HomeCar CultureCommentary10 tricks to make your car stand out at auction

10 tricks to make your car stand out at auction


A pair of vintage Pontiac Firebirds on stage at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction | Bob Golfen
A pair of vintage Pontiac Firebirds on stage at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction | Bob Golfen

With more collector car auction venues and consignments than ever before, how do you make your car stand out from the crowd at auction?  Buyers fall in love with a particular car because of its condition, uniqueness and story. There are a number of easy ways to communicate those factors, which can add excitement to your sale.

Take a look at these presentation ideas that will make buyers take a longer look at your car.

Factory hardtops on convertibles
Usually pretty rare, but the inclusion of a factory hardtop for your roadster represents a lot of distinction and value to your car. To a buyer, it’s like purchasing two different variants of the same vehicle. The reality is that most factory hardtops sit on a stand or in the garage rafters in day-to-day life, but it’s important to fit them for the day of the sale.
Unique period modification
Historic personalization of a car adds to the car’s story and interest. While subjective in taste, modifications should not impede the operation of the car or overwhelm its personality. To hit a home run at auction, you have to swing for the fence; don’t be afraid to let your car stand out from others with a unique feature.
Unique trim
Perfect emblems
Emblems are the jewelry of your car; they should be crisply painted and polished to perfection. Eyes are drawn to the edges around them, so make sure they are either precisely masked or removed during painting, color-sanding, buffing and waxing for clean edges. This implies a level of detail that carries over to the rest of the car in the buyer’s mind.
Period-correct staging
Like a home purchase, some consignments can look barren and drab without some staging to help tell the story. Carefully selected, authentic items can help the imagination to fill in the car’s past life. An old tobacco pipe, driving gloves or glasses, a period road map or fire extinguisher can all be good suggestions to enhance the romance of a consignment.
Stickers that help tell the story
Period stickers help flesh out the interesting life your car may have led. Old bell-shaped California AAA stickers attest to claims of California ownership. Intriguing parking permit stickers (think NASA or Air Force Academy) can imbue your car with an exciting back story. Don’t create fraud, but think twice before you scrape off that existing decal, even if it’s a little faded or torn.
Period-correct aftermarket wheels with correct reproduction tires
Little details separate correct, restored period wheels from their modern counterparts. Don’t be cheap by fitting off-brand white-letter tires. Invest in the proper “Day 2” setup and your car will stand out from a sea of dog-dish wearing, 100 percent correct stock-restored cars. The same urge that applied in 1964 to tear off those skinny tires is in play now, but the new wheel assembly has to be absolutely period correct to complete the illusion.
Cloisonné club grille badges
A high-quality car club badge is more jewelry for your car, and suggests that the owners are likely engaged, informed and enthusiastic about their automobile. It can give some needed bling to an otherwise staid grille. Extra points if the car was overseas at some point in its life and wears an exotic foreign club badge.
Patinated plates and plate frames with older registrations
You might be tempted to leave these tattier items off your car, but don’t. Displaying them shows the continuity of ownership and adds interest. Avoid restored plates. They never look right.
Underhood tags and service stickers
Again, depending on your aesthetic, resist the urge to remove any old service stickers or parts tags that might add interest. Only neat old ones qualify; showing off your static-cling Jiffy Lube sticker from three months ago doesn’t do anything to tell the car’s story.
Perfectly cleaned lenses and operational lights
All the serrations in plastic lenses are notorious for collecting scratches, buffing compound, dirt and wax. Lenses should be meticulously cleaned inside and out, with a toothbrush if necessary. An interested buyer will be watching your car as it drives up to the block, trying to ascertain hints to its overall running condition. Send him a nice, bright signal that the car has been fully sorted.

Photos by William Hall

William Hall
William Hall
William Hall is a writer, classic car broker and collector based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He has spent the whole of his professional career in the automotive industry, starting as an auto-parts delivery driver at the age of 16 to working for some of the nation's premier restoration shops. He is a concours judge and a consultant to LeMay-America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

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