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Rick Tavel: The Super Bowl of Auctions – Barrett-Jackson vs Mecum


Both Mecum and Barrett-Jackson will be auctioning hundreds of Corvettes and both are featuring historically important Corvettes as their “headline” cars of the auction.

Football season is winding down – college teams are getting ready for bowl games and the NFL teams are fighting for a spot in Super Bowl XLVIII. But as automobile enthusiasts, we get the added thrill of our own “super bowl,” better known as the January collector car auctions. This year is shaping up to be one of the most exciting extravaganzas in recent memory, especially if you are a Corvette fan. 

As expected, the battle for the best consignments, particularly for outstanding Corvettes, is taking place on opposite sides of the country between the two giants of collector cars, Mecum and Barrett-Jackson.  

As in prior years both auction companies will pull out all the stops to present their spectacular display of exceptional collector cars, several of which are significant, important parts of automobile history.  As in the past, Corvettes will be key players contributing to the success of the January auction season. Both Mecum and Barrett-Jackson will be auctioning hundreds of Corvettes and both are featuring historically important Corvettes as their “headline” cars of the auction.   

Photo: Barrett-Jackson

Photo: Barrett-Jackson

Barrett-Jackson kicks off their January spectacular in a brand new auction facility, still located at WestWorld in Scottsdale, Arizona, January 12th through the 19th.  Once again they will offer their Salon collection, a special group of the most important and historically significant cars consigned and which make up the centerpiece of their Scottsdale event. 

Last year Barrett-Jackson designated 53 cars as a part of their Salon collection and their combined sales exceeded $29M.  This year the Salon collection, which consists of pre-war classics, exotics, sports cars, muscle cars, and of course Corvettes, will cross the block on Saturday, January 18th, the day the very best cars of the eight day event are scheduled to sell.

Photo: Mecum

Photo: Mecum

On the far side of the country, Dana Mecum will kick off the largest of his twelve annual collector car auctions 2,100 miles to the east in Kissimmee, Florida, January 17th through the 26th, just as Barrett-Jackson will be wrapping up their event in the west.  And while neither company’s consignments are finalized at this point, both already have a sizable and impressive offering of Corvettes listed. 

During each of his twelve major 2013 automobile auctions, Mecum has offered an amazing array of some of the finest Corvettes in the country, and his focus continues in his ten day, 3000 car Kissimmee event with Corvettes that are an important part of America’s sports car history.

Along with outstanding individual Corvette consignments, Mecum will be offering two Corvette collections: 13 Corvettes from the Roger Judski Collection and eight Callaway Corvettes, including the renowned “Sledgehammer” C4 and a Callaway powered Corvette speed boat from Richard Berry’s collection.  These two collections will help anchor the hundreds of other Corvettes which will cross the block.

Bullish on Corvettes

Throughout 2014, Corvettes auction prices have been red hot and outpaced the collector car market overall.  One of the reasons has been Mecum’s continual concentration on bringing the finest Corvettes to the block.  In September a 1967 L88 Marlboro Maroon convertible from the prestigious Buddy Herin collection set a world’s record price for a Corvette at auction selling for $3.2M ($3.5M including fees) in Mecum’s Dallas auction. 

Though prices have been strong for most restored Corvettes, the hottest segment of the Corvette market was undoubtedly first, second and third generation documented cars in impeccable condition with high horsepower engines.  Blue chip Corvettes that also had a documented racing heritage saw prices that often topped a million dollars. 

The three hottest categories of Corvettes during 2013 were:

  1. All Corvettes with documented racing heritage, especially 1963 Z06s, 1967 through 1969 L88s, and 1970 ZR1s and 1971  ZR1s and ZR2s
  2. Early generation historically important Corvettes with rare or unique production options, such as big brake, big tank or “airbox” cars
  3. Numbers-matching, big block, high horsepower C2s and C3s.  

Restored or survivor, numbers matching, second generation cars in exceptional condition and those which received NCRS or Bloomington Gold awards were highly sought, especially those with big blocks and typically brought in excess of $100K while small blocks sold in excess of $50K.  It will be these categories that Barrett-Jackson and Mecum will feature in their 2014 auction previews and schedule for the best auction days. 

Though consignments will still be open through December, both Barrett-Jackson and Mecum already have several important Corvettes already consigned to the January events. What follows below is an abbreviated look at some of the most important.

