This was my fifth year at the Auctions America sale at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. Each time, I have been shooting episodes for “What’s My Car Worth?” – our new season begins May 12 on Velocity.
The inventory at Auctions America Fort Lauderdale is always an engaging mix of the eclectic and the commonplace — from affordable to extravagant.
Last year, I ended up falling for and purchasing a 1961 Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale. While it had been stored in a museum for 30 years, and was represented as having a frozen engine, I was undeterred. All those years inside meant the car was remarkably straight and rust-free. I believed that once I got it home, it would simply be a matter of pouring a little Marvel Mystery Oil down the sparkplug holes, and the engine would free up and I’d be driving away.
A year later, I can report that the engine has been completely rebuilt (the head gasket had blown 30 years ago before the car was put away, and for three decades the internals busily fused themselves into a solid lump of aluminum, steel and iron).
I suspect it will be another year before the car is back on the road.
Every single thing, from the exhaust system to the suspension bushings to the engine, tranny and cooling system, has to be removed, reworked or replaced — and put back together again.
But that ongoing drain on my finances didn’t stop me from falling in love — again — the instant I walked into the convention center.
Three cars, or more correctly two cars and an off-road rig, caught my eye. Auctions America CEO Donnie Gould knew I was coming, and he had my bidder’s credentials ready. He knows a potential buyer, aka sucker, when he sees one!
The first car that backed me up for a second glance was a 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Berlina. A predecessor to the Giulia Super, the Berlinas are cute in a quixotic way. They definitely have a 1950s look to them.
This one, in slate blue with dark blue seats, showed off a very nice restoration. The gearshift was floor mounted, a plus in my opinion, and a vast improvement over the column-mounted shift of earlier cars. It had a correct 1,300-cc engine with a Solex downdraft carburetor.
The estimate was $25,000 to $40,000. Given that it was such an oddball car, and that the bidding in the room didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic, I was hoping I could steal the car for $20,000. But in the end I decided against bidding. First of all, the car was a $3,000 transport bill away from Portland (why can’t I ever find cars in my backyard?). Second, as a useful vehicle the Berlina is far inferior to the Super. So if I decided I wanted to take an Alfa 4-door out for an afternoon, I would choose the Super and not the Berlina. So why bother? I left the car for some other lucky Alfa enthusiast to enjoy.
The second car I flirted with was a bright yellow Mini Moke. Restored to a nice cosmetic standard — but not correctly — it was offered without reserve and with an estimate of $14,000-$18,000. I’ve always liked these little toy cars, and this one was perfect for puttering around Portland.
Once again, I stopped before raising my paddle. Just as with the Alfa Berlina, it would be expensive to transport this car to Portland — and the less expensive the car, the greater the percentage of the cost is wrapped up in moving it across the continent. Second, I already have the Citroen Mehari for puttering around, and it’s taken a year to get it into reliable operational status. Why scratch an itch you’ve already been scratching?
The final car — actually a truck — was a 1975 Steyr Pinzgauer Puch 710. For reasons unknown even to me, I have always been attracted to these narrow-track, ex-military vehicles. This one was a 4X4; they also come as a 6X6. It seemed in reasonably good condition, so I posted a couple of pictures of it to the Northwest Overland site and asked for advice. Sage observers noted that the Pinzgauer had been painted in and out with bed liner, which wasn’t particularly encouraging. They also noted that there were several rigs for sale in the Pacific Northwest in the $20,000 range, and it would be better to buy local. That’s the same advice I give to others. I just never seem to follow it myself.
Further, I already have a Defender 90 turbo diesel, so the Pinzie would just be an elaboration of something that was already in the garage rather than a foray into an unexplored world of automotive sensations.
So I left Fort Lauderdale without any additions to the SCM garage. I didn’t buy anything, and I didn’t even make a single bid. However, I did send Auctions America an email telling them that if any of the lots described above didn’t sell, they should contact me immediately.
I’m trying to be responsible, but a car guy can only take that kind of behavior so far.