Auction Classics: Unrestored at the Mecum Spring Classic


Every year in mid-May, the giant Mecum Spring Classic muscle-car auction descends on the Indiana State Fairgrounds here in Indianapolis. It lasts for six days; easily 2,000 cars roll by the auctioneer in that time. The auction gets almost no publicity here. I would never have known about it had I not won tickets on a radio-station contest six years ago. But I’ve never missed it since.


The cars are overwhelmingly carefully restored (with the requisite drivetrain swaps and sometimes outright fakery – GTOs that started life as LeManses and such); some are resto-modded. There are so many Camaros, Mustangs, Hemi Cudas, Super Bees, 442s, GTOs, et al, that pretty quickly you quit even noticing them. “Oh,” you say to yourself, “another damned Boss Mustang. Moving on.” But ten or 15 percent of these cars aren’t muscle cars, such as this 1948 Oldsmobile. That’s where the auction begins to get interesting.


Where this year’s auction really got interesting was that there were a big handful of unrestored cars. I think I saw one or two last year, and none in any of the years before that. This ’48 Olds with Hydra-Matic is among the unrestored classics. It has just 2,148 miles on its clock, so some little old lady must have bought this car and hardly ever drove it, and then her kids and grandkids inherited it and didn’t know what to do with it.


Most of the unrestored cars at this year’s Mecum Spring Classic hadn’t racked up very many miles. I wouldn’t have guessed that this 1958 Impala convertible was all original, but I met the owner as he was wiping the dust off his new purchase and he filled me in on his car.


I looked harder, and the only sign I could see was that the car’s upholstery showed signs of repeated use. Otherwise, this car looks showroom new. Really, that’s a tipoff itself – most of the cars here are in better condition than when they rolled off the factory line.


This ’64 Chrysler 300K might be my favorite unrestored car from the day I spent at the auction this year. The owner cleaned it up well, and from a distance it looks as good as any other car on the floor here.


But get up close and you can see it: the paint is dull, and full of rock dings.


The hood has it worst, of course.


Even the interior looks well lived in. Everything’s there, though.


Ok, this is just a gratuitous shot of Chrysler’s great squarish steering wheel.


From the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s a burned out ’66 Charger. Not only did somebody buy this heap, but somebody else taped a note to the hood offering the buyer $2,800 to take it off his hands.


The charred remains of two service manuals lay in this Charger’s wayback.


I wouldn’t have guessed this ’67 Rambler Rebel was original if the info page in the window hadn’t said so.


Every year at the auction I see cars I’ve heard of, but had ever seen only in photos. This 1970 Chrysler VG Valiant was one of them this year. I spotted its rectangular headlights from across the room and knew exactly what I was looking at.


This Valiant came a long way to be in this auction. It could stand an industrial-strength cleaning. It would be very weird to this Yank to have to operate the radio with my left hand.


Yep, it’s got a Hemi.


This 1971 Dodge Demon is another of the more obviously used examples. It still looks pretty good from a distance.


When you get up close, though, you can really see the wear and tear. This one’s paint has been abraded in many places.


Most of the switchgear is missing inside this Demon.


In contrast, this ’76 Eldorado looks like it was barely ever touched. But that’s not surprising given it’s rolled for only 19,000 miles.


This one’s got “cream puff” written all over it. It’s a fuel-injected Eldo, which is apparently on the rare side.

I take hundreds of photos at each year’s Mecum Spring Classic. Over 2,000 of them are in a set in my Flickr space – if you want to kill the rest of your morning, click here to see them.