You know the saying: It’s Only Original Once. Sometimes, though, once can last a very long time. I submit the following vehicles as evidence. You’ll find a smorgasbord of cars and a few trucks, all singularly well preserved either accidently, or much more likely intentionally, by their exceptional caretakers. There’s 16 vehicles profiled (7 today, 9 tomorrow), but don’t let the length scare you. If you aren’t looking to burn a lot of time, feel free to scroll through and find a few you like (click on pic for a larger image), or skip my commentary and just soak in the pretty pictures. We’ll look at GM’s today, then Fords and Japanese makes tomorrow.
This is the first of several articles I’ll do over the coming weeks showing highlights of my trip to Arizona in January. Since I don’t live there anymore, it’s been five years since I was able to attend the Arizona Auction Week. Last time, I leveraged the experience to launch my CC writing career with a series of 18 articles classed by manufacturer profiling most of the cars I liked. I won’t be that ambitious this time and am thus painfully challenged to try to pick only some of the many, many great vehicles I saw and photographed. I may not succeed in keeping it brief enough, but I promise to [probably] respect your time with a wide selection of cars CC readers are likely enjoy.
If you love classic cars (you’re at Curbside Classic, so yeah) and haven’t been to Scottsdale in January, you need to update your bucket list immediately. Not for the faint of heart, the quantity and quality of cars can easily be overwhelming for the autophile. I attended three of the four main events held this year. RM/Sotheby’s (apx. 100 cars) is a boutique type auction, small and very selective in its stock. Though their $/car average was certainly highest, the fact they don’t charge admission was a welcome surprise for us hoi polloi.
Bonham’s is similar, but I skipped that one. MAG (formerly Silver) is the opposite, the democratizer of Arizona auctions with apx. 350 cars covering mostly the lower end of the auction spectrum. Intended more for us prols, they never-the-less charged $10 to get in. Barrett-Jackson is the big show, the Super Bowl of car shows. Apx. 1800 cars covering everywhere from a little bit of low end, a whole bunch of middle and a nose-bleedingly lot of cars at the tippy, tippy top.
It would probably take at least two days to properly absorb all the cars at B-J (to say nothing of all the vendors, new car promotions, drives, demonstrations, etc, which I didn’t mess with, of course). I attempted to do it in one day, twelve hours of constant car gazing and photographing with one 15 minute sitdown to eat the lunch I brought in my pocket. Their charge for the privilege varies from $25 early in the week to north of $100 on the weekend, and it gets packed with spectators. I was suffering a bit of AAO (acute awesomeness overload) by the end, my personal car buttons being pushed over and over but I think I avoided getting completely numbed to beauty.
So early on my B-J Day (Thursday), during the hour when it’s joyfully almost empty of spectators, I came upon this 1971 Corvette. They say all Corvettes are red, but this lusciously blue Stingray would beg to differ. It looked rather unassuming with its proper whitewalls and not claiming any big engine or desirable options.
But something about it just radiated special. I found that beyond the perfect color, condition and stance, the seller states that it was “original, unrestored and untouched” with 7,400 miles and purported to be “the best unrestored 71 coupe on the planet”. Nothing on the car made me doubt that, right down to the original tires, as I spent probably too much time staring at this Stingray. $68,200 (I’m not profiling it, but I’ll note that RMSotheby’s sold a 1969 Corvette ZL-1 for $3.1 million. I’d rather have this 71!)
The Motorsports Auction Group (MAG, formerly Silver Auctions) may have less expensive cars than the other events, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have its share of cool stuff such as a 1961 Chevy Impala sedan with a Stovebolt 6 cylinder engine and three-on-the-tree.
The seller states that the car has 41k miles and all original interior, which had just enough wear and fading to be quite believable.
The seller didn’t say anything about the paint, so maybe it’s not original but it looked like it could be, showing wear, a lacquer look, and no overspray. 1961 tends to be the least loved of that era’s big Chevys, however, I’ve always liked them. The rear treatment especially is unique and attractive, IMO. $19,710.
Eight years older but similar in spirit, perfectly imperfect survivor cars can be found at Barrett-Jackson as well. I really dug this 1953 Bel-Air that was reported to be a Wyoming barn find. It was very similar to a 53 Bel-Air 4-door I wrote up here in 2021 which was also a barn find car made roadworthy and in the hands of a loving new owner. Hopefully this one will have the same fate.
