If it weren’t for all the disposable income car collectors have, I’d never see old cars like these

The Mecum Spring Classic vintage car auction comes to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for six days every May, and I always take a day off work to go see the cars. This year, my day was a little disappointing. That’s not to say it was a bad day, just that it wasn’t the pure bliss I’ve experienced in the past. Normally, exhaustion sends me home after eight or nine hours and I haven’t seen all the cars yet. But this year, I’d seen everything within four hours. I can’t tell whether there were fewer cars available this year, or whether the rainy week meant that the cars normally parked in the sun were stored where I couldn’t find them. And I didn’t see very many kinds of cars this year that I hadn’t seen at auctions past. Perhaps after this many years I’ve seen it all!

There were still enough cars to fill five buildings of up to 100,000 square feet each, and I still shot more than 500 photographs of them. Here are my favorite cars from my day at the auction.

1931 Cadillac V12 a

1931 Cadillac V12. The older I get, the more I appreciate the classical design of early automobiles. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have given a car like this two seconds of my time, and I certainly wouldn’t want to own something like this, but now I appreciate every line.

1935 Buick Victoria replica c

1935 Buick Victoria. I looked for outside cars during a break in the rain and found only a few, including this beauty. The tag in the window says that this is a replica, which perplexes me as this doesn’t seem like the kind of car one would fake. I think Buick had some of the most beautiful cars of the 1930s.

1936 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 85 Limousine c

1936 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 85 Limousine. Another V12-powered Caddy, this car’s sheer audacity impresses me.

1940 Pontiac Special Coupe

1940 Pontiac coupe. I’m drawn to this body every time I see one. GM produced Chevys, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, and Buicks with this basic body, and it’s just a winner of a design. I’d like this one more if it didn’t have those dreadful non-stock wheels, though.

1950 Hudson Commodore a

1950 Hudson Commodore. This is my favorite car from the auction. I just adore the step-down Hudsons and the Mecum has yet to not have at least one. I like the sedan body best – it looks like the car a mafia don would drive to a massacre. But this convertible cheered me up considerably. I spent a lot of time photographing it in black-and-white with my Nikon F2. I haven’t had that film processed yet, but if those photos turn out I’ll share them in a future post.

1960 Ford Starliner a

1960 Ford Starliner. I really like the ’60 Ford’s design. It was such a departure from the stodgy Fords of the several years before and after it. And the Starliner’s sleek fastback roof was an elegant topper to the sculpted body. This roof was made primarily for its aerodynamic qualities, which gave Ford an edge in stock-car racing.

1964 Studebaker GT Hawk a

1964 Studebaker GT Hawk. Being from South Bend, it’s easy for me to put a Studebaker on my favorites list. I’ve never seen a green one before and I think the color befits the car. And Brooks Stevens worked wonders modernizing a body that went all the way back to 1953. But 1964 was the GT Hawk’s last year, as that’s when Studebaker ceased South Bend operations.

1967 Ford Galaxie 500 b

1967 Ford Galaxie 500. Dad’s a Ford man and drove a ’66 Galaxie 500 when I was born. I’ve always liked the fastback slope of this car’s roof over the squared-off ’66, although I liked the ’66 just fine. I like that this ’67 is unrestored and wears a typical paint color from its era. I respect historic automobile preservation.

1975 Pontiac LeMans a

1975 Pontiac LeMans. I remember when this body was introduced for 1973. Even though I was just five years old, I knew it was a bloated and ungainly turkey. What had happened to GM’s styling leadership of the 1950s and 1960s? I’m reluctant to say that the style has grown on me – perhaps I lingered over this car out of morbid curiosity. This one is all original and carries less than 3,000 miles on the clock. You would not believe the uneven seams and wide body-panel gaps on this thing. Fit and finish on American cars was famously awful during the 1970s.


14 responses to “If it weren’t for all the disposable income car collectors have, I’d never see old cars like these”

  1. kiwiskan Avatar

    – and probably a lot of hard work as well

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I still like to think that’s how people come by their disposable income!

  2. davidvanilla Avatar

    Thank you for the car show again this year. I didn’t tire a bit walking through the displays! “Sheer audacity” is a terrifically appropriate description, given the conditions of the economy in the 30s. Most makers built five-window coupes in the late 30s, early 40s. and most were very stylish automobiles.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, there were still some very wealthy people left in the 30s who bought those Cadillacs.

  3. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    Mighty fine set of cars there JIm I like the photo’s, only wish I had that much disposable income.
    I love the styling of old American cars. I’ve been looking at the rest of these on your flickr account.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m content to just look. Thanks for visiting my Flickr archive. I’ve got five or six years worth of old-car photos there.

  4. pesoto74 Avatar

    It is something how those old Hudson’s look like they are moving when they are standing still.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I just love their strong, confident stance.

  5. cozyteacup Avatar

    My favorite is the Hudson Commodore, Cadillac Fleetwood limousine and the Cadillac V12.. beautiful cars, a long gone era. I feel lucky to leave here in the west coast, lots of oldies and classics. There is always a car show going on somewhere, so you get to see them often. One is coming up now Summer is near. Cool pics! :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here in Rustopia, the old cars are harder to come by. So this auction is always exciting for me!

  6. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I used to go to the Barrett Jackson Auction every year when I lived in Scottsdale. I could walk there. I stopped going the year I saw a 69 Camaro SS, the same car I had in high school and bought for $1200 then and wrecked my senior year, sell for $300,000. I joined the ranks of people who say…”If only I had that car today.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Heh. I never had a car that would show up at Mecum or Barrett-Jackson — a ’75 Pinto was my first car, and the next one I had was a brand new ’89 Beretta. Nothing terribly exciting! So I’m unlikely ever to be one of the “if I only had that car today” crowd.

  7. Wes C Avatar
    Wes C

    That GT Hawk is really a beauty. Some of those where supercharged from the factory as I recall. Years ago there was a GT Hawk in my neighborhood parked in a garage. I remember regularly making the detour of a few blocks to see if that garage door would be open! Always liked the Avanti too.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I grew up in South Bend in the 70s so I occasionally saw these on the road there as a kid. Larks were much more common, though!

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