Auburn, Ind. auction brings plenty of sales and some bargain prices

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible

This glamorous 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, “frame-off restored” and pre-sale valued at up to $100,000, did not sell after a high bid of $60,000. (Jenny King)

AUBURN, Indiana — The Auctions America spring sale here racked up $5.5 million in sales as 77 percent of vehicle and memorabilia lots changed hands. Some 350 vehicles were scheduled to cross the auction block beginning Friday, May 8.

The May 7 preview appeared sparsely attended, and shortly before the day’s memorabilia event was slated to begin, the auctioneer could be heard vigorously inviting bidders and visitors into his room.

The top automotive seller for the early sale was a 2006 Ford GTX1 ‘Spyder,’ which went for $330,000. Described as an American supercar and one of 30 produced by Ford-authorized coach builder Genaddi Design Group, the GTX1 is powered by a 1,000-horsepower 5.4-liter V-8.

Other six-figure sales included a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 3.5 Cabriolet ($299,750); a 1972 Porsche 911S Targa ($153,000), and a turbo-charged 1987 Buick GNX with 119 original miles ($110,000).

>> View photos: Cars and memorabilia change hands at Auburn, Indiana event

“All of our official results and ‘sold’ prices include a buyer’s premium: 10 percent for automobiles and motorcycles, 15 percent for all memorabilia and other lots,” said Auctions America spokeswoman Meghan McGrail.

Pre-sale evaluations posted for cars, while not chiseled in stone, were meant to guide buyers not certain how the bidding might proceed. Several vehicles, like the 1940 Ford Deluxe Opera coupe, sold for less than their pre-sale numbers; others did not change hands at auction when best bids were too far off the mark. The Ford Deluxe, with all-steel body and fenders, heater and flathead V-8, went for $29,000. The car had been restored and featured two clever if unsafe flip-down rear seats. It was thought capable of bringing up to $40,000 at auction.

The seller of a stunning 1965 Corvette Grand Sport replica, powered by a 550-horsepower 400-inch V-8 and valued at up to $80,000 went home with its buyers for $60,500.

An unusual 1937 Studebaker J-5 Coupe Express had a high bid of $60,000, well below the pre-sale suggested $75,000 to $95,000. It did not sell. “No thanks” also was the response by the seller of a rare 1954 Porsche Pre-A Bent Window to a high bid of $95,000. The Porsche was thought to be worth up to $130,000.

Gary Dowden of Fort Wayne, Ind. apparently was pleased with the $19,250 final sale price of his 1954 International pickup street rod. The original truck body, he said, had been bolted to the chassis of a 1983 Ford F-150. The result, a trophy winner, featured a 300-inch inline six and a nine-inch Ford reared.

“I’m a car fanatic,” said Dowden, who had owned the pickup for six years and was hoping to get $20,000 to $25,000 for it. “I have several other cars including two 1936 Buicks – a sedan and a coupe, and a 1990 Chevrolet SS.”

Selling at no reserve can be a boom or bust proposition. About half of the 184 vehicles auctioned at the Friday sale were offered at best bid. A no-reserve 1985 Dodge Omni GLH fetched just $605 at auction. A no-reserve 1956 Packard Caribbean with cushy reversible seats and push-button drive brought $60,500.

Frank Schoch dismissed the idea of selling at no reserve when it came to his 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo. Too risky, said the Topton, Pa. machinist, who with his family owns some 40 special vehicles.

“I was going to drive the Studebaker here but my son wanted to come and we decided to bring it in a trailer,” he said. Schoch had owned the Gran Torismo for less than a year. The original owner, a meticulous mechanic, kept the Studebaker in excellent condition. Stock was pleased he had been able to find a new authentic grille surround for the Studebaker, with its 225-horsepower 289-inch V-8, Borg Warner transmission and dual exhausts.

The underseat heater, Schoch said, has dual speed fans and “works perfectly.” He did not say what he hoped to get for the car, but a high bid of $17,500 was not enough and the car went unsold at auction.