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Hot August Nights Auction: Microcars to street rods

Posted in Car Auctions, Newsworthy by Terry Parkhurst | August 17th, 2008 | 1 Response |

This 1964 Triumph TR4 sold for a bid of $20,750 at Hot August Nights. (Photo courtesy of Goldenberg Enterprises)
This 1964 Triumph TR4 sold for a bid of $20,750 at Hot August Nights. (Photo courtesy of Goldenberg Enterprises)

Hot August Nights (HAN) just held its 22nd celebration of automobiles and rock-and-roll music – a complete week of cruises up-and-down Virginia Street, a swap meet at the old cattle stall on the out-skirts of town, a car show across from the Atlantis Casino and a collector car auction, across the street from the casino.

Sometimes, little cars bring big money. This 1958 BMW Isetta sold for a bid of $36,000 at the auction conducted by Silver Auctions, at Hot August Nights. (Photo courtesy of Goldenberg Enterprises)

Since the audience for this major money maker for the self-advertised “biggest little city in the world,” Reno, is aging Baby Boomers, the musical acts last week included one of those groups perhaps best left in the Sixties, Herman’s Hermits, and what’s left of the Beach Boys (Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and some studio musicians; it seems.)

But for those of us caught sweating both the heat of summer and the price of gas, around the country, the real news was what occurred within the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. It was there that Silver Auctions, headed by Mitch Silver based in Spokane, Washington, staged a four-day collector car auction of about 900 cars, trucks and even a few motorcycles; it has become the benchmark auction for street rod and muscle car values.

Certainly, there are those who might debate that, given the fame garnered Barrett-Jackson on SPEED. However, those in the know understand that Barrett-Jackson is really an anomaly fuelled by foreign money for the most part. Silver’s auctions pulls the real car guys (and gals), living across the U.S. of A, who grew up with street rods, maybe made their money in construction and want to add to their rolling stock, or get back into the vintage car or street rod hobby.

Moreover, this isn’t an auction such as those being held during the Monterey Historic Weekend, on the Monterey peninsula in California. There isn’t a small fleet of business jets coming in, bearing people trading in Euros. The folks at Hot August Nights probably either drove here in a piece of vintage American iron, or piloted an RV to the RV park on the outskirts of Reno; or failing all that, flew in on Southwest Airlines (the auctioneers’ airline of choice).

Within the market for street rods, there’s a range of prices here. The 1932 Chevrolet five-window coupe which sold for $51,000 (plus an 8 percent buyer’s fee) on Friday night represents the higher end; but then, this wasn’t just a randomly thrown together car.

Ron Attebury of Attebury Street Rods in Morgan Hill, CA. Custom paint and upholstery built the Chevrolet. Real steel counts a lot in the street rod world and this car had a lot of that. The main body was original metal, albeit with a top lowered two inches. The frame was original steel; however, the fenders were fiberglass with stainless steel fasteners. The hood was aluminum, fitted with removable side panels. Back in the rear, the taillights were both recessed and molded into the body. The fenders were “bobbed and tubbed,” street rod-speak for shortened and rolled into the underbody.

The engine was the ubiquitous (in street rod circles) 350 cubic-inch Chevrolet V8, a recent variant of ZZ4 code, set up to run with an aftermarket fuel injection system; backing it up was an “350” General Motors automatic transmission.

The front end consisted of a Mustang II front end – probably the only part of that car that survives for the most part – and an independent rear suspension, consisting of a Corvette third member with inboard disc brakes. Coil-over shock absorbers were fitted at all four corners. And while with muscle cars, documentation helps, in the street rod world awards garnered shows the work involved is worth bidding on. In this case, the car had garnered a second place win at the 2000 Grand National Roadster Show in the Full Fender category.

While this was a little less than you might have seen similar cars in years past at HAN, it was much more than a kit car T-bucket street rod, sporting an in-line four cylinder engine of indeterminate manufacture yielded. The T-bucket rolled onto the docket on Saturday evening and sold for just $8,100, plus buyer’s fee.

