Monday, March 9, 2009

Old Trucks Sell for Big Bucks at Barrett-Jackson Auction

By: Larry Edsall

Don’t ever expect to get the sort of money commanded by a Model J Duesenberg – three of the rare and valued motor cars were offered at the annual collector car auctions here in Arizona in January and each brought at least a million dollars – but don't be surprised, either, to learn that pickup trucks are collectible and were offered not only under the big Barrett-Jackson tent, not only among the American muscle and European sports cars at Russo and Steele, but right there with the expensive classics at the high-end RM Auction.

"The pickup has universal appeal," said Steve Davis, president of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company. "We have pickups every year."

Long before he went to work for Barrett-Jackson, Davis was an auction customer, both consigning vehicles he'd restored or modified and buying completed cars. He also led the effort to have collectible vehicles exempted from California's strict emission regulations, thus saving perhaps thousands of classics from being destroyed.

"One of my first major vehicles was a '56 F100 that I put a 427 into," Davis said. "I built one for my father-in-law, too."

"Pickup trucks are collectible in the degree they push the same buttons [as collector cars]," said Drew Alcazar, founder of the Russo and Steele auction. "They are reminiscent of an era that collectors want to recapture."

"We always sprinkle in a few," Alcazar continued. "It's a much narrower market in focus, though lots of guys with car collections also have a collectible pickup truck. 'That's my parts-getter,' they'll tell you."

"A lot of car collectors have a customized pickup to haul their trailers," adds Barrett-Jackson's Davis. "They may have their company [or collection's] name on the door."

"A pickup guy is a guy who loves cars but also loves pickups for the utilitarian vehicle it really is. For customization, it's almost a blank canvas to trick out any way you want, with aftermarket parts or reproduction parts."

Because of their size and architecture, Davis adds that it can be easier to do customized modifications on a pickup, whether it's powertrain, suspension, electronics or "cool" interiors.

For its docket, Davis said Barrett-Jackson looks for pickup trucks that have been well maintained, have low miles, lots of options and accessories, or that have been properly restored.

"Ford F100s are the first things that come to mind," he said when asked which trucks he considers collectible. "The early Chevrolets, the 1940s and '50s are absolutely collectible. Studebaker. Hudson Terraplane."

"And now you're seeing more and more guys appreciating the style and using those blank canvases. There are massive engine bays for a trick engine. A place of trick electronics. You can do some really cool stuff with the bed. I think we’ll see more of that in the future. You see it at SEMA."

Russo and Steele's Alcazar adds late 1960s Chevy Cheyennes to the collectible list, and notes that many people are starting to do "well-done, almost concours restorations" on such trucks.

Davis and Alcazar agree that pickups should not be considered entry-level collector vehicles. Davis notes that more people are looking for pickups, but that they still can be considered a bargain when compared, say, with cars of the same era. For example, he said, a mid-'50s Ford or Chevy pickup is going to be a lot less expensive than a '57 Thunderbird or, say, a '57 Chevy Bel Air.

He also notes there are still lots of rust-free 40 and 50-year-old pickup trucks just waiting to be restored.

A sampling of pickups available at Barrett-Jackson included:

1960 Morris Minor (sold for $26,000)
House of Color purple 1956 Ford C7650 custom cab-over ($67,000)
Highly customized, silver over black 1957 Chevy Step-side ($65,000)
1961 Studebaker Champ ($24,000)
1948 Studebaker M5 ($34,000)
1941 Chevy pickup ($27,000)
Customized 1939 Studebaker built on a Chevy S-10 chassis ($28,000)
Multi-colored and customized 1955 Chevy 3100 ($38,000)
Wonderfully restored 1940 Chevrolet K10 ($35,000)
Mildly customized 1952 Ford Custom ($45,000)
1956 Ford F-150 with a Chevy LS1 engine ($75,000)
1935 Ford half-ton just 50 miles after restoration ($26,000)
1939 Hudson Big Boy ($34,000)
1957 Chevrolet Cameo ($38,000)
Pale blue 1961 Chevy 3100 ($46,000)

And, in the showcase tent where vehicles were available for sale, an orange and black a Hemi-powered 1957 Dodge Sweptside (marked down from $78,000 to $60,000)

Alcazar’s auction included these, among others (prices were not available):

1947 Studebaker Coupe Express
1939 Ford
1957 GMC 100-8
1956 Ford F-100
1957 GMC Stepside
1951 Ford Stepside

RM offered four pickups:

1948 Mercury M47 ($49,500)
1952 Ford F1 ($29,700)
1957 Chevrolet 3100 ($49,500)
1941 Dodge WC. ($34,100)

Also at RM was a truck that Alcazar liked a lot, would love to add to his own collection of exotic vehicles – Shelbys, Vipers, Lamborghinis and such.

"I wish I could get to RM to bid on that Shelby truck," Alcazar said, knowing that the event’s timing conflicted with his own auction.

The object of Alcazar's affection was a 1966 Ford CS500 Super Duty that the Shelby American racing team used to tow a trailer containing its racecars. The truck since has been converted to a flatbed – the bed just the right size to carry a Shelby Cobra.

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