Once again, back by popular demand, I present the bottom of the sales chart from Arizona 2018 — the lowest-selling street-legal American production car from each auction venue. As in previous years, we’ll rate each to see if they are actually cheap, thrilling or well bought. Or just a cheap, scary money pit. So, here we go, from the most spent to the least: (★★★★★ is best):
1953 Kaiser Dragon sedan
Gooding & Company Lot 25, VIN 001894
Sold for $34,000
While the “Dutch” Darrin-designed 1951 Kaiser was almost avant-garde when new, by 1953 it was just another frumpy, cherubic American sedan. That’s when Kaiser decided that they had nothing to lose and spiced up the basic sedans with a number of styling packages that ranged from “cute” to “what were they drinking?”Between was the Dragon, which was the top-tier Kaiser model for 1953 only. Underneath the bamboo wicker-styled vinyl top and slightly plusher appointments was the same taxi-grade Continental “Red Seal” engine found in every other Kaiser and Checker Cab.This was also the biggest reality check of all our low sales, as Gooding had a $70k to $90k guesstimate on the no-reserve car. The former AACA award winner was worth all of what was bid and the buy fee, but it was still the top money of all the bottom sales.
Thrilling: ★ (Unless your house is furnished in mid-century wicker)
Well-bought factor: ★★
1941 Cadillac Series 60 Special sedan
Worldwide Auctioneers Lot 41, VIN 6342534
Sold for $28,600
The 1938–42 Cadillac Series 60 Special is just like the 1955–57 T-bird — they are stylish and have always been collectible, but values are firmly stuck in park.I remember as a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s seeing
these cars advertised in the newspaper’s classified ads for the same price this sold for here. And don’t think that this was some Fright Pig, either. This example was competently restored.If you want to scratch off “buy a Full Classic” from your collector car bucket list, a Series 60 Special is the cheapest way to do it for a good-running car. Just don’t wait to flip it thinking you’ll make big money when they are finally fully appreciated, or it’ll be part of your estate sale.
Thrilling: ★★ (Especially if you voted for Wendell Willkie in 1940 — no third term!)
Well-bought factor: ★★★★
1953 Chevrolet 210 Deluxe 2-door sedan
RM Sotheby’s Lot 135, VIN B53N158908
Sold for $17,920
I can almost hear the late Kenny Buttolph, former Research Editor for Old Cars Weekly and Price Guide, chirp in, “It’s a nice car — very nice car,” since he absolutely loved pre-Tri-Five post-war Chevys. Heck, he even kinda looked like them. Yet that’s why lower-mile original examples of these are not bringing strong money — that demographic is going off to their Great Reward. This was strong money for the genre, as the car had always been well cared for and was essentially original (and has a complete paper trail since it was bought new). It’s also quite bare bones, with the only factory options being the Powerglide automatic and heater.If you, like Kenny did, appreciate these cars, you could do worse for the money. There were scaled-down kids’ cars here that brought double what this Chevy sold for.
Thrilling: ★★ (Especially if you like Ike — and not on Facebook, either)
Well-bought factor: ★★★
1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota pickup
Bonhams Lot 8, VIN 1B7FL96Y2KS114902
Sold for $13,200
During the 1980s, Carroll Shelby and Lee Iacocca resurrected the concept of the muscle pickup. The Shelby Dakota was born.Dodge had introduced the V6 Dakota Sport for 1989, so it only made sense to have Ol’ Shel shoehorn in some 5.2-L V8 power. This one-year-only Shelby Dakota was the 1,077th made out of the production run of 1,500 — one of 995 done in red.This one was restored by a marque specialist, who went above and beyond to replicate the crappy build quality (yet it looked like a precision Swiss watch compared to the original low-mile Land Rover Defender on the docket). It was pretty on the outside, but the refurbished interior showed its 137,531 miles — that’s 687,665 miles in dog years and approaching Do Not Resuscitate for most domestic trucks from 1989.At best, this was a drivers’ collectible in the same sense that die-cast model cars are collectible — because it says so on the box.
Thrilling: ★★★★ (Especially if you have a Shelby Series II)
Well-bought factor: ★★★
1937 Chevrolet “rat rod” compilation
Barrett-Jackson Lot 3, VIN AZ365122
Sold for $4,400
Winning out B-J by one bid less than a very nice original 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT was this rat-rod creation. It might have had a 1937 Chevy truck frame, but it also had an Arizona-assigned VIN. Most of the cab looked to be from 1937, but from there everything was a wild card. There was a panel-truck roof grafted to a pickup box, rear fenderettes fashioned from old license plates, and the prerequisite tractor grille up front. All in all, it came off as a stunt double from “Mad Max: Fury Road.”Part of the appeal of the Rat Rod movement is affordability. We also talk a lot about modified cars being worth the sum of the parts, so do the math. For this price, it was damn near worth it across the scale for the mobile scrap pile that it was.
Thrilling: ★★★ (Especially if you’re due for your tetanus booster)
Well-bought factor: ★★
1988 Mercury Cougar coupe
Russo and Steele Lot SN870, VIN 1MEBM60FJH654113
Sold for $2,200
This wasn’t all that horrid of a car. It had the EFI 5.0 V8 from the Mustang, which was rather clean and tidy. Yet on the outside, the devil’s in the details, and items such as broken mirrors that were taped into place (until the tape faded away) show that it led the life of a disposable daily driver. Cheap enough here for a car to be parked at the airport for a week with a fresh battery.For this kind of coin, if you hate the rather polarizing design of the Cougars of this era, you have a 5.0 donor that’s turn-key ready to drop into your project. Any way you look at it, it was a reasonably cheap deal.
Thrilling: ★ (Unless your secretary still owns theirs, because you don’t pay them enough and they can’t afford a Camry)
Well-bought factor: ★★★
1983 Lincoln Continental sedan
Silver Auctions AZ Lot 305, VIN 1MRBP97FODY700588
Sold for $1,836
It’s easy to say that the 1980s itineration of the Continental as a stand-alone model will always be known as the 1980–85 Cadillac Seville wannabe. And to a certain extent, that’s right. But at least the Continental’s 302-ci V8 was bulletproof and the optional diesel engine actually worked.This example is loaded up like a downsized 1980s luxobarge should be: LED instrumentation, power everything, half an acre of fake wood interior trim, and individual dual power overstuffed leather seats with controls over the transmission hump. The only thing missing is a synthesized “your door is ajar” message.It’s easy to believe the 88,478 indicated miles, as this was in better shape than the odometer would lead you to believe. Even among Lincoln aficionados, you rarely see these anymore. For once, the cheapest car was the best buy.
Thrilling: ★★ (Especially if you think a Cadillac Seville from this same year is too risqué-looking)
Well-bought factor: ★★★★★