Mid-market sales carry the day at Mecum Houston

Houston has proved to be a highly successful foray into Texas for Mecum Auctions. Since establishing the beachhead in 2012 with 754 consigned cars and $18.4 million in successful transactions, it has scored a succession of $20 million sales.

Houston’s headline cars were modest, and this year’s top sale was (no surprise) a 2006 Ford GT for $368,500. The next nine high-bid cars all failed to find new owners, with five of those cars built since the turn of the 21st century.

Neither of the two Mustang Boss 429s sold, and mid-market cars carried the load. With an average transaction of $34,972 and a median of $27,500 (like the Pontiac Chieftain Catalina and Buick GS400 in this summary), overall sales totaled $21,123,135.

In 2017 (with 15,959 cars in my auction database), the median transaction was $29,150, even taking into account 209 seven-figure transactions at Scottsdale, Amelia, and Monterey. So the heart of the collector car market is in the mid-to-high-$20,000 range, and Mecum Houston exemplified it.

These 10 cars were observed and noted on-site by Beyondnice valuation expert Andrew Newton. He described an outstanding total of 81 lots, which are reported in detail at .

1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III Phase 2

1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III
1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III
Rick Carey

Final price $46,200 ($42,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N HBJ8L38795; red/black; chrome centerlock wire wheels, store-brand tires, wood shift knob, banjo steering wheel, Pioneer stereo.

Notes: Older restoration, 3+ condition. The engine bay is a little grimy, but not bad. Average quality respray with masking errors around the windshield and light orange peel on the trunk lid. Uneven door gaps. Good, lightly-aged interior with some cracking in the wood dash. Good chrome. Represented as having been restored recently, but clearly not to anywhere near the professional standards you often see on these final year BJ8s.

Analysis: This car sold at Mecum's Chicago sale in 2015 for $28,050, then at Leake Oklahoma City in 2016 for $41,525, then hammered not sold here two years and 41 miles ago with a $35,000 high bid. It did better this time around with no comparable Healeys at the sale, and brought a perfectly appropriate price for its mediocre presentation.

1969 Buick GS 400 convertible

1969 Buick GS 400
1969 Buick GS 400
Mecum

Final price $27,500 ($25,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N 446679H316619; brown/black vinyl; black top; 400/340 hp, automatic, Rally wheels, narrow whitewalls, ram air, power steering, power brakes, tilt steering column, tinted glass, power top, power windows, factory air conditioning, Protect-O-Plate, bench seat, column shift, push-button radio.

Notes: Visually maintained, largely original, 2- condition. Represented as matching numbers. Single family ownership. Lightly used partially restored engine bay. Very good paint and chrome. Factory gaps. Good newer seats and carpets. The rest of the interior is original but solid. The fender lips don't quite fit straight. Light pitting on the rearview mirror. Never fully restored, but this fairly loaded GS has had a lot of serious attention and it's an attractive if imperfect car.

Analysis: As loaded as this GS400 convertible is with options (it should be particularly fun to own and drive in all seasons), it should have brought a premium. But its performance aspect has been subordinated to comfort and convenience, and it sold like a more mainstream weekend driver, making it a good value at this price.

1959 DeSoto Firesweep Sportsman two-door hardtop

1959 DeSoto Firesweep Sportsman
1959 DeSoto Firesweep Sportsman
Mecum

Final price $32,450 ($29,500 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N M412104223; black, white/blue vinyl with cloth inserts; 361/290 hp, wheel covers, whitewalls, dual mirrors, curb feelers, pushbutton automatic, pushbutton radio, front disc brakes.

Notes: Older restoration, 3 condition. Dull and tired but presentable older paint and brightwork. Small dent with chipping paint in the center of the hood. Light crazing on the roof. Good, lightly worn interior with lightly faded gauges and some dullness to the metal parts of the dash. Tidy rubberized chassis. Represented with quite a bit of recent maintenance, but nothing too serious. An inherently handsome car with Forward Look styling, but a driver.

Analysis: A Mecum auction veteran with a $35,750 sale at Anaheim in 2015, a $36,300 sale at Las Vegas last year, and a no-sale at a $30,000 high bid at Kissimmee earlier this year. It's hard to argue with that kind of consistency, and the car was let go at a reasonable number here in Houston. It is the poster child for the futility of taking a car from auction-to-auction, hoping for lightning to strike.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
Mecum

Final price $85,800 ($78,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N 0F02G146009; Grabber Blue, black/black vinyl; 302/290 hp, four-speed, Magnum 500 wheels, Goodyear Polyglas GT tires, shaker hood, rear window louvers, spoilers, competition suspension, power brakes, Hurst T-handle shifter, Philco radio.

Notes: Older restoration, 2 condition. From the Rick Smith collection. Nearly spotless engine bay. Very good paint and chrome. Factory gaps. Excellent interior with fresh gauges and switchgear. Nothing to pick on. Not overdone, but all the details have been attended to and it's gorgeous.

Analysis: Although it could have gone for $10,000 more, this is fair money for a well-equipped genuine Boss 302 with no needs.

