For the past 30 days, the ClassicCars.com Journal has been publishing the Barrett-Jackson Countdown series, each day focusing on a different vehicle being featured at the company’s 11th annual Las Vegas collector car auction. Bidding begins today at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino at the south end of The Strip.
My best guess is that you likely won’t see any of those 30 featured cars picked for this article. That’s because the vehicles pictured below are some of those which not only caught my attention but drew me in for a closer look Wednesday as I wandered among the hundreds of cars arrayed within a huge, block-long exhibition hall.
While the vehicles featured here are simply those I might enjoy driving, let alone actually owning, your tastes may be very different. Nonetheless, you’ll likely find something — or some things — on the docket that appeal to you as well. The docket is varied, though it leans heavily toward vehicles produced in the second half of the 20th Century, in other words, the heart of the current collector car marketplace.
And each of the vehicles crossing the auction block over the course of the three-day sale will wear a special license plate, honoring not only Barrett-Jackson’s own Driven Hearts charity effort but the Vegas Strong response to the October 1, 2017 concert shootings. The plates will be offered for sale at the auction, or you can purchase one through the Barrett-Jackson website.
1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula The Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre and Bandit Movie Cars Florida have a big display at Barrett-Jackson, with four vehicles for sale from the late actor’s collection. Of the quartet, I was drawn to this red 1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula, a 403cid V8-propelled re-creation of his car, not from Smokey and The Bandit but from the later Hooper.
1965 Backdraft Cobra re-creation roadster I strongly dislike automotive re-creations, but here I am picking yet another, in this case one too visually striking to ignore. Technically it is a “one-off VMS GT444” built to display custom options for the Florida-based Backdraft Racing Cobra kit. The engine is a 600-horsepower 444cid “stroker” V8 linked to a 6-speed manual gearbox.
1949 Hudson Commodore Maybe I’ve been spending too much time lately with my 4-year-old grandson and his toy cars, but I was immediately drawn to this “Doc Hudson” Hudson, which turns out to be a three-owner car driven only 59,000 miles since new. While the paint is new, the car retains its original tube radio. The 262cid 6-cylinder engine is linked to a 3-speed manual gearbox. Just the car for taking my grandson to pre-school!
1995 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Gotham Cruiser Even with .30-caliber machine guns, this “Gotham Cruiser” reportedly is street legal (the guns now fire flames, not bullets). The huge vehicle has a 5.7-liter Corvette V8 engine that has been converted to run on unleaded gasoline or natural gas. It also has Ferrari tail lamps, a throttle-shift lever out of a World War II fighter aircraft and remote-control canopy. Every kid on the block will line up to go for a ride.
1960 Studebaker Champ pickup Though getting on in years, this big pickup truck looks like its ready for any work you might ask of it. Power comes from a 259cid V8 engine, which has a 4-barrel carb and is linked to a 3-speed overdrive transmission and 4.11 rear diff. It’s a heavy-duty half-ton long bed with rear “overload” springs. It also has a newer dual exhaust and radial tires, plus new side glass, door seals and other parts, including an updated and carpeted interior.
1969 Mercury Cyclone fastback To race its Cyclone fastback in NASCAR, Mercury had to offer a thousand of them for sale to the car-buying public. Two versions were offered — one in the colors of the Wood Brothers racing team and Cale Yarborough, and the other in honor of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers. Only 60 of the Gurney cars were done. This one came with factory air conditioning in addition to a 390cid V8 engine and automatic transmission.
1984 Austin Mini Cooper This is one of only 1,500 25th anniversary Mini Coopers produced with left-hand drive. Production of these fourth-generation Minis ran from 1976 until the turn of the century. The birthday specials all wore Silver Leaf Metallic paint with Nimbus Grey interiors (with red piping on the seat fabric and red seat belts) and special Mini 25 badging. British Leyland built 3,500 for the home market and 1,500 for export.
1972 Honda Z600 custom 4×4 Perhaps the answer to a question no one ever asked, nonetheless this tall but tiny 4×4 certainly would draw attention anywhere you drove it. It’s a ’72 Honda 600 coupe riding on a 4WD drivetrain and lifted well above the surface by a quartet of 33-inch wheels. Instead of the standard 2-cylinder Honda engine, this one has a 1.3-liter Suzuki 4-cylinder powerplant with Comp cam and Weber carb, and a 5-speed manual gearbox.
1962 Willys custom wagon Start with a 1962 Willys sport utility, paint it Viper Red, insert a Ford 302cid V8 under the hood and a C4 automatic transmission and 9-inch rear, insert a new leather interior, lower the suspension and you get this 2-wheel-drive vehicle that looks ready for a family road trip.
1972 Volkswagen Kombi custom bus There are several VW vans on the Barrett-Jackson docket, several with many more windows, but this Brazilian-built version looks like a great family tripster, what with its sliding canvas sunroof, pop-out Wolfgang Safari front windows and other custom touches.
1926 Ford roadster Know what? Leave the family at home and opt for this racy 1926 Ford roadster with a 350cid V8. There’s even a small trunk to stow your stuff for a weekend road trip.