Usually, getting a good buy at one of the Monterey Car Week auctions is just as likely as having no traffic on California 68 between Monterey and Salinas on Friday morning. Yet it does happen. The following three cars — at three different venues — represent good buys for the money spent. Unlike my usual Cheap Thrills tendencies, two of the three are in upper-middle-class money, proving that a good buy doesn’t always translate into debit-card money.

1936 Packard Series 1402 Super 8 Formal Limousine by Hooper

Mecum Lot F135, VIN 14TH1402205, $22,000 Having owned a 1939 Packard, I admit my bias for the marque. That stated, $22k for the only known Hooper-bodied 1936 Packard is darn near a no-brainer deal. Granted, all Hooper did was buzz off the roof at the door sills and graft on their alloy high-top roof (some would call this a “top-hat car”). Yes, I know that the steering wheel is on “the wrong side” and closed 4-door CCCA Full Classics are a dying old-man’s market. I’m not as young as I used to be, but they also said that about Brass Era cars three decades ago. Those who appreciate the historical aspects of a pre-war Classic (rather than looking at a collector car as a new toy to play with until it bores you) will find this Anglo-American fascinating. Just figuring that it survived the Blitz during World War II gives it some glow. There were legions of His Majesty’s subjects — and lords — who respected solid engineering — be it from Derby or Detroit. For them, a Packard with local bodywork was the cat’s meow. While it’s nowhere near a concours car, it’s had the interiors redone (properly done with leather for the driver and broadcloth for the passenger’s cabin) and mechanicals tended to.

1981 BMW M1 coupe

Bonhams Lot 117; VIN WBS59910004301322, $390,000 I’ve always had an interest in the M1 (I’ll admit it, I had the poster of one in my dorm room). As such, I’ve seen them from when they were essentially specialty used cars, the low ebb in the late 1990s (a rough-and-tumble example in white at Barrett-Jackson in that era sold for $75k), and their ascent and general plateau in prices within the decade. Not only is the color somewhat unique (being a dark blue, which, dependent upon the available light, comes off as off-black or ultra-deep-violet — aside from its core solid dark blue), but the car is also distinctive in the fact that it’s lived almost exclusively in Canada. Delivered new to Vancouver, BC, after being federalized in California, ownership changes were in 1988 to Thunder Bay, Ontario, 1990 to Toronto, ON, then finally to Edmonton, AB, in 2008. While in Toronto, it was restored from 1990 through 1991. An extensive service dossier from new and all the ancillaries the car came with plus BMW shop and parts manuals unique to the M1 were also included in the package. The only way this could’ve been improved was if the original owner had ordered the fitted-luggage option. While the restoration is now 28 years old, it’s been constantly kept up, with some paint touch-up and regular mechanical servicing. SCM’s Pocket Price Guide shows a current median value of $553,300 on the M1. During the past year, M1 pricing went stagnant for cars that have an unknown past and less-than-stellar presentation. Standout examples occasionally exceeded the median amount. While this M1 is not a concours lawn ornament — and is not in a popular color — it has been cared for. It is also a stunning example to drive. At this price and condition, a BMW enthusiast could plunge into M1 ownership with no regrets.

1965 Shelby GT350

RM Sotheby’s Lot 355; VIN SFM5S089, $417,500 I’ve always liked sleepers — cars with pedestrian looks that will kick butt and not take names. The first-year Shelby GT350s get close to being a sleeper, but those over-the-top rally stripes are a dead giveaway. If not, they give others the feeling that we have a boy-racer in the crowd — even if the car is a pedestrian Mustang with a 2-barrel-fed V8 that can’t quite deliver. Our example here, with the rare stripe-delete option from new and a set of period 15-inch steel wheels on all four corners, slides gracefully into sleeper status. 1965 is considered the best year for original GT350s, as the cars have a raw performance edge over creature comforts. Being an early “double digit” serial number, this example has the battery relocated to the trunk, making it even more desirable. As this is an old restoration that is holding up well — aside from some of the weatherstripping coming loose — one can either show or track this one with a little tweaking either way. While Mustang-based Shelbys from the 1960s have seen some softening of prices, 1965 cars continue to hold their values. I feel that the uniqueness of this stripe-delete example makes it well bought for the long term. ♦

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