The vehicles were still arriving Wednesday at the Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey for Mecum’s “Daytime Auction,” so my prowl around the fairways was lacking some of the collector cars that will be crossing the block Thursday through Saturday.
But still, there were plenty of cars, trucks and motorcycles that already were parked on the grass to pique my interest, and I was able to pick out eight that I would like to take home with me. I steered away from the exotic and pricey numbers from Ferrari and such, which seemed like too much of a no brainer, as well as the terrific Porsche 911 Turbo that was the last car ordered by the late movie star Steve McQueen.
Still, it was plenty hard to whittle down the favorites from the hundreds of car on hand. With that in mind, here are the cars that made the cut. Note that some of the cars in the photos have partially opened hoods. The first letter in the lot number signifies which day it will cross the block, Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda convertible (Lot F69)
Ok, maybe there is an exotic here, but not the expected Euro fare. It’s one of the super rare Hemi ’Cuda droptops (just 14 made in 1970, and one of nine with automatic transmission) that get the Mopar guys all worked up, and this one has the distinction of being presented by Plymouth to the car’s young designer, John Heritz, for his personal use. Power is provided by the legendary 426 cid Hemi V8, and gorgeously all black. What’s not to like? Well, maybe the estimated value, expected by Mecum to range from $2.5 million to $3 million.
1953 Porsche 356 Pre-A sunroof coupe (Lot S104)
An early-model Pre-A 356 with coachwork by Reuter, this is one of the wonderful originals that launched the Porsche brand, the kind of car you might have seen in Max Hoffman’s New York showroom back in the day. I fell in love with this black beauty when I saw it being driven across the grass Wednesday by one of Mecum’s guys. The classic design and primo condition (yes, they did come with optional whitewalls) certainly turned my head, although the estimated value of $325,000 to $385,000 provided a quick reality check.
1967 Toyota FJ-45LV Land Cruiser (Lot S88)
Toyota Land Cruisers have become hot commodities at auction, with nearly every sale seemingly having one. But here is something completely different, a long-wheelbase wagon that Toyota produced in small numbers, with an estimated 1,000 imported to the U.S. and with a body created by an outside coachbuilder. Standing on aggressive off-road tires and looking nicely restored, this long Land Cruiser appeared ready to tackle any obstacle while carrying lots of gear. The rarity, condition and overall coolness seem to validate its estimated value of $140,000 to $160,000.
There’s something about a Muntz. While not on every classic car fan’s shopping list, the Muntz convertible is distinctive and classy, and you’re not likely to encounter another at your local car show. Just 394 of the futuristic Jets were produced by TV titan and used-car dealer Earl “Madman” Muntz, and their exclusivity and lofty price tag made them a favorite among celebrity buyers. Powered by a Lincoln V8, this impressive convertible – restored in black with a white interior – has just 41,775 miles on its odometer, and is valued at $70,000 to $80,000.
1931 Cadillac Series 370-A coupe (Lot S57)
Like a lot of other punters, I have a hankering for a True Classic from the decades before WWII, when American luxury cars were big and bold and designed to impress. This Caddy would most certainly fit the bill. Plus, it’s powered by a silky-smooth V12 engine rated at a sturdy 150 horsepower. And it has a rumble seat. With a body built by GM-owned Fleetwood, the coupe was professionally restored in two-tone blue with wire wheels and a heron mascot. Lovely, and valued at $100,000 to $125,000.
1959 MGA twin-cam roadster (Lot T89)
On a smaller scale is this MGA in Old English White and with something special under its hood, a dual-overhead-cam 1.6-liter engine that boosts power for the lightweight roadster to 108 horses instead of the customary pushrod engine’s sluggish 60 hp. Just 2,111 were produced as the twin-cam engines suffered from a reputation of being troublesome, although apparently tinkerers later figured out what went wrong and how to deal with it. This car looks great and is fitted with the highly desirable knockoff disc wheels as fitted originally. No value estimate is given.
1965 Chevrolet Corvette convertible (F78)
Here is my favorite from the Ed Foss Low-Mileage Corvette Collection, which comprises 26 Vettes that have hardly been driven, ranging from an early 1953 roadster to a 2003 50th anniversary convertible. The one I like is a 1965 convertible with just 1,652 miles, a fairly spectacular survivor in Glen Green with Saddle leather interior. Pretty special, though I’m not sure what it would take to put it on the road. Or if you’d even want to since driving it would wreck its ultra-low-mileage value. Decisions, decisions. Valued at a lofty $500,000 to $750,000.
1929 BMW R32 motorcycle (Lot T181)
Mecum has three of these incredibly handsome BMW bikes from the 1920s among its great selection of motorcycles. BMW’s first motorcycle model, the opposed-twin-engine cycles with driveshafts and evocative Bauhaus styling are true things of beauty, artworks on wheels, and I would have been impressed to see one of them at auction, let alone three. This 500cc model was my favorite because it absolutely gleamed with spit and polish. I have no idea what these would be like to ride, although I once owned an R50 years ago. Maybe this motorcycle should be treated as an actual art object and put on display rather than ridden. No estimated value was given.