Volume III, Issue 2, Page 14

Great to watch on TV, not so much fun in real life

’ve decided to sell my latest car (the one in the background of the goofy picture of me).  In fact, I decided to sell it a while ago when I realized that I like building cars a lot more than owning them.  To get things moving, I placed ads on all the forums where I hang out, I let my buddies all know it was for sale, and I even passed out cards at SEMA and PRI to people looking at the car. 

No sale. 

Like many of you (if the ratings are to be believed), I’ve watched the Barrett-Jackson auctions with interest over the past few years, and I figured taking my car to auction was worth a try.  A friend of mine recommended a national auction company that happened to have one local to me.  Mecum Auctions has events all over the country, and they specialize in muscle cars.  After talking with them for awhile, I decided to sign up.  I sent them technical information, pictures, and a copy of my title, and presto, I had an ad on their website, and a spot in their late January auction in Kissimmee, Florida. 

It works like this: you sign a contract consigning the vehicle to the auction company, and you aren’t allowed to sell it until the auction.  It seems a reasonable rule, since the auction won’t work very well if none of the advertised cars show up.  Mecum also allows the owner to set a reserve, something Barrett-Jackson doesn’t allow.  I had heard too many stories of cars selling for pennies on the dollar to take the risk of auctioning the car with no reserve. 

I went into “car show” mode, working to get the car clean and shiny (not to mention easy to start, but that’s another column).  A friend of mine volunteered his trailer to get the car there, and we arrived at the auction site on a nice sunny day here in Central Florida.  The officials were well organized and experienced and by noon, my car was in its spot on the fairgrounds under a tent for potential buyers to examine, two days before it went on the block. 

I spent the time until the car went on the block walking around, looking at the other 749 cars, and figuring out how these auctions work.  The buyers have a roped off section up in front with a small grandstand area behind that for us sellers and spectators.  Yes, spectators.  There are people who pay money to go watch these events.  I suppose it is a bit like a car show to them, with the added excitement of seeing how much the car goes for on the block.  There were concession stands, a bar (probably to help the sellers make good decisions), big screen TVs with close ups of the car on the block, and loudspeakers detailing all the action at high volume. 

I spent the next two days hanging out, meeting the people around me who were also selling cars, and talking with a few interested folks about mine.  The car show analogy holds up for this time too, as a lot of people were just casually walking around looking at the cars.  The effect on me was that I slowly turned into a nervous wreck. 

Finally, it was time.  I could tell that because it got dark, cold, and started to rain.  A foreboding, if you will.  I made sure the car was warmed up, had plenty of battery power to be started 5 or 6 times as it went up the line, and dug out a bunch of towels to wipe the rain off the car.  My car arrived on the auction block soaking wet (despite my friends’ best efforts), with the undercarriage covered in mud and grass from the time spent in the field, and my interior full of sand from getting in and out of the car 5 times along the way.

I barely had time to think, and it was over.  Bright lights, an auctioneer yammering, and dozens of people milling around.  I got the signal to start the car and move on.   I wasn’t sure what had happened, but after getting the car back in its little spot under the tent, I found out it hadn’t hit the reserve.  It didn’t even really come close.  Apparently the big money buyers who just had to have my car didn’t show up, or left when the rain started.  Perhaps they don’t exist.

No sale.  Again.

A couple of weeks have passed since then, and I’ve gotten most of the mud, grass, and sand off the car from the lap through the field.  A friend tells me there is an auction in Ft. Lauderdale in May.  Maybe I’ll sign up. 


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