One in Ten

Last year Barrett-Jackson offered over 125 Corvettes as a part of the 1,200 cars auctioned during their January event, and by the time consignments close for 2014 that number will likely be the same.  As is customary for Craig Jackson’s January extravaganza, expect Corvettes representative of every segment of the collector hobby there as well,  from celebrity owned or customized, to state of the art restomods, as well as a full assortment of restored Corvettes from every generation. 

To consult, and help find and attract outstanding Corvettes, Jackson has hired the well-known, recently retired, National Corvette Restorers Society national judging chairman Roy Sinor.  This move seems to be paying dividends with two of the Corvette headliners, the Rebel and the 1967 L88.   

Barris "Asteroid." Photo: Barrett-Jackson

Barris “Asteroid.” Photo: Barrett-Jackson

One of the feature cars will be “King of the Kustomizers,”  George Barris’s famous “Asteroid” 1963 Corvette coupe.  The dazzling metallic copper Corvette was fully restored earlier this year and is jointly owned by Lance Miller of Corvettes at Carlisle fame and Randy Koettel, owner of Desert Autosport

As Barris customized creations go, the Corvette would be considered “tame” and was built for the successful business entrepreneur and offshore powerboat champion Bob Nordskog to serve as a street car, a race car, and show car.

1969 "Rebel" L88. Photo: Barrett-Jackson

1969 “Rebel” L88. Photo: Barrett-Jackson

A Racing Pedigree Adds Value

Throughout the sixty years of Corvette history there are relatively few cars with the background, impressive credentials, and significance of the renowned #57 1969 L88 racecar known as the “Rebel,” and Barrett-Jackson will be offering it on Saturday, January 18th. During its highly successful racing career, the #57 Corvette was painted in a striking but controversial Confederate flag motif, in response to arch-competitor Don Greenwood’s cars which were painted in an American flag design. The “Rebel” raced against other legendary Corvettes like “the winningest Corvette in history”, the Owens-Corning #12 Corvette, which was sold at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale in 2013 for $1M. 

Photo: Barrett-Jackson

Photo: Barrett-Jackson

The “Rebel” won four of five IMSA events in 1971 and captured the first IMSA Championship.  During IMSA’s finale race at Daytona, Bob Johnson and Don Yenko drove the #57 Corvette to the race win and GTO championship and in the process Yenko broke the class speed record on a tri-oval at 201.4 MPH. 

The following year at the 1972 12 Hours of Sebring, the Rebel qualified as the 13th fastest car, but Dave Heinz passed the pole position Corvette (the ex Owens-Corning #12) on the first lap and led the GT class for the entire 12 hours, finishing 4th overall and 1st in GT. It was a record that stood until Pratt & Miller’s 2003 results. 

The impressive Corvette was fully restored by well known Corvette restoration specialist Kevin Mackay in the early 1990’s, and by the time it crosses the block at Barrett-Jackson in January it will have undergone a second refreshing by Mackay.

1967 L88 Corvette. Photo: Barrett-Jackson

1967 L88 Corvette. Photo: Barrett-Jackson

The third jewel of the Barrett-Jackson Corvette offerings is a 1967 L88 coupe which has a history of drag racing on Detroit’s drag strips and was restored almost fifteen years ago by the famous Nabers Brothers Corvette restorers of Houston. 

Only twenty 1967 L88 Corvettes were ever produced and this is the only red on red one.  In addition to being inducted into the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame and appearing in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, it has also received an NCRS Top Flight Award and Performance Verification, and is the only L88 on record to have achieved the coveted Duntov Mark of Excellence Award. Ray Sinor, having judged hundreds of original and restored Corvettes throughout his several years with the NCRS and a recognized expert, believes this may be overall the finest of the nineteen 1967 L88’s known to exist.

Corvettes for Every Interest

In addition to these rare and award-winning cars you can expect several more outstanding Corvettes, like the 1959 black, big brake, “fuelie” Corvette, or the fully restored red-on-red 1956 convertible with a 283/265HP dual quad engine with a Duntov cam.  Or perhaps your taste runs to a Hot Hues Dark Gray Metallic custom 1961 convertible with red leather and ostrich trim. It has a 5-speed Tremec and a 525 HP LS3, Wilwood disc brakes and custom stainless side exhaust.

