We confess. As sports car fanatics, Auburn, Indiana has never been at the center of our radar screen. But as SCM continues to expand its coverage of America's grand luxury marques, including Duesenberg, Cord and Auburn, a trip to their home city seemed appropriate.
Additionally, Auburn is the location of the eBay/Kruse International complex, so we arranged to take in their spring sale as well. We wanted to see first-hand how the melding of two disparate cultures-the brash, take-no-prisoners, make new rules, high-tech eBay world and the podium-thumping, carnival atmosphere, world's-largest-auctioneers-of-collector-cars Kruse International-was moving along.
EBay bought Kruse two years ago during a flurry of acquisitions, as dot-com enterprises, their market value engorged by skyrocketing share prices, snapped up everything in sight. The buying was the easy part; often, the actual day-to-day running of land-based traditional auctions has proven enigmatic to the electronic wizards.
EBay has shown continued determination as it works to maximize the value of its purchase. Dramatic issues arose as Dean Kruse wrestled with the fact that he was no longer in control of what had been his company. EBayMotors dispatched John Levisay from BMW-rich San Jose to Taurus-riddled Auburn to calm troubled waters and move the merger forward.
And he has. A professional management team, formerly with Barrett-Jackson, is now in place on the operations side, and Dean is focusing on getting consignments of significant cars and calling eBay/Kruse's high-profile auctions.
We had a chance to visit with Dean, admire his collection of Duesenbergs (and let's not forget the Batmobile in the corner of his garage) and talk briefly about eBay/Kruse. "It's taken me a while to get used to not having the final say and having to run my ideas by someone for their approval," he said in a soft, wistful manner. "But they've brought some really good people in to run the business side, and I'm fully committed to being a part of the organization."
At the auction the next day, the contrast between the private, almost shy Dean Kruse and his public, flamboyant auctioneer persona couldn't have been greater. Clearly energized by the return of his son, Mitchell, to the podium after a two-year absence, the Kruse trio of Daniel, Dean and Mitchell, ably assisted by Rod Egan and Brent Earlywine, called Spring Auburn with the fervor reminiscent of a Midwest revivalist gathering.
The audience responded favorably. Unofficial results show 50% of the 528 cars that crossed the block selling, for a total of nearly $4m. (There will be a complete report in our July issue.) Vintage "Kruse-isms" cascaded non-stop from the PA system. Every deal was "Unbelievable." You could "Make money while driving a car; buy it today and sell it for more at Fall Auburn." And the ultimate, "Borrow the money to buy the car from MBNA and make money with someone else's money!"
The Kruse style of auctioneering has one goal, to create a supercharged atmosphere that encourages bidders to raise their offers and sellers to drop their reserves. When they're at the top of their game, the Kruse family and friends are the best in the world at doing just that.
Over the past two years we've watched eBay/Kruse wrestle to define its mission and destiny. At this point, it appears they have an awfully good chance of marrying the electronic and the earth-bound, to the benefit of both.
August of 1992, nine years ago, marked the last time we adjusted our subscription prices. As the publishers of the Alfa Romeo Market Letter, we bravely asked subscribers for $48 for 16 pages of monthly information, sent out on newsprint with a few grainy photos.
That little newsletter has grown to become Sports Car Market magazine. The auction reporting staff has increased from just one, moi, to over a dozen specialists reporting, on-site and first-hand, from sales all over the world. Each issue is at least 80 pages, includes hundreds of cars in color, and arrives polybagged, protecting the evocative art on the cover. Your support has allowed us to grow, increasing both articles and production quality.
However, Sports Car Market has been hit with massive cost
increases during the past year. Printing and paper costs alone have more than doubled, and the US Post Office has just announced yet another round of postage increases for magazines.
Consequently, we are asking for your continued loyalty as we raise our prices slightly. Beginning this month, a basic subscription will be $58. In exchange, we promise to continue increasing the quality of SCM.
For those who want even more information, we will be introducing two premium subscription options. A "Gold" level, at $78, will provide unlimited access to the Internet-based, 30,000-entry SCM auction
archives (soon to be available only by password). A "Platinum" level, at $98, will add regular e-mail hot news updates, including auction
results, last-minute consignments, first notice of desirable cars being brought to market and more. Details, including how to upgrade your current subscription, will be in your next issue.
In this, our 13th year of providing tools and insights for subscribers as they make collecting decisions, Cindy and I want to thank all of you for your past support. We look forward to serving you in the future.
ON THE COVER
North Carolina artist Dan McCrary was "trolling around" a year ago at the Auto Fair in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he came across a black Austin-Healey. A nearby ice blue and metallic ivory two-tone Healey reflected in its shiny flanks. This visual moment resulted in "Healey Reflection," featured on this month's cover.
McCrary has created dozens of paintings highlighting reflections in polished car bodies, including Duesenbergs, Auburns, '50s Chevys and Fords, and '60s Corvettes. He has also created works for the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Penske Racing, Keith Crain and Tom Gale.
Prints of "Healey Reflection," from an edition of 200, are available. Printed with archival inks on acid-free, heavy-weight, water-color
paper, each measures 12½ x 18 inches, and is $125. Smaller, 10 x 7-inch prints are $25. Contact the artist at 704/372-2899 (NC).