One of the joys of attending a massive event like Auction Week in Scottsdale is that due to the large number of vehicles (about 2,700), there are inevitably some unusual ones. Today’s post will focus on the relatively unusual or obscure, which should be a nice change of pace after recently spending time profiling some of the fine and popular Mustangs, Corvettes, Chevies and such that dominate most classic car gatherings.
We’ll start with the station wagons. I’m a huge wagon fan, having owned several. My wagony sense is always on, seeking out long roofs wherever I go. The needle was pegged on my gauge a few times in Scottsdale, as we’ll see.
In beauty, at least, the ultimate wagons are woodys. Even at the three auctions I went to, I only saw two full wood bodied examples (not counting the 1947 Town and Country sedan profiled in my Chrysler article). The first was this stunning 1948 Ford Super Deluxe station wagon at Barrett-Jackson.
This fine specimen sold for $66,000. The ’42-’48 Fords were some of the nicest looking wagons of the woody era, I believe, and this car is made even more appealing by being in my favorite color for woodys: maroon. I think that color goes with the stained wood so well. Black is a close runner up.
Production of the ’46-’48 Fords was the highest for any generation of woody, selling 41,976 total for those years, plus 8,244 of the very similar Mercurys (compare to about 16k Chevrolets and 13k Plymouths in ’46-’48). That does not mean they are priced lower than average for woodys, since they are very attractive and popular and, of course, only a small fraction have survived.
There is no vehicle anywhere with an interior roof more beautiful than a woody wagon!
Ah, here is a black one! It’s a 1938 Ford Deluxe wagon which sold at Barrett-Jackson for $51,700. The natural colored wood is correct for pre-1941 models and it looks very striking with the black body work. I believe it was made with maple support pieces and birch inserts, sourced originally from Ford’s own forest in upper Michigan and processed in their Iron Mountain factory. The actual wagon body construction was done by the Murray Body Company until Ford took over the whole process in 1940.
Wow, interiors don’t come much more simple and graceful than this!
The woody era was really quite short. The first production wagon anywhere was the 1929 Ford Model A. Before that “depot hacks” were all custom built and mostly used commercially. 1937 was the first year Ford offered glass in all the windows and many brands didn’t even get into the woody game until the late ’30’s. 1948 was Ford’s last year to offer wagons with the body completely wood behind the cowl and above the floor. Taking out the WWII years, that’s less than a decade of fully mature woodys. When all the manufacturers came out with their new postwar designs in ’48-’49, their wood trimmed wagons had quite a bit of underlying steel structure.
That’s not to say that those late ’40’s-early ’50’s semi-woodys aren’t beautiful cars. I would love to own a ’49 Mercury or a ’53 Buick, among others. After 1953, even the small amount of real wood trim was gone, leaving the much more practical and affordable station wagons set up for huge sales volumes, but not nearly so pleasing to look at. Ford immediately came out with their fake-wood Country Squire, but the style didn’t really catch on with other manufacturers until the mid-’60’s.
Not all Fords were Country Squires. In fact, most weren’t, like the two-door 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon. This one was at the Silver auction, which never made results available, but I happened to see this one go through and it sold for $26,730.
It’s obviously not completely stock or perfect, but I thought this car had serious appeal. I love two door wagons. As odd as that body style seems to modern eyes, it was pretty common at the time. Ford sold almost as many two door wagons in 1956 as they did four doors. The ultimate two door wagons are the ’55-’57 Chevy Nomads, which are great, but I also really like plain entry level models like this one. The clean sides with minimal (for the ’50’s) side trim look very cool and they make bitchin’ hot rods.
The surfboard in this wagon is a funny touch. Gotta love good salesmanship.
Silver also had a 1956 Plymouth Sport Suburban wagon, which I didn’t catch the sale price on.
I liked this car mainly because it’s so unusual. I’ve probably never seen one in person before, and I might never see one again. Plymouth sold almost 82k 1956 Suburbans (Plymouth speak for station wagon), but how many survived? The ’55-’56 Plymouth is not a well remembered or popularly beloved car, like the Chevy or even the Ford or ’57 Plymouth. Through a rare confluence of light use, careful owners, and favorable climate, this one beat the odds somehow to be here today.