But this auction also gets a fair amount of distinctly non-American iron. David Goldenberg, a collector car dealer from West Linn, Oregon brought a 1958 BMW Isetta and a 1963 Triumph TR4 to this auction. Two years ago, he sold a very similar car, a 1957 BMW Isetta, at Hot August Nights, for a commanding price of $38,500 (plus a buyer’s fee, which was 6 percent, at that time).

This year, Goldenberg sold the Isetta he brought to a man from Florida, who’d actually been bidding on the car Isetta, brought to Reno, two years ago.

Goldenberg, who like the sellers most involved in the bidding process, stays close to his cars and lets the auctioneer know how he feels about the bids being offered; as well as whether or not he wants to drop his reserve (a set price which the auctioneer must meet to ensure a sale), on cars where he has established a reserve.

“He would have (likely) paid more, but we didn’t know how far he’d to push him.”

The Triumph TR4 roadster was a two-owner car, painted red with a black interior; and most importantly, it had just 86,000 (actual) miles of use, since new. Documentation established that the car was bought new in Van Nuys, California; and somehow, it made its way up to its second owner in Oregon, a few years later.

The Triumph brought $20,750 (plus 8 percent buyer’s fee) and Goldenberg said he felt it could have brought more. Consider this: the average value for a 1964 Triumph TR4 roadster, according to the current edition of the NADA (National Auto Dealers Association) Classic, Collectible and Special Interest Appraisal Guide is $14,150; and the high value is $25,700. So he might have a point.

But the bids that took cars home seemed a bit lower than in years past at this auction – good news for those wanting to get in a vintage muscle car or street rod, not such for those selling.

Friday afternoon – the same time and day, Goldenberg offered his cars – saw a 1969 Plymouth GTX two door hardtop, in condition two (combination of good original pieces and some restorative work) sell for $32,000. That was followed, two cars later, by a 1956 Chevrolet series 210 sedan, with just 17,000 original miles, and sporting modifications such as a later vintage 350 cubic inch, code ZZ4, V8, selling for a $30,000 bid. Around the same time, a 1961 Chevrolet Impala two-door “bubble-top” (thin rear pillar hardtop) fitted with a legendary 409 cubic-inch V8 engine and retrofitted with dual, four-barrel carburetors, backed by a four-speed manual transmission, bid to $31,500; but didn’t sell at that.

As if to prove that this auction had something for everyone, lot #508 about an hour before the auction shut down on Friday, was a 1942 Jeep CJ5, in average condition, which sold for a bid of $6,000.

Saturday saw some of the old Hot August Nights heavy bidding on Tri-Five Chevrolets with a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon being bid to $42,000; but with no sale made.

The market may be going towards a new generation of collector cars, if you consider the fact that a 1972 Buick Riviera “boat-tail” two door, offered just 30 cars later than that Nomad sold for a bid of $15,500.

But, since it always takes more than one auction to establish a trend, while this might be the time to invest in a vintage Isetta you might want to wait on purchasing a boat-tail Riviera. – Terry Parkhurst

Complete results will be posted at www.silverauctions.com, later in the week of August 17-23.

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  1. Clarification is needed on one quote. When David Goldenberg said that “we didn’t know how far to push him,” he was not bidding against his own car – a practice that occurs at some less than honest auctions. He meant that the auctioneers didn’t know how far to push the bidder. That bidder had indeed bid on a car Goldenberg brought to another Hot August Nights auction, two years ago; but did not buy that car. So he came and bought this year’s Isetta.

    By the way, the photo captions should read, “Courtesy of David A. Goldenberg Enterprises,” that is the full legal name of David Goldenberg’s company.

    Mitch Silver has reported to me, since this report was filed, that the total dollar amount this auction attained was $12.7 million; that was only a three percent difference from last year’s record setting auction (record setting as compared to all the other HAN auctions).

    Furthermore, Lot #815, that T-bucket roadster, had a 350 cubic inch V8 engine with a four bolt main (hence the confusion, given that the auction company’s web site said a “four cylinder engine), according to Mitch Silver. That was coupled with a Ford 9 inch rear-end, a common practice in street and hot rod circles.

    According to Mitch, “I drove the car, after it sold, out to the transporter myself. It was strong (and yet) easy to drive; it felt as good and as strong as most T-buckets. It was just a base level car, an older restoration. It would probably never win a trophy, but it would turn heads, everytime you drove it.”