If you prefer second generation Corvettes you can choose from several, like the meticulously restored and documented 1967 maroon coupe with a tri-power 427/435 engine.  Or perhaps you’d like to pick up the frame-off restored 1967 Lyndale blue coupe with a teal interior that has received Bloomington Gold, NCRS  Top Flight, Gold Spinner and Triple Crown Awards.  There is also a yellow/black 1966 427/425 NCRS 97.4 point, award winning coupe that has original maintenance records.  The list of great second generation Corvettes goes on and on.

1971 LS6 ZR2. Photos: Barrett-Jackson

Third generation Corvettes are also well represented throughout the auction.  One of the rarest of all C3’s is the ZR2 and on Saturday afternoon, January 18, a Brands Hatch Green 1971 LS6 ZR2 will be auctioned.  In addition to the high performance 425 HP, 454 cubic inch engine, the award-winning C3 also has the M22 “rock crusher” 4 speed, the J56 power dual pinned caliper brakes, F41 heavy duty suspension, and a 4.11:1 Positraction rear end.  Only ten ZR2 coupes and two SR2 convertibles were built, making this one of the rarest of production Corvettes.   

Another offering, and only slightly less rare than the 1971 ZR2, is the Monza Red 1970 LT1 ZR1, one of only twenty five built.  Like the ZR2, the LT1 ZR1 was built for performance and included the J56 power dual pinned brakes, the F41 heavy duty suspension, M22 “rockcrusher”, and the 4.11:1 Positraction rear end.  The major difference from the ZR2 is the ZR1’s 350 cubic inch 370 HP engine.   

The list of award winning Corvettes at Barrett-Jackson this year is lengthy.  Gary Bennett, Barrett-Jackson’s vice president of consignment, and his team have put together an impressive group of quality Corvettes in preparation for the super bowl of auctions in January.

Their adept consignment team has worked hard throughout 2013 and assembled extraordinary quality Corvette offerings, many historically important.

Meanwhile, in Florida…

On the other side of the country Dana Mecum will kick off the world’s largest automobile auction, offering upwards of 3,000 cars during his extraordinary ten day event January 17th through the 26th at Kissimmee’s Osceola Heritage Park.  One of the foundations to his success over the years has been his focus on finding and offering a large assortment of Corvettes from the finest, most important, historically significant cars to entry level models.  Though today his section company is recognized for selling the most important collector cars, the Corvette remains one of his main business focuses and personal passions. 

That focus apparently has been passed on to his directors of consignment, his  son Frank and John Kraman.  Their adept consignment team has worked hard throughout 2013 and assembled extraordinary quality Corvette offerings, many historically important.  It was during his Dallas auction in September that the world’s record price was set for a Corvette selling at auction, $3.2M.  Then in his next auction only a few weeks later in Chicago, he sold Harley Earl’s personal and specially built 1963 Corvette for $1.5M.  Each of his auctions offers a vast selection of Corvettes, usually highlighted by an extremely rare or historical headline car.  

“The dealmaker,” as Mecum is known, promises that there will be no slowdown in the action at Mecum’s and says that not only will they close out 2013 with a bang, but they will kick off 2014 in Kissimmee with an explosion.  And reviewing their current consignments, that may just turn out to be a nuclear detonation.

In on the Ground Floor

By the time consignments close, you can expect Mecum to have almost 400 Corvettes consigned, and even at this early date they are well on their way.  Traditionally, Mecum’s Kissimmee event has more than double the number of Corvettes consigned to Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale event.  This is proportional to the auction overall, where Mecum traditionally offers almost double the number of cars offered by Barrett-Jackson. 

Mainly, this is due to the large number of entry-level cars offered at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction.  This fact is supported by the fact that Barrett-Jackson’s average selling price for all cars is almost double Mecum’s, largely impacted by B-J’s Salon Collection.  Though the Corvette market is red hot, “good buys” can still be found during the initial days of Mecum’s ten-day event. So even though Mecum has several “blue chip” Corvettes being sold to his large collector base, there are Corvettes available for every budget and every level of collecting in Kissimmee.

