Every time I see her, Nicole James of our staff asks me if I’m excited about Arizona Car Week. The auctions, concours and social events affiliated with them are all new to an eager 20-something, so I play the old been-there/done-that curmudgeon and usually grumble something about a week of lost sleep.
But in the past few days, the auction catalogs have started to arrive and I’ve also squirreled away a couple of recent news releases and, as much as I might hate to admit it (and please don’t tell Nicole), I’m starting to get excited.
One thing that I’m excited about is getting to see the 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II car that’s on the docket at RM Sotheby’s auction at the Arizona Biltmore. For one thing, RM Sotheby’s says it is the first car of its ilk to be offered for public sale in North America. For another, one of the best driving days of my life was spent in a 190 Evo.
Back in the day, Mercedes’ entry-level 190 sedan was most popularly in service as the mainstay of German taxicab fleets. To enhance its appeal, the automaker took it racing, in the very exciting German Touring Car Championship series. But to race, the car had to be homologated, which means detuned versions of the racer and its spectacular Cosworth-tweaked engine had to be sold for use on public roads. Thus the 190 Evo.
So there I was, the new motorsports editor at AutoWeek magazine, being sent to Germany to see my first German touring car race, and as a bonus the writers on the trip got to spend a day driving road-legal 190 Evos to and then on the Hockenheim racing circuit, home of the German Grand Prix.
As if the 190 Evo wasn’t exciting enough, an intermittent misty rain dampened the track from time to time. Determined not stay out until I finally figured out the fast way through the tricky stadium section of the circuit, I often had the track pretty much to myself as most of the others became frustrated by the weather. Instead, I stayed out, exercising my inner Hans Stuck, keeping my foot down through the forest and — at last — hitting the apexes through the stadium!
A few cars caught my eye as I paged through the Gooding & Company catalogs.
There’s a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “gullwing” coupe purchased new by one of a pair of twin orphaned brothers and owned by the same family since.
There’s a 1932 Packard Twin Six 906 individual custom convertible sedan that won its class at Pebble Beach twice — 49 years apart!
And then there’s the 1959 Tempo Matador Mikafa Reisemobile “Landyacht,” which isn’t a car but a mid-century motorhome originally purchased, according to the Gooding catalog, by a Hungarian count whose wife was part of the Vanderbilt family.
The RV was parked in a custom-built garage in 1971 and remained there until it was purchased in 2015.
As you’re reading this, I’m at WestWorld of Scottsdale getting a sneak peak at some of the cars on the docket for the Barrett-Jackson auction. I’ll report afterward on what I saw. One vehicle I’m eager to see at Barrett-Jackson is what has been termed a “nicely restored” 1968 GMC C10 pickup truck.
I know, yawn. But don’t brush this truck aside too quickly, because it figures to draw considerable attention even before it crosses the block.
That’s because the truck is consigned to the sale by Ride Tech, the Indiana-based high-performance suspension company. Ride Tech staffers have done a few of what they call 48-hour builds, an exhausting ordeal that takes a vehicle from stock to track-ready with a two-day, in-the-shop marathon.
At Barrett-Jackson, Ride Tech staffers and helpers from other aftermarket suppliers plan to do a Pro-Touring treatment to the ’68 GMC, with a build starting at 4 p.m. Friday, January 20, just 48 hours before the truck is scheduled to be on the block and sold to the highest bidder.
The plan calls for a complete suspension upgrade, new fuel tank, rear end, gauges, audio, wiring, some engine work and even air conditioning installation. In 48 hours of non-stop work.
One more note: Tucked into the RM Sotheby’s collector car auction catalog was a notice for Americana Week, a series of sales from January 11-21 at Sotheby’s New York City showroom. Antique furniture, silver, folk art and other objects are being offered, including letters and manuscripts from the Alexander Hamilton family archives. And the display of the items on offer was designed and co-curated by David Korins, set designer for the Hamilton musical.