January 23-31, 2016
Feature Car: 1987 Buick Grand National
Sold at $25,300
Black over black-and-gray cloth interior. 245-hp, 3.8-liter turbocharged OHV V-6; four-speed automatic transmission. Power features, tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, high-power factory stereo. Good paint, brightwork, and black trim. All-original interior shows well. A good, clean example but far from brand new with 48,752 miles.
The Story Behind the Sale
The auction season starts with sales in Phoenix and Scottsdale during January, and the field of companies in Arizona is certainly getting crowded. Barrett-Jackson started it all and just celebrated its 45th anniversary. Additional events by Bonhams, Gooding & Company, RM Sotheby’s, Russo and Steele, and Silver make for a busy week.
Although the number of cars sold in Arizona increased, the median sale price dropped slightly, and other private sales decreased markedly. The top of the market has softened somewhat because of concerns about worldwide currency fluctuations. Yet we should remember that cars valued at less than $100,000 still constitute the vast majority of auction sales everywhere, and the Scottsdale results indicate that this market is strong even if the prices aren’t sexy.
For example, consider this Buick Grand National from Barrett-Jackson, very much a great buy at this price. With the Grand National and the GNX, Buick was one of the companies to breathe life back into automotive enthusiasts of the 1980s, and its turbocharged V-6 was the centerpiece of a performance program that included the Indy 500. A lot of Grand Nationals were saved, and many have been showing up at auctions still in their original wrappers. If you were looking for an example of this car that you can drive and not feel guilty about putting a few more miles on, this was the Grand National for you. It’s the best thing that ever happened to a Buick Regal, now yours at a reasonable price.
2003 Saleen S7 Competition Package
Sold at $451,000
Silver over black leather interior. 625-hp, 7.0-liter turbocharged OHV V-8; six-speed manual transmission. As seen at Barrett-Jackson with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer. Carbon-fiber body is in excellent condition. Chrome wheels. One of four built with the Competition upgrade, a $75,000 performance package.
Once a legitimate racing car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and also a template for much of the 2005-’06 Ford GT, the S7’s future as a collectible is nevertheless tough to determine. Only 78 were made, but a lot of a car’s future as a collectible is determined by its impact on the marketplace when new. And in this respect, the S7 did not succeed even though it drives as well as the subsequent Ford GT. There is only one thing for sure: You’re probably not going to see another one at your local Cars & Coffee.
1997 Aston Martin DB7 Volante
Sold at $29,700
Polar white with tan top over tan leather interior. 312-hp, 3.2-liter supercharged DOHC inline-six; five-speed automatic transmission. As seen at Russo and Steele. Fair to good paint, with a few color variations on the front panels. Some evidence of interior wear. Let’s call this convertible ready for some heavy detail work and a bit of rehab.
Yes, you really can buy a running and drivable Aston Martin for less than $30,000, and this seems to be what draws many people to the Jaguar-based DB7, although it’s the Ian Callum-designed bodywork that we love. If you find one that doesn’t have needs equal to its purchase price in repairs (notably the supercharged engine), consider yourself lucky. Deferred maintenance from the former owner who assumed that everything was going to keep working means that you will have to do the necessary sorting to keep it running.
Best Buy: 1969 Ford Torino GT
Sold at $29,700
Green with black vinyl top over black vinyl interior. 320-hp, 390-cubic-inch OHV V-8; four-speed manual transmission. Power convertible top with glass rear window. Door fit is an issue; it appears worse than what came from the factory, which was already suspect. Nice interior with front bench seat. Equipped with factory tachometer and AM radio. One of only 309 of the 2,552 Torino GTs built in ’69 with the larger engine.
This Torino represents an awful lot of car for not too much money. It’s not just a convertible cruiser from the 1960s; it’s also a serious performance car from the 1960s. Classic dark green with black wasn’t a lot of help on the auction stage at Barrett-Jackson. In this case, the collector car needed more stripes. If you could go back in time, you might have ordered this car a little differently, but the basics are there.