Photo: Mecum

Photo: Mecum

The Real McCoy

07 SR Proto Mecum EDGR

Photo: Mecum

The main attraction of this year’s Mecum Kissimmee extravaganza is one of the most important cars in Corvette’s sixty year history, the car that was virtually responsible for saving the brand from extinction.  

The car has become known as “The Real McCoy” as a result of a 1956 advertisement celebrating its Sebring class win and helping promote the car’s performance credentials. 

The details and exciting history of this car are too long to adequately cover in this article, but suffice it to say that Zora Arkus-Duntov built this car in an effort to demonstrate the Corvette’s performance credentials. 

Photo: Mecum

Photo: Mecum

There is little dispute that the initial Corvettes were not performance-based cars, nor did they offer many comfort and convenience amenities.  In 1954 and 1955 sales fell so drastically that GM seriously had the Corvette on the chopping block. 

When Ford introduced the well-appointed Thunderbird in 1955, the Corvette’s fate was virtually sealed.  But Duntov convinced GM executives to not give up on the car, but rather transform it into a true performance car, a real sports car but with added amenities. 

Duntov built a prototype 1956 Corvette with a special bored-out 307 cubic inch engine with dual Carter 4-barrel carburetors and a special grind camshaft, which has become known as the “Duntov cam.”  Duntov set a “Flying Mile” speed record at Daytona averaging 150.582 MPH in his prototype Corvette, and then after further preparation by Smokey Yunick, John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove it to a class win in the 1956 Sebring race, helping establish the Corvette as a legitimate performance sports car.

As a result the Corvette brand was saved from extinction. The 1956 SR prototype has been inducted into the Bloomington Gold Great Hall and will cross the block in Kissimmee on Saturday, January 25th.

'Entombed' 1954 Corvette. Photos: Mecum

Time Capsule For Sale

If you are a dedicated Corvette enthusiast you probably have heard the story of the 1954 Corvette that was entombed by the original owner in a sealed brick vault inside one of his grocery stores in 1959.  Then in 1986, long after the original owner who entombed it had died, the car was liberated from its 27 year slumber and spent the next ten years in the living room of the original owner’s daughter.

Though the original Polo White paint had yellowed and blistered due to the moisture inside the brick tomb, the rest of the car was in remarkably good condition and is one of the lowest mileage, unrestored, first generation Corvettes in existence.  The daughter of the original owner agreed to sell the car to a collector with the provision to preserve the car and not to restore it as a tribute to her father. The collector has honored the agreement.  The car has been displayed in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection in 1996.  This storied car will be sold on Saturday January 25th.  

One of the second generation main attractions will be the concours-winning 1963 Z06 originally raced by Dick Lang.  Owned by Terry Michaelis of ProTeam Corvettes, the car was impeccably restored by Nabers Brothers of Houston at a cost of over $220k and appears as it did when raced at Daytona.  During 2013 the Corvette won awards at concours d’elegance events throughout the country.  The Riverside Red Z06 was one of 199 1963 Z06’s built, and like most, was taken immediately to the track. Dick Lang, owner of a Chevrolet dealership and avid Corvette racer, successfully campaigned the car throughout the Midwest and Eastern parts of the country. 

1963 Z06. Photos: Mecum

Like all Z06’s it was powered by a 327 cubic inch 360 horsepower fuel injected engine and came with a close ratio 4-speed transmission, heavy duty suspension, sintered metallic power drum brakes with forward self adjusters, and a Positraction rear.  In addition, it is one of the early “batch built” Z06’s and also has the rare 36 gallon “big tank”.  The car has been the recipient of several awards and was recently given the coveted NCRS American Heritage Award.  

Though the 1963 Lang Z06 is one of the main features of several outstanding second generation Corvettes, it is not the only choice of a rare 1963 Z06.  Lot S172 is a Sebring Silver 1963 Z06 coupe with a fully documented history.   The car was owned in the 1970s by Eric Gill, Corvette Z06 historian and restorer.  Like the Lang Z06, this one was also the recipient of an outstanding body-off restoration by Nabers Brothers. 

The car is optioned with the standard Z06 performance options plus the addition of the N03 “Big Tank” option, N11 off-road aluminized exhaust, A01 tinted glass, A31 power windows, and full wheel covers. In addition to being the subject of several articles it has received awards including Bloomington Gold and NCRS Top Flight. The beautiful Z06 has been displayed at the National Corvette Museum and has won Best of Class awards at the 2012 Santa Fe Concorso and the 2012 Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance.   

