Mecum’s 1,200-car Glendale auction is spooling up for action this weekend. That’s a lot of metal — and a lot of tires to kick. This isn’t Mecum’s first visit to Arizona, but in a lot of ways, this is a new market for everyone, and that means that we could be seeing some new shifts in both interest and values.
Here are five cars I’m going to be watching as they cross the auction block inside the State Farm Stadium this week — and why.
1956 Ford Thunderbird
312-ci V8, automatic, original paint and interior
Leading into 2020, the market was slowing on 1950s Americana — and T-Birds weren’t immune. Prices had come down on these cars over time thanks to a bunch of factors, but the biggest one was the aging out of their prime demographic.
But that’s painting in broad strokes — every car is different, and special examples continued to do well. The best prices, at least in terms of two-seat cars, came from dual-carb E-Birds and supercharged F-Birds, but low-miles examples of even base model cars were still strong performers when they sold — but maybe not as strong as they could have been.
But now things are changing in the market, and I’m eager to see how that might apply to a great T-Bird. This car has a lot going for it. I like the color, the fact that the paint and interior are original, and that it had been stored for four decades, which helps to support the 12,100-mile claim. As a ’56, it has 12-volt power and better internal airflow than the first year cars. It also has the Continental Kit and the optional P-code Y-block V8. I think this will do well.
UPDATE: Sold for $37,400 — This price ended up just about dead-on market for a good 1956, and I think the mileage here made it a fantastic buy at that price. Think of it this way — would you rather have a restored example with a repaint or this car for the same money?
1981 Datsun 280ZX
2.8-L I6, 5-speed, unrestored
It stands to reason that the ZX would be coveted by a new generation of car collector, but that hasn’t really been the case — at least not yet. While they’re still Datsun Z cars at heart, these transition models live in a different world than the 240s, 260s and 280s that came before. I suppose it’s sort of like the Thunderbird in a sense — the ZX was more of a refined, comfortable car than the earlier, “pure” models, and the 2+2 model helped solidify that notion.
But the world marches on and things change, right? Cars and Bids is now a going concern, and RAD for Sale is as well — both operations keyed into the 1980s and 1990s demographic specifically. That market is growing quickly, and I think that spells good news for the ZX — and specifically non 2+2 cars in original condition that sport popular-for-the-era colors.
All that brings me to this car — a Gold Mist unrestored 5-speed example that’s clean from top to bottom. Buyers have traditionally flocked to earlier Zs and later 300s over these examples, but with a growing fanbase that’s looking for cool cars from a certain era, I think this is a prime mover.
UPDATE: Not sold for $13,000 — Chalk this one up to the right bidder not being in the room on the day — or maybe the seller is slightly ahead of the market with his or her expectations. I still think this is an emerging market, so watch these when they appear at auction.
1971 Chevrolet C10 pickup
307-ci V8, auto, restored
How high can the C10 fly? There is still a viable financial path in taking a rough but complete example and restoring it for profit if it’s done right — and that’s rare today. I think this is a slice of Americana that hasn’t yet aged out of the current market. Trucks seem to transcend demographics better than any other model of American collector car.
The 1967-72 GM trucks offer old truck looks with a newer truck feel — disc brakes, air conditioning, power steering and truck-arm rear suspension all make these pretty pleasant to drive while still looking tough and job-oriented. Good color choices and trim options help, too.
The market for trucks can be hard to pin down, but original-style rigs are the best bet for tracking values — and that’s why I like this one. It still has its factory 307, original colors and original stance. It has factory a/c but no power brakes — and nobody added on an aftermarket tachometer, either. To me, this looks like an honest restoration of a solid starting point, and there’s wide enough demand in the market for buyers to recognize that and behave accordingly. Just what that means remains to be seen, but I’ve come to expect being surprised by high C10 prices.
UPDATE: Sold for $33,000 — The only surprise here was that this wasn’t a surprise. This has come to be basic market money for a solid example of one of these trucks, even if not all the details are totally 100% correct to original. Does it still seem expensive if it’s repeatable?
1960 Chrysler 300F convertible
413-ci V8, auto, ram induction
Remember what I said about Thunderbirds? It goes for Chrysler 300s, too — only this model never really saw much slowing in the marketplace. The letter cars — and convertibles in particular — have always been desirable due to style, performance and rarity. I think the current market may see them grow slightly, too.
There isn’t much information about this 300F on the Mecum site, but Chrysler only built 248 of them, and this year was the first use of the ram induction system, with those wild AFBs mounted way out over each inner fender. This car shows just over 86,000 miles and I believe it, as they’ve been considered special for decades now. This was the pinnacle of Chrysler’s range in 1960 and it has some great flamboyance about it — and I think it’s more attractive than the 300E and 300G.
It’s true that one sale doesn’t make a market, but I’m still going to watch this one as an example of a known quantity rolling into a market that’s had time to refocus itself on what’s important. In this case? Style, performance and rarity.
UPDATE: Sold for $143,000 — This was good money for an F convertible, but I’m not surprised by it. The car has a good look and all the right characteristics, so a slight boost in value was warranted here. I wouldn’t call this instructive for the 1950s era in this market, however — reference the T-Bird sale above.
1978 Ford Bronco Ranger XLT
400-ci V8, auto, graphics
The classic SUV world is still hot, and Broncos are riding a wave that’s cresting at the moment thanks to FoMoCo’s newest Jeep killer.
Add to that a growing admiration for everything retro and you’ve got a case for this striped beast.
Sunset graphics? Check. Red interior over black paint? Double check. Removable top? Checkmate.
This second-gen truck-based Bronco has the Blazer to thank for its size, as GM’s success in the market drove Ford to upsize their own SUV for 1978.
Nobody cares that it’ll get 10 mpg or that actually taking off that top is a chore. This is about having the coolest SUV on the block, and I think this is a case where a crisp paint job and the right graphics will really pay off for the seller. This one is clean both inside and out, and underhood has some nice upgrades such as an Edelbrock intake and 4-bbl carb. Overall this is nicer than most, and even the lesser examples are doing well, so I expect this one to get a lot of attention.
UPDATE: Sold for $39,600 — Do you remember when these were cheap on Craigslist? I do. It wasn’t that long ago. Call this the intersection of a bunch of positive factors, not the least of which were the colors and stripes as noted above. You could say this segment is just powered by nostalgia, but I think there’s more to it than that. SUVs let you bring the whole family along for your old car fun — and buyers have started to place value on that, too. Just as with the C10, this price was no surprise.