The other interesting thing about this car is that it has had an active career the last several years as a movie/TV car. Rather than try to type any of them out, here’s the picture of the list of productions the car is said to have been in. I looked some up on IMCDb.org , and it didn’t show up on all of them. I suspect it was used simply as a background vehicle in many of them, which it is perfect for in anything that takes place in the late ’50’s or ’60’s. It’s less-than-perfect condition and common-at-the-time body style make it exactly the type of car you would see curbside during that era.
A pet peeve of mine is period movies that have streets and parking lots filled with cars that are popular collector cars today but were rare at the time, like convertibles, muscle cars, sports cars, etc. I understand why that is done, as those are the kind of cars that are easiest to locate. Ironically, the rare cars then are the common cars now and vice versa. I’m sure I’m not the only Curbside Classic reader that notices when movies or shows put the extra work in to find less glamorous cars that were mainstream then.
The final thing I like about this car is the dash. All the ’55-’56 Mopars had really pretty dashboards. The pushbutton transmission control to the left of the steering wheel made its first appearance for 1956.
At Barrett-Jackson, in the indoor tents where many of the more glamorous and expensive cars were kept, one of the last rows of cars had this 1957 Oldsmobile Fiesta wagon. My camera and phone were both dead, because I didn’t plan well enough for B-J’s marathon of car gazing. So, I didn’t take any photos, but I took many pictures in my brain of this car and those pictures tell me this car looked even better in person. It looked good enough to bidders to sell for $115,000.
The hardtop station wagon appeared briefly in the fifties and early sixties, then went away like an ephemeral flower or wisp of perfume. The body style is pure American, when the manufacturers were enthusiastically putting glitz on even the most utilitarian body style. I imagine this car would contend for the most glass area ever, and certainly the highest ratio of glass to pillar surface area.
Oldsmobile only offered the hardtop wagon for two years, and interestingly 1957 was the first year Olds sold any wagons since they discontinued their wood trimmed wagons after 1950. Surprisingly, the first hardtop wagon was the 1956 Rambler, that practical compact. The last, by several years, was the 1964 Chrysler.
Generally my favorite old cars to look at are unrestored originals. Add in my admitted weakness for wagons, and this 1961 Chevrolet Nomad wagon at Barrett-Jackson is way up on the list of coolest cars I saw all week.
It was said to be a 45k mile, one family car and to still have it’s factory paint and interior, which I think is pretty amazing for a station wagon. People who bought wagons tended to use them, otherwise why spend the extra money? The Nomad wagon was equivalent to the Impala series, which was the top of the three trim levels Chevrolet offered and the Nomad had the highest base price of any Chevy save the Corvette. Still expensive today, it was sold for $53,350.
Unlike Impalas, the wagons made do with four taillights instead of six. I really like how the red-accented side trim matches the interior and wide white walls tires always look good with white cars.
The engine compartment certainly lends credence to the claims of originality. The engine is a 283cid version of Chevrolet’s original small block V8. It has either 170 or 230 hp, depending on if it has a 2 barrel or 4 barrel carburetor. The owner didn’t specify and I’m not sure by looking at the air cleaner.
So, the Nomad wagon is on my list of favorite cars I saw in Scottsdale, but wherever it is on the list, this 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer is higher. It was sold as an 83k mile, one family, always garaged car from northern California. If true, you couldn’t ask for better circumstances to preserve a vehicle for 34 years in this condition. It sold for $44,000, which according to Barrett-Jackson’s online records, is the highest price ever paid at their events for a stock Wagoneer.
The Wagoneer/Cherokee long ago moved out of typical ’70’s/’80’s used car values and into cult car/classic car status. It’s a very popular vehicle and since the ’90’s, there has been a small industry dedicated to refurbishing them for people who wanted to continue driving their iconic 4×4 wagons.
My first car in high school in 1987 was a 1980 Wagoneer Limited which was the same exterior color as this one. Apart from the interior color, it was extremely similar. Mine was not as nice as this, mainly because it had some minor rust and dings on it, but it had 70k miles and cost $3600. Since they were still being made at that point, they had definitely not moved out of used car price territory!
Leather and cloth seats were plush and comfortable, the carpet was thick, and woodgrain trim inside makes you forget you are driving a truck, at least until you hit some rough pavement. They don’t ride badly at all, but you can only make a vehicle so smooth that has four wheel drive with live axles and leaf springs front and rear.
