When I went to the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona this year, it was the first time since 2010. Though there was no shortage of drool worthy cars and it was a great jam-packed day of car gazing, this year I felt like there just weren’t as many truly unique or unusual cars on hand as I remembered in the past. I think the photos I took in 2010 prove my feeling. Yesterday was part one, which featured cars from the 50’s and early 60’s. Here I’ll feature 15 more highlights from that trip, starting in the 60’s. Hope you enjoy!
For lovers of Canadian muscle, a 1968 Pontiac Beaumont Sport Deluxe 396 may not be a rare sight north of the border, but it sure is in the southwest U.S.! I’m certain it’s the only one I’ve ever seen in person. I’m only vaguely familiar with the Canadian Pontiacs, mostly from what I’ve read on Curbside Classic. It looked like a Chevelle SS with a Tempest interior and its own attractive grille. Really interesting and a pretty cool looking car!
This super clean 1966 Chevrolet Impala coupe didn’t earn its spot at Barrett-Jackson by having rare muscle options or a quality frame off restoration. It did it the old fashioned way by living 44 years with good shelter, maintenance and very limited driving, having acquired only 22k miles and keeping its original paint and interior. The perfect cloth bench seat interior was a sight to behold. This was just an everyday car in 1966, similar to hundreds of thousands of others it shared the roads with then, the only difference from the others being that it had managed to go almost a half a century without changing much at all. Most of its sister cars have long since slipped into decrepitude, been turned into lowriders or recycled into bean cans but this one is still here.
This immaculate 1967 Chevrolet Impala does have muscle creds, being an SS model, with a 4 speed manual and 275hp 327 (but not the big block 396 or the SS427 package). This amazing specimen one-ups most of the competition by having only 1700 miles! It’s all original and though the attractive redline bias ply tires and Rally Sport wheels it’s wearing were added, it came with its factory tires, wheels and hubcaps included.
You shouldn’t be surprised by now that I can’t resist a big wagon, like this big block powered (396/325hp) 1967 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon. The seller did not describe just what work had been done to it, but it looks to have had a fair amount of refurbishment and at least a little modification.
Here’s another car that was common in its day, but not so much anymore, even at classic car events. It’s a 1967 Ford Galaxie 500XL, with optional 315hp 390 and Cruise-o-matic. It’s another original condition beauty, with 40k miles. Like the Chevy Impala SS, the sporty XL didn’t actually come standard with any performance items, just a 200hp 289. It did come with bucket seats and console and some other trim items and could be had with Ford’s hottest engines. In my opinion, the 1967 model is the last seriously attractive full size Ford.
Here is the ultimate oddball. It’s a 1967 Pontiac Parisienne 2+2, from the Big Chief’s Canadian arm. In the U.S., the equivalent Catalina 2+2 was a high performance car that came standard with a 360hp 428, upgraded suspension and bucket seat interior. Well, this Canadian 2+2 has the bucket seats but also sports a 155hp 250cid (Chevrolet) Six, backed up by a two speed Powerglide. I believe it has a two inch shorter wheelbase than U.S. Catalinas. You probably don’t want to be getting in any street races! This car had 40k miles, but the seller didn’t provide any info on how much, if any, refurbishment had been done. I remember this car well and it was very sharp and cool.
This one was sold as an actual little old lady’s car. The mileage on the 1968 Buick Electra 225 wasn’t given, but it was said to be all original including paint and interior. In my experience, cars like this at auctions are generally unrestored because: 1. They aren’t valuable enough to make a full restoration practical and 2. This is the type of car that older folks would own, older folks who don’t drive much and keep their car garaged and some of whom make sure the car is meticulously maintained. I love old folks and I love big Buicks! 1968 was the last year GM full sizers had vent windows.
Here’s a bonus photo, because those voluptuous haunches are world class!
Electra coupes are not common, even at B-J, so it’s cool that in this year bidders had two to choose from. This 1970 Buick Electra 225 had 25k miles but had been given a repaint. The 1970 model is groovy because it has a nice looking front end (especially compared to the 69), was the peak year for power, and was the last year before the more controversial 71-76 generation. I have actually never registered to bid at a classic car auction. If I had, this might be the car I would have bought, especially since it went for $6k. I don’t know what the book value was at the time, but it seems reasonable to me, especially on a per pound basis! It is missing its plastic grille/bumper emblem, which is virtually impossible to replace if you lose the original.
If your tastes were a little more mainstream and your pockets deeper, this 1970 Buick GS 455 might have been more to your liking. It is a 23k mile, unrestored car, with the Stage I option fortifying its 455cid engine to give it 360hp and 510lb-ft torque. Your tastes can’t be too mainstream to buy this car, though, with its bench seat, vinyl top and funky early 70’s color. The car was immaculate and I would not hesitate to put it in my garage (providing I had a high enough budget)!
The 70 Electra above also has the 455 and it’s rated at 370hp and the same 510lb-ft torque. I don’t know if it’s plausible the Electra actually has more power than a Stage I GS, given the Stage I has higher compression, upgraded heads with enlarged valves, high lift cam, special carb and exhaust. The Electra is substantially heavier, naturally, but it still impresses me that you got a fair amount of performance standard with your luxury in the biggies at that time. Big difference from what would pass for power just a few years later.