Plenty to Choose From

1963 Styling Coupe. Photo: Mecum

1963 Styling Coupe. Photo: Mecum

There will be almost 100 second generation Corvettes crossing Mecum’s block, encompassing a vast assortment of factory colors and production options.  Several will have the desirable big block engine.  Among the small block offerings is a 1963 pink “styling” coupe specially built for Harley Earl’s wife. And if you want something a little more aggressive, there is an exciting 1964 Grand Sport resto-mod replica updated with a LS engine, 6 speed transmission, air conditioning and modern power and comfort amenities.   

The headliner of third generation Corvettes will undoubtedly be the 1969 LeMans Blue L88 convertible, S163.  This is one of only 116 1969 L88s and one of the total 216 L88 production cars ever produced.  This is unquestionably the most coveted production engine in Corvette history.  This Corvette has undergone a recently-completed, frame-off restoration by Roger Gibson, noted Corvette restorer, that took 19 months and over 5,000 hours at a cost of $242K.  The convertible has the auxiliary black vinyl hardtop and has been verified by the NCRS Shipping Data Report and Documentation Validation Service records for the tank sticker.  In addition there is a complete comprehensive photographic record of the restoration, copies of all receipts and a complete and detailed description of the work performed by Gibson and his team.


Collect the Whole Set

Frequently in Mecum events an entire collection is consigned, and at Kissimmee two major Corvette collections are being offered with several impressive models.  If you are a C4 enthusiast, the Richard Berry Callaway Collection is an outstanding collection of Callaway Corvettes.  The cornerstone of the collection is one of the most famous Corvettes in history, the renowned Sledgehammer.  The Sledgehammer was purpose built for speed and to showcase the abilities of Callaway’s turbocharged engines. The silver Sledgehammer owned the record for the fastest street-driven car in the world when John Lingenfelter drove it from Callaway’s headquarters in Connecticut to the 7.5 mile Transportation Research Center oval track and attained a top speed of 254.76 MPH on October 26, 1988.  

Callaway Sledgehammer. Photo: Mecum

Callaway Sledgehammer. Photo: Mecum

The C4 has a modified Callaway Aero body and a 898 HP modified turbocharged Chevrolet engine.  Incredibly, the car also has air conditioning and a radio.  The Sledgehammer held the record for world’s fastest street car for 25 years.  In 2013 this incredible, historic car was inducted into the Bloomington Great Hall which recognizes 50 people and 50 Corvettes that significantly influenced the Corvette. 

The Sledgehammer and its other seven stablemates will cross the block on Friday, January 24.  In addition to Berry’s Callaway collection there are an additional 16 additional Corvettes that are part of his collection from other generations that will cross the block over the ten days of auction.  

The Roger Judski collection is a group of 13 Corvettes, primarily C4’s, four of which are ZR1s .  Except for the two Corvette Challenge race cars as a part of the collection, all of the rest of the collection are extremely low mileage cars, most of which have less than 10 original miles.  

And keep in mind that these cars are only a few of the hundreds of Corvettes being offered by the Mecum team.  The action simply does not stop for ten days in sunny Florida beginning January 17th.  

Head South for the Winter

Based on the impressive line-up of some of the finest Corvettes in the world, January’s super bowl auction season is poised to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.  So if you are in the market for a collectible Corvette you probably want to make your reservations now for the week of January 12th in Scottsdale and the following week in Kissimmee.  And if you get any resistance from your “significant other” both Arizona and Florida are winter vacation destinations so you could always bring them along. Get them set up by the pool, but them a good book and then go spend the day inspecting some of the finest Corvettes in the country. That’s clearly a “Win – Win” by anyone’s standards.

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About the author

Rick Tavel

Rick Tavel is a freelance automotive journalist and an avid car enthusiast. Though he spent his professional career as a business executive now retired he devotes his time to writing, organizing Corvette events, and consulting for his company, R/TCorvetteConsultants. He is currently working on a book about the significance and development of the C5 Fixed Roof Coupe. Along with his book, he is also working on a registry for these cars. He currently owns a show quality survivor Trans Am, a Corvette C5 FRC and a Corvette C6 coupe.
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