I have never bought a car at auction up to this point, which strikes me as an oversight on any car enthusiast’s bucket list that should checked off sooner or later. I also had an empty garage, so when a friend gave me the heads up on an auction I was both eager and in a position to bid. Initially my plan was to snag myself both a daily driver and a project vehicle for over the winter. But importantly I did not want to win more than that, as I would not be popular at home winning too many vehicles. As these things often go, it did not completely go as planned, but let’s have a look at the contenders for my bargain seeking dollars.
The auction was actually in two different physical locations but held online. The first was a used car lot that had lost their space (top photo) and was liquidating their stock. This was actually the same car lot that my son had bought his Pontiac Fiero from a few months back. These were mostly running and driving vehicles that had a few small needs, with a couple project cars as well. The second location (above) was from the owner of the local self serve scrapyard. I suspect these were vehicles that he had saved from going into the yard over the years. These were mostly projects with a few potential drivers in the mix.
The auction process had bidding open on all vehicles for a couple of weeks online only. Inspection was possible in person, which certainly seemed like a good idea. The bidding really did not get much movement until the last few hours however, which made judging the final price tough.
On the potential daily driver side of equation, my first thought was this 2003 Acura RSX coupe. I had recently and somewhat reluctantly sold my 2004 Acura TSX so it seemed odd to be looking at another Acura that was only one letter different. Despite this, the RSX was smaller and perhaps a little sportier. Certainly it would be cheaper than what I sold the TSX for. The Acura had been sitting for quite a few years with an unrealistically high asking price and as a result the battery was dead, being unable to hold a charge. Additionally the winter tires on it had dry rotted out and would need replaced right away. So dry rotted, any drive at speed would be a white knuckle affair. It did, however, start up with a boost and appear to run, as well as shift into first and reverse well.
The driver’s seat had a split seam but the rest of the interior appeared solid but in need of a clean. Any previously smoked in cars were a deal breaker for me, but luckily this one had not suffered that fate. As a bonus it had a five speed manual gearbox, which would make it ideal for any ice racing and auto-x events that I managed to attend.
As a more out there pick I also really liked this 1995 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. I have never really piloted a big, boat-ish car on a daily basis (the 1961 Pontiac Laurentian was really only driven a few times) and gas is reasonably cheap during these COVID-19 times. While it did not have super low mileage, it was in fantastic condition and had obviously been well taken care of. The lot owner explained that he had obtained it from an estate sale along with a 1974 Ford Ranchero which was not included in the sale. Oddly it had cloth rather than leather seats, but could be daily driven with no additional work required. On the downside its value on the auto-x course would be limited to humor only.
Being a 1995 model it was equipped with the Corvette derived LT-1 V8 engine which ran extremely well.
I briefly considered this 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, as it had low mileage and appeared to be in excellent condition. Unlike a lot of car enthusiasts, I do not understand the hate for the PT Cruiser. It is an interestingly styled vehicle based on common mechanical bits to make the running costs reasonable. In non-turbocharged form it has no real sporting intentions but not everything has to. I had previously owned a Chrysler Neon, which had been bulletproof so it was tempting from the perspective of a cheap daily driver that happened to be a convertible large enough for the family. Additionally our youngest son would soon be of age to obtain a learner’s permit and starting on an automatic transmission would certainly flatten that learning curve. On closer investigation we were advised not to attempt to lower the top as it had some aliment. Additionally three out of the four windows did not work either. Still if it went cheap enough, I could be interested.
This one probably blurs the line a bit between project and driver but I did find this 1992 Geo Storm at the other lot to be quite tempting. These, especially with the base engine, are not particularly quick, but are decent looking and not often seen these days. I seem to enjoy small, uncomplicated cars such as these.
The interior was complete and it did not look to be mucked with by a previously owner. On the plus side, it was very clean, but on the negative side it did have a cracked windshield which might prove challenging to replace.
Later I recalled I had seen a black Storm a few years ago and sure enough I had this single photo of it from 2016. This led me to wonder why had it ended up (presumably) being sent to the scrapyard. A snapped timing belt seemed to be a likely explanation given the lack of major body damage or other obvious issues. Being an interference engine design, this could make it a bigger repair than I wanted to enter into for a daily driver. I suspect they would frown on me popping off the cam cover so I reluctantly struck this one off the list.
I considered this 2007 Honda Civic coupe briefly as well due to its manual transmission. Very oddly a previous owner had painted the front bumper, making it look like a cheaply repaired accident victim, but the stock paint appeared to be intact underneath that black. It vaguely smelled smoked-in to me so it was crossed off the list. Apparently I did not even take a photo of it so this one from the auction house will have to suffice. There was also a 2004 Honda Civic sedan with a five speed manual and low mileage but it was too close in color and concept to our Great Beater Challenge Civic from a few years ago.
My priority of bidding in the driver category was as follows: 1995 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, 2003 Acura RSX coupe, 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser … then who knows. In the next installment we will take a look at the selection of projects under consideration.