Big Money: 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach
Sold at $1,760,000
White over black interior. 887-hp, 4.6-liter DOHC hybrid V-8; seven-speed automatic transmission. As seen at Barrett-Jackson with less than 600 miles on the odometer. Protective clear-bra plastic on bodywork. Interior upholstery and panels trimmed in Acid Green piping, including Acid Green seat belts. Burmester surround-sound audio package. Battery-charging station included.
Though car companies try hard to keep exotics like this out of the hands of car flippers, it is impossible to keep profiteers out of the mix. On the plus side, this car was made available to people who weren’t necessarily on the list for one at a Porsche dealership. On the negative side, this is lot of money. Even so, this is perhaps a bargain compared to zero-mile example in Acid Green that had been advertised in the U.S. last fall at a price of $3 million.
1994 Toyota Supra Turbo Liftback
Sold at $31,350
Red over ivory leather interior. 320-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged DOHC inline-six; four-speed automatic transmission. The red paint is in very good condition. The interior is in very good condition, with some wear spots on the seat bolsters. No modifications made to this example; evidence of continuing service at a Toyota dealer.
Someone spent some real effort making sure this Supra looked its best for its time on the auction stage at Barrett-Jackson. That “no modifications” thing tends to pay off in Japanese collectibles, as a large percentage of these were modified early on by their first or second owners. This is an important life lesson to learn if you have a future collectible car and decide to make some modifications. Keep the original stock parts; they pay big dividends when it comes time to sell.
1999 Pontiac Trans Am WS6 30th Anniversary
Sold at $40,150
White with dark-blue cloth top over white leather interior. 305-hp, 350-cubic-inch OHV V-8; four-speed automatic transmission. As seen at Russo and Steele, the paint and interior are in excellent condition, and the engine compartment has been detailed. One of six used as a pace car at the 1999 Daytona 500.
Near the end of its production run, the Pontiac Firebird came in many variations, and this is one of 1,600 built in 1999 with the WS6 suspension package. It looks as though people who are looking for a performance-oriented collector car are finally taking notice of Firebirds, as this is a strong auction result for this Pontiac convertible. It shouldn’t be breaking news to you that interesting cars from the 1990s—unique, but also including air-conditioning—keep attracting collector interest.
1976 Jensen Interceptor
Sold at $25,300
Black over black leather interior. 330-hp, 6.3-liter OHV V-8; three-speed automatic transmission. As seen at Russo and Steele. Described as a survivor car. The paint is in decent condition with no unsettling flaws, but it’s nowhere near perfect. The leather interior is in good condition, but some easy fixes will make it show better. The engine compartment is dirty. You could spend quite a bit of money to fix up this car, but it would make for a small return on investment.
The Chrysler-powered Jensen Interceptor is on a roll in Britain (despite Jensen’s notorious reputation for poor build quality), where there’s lots of enthusiasm for homegrown exotics of the ’60s. As a result, you can expect to see ever-increasing prices for this car in the U.S., especially for the very handsome convertible versions. A lot of collector car for the money, so we’ll call it a bargain despite its potentially disastrous Britishness.
1972 Citroën SM Coupe
Sold at $39,600
Blue over brown leather interior. 177-hp, 2.7-liter DOHC V-6; five-speed manual transmission. As seen at Russo and Steele, it is complete and in good repair with an engine rebuild nine years ago. Very nice original interior that shows good patina. This is not a freshly restored SM but rather what appears to be a well-kept original.
Wonder what they were thinking? Well, the Citroën SM is perhaps the most recognizable (only?) exotic French car from the 1970s, featuring engineering innovations from Citroën as well as power by Maserati. At one time the SM was derided as being overly complicated (and overly weird), but major collectors are now seeking them out, with manual transmission examples leading the way. This one was worth more than the auction price it brought in the United States and worth quite a bit more in Europe, where many of these cars are finding new homes.