Trivia: I’ve never seen a Wagoneer Limited or Grand Wagoneer (name changed in 1984) without a 5.9L V8, but until 1987 a 4.2L I6 was standard.
Here’s another entry in the cars-you’ve-probably-never-seen-in-person category, at least if you didn’t live during the ’50’s. It’s a 1956 Packard Clipper Deluxe. I think the small number of ’55-’56 Packards I’ve seen at auctions or car shows are the fancier seniors and Caribbeans. Rarity doesn’t necessarily translate to high prices, as this car’s $12,100 gavel slam shows.
It was not a perfect car, the most notable flaw being that the rear bumper was painted body color, even though the owner supplied pictures showed it chrome.
I also profiled this car briefly in my Name That Tailfin article. The feature I really like about this car is the dashboard, another mid-’50’s beauty. The ship’s helm on the passenger side is so cool! I always thought Clipper was a great name and image for a car. It served Packard well for many years, but nothing could save the company in the end. 1956 would be the last year for genuine Packards.
The Clipper Deluxe was the very bottom of 11 ’56 Packard models and actually sold the most. However, selling the most is not the same as selling a lot, 5715 hardly counting as huge volume. It looks good in comparison to 1957, when their two lightly modified Studebaker models sold 4809 combined. At least in the final year of Packard-labeled cars, they got the sporty Hawk which was kind of cool if you like cars with a grille resembling a wide mouth bass (Here’s 1958 Packard Hawk they actually had at B-J that I didn’t photograph).
Some of the greats among independents were Hudson’s postwar “step down” models, like this 1951 Hudson Commodore convertible. It sold for what seemed like a reasonable $33,000. The interior floor was set down within the side rails of the unitized body, giving the car a lower height and center of gravity. Hudsons were considered one of the best handling cars of the era.
Hudson’s six was and is a well-respected engine. In 1951, Hudson debuted the “Twin H” dual carb 308cid straight six. At 145hp, it was the largest and most powerful six cylinder engine available in any car, with more power than many eights. Hudsons dominated NASCAR in the early ’50’s with their big six, though it was not enough to save their struggling sales in those years. The lack of a modern overhead valve V8 was a serious competitive disadvantage in a market where medium-price customers were increasingly accepting nothing less.
The engine is probably not original to this car, as it was only offered in Hornets. Commodore Eights came with a 128hp 264cid straight 8.
Barrett-Jackson also had another 1951 Hudson, this one a Hornet. It looks like a convertible, but it actually has a removable hardtop fashioned to look like a drop top. Not stock, obviously. It sold for $44,000. This one also sports the “Twin H” Six, but it is the correct engine for this model.
I thought this side profile picture was interesting. It shows the unusual proportions of the Hudson, with its long 124 inch wheelbase and short rear overhang.
What is it about ’50’s interiors? They’re so cool! This is certainly a rich, sumptuous-looking place to step down into and spend some time.
Occasionally the Scottsdale auctions will feature a “barn find” of a highly desirable car, such as this non-running 1936 Cord 810 at Russo and Steele. It’s the least desirable body style and obviously would need a full restoration (looks like it may have actually been in a barn), but never the less sold for $20,000.
As you no doubt know, the Cord was one of the earliest mass produced, front wheel drive cars made in the U.S. These front tires had a lot of work to do. I’m not sure how old these tires are, but it looks like it has been decades since they were last inflated. Impressive that they hold air! If someone paid $20k, he surely has plans to restore it. I would love to see it when it’s done!
The other front wheel drive Classic I saw was a 1929 Cord L29 sport phaeton at Barrett-Jackson. Definitely not a barn find, it was an exquisitely restored museum piece with a corresponding sale price of $253,000.
It’s hard to describe just how much charisma and presence these Classic luxury cars have when seen in person. If you’ve never had a chance to go to a car show, auction or museum that features these cars, you owe it to yourself to go sometime. When experienced in the metal, it is easy to see why these beauties still command a large place in the collector car world even if there aren’t many people around anymore who remember when they were new.
The Cord is a totally unique machine. Owing to its front wheel drive layout, the body is much lower than its contemporaries, which you can really see in the side profile. The L29 is one of my favorite Full Classics. I had an opportunity to go to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenburg Museum a few years ago, which had several L29’s (among many others) and it was awesome.