On that 4-door I was only 99% sure it had its original upholstery, mainly because its cloth was in such improbably good condition. Now I’m 100% sure because this car has exactly the same style and fabric and is also remarkably well preserved for being 70 years old. The good folks at Chevrolet really outdid themselves with their fabric selection!
The delightfully patina’d engine is the same 235.5c.i. L6 as the 1961 Impala had, but with 20 less horsepower (115 in Powerglide cars).
The car has 60k miles on the odometer and is wearing what look to be 1960’s vintage tires. $18,700
Forty years ago, a 72 Chevy just like this would have been a faded old truck at the bottom of its depreciation curve, available for peanuts and driven by the likes of landscapers, struggling rodeo riders, and high school students. Today, it’s a highly valued rarity. Kind of like 49-51 Mercury coupes and 94-98 Supras, the 67-72 Fleetside Shortbed Chevy is a primary vehicle of choice for customizers and hot rodders. These days, ones that haven’t been heavily modded are an endangered species. Several custom versions of this truck were at the auction, but only one stock.
Top trim level (Cheyenne Super), top engine (400c.i. 210hp), air conditioning, automatic. The only thing more desirable would be available bucket seats. No rust, original paint, original interior, mileage not listed. The drool started dripping early on this one.
I’m not sure about the wheel covers, I thought the Cheyenne Super came with full wheel covers.
This is exactly the type of truck coveted by customizers, so let’s hope it was bought by someone who will value its originality and it won’t show up at a future auction lowered with a new chassis and LS engine. $38,500
Not so desired by customizers is the longbed version of the next generation of GM truck. In significantly better condition, this 1977 GMC Sierra Classic none-the-less had much fewer drool puddles around it.
The Sierra appeared to be in pristine condition with near perfect original paint and interior. It has 75k miles and was said to have always been garaged and never winter driven.
I remember as a kid in the 70’s and 80’s GM pickups seemingly being everywhere, their popularity understandable with clean lines, durability, and drivability. Upper trim models were especially attractive. I, for one, really miss two tone trucks. $22,000
In 1966, Oldsmobile’s Cutlass was just starting its ascent to the top of the midsize car market (and thus the market overall). In less than ten years, the Cutlass coupe would be a juggernaut. For 1966, a Cutlass Holiday coupe was just an attractive alternative (for only a few dollars a month more!) to cars like the Chevelle, Tempest, Fairlane or Coronet.
Olds buyers choosing to “Step Out Front in ’66” in a Cutlass got a deluxe steering wheel and notchback armrest seat, in addition to the F-85’s somewhat upscale dash. The buyer of this particular car got [not quite] perfectly preserved 56 year old cloth and vinyl upholstery.
The biggest selling point for Cutlass was its standard 320hp 330c.i. 4-barrel “Cutlass V8” (optional on F-85, in which case it’s still called a Cutlass V8), here mated to the optional Jetaway automatic (two speed a.k.a. Super Turbine 300) and looking Oldstastic in gold. The 400c.i. 4-4-2 was still an option package in 1966, available on either F-85 or Cutlass 2-doors, which is more common at places like B-J than plain Cutlasses (though any Olds is fairly uncommon at shows. B-J had 23 Olds’, 11 of them 442’s but no 66’s and no other non-442 Cutlasses).
The seller didn’t make a specific claim that the paint is original and I couldn’t swear it is, but it looks like it. I love the tunneled rear window and bare roof, when vinyl roofs where already becoming common on upscale midsize coupes. $19,800
Broughamaholics rejoice! MAG had a 1981 Olds 98 Regency with 27k miles in near perfect condition, double black with a snappy red pinstripe (factory) matching the interior color.
The interior had no fading, cracking, or discoloration, not on the steering wheel, the expansive fake wood or even the pillow-style leather seats. A great place to be while one experiences the awesome motive force of a 140hp 307c.i. Oldsmobile V8. This was newly the top engine, as the 350 was discontinued for 1981 and a 120hp 4.1L V6 was made standard. High bid $16,750
The rest of the series, (if you can’t get enough):