First generation Firebirds are pretty common at auctions, but they are nowhere near as common as a certain 1969 platform mate. There is nothing terribly special about this 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible, other than being a gorgeous drop top Poncho restored to the highest standards and in a very nice period color. It’s also a numbers-matching Ram Air 400 package car (335hp, 2nd highest engine option) with a 4 speed. This is the sort of car that brings people out to Barrett-Jackson to buy or just look. You’ll never see a nicer one.
It’s not all muscle, sports and luxury cars at Barrett-Jackson. Here’s a tasty little morsel, a 1972 Honda Z600. That’s my 5′ 8″ wife next to it, so it’s at least as small as it looks. It’s been refurbished and believe it or not, this is the “muscle” version. Being a U.S. market car, it has a 598cc air cooled, two cylinder putting out 36hp. Japanese market cars could get a 354cc version making 31hp. While this car is arguably what you get when you mate a motorcycle with an automobile, Honda replaced it with a proper car in 1973: the Civic that North Americans would come to know and love.
What’s cooler than a sexy Italian sports car with an American musclecar engine? Not much, so it’s tough not to love a 1974 De Tomaso Pantera in red. There are a lot of custom and heavily modified Panteras out there, so this stock example is nice to see.
Yet another astoundingly low mileage car, this 1973 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible looked like it could be sitting in a Mercury showroom circa 1973. It has 4,600 miles and the seller claims the only non-original item on the car is the tires. The Cougar convertible was only made from 1969-73, showing exquisitely bad timing on Mercury’s part, with the 1969 model introduction being just about the time when convertible sales started falling through the floor. They moved 5,800 the first year, but that dropped quickly to only about 1,200 the last two years. Of course, 1973 was the last year the Cougar shared the Mustang’s platform.
This is what makes Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale so special: its ability to pull cars like this out of the woodwork. What we have here is basically a brand new 1976 Ford Thunderbird, perfectly preserved for 34 years and brought out to find a new home that hopefully was as loving as its first. Yes, the windshield says 741 miles. All original, needless to say, including the tires.
It was clearly bought new as a collector car, which is a little surprising. I might expect someone doing this in 1976 with an Eldorado convertible, but a Thunderbird? To each his own and thank goodness for it! I’m not usually a fan of this bloated generation, but I have to say this example really makes it look good. Triple black with base hubcaps looks great on this! A car to make every brougham lover’s heart go pitter patter.
In a strange coincidence, I was recently reading an article from an old classic car magazine on a different car and spotted a short item on a 76 T-bird sold at auction around the same time (I cut out articles and file them by brand. Nerd!). Sold at a Canadian auction in 2009, the 1976 Thunderbird was triple red with wire hubcaps and had 71 miles! I don’t like it as well, but then I didn’t see it in person, either. The Barrett-Jackson car’s black color and clean hubcaps balance out the broughaminess and bumpers with a bit of sixties flavor, I think.
So, it seems that rather than being a singular outlier, people buying 76 T-birds and storing them for posterity was a trend. Well, at least a trend of two, perhaps there’s more out there. I did profile a 1976 in my Thunderbird auction article, though that baby blue one was far from a hermetically sealed new car.
Here’s another one for the broughamiacs: a 1985 Cadillac Eldorado. It doesn’t have mega-low mileage, still 22k is pretty darned low and it looked perfect. We all know that Cadillac engines in the 80’s left a lot to be desired, but I still like this generation Eldorado a lot. 1985 was the last “real” Eldorado before it was excessively downsized into a more sensible but far less charismatic package.
Buicks don’t come any more obscure than the 1986 Buick Le Sabre Grand National I spotted. The name conjures up images of the Regal Grand National, with its powerful turbocharged 3.8 V6. Despite the name, the LeSabre GN has no fire-breathing Turbo and was virtually indistinguishable from a regular coupe save for the obvious quarter window modification. The only other enhancements in the package were standard leather wrapped steering wheel and aluminum wheels (the same wheels that were optional on other LeSabres).
The rather homely side window treatment was sold on 117 cars, to qualify for NASCAR. The small, square side window was more aerodynamic at speed. In this era, the race car chassis and engines were not at all production based, but NASCAR still required the size and shape of the body to correspond with the production cars, so there could be a real difference in the speed and stability of different makes competing. They required any modifications to the shape of the body to be available as a production car, hence 80’s cars like this, the Monte Carlo SS and the Pontiac 2+2. Contrast that with today’s NASCAR where the cars are all virtually identical, including the bodies, which are shaped generically with decals resembling each model’s grille and headlights.
The GN was a one year only option. Buick would offer a more substantial T-Type package for 1987-89, which kept the regular attractive full quarter window, thank goodness. The T has been chronicled a few times on Curbside Classic.
Ok, this 1993 Cadillac Allante may not fit into the qualifications I set out at the beginning of this article of featuring cars that are rare, unusual or extremely well preserved. It only fits the qualification that I find it interesting. I used to see Allantes regularly in the Phoenix area when I lived there in the 90’s, and they used to be pretty common at auctions, too. Now, I haven’t seen one in the wild for years and it looks like they are getting less common at auctions, judging from B-J not having one in Scottsdale since 2016.
I always kind of liked these, and appreciated the irrationality that went into making their front wheel drive Flagship. I don’t think they are beautiful, but they certainly aren’t ugly. It’s a clean, pleasant design that still looks good. 1993 is the year to have, powerwise, just don’t put a whole lot of miles on that Northstar!
Well, that’s it for this flashback. I hope you enjoyed the glimpse from the past and found the cars as intriguing as I did. Some I remember well, a few not at all, but it was fun never the less to look back at some cool cars.