The L29 was not a fast car and though highly valued today, it was not nearly as expensive as its Duesenburg siblings or other great cars of the era like Cadillac V16’s or Packards. They did not sell very well, partly due to the bad timing of their release near the beginning of the Depression but also because buyers were leery of the novel drive train. The front drive technology was not mature and they actually had problems with traction. Cars at the time had such a rear weight bias, front wheel drive didn’t have as much of an advantage in traction as it does on modern vehicles. But, man, were those Cords gorgeous!
Independent fans should really like this 1963 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk. The gavel price of $55,000 seems to be higher than typical, though it does have the optional supercharged 290hp 289cid V8 engine and looked to be in great condition. The Hawk goes back to 1956 (and body going back to 1953), but this attractive facelift was only made from 1962-64 and the supercharged engine was available from 1963-64. Sadly, Studebaker got caught in a death spiral in the ’60’s as decreased sales didn’t supply enough income to design new products, outdated products caused sales to slide even more and their rumored demise killed what few sales they might still have been able to make. They also had a terrible run of bad luck with a production delay on the new 1963 Avanti. The Hawk was phased out after 1964 and Studebaker ended all auto production in 1966.
I didn’t photograph it separately, but if you’re interested, the 1960 Studebaker Lark convertible behind it was a really pretty little car. It sold for $26,400.
What have we here? It’s a 1962 Ford Thunderbird… wagon? Though it looks well done, it is clearly a custom conversion and anyone familiar with Oldsmobile and Buick Vista Cruisers will instantly recognize the roof. I didn’t remember it, but it turns out this car has been seen on Curbside Classic before.
The car was at the Silver auction, so I don’t know if it sold. Clearly, somebody who loves Bullet Birds and Vista Cruisers had a vision that would not be denied. I’m not usually a fan of extreme customs, but I kind of like this one. The conversion was done in the ’80’s, and it shows. I would like to take it and return the seats and interior trim to stock, then redo the rear hatch. The hatch sticks out as being not from the ’60’s, so it would be cool to give it a new design that looks like it could have been from the factory in 1962.
Yes, this is a hot tub and no, it is not photo shopped! It’s the 1969 Cadillac “Carpool De Ville” which is both a fully functional hot tub and a fully functional Cadillac that can, at least theoretically, be driven while enjoying a warm, bubbly soak. It was worth $26,400 to a Barrett-Jackson bidder to be able to do that. It truly doesn’t need a roof, because you wouldn’t care if it rains while you’re in the tub. Just watch out for lightening!
As the Carpool de Ville shows, there are always a number of vehicles that show up in Scottsdale that are just silly. If you want to drive something that resembles a Hot Wheels car, this 1969 Camaro would fit the bill with its cartoonishly large rear wheels. Got to do something if you want to stand out from the ’69 Camaro crowd.
Another theme is ridiculous 4×4’s and I think it would be safe to say this 1973 Oldsmobile 4×4 ambulance would fit in that category. This looks like it started out life as a genuine ambulance, right on the tail end of the era when ambulances were built on automobile chassis. Oldsmobiles were never as commonly converted as Cadillacs. The last Cadillac ambulance is recognized as a 1979 conversion by Superior, though ambulances on pickup and van chassis had been proliferating for several years. Maybe if they had built the ambulances with four wheel drive like this one, the car chassis would have continued to be popular. Nothing’s going to stop this car from getting to its emergency, so it was a bargain at $7,150!
If you really want to be able to go anywhere, Russo and Steele had a 2002 AM General H1. The ultimate Hummer would have set you back $77,500. The picture doesn’t really do justice to how insanely large it looks in person. Would you drive this? The real question is: how do you get into it?
I was going to show a really extreme custom Dodge but decided the CC readership would more enjoy this sweet restored, stock 1952 Dodge Power Wagon. I figured it fits with this post since it is a Wagon. It sold at Russo and Steele for $92,000. Barrett-Jackson had 1948 Power Wagon that looked equally nice that sold for $15k less.
Finally, if you’re looking for the perfect car to drive on Halloween, look no further than the 1966 Dragula. It’s a George Barris car and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spookier vehicle! Not surprisingly, it passed at Russo and Steele (I mean it was a no sale!)
That’s it for this mix of oddballs and rarities. Stay tuned for my final article in this Scottsdale auction series, for which I’ve saved my favorite for last. You could probably deduce what it is from what’s not on the list below.
Previous articles in my 2018 Scottsdale auction series: