Auburn classic auctions attract thousands

AUBURN, Ind. — Auctions America’s third annual Labor Day weekend event reflected the skill that parent company RM Auctions brings to a mega-sale.

Since the Ontario, Canada-based auction operation set up shop here in the summer of 2010, the once-mercurial week-long sale of pre-owned cars, trucks, motorcycles and automobilia has been organized into a shorter, four-day, buttoned-down event.

The results? Auctions America reported a more than $18.5 million in sales with 76 percent of all lots sold. Inventory included 992 automobiles, 18 motorcycles and some 500 nostalgia items.

Attendance totaled 52,500 in four days of early previews and long hours of sales. Red, white or blue Auctions America banners decorated every vertical space, from fences to walls. The October sale in Hershey, Pa. was widely advertised.

Inside the Arena two auctions ran side by side, with large audiences filling most of the folding chairs and stadium seats for each of them. Some guests strayed over to stand briefly before huge fans tasked with moving the warm, humid Indiana air through the cavernous building. Cars drove or were pushed in, had their allotted time under the lights and on turntables, then were pushed out and replaced by the next in line. In some instances, the  auctioneers continued to prod until a car was out of sight if a sale was not reached in the limelight.

Many vehicles crossing the block were more like typical used cars: fairly late model, lower miles and in good condition. A 1994 Jeep Wrangler, for example, sold for a surprising $18,150. A tiny 2009 Kandi Coco Electric brought $3,700. A BMW 5-Series sold for $11,100.

In general, vehicle condition was good, with some better than others. A blue 1940 Mercury four-door convertible showed signs of last-minute prep as it waited under a tent outside. There was masking tape just ahead of a rear fender where paint recently had been sprayed. But probably because this was one of the last Mercury four-door convertibles – the body was discontinued – the car sold at auction for $27,500.

There were a number of handsome wood-sided wagons and coupes.

With its original owner until 2010, a restored 1947 Mercury Woody Wagon with three rows of seats and a damp, musty-smelling interior brought $67,650 at the Auburn auction. (Larry, RM has been using “woody” instead of “woodie.” Do we have a style?)

A two-door 1951 Ford Country Squire Woody Wagon sold for $46,750. Powered by a flathead V-8 with 56,000 original miles on it and a rear door that looked like wood but wasn’t, the wagon had the panache of that Country Squire name in its favor.

However, a high bid of $75,000 was not enough to purchase a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Woody Wagon with 90-horsepower 216-inch six and “leatherette” roof. The wood was for real: ash and mahogany.

A 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan with dealer-installed wood Country Club Package sold for $20,075.

A sharp and unusual 1929 Ford Model A street rod with lots of stainless including a boattail and interior trim sold for $36,300. It featured Model A running gear and fenders, according to its seller.

A perfect example of the excesses of the mid-1950s, a spectacular 1956 black-and-white Dodge Lancer Custom Royal D-500 took its turn on the auction block. But the bidding did not pass $20,000 and the Custom Royal did not sell.

A two-tone 1983 Daimler DS that only a celebrity-on-the-rise could love sold for $23,650.

Auctions America said the 2012 Labor Day weekend sale attracted its highest bidder count since it purchased the historic Auburn Auction Park in July 2010. More than one-third of them were first-time clientele, the auction said.

Bidders hailed from 10 countries around the world; on a national level, bidders represented 40 states across the U.S.