pre.

      Those 60s family-car trunks were great! Over and over again I overheard people saying that when they were younger they used to smuggle four or five people into drive-in movies in trunks like those.

  13. the word of me says:

    I used to street race a number of the cars from the 60’s and early 70’s in Los Angeles. At the time I had a 64 327 corvette convertible and later a 67 396 corvette fast back…Damn those were fun days.

  14. Jan Caloia says:

    Glad to hear someone especially appreciates Pre-War cars! We own a Brewster Green 1930 Model A Rumbleseat Coupe very similar to the one in your photo. Also, a 1926 Model T Tudor and a 1923 Model T Huckster Wagon. If you have the time, you might enjoy a trip to Defiance, OH August 10-13 where 110 Pre-War cars will be meeting for the Three Rivers Antique Car Run. It’s a great event with many early (pre 1920) cars you don’t see often–all of them driven that weekend! The cars will be on view to the public Wed., Thurs. & Fri. evenings in the Elder-Bierman shopping mall parking lot. During the day we’ll be driving around the area.

    • What’s kind of crazy to me is that cars from the 60s are as old now as cars from the 20s were when I was a kid. This thought just hurts my head. Wish I could make it to Defiance that week!

  15. These cars are beauties! I love the Chrysler Airflow and the Studebaker Golden Hawk (the pickup looks strange though). Thanks for sharing and I’ll be back on Thursday! :)

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  17. Sweet Pics, I’ve actually got a book about cars like this and how they shaped as life evolved – to see the DeTomaso in person must’ve been awesome?

    Waiting for the pics to come…

  18. Really awesome..I am speechless to see this collection…
    ohh I love Car a lot…Every car you show there have some specialty..I thundered..
    And copying your all captures also:-p
    Anyways good post. keep posting:-)

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