Auction Classics: Arizona 2023 – How Low [Mileage] Can You Go? part 1 of 2



Continuing my series on cars mined from my visit to Arizona Auction Week in and around Scottsdale in January, I’ll profile the best low mileage cars I found there and try to answer the perennial question, “how low can you go?” My last article was on unrestored, original condition cars, so there is some overlap in concept here. Some of those vehicles also had low mileage, but for the most part not as low as you’ll see here. We’ll count down in descending order of mileage.

These are cars that have defied time, normal use, and normal parking. You don’t get vehicles in this condition after decades parked in a driveway, carport or even a typical garage. I would speculate these cars have spent the bulk of their lives either in climate-controlled storage or serendipitously resided in a windowless garage in a local climate perfectly suited for automobiles.

As I saw how implausibly little driving has been asked of the cars in their lives, I got to thinking about the purpose of such vehicles. Who spends money on a brand new premium model automobile and then rarely drives it? Some were clearly purchased as collectibles, others it’s hard to see how that would be the case. On the accidently preserved car, what circumstances led to the owner leaving it perpetually parked?

If these cars could talk they would probably have fascinating stories of the unusual characters who owned them, the long periods of cloistered boredom, and all the places they never went…



#18. Getting to the cars, first up is a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado with 26,952 miles. I’ve always liked first gen FWD Eldos in black, but considering the Spanish meaning of the model name, the Byzantine Gold Metallic color is totally fitting and quite striking in person.


The interior is where the car’s preservation really shines, though. Cadillac dashes and steering wheels had been getting noticeably cheaper looking for a few years. For 1970, all Cadillacs got a black steering wheel, which was rather dour-looking compared with the optimistic, elegant wheels of a few years earlier. Seeing a 1970 interior in near-new condition puts it in its best light and it almost looks appealing.  Stick your head in the open window and you feel like you’ve entered a happy place, where anything is possible and time has no dominion.



Love those bladed rear fenders! $26,400


#17. 1963 Corvette Sting Ray 23,315 miles. I’m starting to really like blue for a Vette color. It’s not the color one tends to associate with mid-years, that second generation Corvette masterpiece. Of course, they would still look great in hot pink, poop brown or any other color. The hood, fender, and B pillar vents are fake, but on later models all the vents would be functional.


The split window is a big deal for collectors and it was to Bill Mitchell, too. He was said to have told Zora Arkus-Duntov, who didn’t like the bifurcated backlight, “If you take that off, you might as well forget the whole thing.” Perhaps that was a bit of petulant designer drama, because the more practical Duntov prevailed the next year, making the 63 an almost instant collectible. Despite Mitchell’s assertion, nobody forgot the whole thing and all the mid years are beloved today.

I never thought the split made that much difference. However, this time seeing one in the metal ‘glass made me appreciate Mitchell’s styling vision. The uninterrupted line running from the roof to the tail really sets the car apart. Counter point: if ever there was a car that didn’t need any further setting apart, it’s a mid year Corvette.



The seller didn’t provide much information on the car’s write up. He doesn’t state whether it’s restored or original, or a little bit of both.



He does state that the air conditioning is not original to the car. Judging from the engine compartment, I’d say it’s either an original car or an old restoration, but I’m no Corvette expert. The description doesn’t even specify which 327 it has and states it has a 3-speed automatic. Since the Powerglide was the only automatic and it was available only on the lowest-rated two of the four engines, the car either has a non-stock tranny or the seller is mistaken about what is in his car, and the engine is either the base 250hp or optional 300hp 327 (update: Paul notes that the gear shift looks non-stock, indicating the car may indeed have a later THM swapped in).

The 63 Corvette is one of the few collector cars where a convertible is cheaper than an equivalent hardtop (this was true of the original list price also). Naturally, there were a lot of Corvettes at B-J. Just in Split-Windows, there were 13 and this was the 2nd cheapest one at $165,000! Buyers love that window divider: the only other mid-years that sold at anywhere near that level were big-blocks (starting in 65) or customs.


