Frank Mecum’s view from the auction block

Frank Mecum’s view from the auction block

The Interview: From growing up at the auctions to what he sees for the collector car hobby

Frank Mecum, second-youngest of Dana Mecum’s four sons, started placing “Sold” stickers on cars when he was 8 years old. He officially joined the auction team in 2000 and by 2003 was on the auction floor working as a bidder’s assistant. 

Today, he is Mecum’s consignment director and his father’s right-hand-man on the auction floor, where he serves as a seller’s representative, instrumental in closing the big deals and getting both the buyers and sellers where they want to be. 

He lives near Mecum headquarters in southeast Wisconsin with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children — two daughters and two sons.

Mecum Auctions opens its 2019 calendar with its annual visit to Kissimmee, Florida, scheduled for January 3-13 with more than 3,000 vehicle expected to cross the block.

Frank and his father, auction company founder Dana Mecum

Question. Did you grow up as a car guy or do you just play one on TV?

Answer. I grew up an auction car guy.  I loved going to the sales as a kid to see all the cars, but I also loved sitting up on the block between the auctioneers watching the action. I swear my dad never got tired. I guess it’s in my blood.  I love this business and would like to tell you I would do it for free, but you’d probably disagree. Really, it’s a dream come true for me.

My favorite auction memory as a kid was when we were in Des Moines, Iowa, and I was standing with my Grandpa.  A red 64½ Mustang coupe was coming onto the block and he tells me we’re going to buy it.  So we started bidding on it and ended up with it for $7,500.  The next day after the auction as we’re getting ready to ship it home a couple came by and asked what we were going to do with the car.  They made us an offer and before my grandpa could say anything I said sold.  I think we made $500.  I thought I was rich! Like my dad, I love the adrenaline rush of a good deal.

Q. The deal making during an auction looks pretty intense.  It’s very loud and sometimes in-your-face.  Is that real action or TV drama?

A. The action is very real.  It’s emotional and even crazy sometimes. Sometimes I don’t know how my dad keeps his cool even after all these years.  He’s a great mentor.  The sells are always changing and moving at high speeds. It’s hard work and tiring work, too. But our crew works together to keep the energy high.  We are lucky to have loyal employees that have good attitudes. 

The TV part isn’t an issue.  Most of the time you forget the cameras are even there.  Usually when watching the replays later you end up shaking your head at yourself because in the moment I can get very animated and intense, and I’m not that way when I am not on the block.  I’m actually a laid back, very friendly guy.  I just get super focused on sale day and hope I don’t come off too intense.  I’m a people person.  If I wasn’t I wouldn’t survive in this business very long.

Trying to keep bidders and consignors both happy isn’t always easy work

Q. For you personally, what is a surprising trend in the collector vehicle market?  

A. Personally, I have always been a bit of a truck guy, so the bus craze to me is more surprising.  The surprising part to me is not the 21- and 23-window VWs, it’s the other buses that are now starting inch up into six figures. It will be interesting to watch this trend grow.

Q. What about vintage motorcycles?  Are they just a passing fad?  Do collector motorcycles and cars attract the same enthusiasts? 

A. I don’t believe vintage motorcycles have ever been a fad.  I think in the past it’s been a smaller group of collectors that over the last 10 years has become more mainstream.  It’s really been like the collector car hobby was in the ’80s in my mind.  I don’t think its age related at all.  The motorcycle market has just been on a very nice steady growth and people who have never followed it are just starting to notice. 

I think if you asked a life-long enthusiast, they’d say it always has been this popular, it’ s just getting more attention from TV and online coverage.

Q. When the Mecum family goes out cruising, what does it drive?

A. Last summer the kids loved going for ice cream in the Hell Cat, but my favorite would be a big ’50s convertible.  To me, ’50s ragtops will never go out of style.  I think that’s why such a broad range of collectors love them so much.  They will always be cool!

Q. Are you a Ford guy?  Chevy?  Mopar? Super car? 

A. Being an auction guy I have never just flown one flag.  I have the greatest job in the world I get to fall in love with a new car every two minutes.

We are always promoting something different as a company, so I never stay married to one specific brand for long.  I can honestly identify with all collectors.  That’s another reason this it’s fun for me and our family.  Sure, it’s a business, but we work with a lot of sharp, interesting people.  All walks of life come to our auctions that have grown more and more into “car people” social events. We wouldn’t want it any other way.  Come one, come all, Mecum is in town!

Q. Money is no object.  Name three cars you would love to park in your dream garage and why? 

A. 427 Competition Cobra. We had one when I was a kid and I will never forget going for a ride in that car. It was fast and loud enough to scare a small child.  What a hard-core car!

A period 1932 Ford Hi-Boy. It has just always been one of my favorite cars because it just looks nostalgic and it’s actually fun to drive.  Drive one and everybody wants to stop you and look at it, which I don’t mind at all!

Third, probably an old station wagon of some kind.  Not sure why I think they are cool, but I do. They just makes me smile.  That’s the best way I can describe.

Mecum’s thumbs-up on the future of the collector car hobby

Q. Is there an end in sight for the collector vehicle market?  Will the vehicles out live the collectors?

A. I don’t think you will see the end of the collector vehicle market.  I think you will see different reasons for buying.  I think the best example is the resurgence of the big classics we have seen in the last year. Those cars were supposed to be dead 20 years ago.  I think you see these cars being bought more rolling artwork. We are also seeing younger people join the hobby.  We love that, keep this thing going and enjoy a car you have always wanted.  We have room for you newbies.  Come join the club.

Q. A novice has $30k to spend on his/her first collector vehicle.  Can you share any specific advice?

A. First and foremost, what I tell people all the time is buy something you like or have always wanted.  This is an incredible hobby.  Buy a classic car and you’ll suddenly have 1,000 new friends. I think that is the key if you’re wanting to enter the hobby and stay in for a long time.  Shop around and then buy your dream car.  You won’t regret it

Q. Where do you expect Mecum Auctions to be in five years?

A. I wish there was a crystal ball to tell us where we will be in five years, but if they are like the last five I am looking forward to it. We see great growth and big things happening in the classic car world. Being involved with charities like Curing Kids Cancer is super important to Mecum, too. We want to stay involved and give a helping hand when possible.

If you haven’t been to one of our events, put it on your bucket list. It has become a very entertaining experience even in if you just want to bring your family to look at cool cars for a day.

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Tom Trace
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3 Comments

  • Jerry Kennedy
    January 3, 2019, 5:48 PM

    Great article

    REPLY
  • Darrel Miller
    January 3, 2019, 7:47 PM

    Very good to work with until my car to the sale block,,rushed thro in 30 seconds. .Did not try to sell..Thank God I had a reserve..Darrel Miller

    REPLY
  • M Wilson
    January 3, 2019, 8:01 PM

    Great article. Give-men hell Frank.

    REPLY