Muscle Car Auctions
Muscle car auctions aren’t the place for regular, working class people to buy their dream car, at least that's what we used to think, especially after watching the Barrett-Jackson auctions. The cars that roll across the auction block are highly-rated, completely restored, low production number cars that most of us can’t afford to put in our garage. In addition, we love muscle cars and most of the cars at the Barrett-Jackson don’t fall into our favorite category.
We were happy to find out we were mistaken!
A friend recommended that we go to a Mecum auto auction. Mecum specializes in muscle car auctions, though there are other items auctioned as well. Good news: what is shown on the live broadcasts of auctions isn’t the whole story. When the TV cameras aren’t rolling, there are great muscle cars being auctioned and sold at affordable prices.
Here’s how it works, at least at Mecum muscle car auctions. Note that all of this information is available in greater detail on their website
You pay admission to park and enter the grounds of the auction. There is no additional charge to enjoy the great display of muscle cars or watch the auction.
Once inside the auction, you need to register to bid. There is no charge to register. If you buy a muscle car at the auction, a buyers premium is added to the winning bid amount. For example, if you win an auction car at $5000, the premium is $300 (as of 1/09). So you'd pay $5300 for the car. The premiums are set on a sliding scale based on winning price. It goes up to 6% of the total winning price over $10,000. Check out the Mecum website for full details.
We had to provide our bank account number and let them run our credit card for a $500 non-charged authorization. Photo ID was required too. You’ll be given credentials that indicate you are a registered bidder and will have access to the bidding floor. By the way, you can register in advance on their website.
There is a color brochure of the muscle cars for sale during the course of the auction available, with some additional details. You are also given a daily list of cars being auctioned with the specific location of the car on the grounds and the time when the car will be crossing the auction block.
It’s pretty exciting to see the hundreds of muscle cars all waiting for you to inspect. At muscle car auctions you can break the cardinal rule of muscle car shows: feel free to touch, get inside, get underneath and inspect every inch of the car (unless, of course, it is one of the feature cars). You can ask to hear the car running, have the convertible top opened and closed, and in general anything short of driving it.
Another difference at an auction, all of the cars are there the first day. Usually at a muscle car show, vehicles are arriving at all different times and days of a show and you have to keep checking back in areas you’ve already looked just in case additional cars have arrived.
Check the website in advance and see what muscle cars for sale will be auctioned. Once you are registered, use the daily listing to look up the cars that you are most interested in and go right to their location. Do a thorough inspection!
We noticed that the sellers were a combination of individual owners and muscle car dealers. The individual owners were usually with the car, keeping it shined and answering questions. Don’t be afraid to talk with them. Some of the muscle car dealers were willing to chat and others were busy checking out the competition and didn’t have much specific information about the cars they were representing. One muscle car dealer told us conflicting information about one of the cars, so just like any other car sale transaction, be prepared to take some of the information with a grain of salt.
Sometimes the auction starts with muscle car era memorabilia, tools and art being sold. Very quickly the auction moves to muscle cars.
Just like at an online auction such as eBay Motors, cars can be auctioned with a reserve price. This means that the seller has determined that he will not sell the car for less than a stated price that is unknown by the people bidding. Some cars are sold without a reserve.
At the Mecum muscle car auctions, staff members walk the aisles and stand up front with the car for sale watching for bidders to raise their hand or their credentials. If you bid, they will come stand near you to make sure they can track your continued interest in purchasing the car. However, they are not high pressure and they are very friendly. They, of course, try to encourage you to keep bidding but not in a threatening way.
The action doesn’t move as fast as you see on television shows and people make mistakes. The auction staff double check with you often to be certain they are aware of your bid amount.
There are large video screens that show the car and the auctioneer, including some specific details and the current bid on the car. Sometimes if the bidding stops close to the reserve (that is known by the auctioneer), they will call on the seller and ask if the reserve can be removed or if it can be revealed to the audience. Many sellers agreed to remove the reserve.
If a car did not receive the reserve during bidding, it would be returned to the display area with the designation “The Bidding Goes On” meaning that you could go to a specified area and give a written bid. The written bids are presented to the seller to accept or reject. We saw many cars later marked as SOLD that didn’t meet the reserve during their time on the auction block.
Since we didn’t make a purchase, we can’t provide personal information on how the rest of the buying process works. An acquaintance of ours purchased two cars during the auction with great success. He had planned to purchase only one, so he had to make arrangements to get the car back to his home state.
Luckily for him, there are additional services provided at the auction such as
- Temp plates/title
- Muscle Car Transport
- Muscle Car Insurance
The Mecum muscle car auctions are held in many places throughout the United States, most east of the Mississippi. We have recently heard about local/regional public muscle car auctions. Either way, be sure to add muscle car auctions to your list of places to find muscle cars!
Another option: while thirty-five year old muscle cars rarely cross the block at local auto auctions, you can sometimes find amazing deals on late model muscle. For example, at New Jersey State Auto Auction we recently saw a 2002 Camaro 5.7L for $8950. There were several nice Mustangs, too.
Check out your local auto auction to see if there are any great cars available!
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