#16 1966 Cadillac De Ville convertible 18,110 miles. The 63 Corvette was a masterpiece but it was hardly the only great GM design of the 60’s. Bill Mitchell and co. went from triumph to triumph in those years, and in my opinion the 65 Cadillac was one of them. The earlier 60’s models were great, too, but their ostentatious styling was much busier than the clean and confident 65, which was made even a little cleaner for 66. Rear end styling set the pattern that would be more or less followed for the next 30+ years.



The 66 has perhaps the last great Cadillac interior. 1967, while still nice, really began the process of dechroming and upplasticking.



The car was one of a set of three 1966 Cadillac De Ville convertibles from the same collection (because you can never have too many 66 Caddy drop-tops). The baby blue had the lowest mileage by a good margin, but it was my least favorite color. My favorite was the Ember Firemist with white interior. OOLaLa! Even my poorly focused photo can’t hide how great it looks.

The Mist Blue sold for $63,800. The Ember (52k mi) $66,000. The Flamenco Red (76k mi) $44,000



#15 1979 Cadillac Coupe De Ville ~15,000 miles. On the subject of Cadillac high points, 1979 deserves a mention. 1966 had set a record for division sales, but it was just one of many record years over the next decade . The downsized 1977 models were a big hit and the future looked sunny indeed, especially when 1979 rolled around and Cadillac sold 381k cars for the model year (compare to 196k for 1966). Yet another record.

Sadly for Cadillac, 1979 would prove to be almost the high water mark. The early 80’s were rough, but Cadillac managed to climb back to just over 79 levels one more time in 1985. It was a long downward slide after that, and obviously the division has never approached those sales numbers again. Caddys would be more “exclusive” in the future, mainly because less and less folks wanted one. So, this 79 Coupe De Ville would be a fitting acquisition for a Cadillac collector to commemorate Peak Cadillac and Peak Coupe De Ville.



Peak Coupe De Ville? 1977 was the #1 year for the CDV, but 79 was a close second. The coupe handily outsold the sedan, as it did throughout the 70’s, a trend which would be forever reversed starting in 1981.



1979 was also notable for being the last year for a big, old-fashioned Cadillac V8. The 425c.i. engine making 180hp/320 lb-ft was standard in the De Ville, with a 195hp/320lb-ft fuel-injected version optional as well as the delightful 125hp/225lb-ft 350c.i. Olds diesel coming available midyear. A downsized version of the Caddy V8 would roll out for 1980 before the Cadillac Powertrain Dark Ages started the following year. The seller didn’t say it has the F.I., so it could be assumed it’s the standard engine here, which is considered better from a durability standpoint.

I have an idea that I would like to buy this car and actually drive it. Drive the wheels off it, in fact. Downsized 425 Caddys were some of the best driving luxury cars of the era, with their lighter weight, competent chassis, and bulletproof engine with a power/weight ratio quite good for the times. I’d drive it really fast to pick up my disabled little brother, selling bags of silencers , dodging helicopters, testing the brakes with panic stops (I definitely wouldn’t want to be like the other owners of a 79 CDV in that movie).  $24,200



#14 1955 Ford Thunderbird  14,322 miles. One of 13 two-seater T-birds at B-J, this wouldn’t have raised my eyebrow much at all, except for two things. One was the low-mileage original condition, the other was that it was very similar to the 55 T-bird that I used to drive for Harold. Except for the hubcaps and the hardtop, it was exactly the same as that damned beautiful car that I spent so much time and sweat trying to get started.



Of the 13 T-birds, three of them sold for the exact same price of $44k, which I would consider pretty reasonable for the apparent quality of the cars. One of them was an original condition pink 57 with even lower mileage (13k) from the same seller, but that car must have been off at the auction block when I was there because I unfortunately never saw it. 57 is my favorite T-Bird.



By the the time I got to the T-bird, it was late in the day and, suffering from a bit of AAO (acute awesomeness overload), I neglected to take an interior photo. I didn’t notice the paper (?) on the door panels, but I suppose I could have missed it. I don’t know what’s going on there. None-the-less, those early T-birds sure have pretty interiors, don’t they? The flowing of the dash into the doors and/or console was a Thunderbird hallmark from the very beginning. $44,000



#13 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396   12,529 miles.  Low-mile Cadillacs, Corvettes, end even the occasional Thunderbird are not too unusual to find at auction. More unusual are musclecars that are unrestored, unmolested, and pristine, given they were conceived and bought to be used and abused. We saw a couple in the previous article that likely were driven mostly one quarter mile at a time and that way escaped the era with few miles, so maybe that’s what happped here, too. But this one is another order of cosmetically perfect.



