The Arizona Whirlwind

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Arizona in January is one of my busiest weeks of the year. The What’s My Car Worth? production crew shoots multiple episodes. I emcee the Arizona Concours d’Elegance. We put on Insider’s Seminars at Gooding & Company and Barrett-Jackson. We host a consignment tour at RM. And we run a week-long subscriptions booth at Gooding. It hardly leaves time to kick tires or visit with friends, but this year I managed to fit it all in. I even bought a 1970 Citroën Méhari at Silver.

Driving The Classics

The shooting schedule for WMCW meant that I arrived in Scottsdale several days earlier than I normally do. I was away nearly two weeks in all.

We got to Barrett days before the event even started. This gave co-host Josh Nasar and me time to drive the cars we would be evaluating. It doesn’t take much time behind the wheel to tell how well a car has been restored or maintained.

I got my American fix with two Corvette L88s, an L89, a 1956 225-horse 265, a Yenko Camaro and a couple of Chevelle LS6 454s.

The 21,000-mile Pantera was a revelation, and driving the Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 (from Mark Young’s Portland-based Northwest House of Hardtops) was like visiting with an old friend.

(To see some of the cars we drove, click here. You do not have to be a FB member to view these shots.)

Elsewhere in Scottsdale

I took a break from WMCW to emcee the second annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance, along with co-emcee Donald Osborne. The next day I went on the tour to Taliesen West and the David Samuel Wright House. (To see my Arizona Concours Facebook gallery, click here.)

I was struck by the singular nature of Wright’s vision. Seeing it in person is a totally different experience from reading about it in books. I understand that he was a difficult man to deal with, but wouldn’t you expect that from someone whose view of the world is so direct and unfilitered?

Most of us adapt to what is around us. Wright adapted everything to fit his vision. Just as Enzo Ferrari did in his early years.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Josh and I were back at Barrett doing the owner interviews and evaluations of the cars. Then the owners and I made predictions as to what the cars would sell for. How did I do? You’ll have to watch the new episodes in May to find out. (To view my WMCW valuations gallery, click here.)

While I was doing the evaluations, Donald was emcee for our 2nd annual Arizona Insider’s Seminar at the Gooding Scottsdale auction. The panel consisted of our always-outspoken experts, Carl Bomstead, Colin Comer, Simon Kidston and Steve Serio. The keynote speaker was Paul Morrissette from our title sponsor, Chubb Collector Car Insurance.

Every report I got was glowing, and I appreciate the hard work the SCM staff did to put it all together. Same kudos go to Jim Pickering and the ACC gang for their seminar at Barrett-Jackson. Colin Comer was the keynote ACC speaker, along with panelists Carl Bomstead and B. Mitchell Carlson.

We’ll have complete videos of the seminars available online for SCM and ACC subscribers as soon as they are edited. Watch this space for details.

Porsche Time

Thursday night I stopped by RM and saw the gang I’ve been cruising auctions with for almost 30 years. For these enthusiasts and dealers, nothing is more entertaining than the live theater of buying and selling. It’s what has always attracted me to auctions – the immediacy of the deal, done right here and right now.

The next morning I stopped by Gooding to see more friends (and many of the same from RM) and to look at the barn-find Alfa SZ that sold for $577,500 and an unremarkable Giulietta Sprint Normale that brought $66,000.

I was surprised by the number of 911s of all flavors for sale. For many years, these Porsches, especially the pre-1974 cars, were reasonably priced at under $35,000. Now, the best examples can command $300,000.

Current early-Porsche pricing seems a little exuberant to me, but Porsches do have a loyal and fervent following. And these early cars represent a historically significant moment in Porsche history.

Méhari Madness

Then the fickle finger of fate took control of my life and pointed me to the Silver Auction in Fort McDowell.

Going to Silver during Arizona Auction Week is kind of a busman’s holiday for me. I just want to kick tires and look at a bunch of affordable classics. It’s like a refreshing sorbet after the rich offerings of the catalog auction houses.

Owner Mitch Silver is a good personal friend, and we share similar tastes when it comes to ridiculous cars.

I had not looked at a list of the cars ahead of time, so it was pure happenstance that at the moment I arrived, a 1970 Citroën Méhari was about to cross the block.

Now, if there was ever a goofball, no-reason-to-exist car, it’s the Méhari. It’s built on the 2CV chassis and drivetrain. It belongs to the same class of useless cars that includes the Volkswagen Thing, Austin Mini-Moke and Fiat Jolly, but it’s perhaps even less functional.

Evan McMullen of Cosmopolitan Motors had brought the car to Silver. The Méhari was advertised in Hemmings at $15,995, and Evan’s bottom line was $10,000. It didn’t sell on the block, but soon enough it was mine. We paid Silver our commissions and finalized the delivery details to Portland.

Why a Méhari?

It’s one of those cars that has always been on my fifth- or sixth-tier bucket list. I bonded with the model when Alex was three months old and I rented one in Martinique. Evan and I actually looked at one in Portland 20 years ago that we found in the Nickel Ads.

This particular one seemed solid, and it had a nice canvas roof and a big stereo. It has no side curtains or other weather equipment, but that’s kind of the point. Portland friend and former 2CV owner Paul Duchene helped me evaluate the car.

It will make a great car for cruise-ins this summer, and seven-year-old Bradley will have another memorable automotive adventure riding in it.

How does this fit in with my decision to stop buying cars? I have several rationalizations, and you can choose the one you like best:

First, I’d never owned one before.

Second, it was cheap, and I could afford it.

Third, it was on my bucket list before I decided to stop buying cars, so the purchase didn’t really count anyway.

(To view my RM, Gooding and Silver gallery, click here.)

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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