HomeNews and EventsHow Mecum Auctions landed the Parnelli Jones collection

How Mecum Auctions landed the Parnelli Jones collection

After a three-year process, suddenly the timing was right for everyone


The collector car community was set abuzz back in March when Mecum Auctions announced that “Big Oly,” the custom-built Ford Bronco that Parnelli Jones drove to back-to-back victories in the Baja 1000 in the early 1970s, would be offered for bidding at Mecum’s 34th annual Original Spring Classic auction, scheduled for May 14-22 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

But the historic and innovative off-road racing machine isn’t the only consignment to the sale coming from the 1963 Indianapolis 500-mile race winner, who is considered not only one of the best but perhaps the most versatile of all American auto racers.

At the age of 87, Jones is parting with what the auction company labels as “The Personal Collection of Parnelli Jones,” a consignment that includes not just Big Oly, but the 1974 Parnelli VPJ-4 Formula 1 car; a reproduction of the “Ol’ Calhoun,” the 1960 Watson-Offenhauser roadster; a 1927 Ford T-Bucket track roadster; a trio of Ford Mustangs; and the 1979 Troyer Modified racer built and raced by Jones’ crew chief Jimmy Dilamarter.

Also up for bidding will be assorted Big Oly spare parts, a set of original Ol’ Calhoun tires, several Jones-worn racing helmets and fire suits, assorted autographed photographs, Baja and Pikes Peak hill climb trophies, Jones’ Trans Am series champion’s jacket, toy-size models of various Jones-raced vehicles, a drafting table (with blueprints) and other furniture, and even the hand-drawn “analog GPS” scroll map of the Baja 1,000 course.

The consignment is another major coup for Mecum Auctions, perhaps its most significant since the Bullitt Mustang

1974 Parnelli VPJ-4 Formula 1 car driven by Mario Andretti
Reproduction of the 1960 Watson-Offenhauser roadster
1927 Ford T-Bucket track roadster
1979 Troyer Modified built and raced by Jimmy Dilamarter

“It started about three years ago,” auction company founder Dana Mecum said of the Jones collection consignment. 

Mecum learned that Jones might be interested in parting with his cars, so “We went there (to California) and they had no interest in selling — at auction. They (Jones and his family) wanted to sell, but not at auction.”

Jones did sell a few of his cars in private transactions, and he donated others to museums. But he retained Big Oly and others, so Mecum stayed in touch and was ready when things arrived from different directions at what Mecum called “an intersection,”

Mecum said that’s typical for such consignments, when various factors make the timing right for a sale.

‘Big Oly’ is the big prize

With Ford announcing a relaunch of the Bronco as a modern and capable sport utility vehicle, “there never was going to be a time,” Mecum said, when there would be such interest in the most famous of all historic Broncos, Jones’ Big Oly. 

Other factors included Jones’ advancing age, and the fact that Mecum annually stages one of its biggest auctions each year at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds. Not only was Jones a regular in the 500-mile race at the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he was among those who raced on the historic dirt oval at the fairgrounds.

Mecum said the Jones family will be staging a family reunion during the auction at Indy, “where the family went for the greater part of its life.”

That reunion will include dinner at an otherwise perhaps unsung local restaurant where Jones and his family often ate when he was racing in the 500, as well as other activities.

Mecum’s Indy auction is scheduled to take place just before qualifying trials for the 105th running of the 500, and thus a week before the race itself.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Nice coverage Larry.

    Hard to believe one of my childhood heroes is now in his eighties and consider it an honor to have met him at Fabulous Ford’s Forever! a few years ago. The definition of Gentleman Racer.

  2. Richard: I, too, am realizing that our motorsports heroes who survived the dangers of the race track are on the last lap that no one can avoid. — Larry


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