1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL convertible

1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL
1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL
Mecum

Final price $88,000 ($80,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N A1210401001176; blue, blue hardtop/red; black cloth top; hubcaps and trim rings, narrow whitewalls, radio, dash clock.

Notes: Cosmetic restoration, 3 condition. Slightly tired older paint with a few touch ups around the hood. Heavily cracked steering wheel rim. Lightly worn seats. The windshield is delaminating a bit. Unrestored but maintained underneath. Lightly pitted brightwork. A pretty mediocre cosmetic restoration, but at least the colors are attractive.

Analysis: A perfectly appropriate price for a driver-quality 190, and one that would make a sound candidate for a more thorough restoration should the new owner want to take it to the next level. It was sold for $63,600 at Mecum's 2011 Monterey auction and bid to $72,000 at Kissimmee three months ago.

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
Mecum

Final price $181,500 ($165,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N RM23V0A166167; blue, black vinyl roof/white vinyl; 440/390 hp Six Barrel, four-speed, Polyglas GT tires, Dana 3.54 rear, hood pins, Hurst pistol grip shifter, power steering, power brakes, factory radio, Tic-Toc-Tach.

Notes: Older restoration, 3+ condition. Represented to have a “period correct” engine. Lightly used but tidy engine bay. Small scratch on the nose and some paint prep issues on the hood. Scratched up window frames and door handles. Pitting around the console but mostly very good interior. Superbirds are rare, but you wouldn't have to look very far to find one better than this.

Analysis: The bidders here in Houston paid for a better car than the one they got here, but not by enough to make the result worse than full retail. Superbirds have become commonplace at auctions and it is surprising that the bidder bought into this one at this price. There's no reason not to wait until a good one at a better price shows up.

1950 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Catalina

1950 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe
1950 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe
Mecum

Final price $27,500 ($25,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N W8TH12915; ivory, grey roof/red vinyl, tan cloth; 268/113 hp, automatic, wheel covers, Firestone wide whitewalls, fender skirts, lighted Chief hood ornament, column shift, push-button radio, dash clock, grille guard.

Notes: Visually maintained, largely original, 2 condition. All original other than one repaint. Light pitting around the grille. Very tidy underneath. Good older paint. The brightwork is a little dull bit mostly very good. The original interior is a little aged but it looks 10 years old rather than nearly 70. A handsome early Catalina that was never fully restored because it never really needed to be.

Analysis: For a car this old the preservation is remarkable and the price is a credit to its condition with a small and reasonable premium for originality. It deserves to be preserved and driven carefully.

1967 Pontiac GTO convertible

1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible
1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible
Mecum

Final price $55,000 ($50,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N 242677P159313; red/red vinyl; 400/335 hp, 4-speed, Rally wheels, red line tires, boot cover, power steering, power brakes, Hurst shifter, bucket seats, cassette stereo.

Notes: Older restoration, 2- condition. From the Rick Smith collection. Very clean engine bay. Good but older paint and chrome. Very good restored interior, but the gauges are original and faded. A solid restored car, but not done yesterday, and if the gauges were overlooked, what else was short-changed that is harder to see?

Analysis: The Houston bidders were similarly skeptical and left lots of headroom at this price for even serious remediation of things left undone in the restoration. This is a very safe price for a well-equipped ’67 GTO convertible.

1969 Shelby Mustang GT350

1969 Shelby Mustang GT350
1969 Shelby Mustang GT350
Mecum

Final price $90,200 ($82,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N 9F02M480544; candy apple red, gold side stripe/black vinyl; 351/290 hp, four-speed, Shelby alloy wheels, Wide Tread GT tires, factory air conditioning, Philco radio, dash clock, deluxe seat belts.

Notes: Older restoration, 2- condition. Deluxe Marti Report documented and represented as matching numbers. Lightly used but clean and fully restored engine bay and underbody. High quality but older paint and chrome. Very good fully redone interior. Well and correctly restored, but not done yesterday.

Analysis: Sold by Russo and Steele in Arizona in 2007 for $107,800, then at their Monterey auction in 2015 for $79,200 with 64 more miles on the odometer today than it had in 2015, which amounts to about two or three trips to DQ for ice cream in three years. This result is a lot to pay for a dressed-up Mustang, even with Shelby identification on it. The price should have bought a freshly restored example.

1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk

1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk
1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk
Mecum

Final price $41,800 ($38,000 plus commission of 10%).

Specs: S/N 6104529; gold, white/beige vinyl with cloth inserts; 289/275 hp supercharged, automatic, wheel covers, whitewalls, column shift, tissue dispenser, push-button radio, dash clock, Stewart Warner gauges.

Notes: Older restoration, 3+ condition. Sound paint and chrome, but they are starting to show their age and there is a blister on the right front. The engine bay is a bit on the dirty side. Very good interior, and the clock works. An inherently desirable supercharged Golden Hawk, but a fairly worn driver-quality example.

Analysis: The seller’s toe went in to test the water here a year ago but got the shivers and backed out with a reported high bid of $50,000, which would have been a home run. A year later and this bid was accepted, which is well on the favorable to the buyer side. It seems like it was time to take the money and move on.