This Chevelle is so immaculate it’s almost incredible, by which I mean actually lacking in credibility. I was looking it over for quite a while trying to find flaws, with another guy doing the same, and he pointed out an area of thinned, worn paint on the left C-pillar which is visible in the above photo. The paint is so glossy, so lacking any chips or even swirl marks, I believe it was professionally touched up, polished and either given the world’s best wax job or possibly clear-coated. This would still allow the seller’s explicit claim of original paint to be technically true.

The chrome is flawless as far as I could see. Refurbing the trim wouldn’t make the seller a dissembler, but it would go against the spirit of his claims.



The seller says this is a “original survivor car” and “numbers matching”. The engine compartment is so perfect, I think that the description leaves enough wiggle room to allow for the compartment to have been refurbished and maybe even the engine rebuilt. This is the L78 396, rated at 375hp and backed by the M40 4-speed, said to be one of 612 made with that drivetrain. Motor Trend tested one with this combo and got 14.9 @ 96.5mph. If you look at the underside photos provided on the B-J page, the chassis looks more original. It’s still amazingly clean for the age of the car, but there is at least some patina and wear.



The seller also explicitly states the interior is original. It’s possibly more perfect than the exterior. $121,000 (which is actually less than I might have expected for this level of condition, originality, and engine rarity, so maybe bidders were also a little skeptical.)



#12 1972 Pontiac Luxury LeMans  10,455 miles. In the arena of GM B-bodies, MAG offered something as completely different as another A-body could be. My glary pictures don’t really do the dark green color justice, which is perfect for the image of an upscale early-70’s cruiser.



Luxury LeMans was a new model for 1972, Pontiac jumping even deeper into the brougham trend sweeping over Detroit. Only one out of five LLM’s were coupes this year, but those proportions would flip for the next year’s Colonnade model as the 70’s broughamization and coupification process took full effect.



Adding the “Luxury” to your Lemans got you an interior with upgraded upholstery patterns, door pulls, upgraded steering wheel, and bright pedal trim. The buckets and console, air conditioning and auto transmission were optional. This has the base 160hp 2-bbl 350c.i. engine, but 400 and 455 were available.

Green guts perfectly compliment the exterior and look very well preserved. $30,780 (Lofty price seems commensurate with the lofty condition.)



#11 1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT ~8,500 miles. Japanese makes weren’t completely left out of the low mile party when this exceptional 3000GT showed up at MAG ready to get down and do some limbo.

Unlike many sellers who write descriptions with varying degrees of ambiguity, vagueness and glossing over, the Mitsubishi’s seller explicitly claims the only thing not original on this car is the battery.



In the 90s and 00s, Mitsubishi dedicated a lot of resources to sporty cars. Cars like the Eclipse and Lancer Evolution offered good value for buyers who wanted to look stylish or move with a purpose, respectively. For the more upscale buyer who wanted to do both, they came up with the 3000GT (and the Dodge Stealth twin). Top models had 300hp, all-wheel drive, 4-wheel steer, and active aerodynamics. In Japan it was called the GTO, to conjure up some of the vintage Ferrari’s glory. That trick had, of course, already been done by Pontiac with a car that even less resembled a Ferrari. Clearly that wouldn’t do for the market here, so we got the agonizingly generic “3000GT”.



The SL that we have here had none of those cutting edge features, but was still quite capable with 222hp from a naturally aspirated 3.0L V6, 5-speed manual, adaptive suspension, and anti-lock brakes.



A VR-4 with this low mileage would surely command quite a bit more. The $28,080 it fetched seems like a win-win. The seller got a substantial amount of money (less than the original sticker, though, especially factoring inflation). The buyer got one of the best surviving 3000GTs without breaking the bank. That’s what auctions are all about.


Join us tomorrow for the rest of the list. We’ll play an automotive version of Limbo and see how low cars can go.