I read this past summer that Farmington Hills collector and good friend Ed Meurer was disposing of 90-plus of his automobile inventory at the annual RM Auction in Auburn, Ind. I immediately marked the dates for the Labor Day extravaganza in my calendar. It was important to me to attend this significant event. Readers who attended the Krasl/Lake Bluff Concours may recall that Ed on at least five occasions shared a magnificent automobile from his collection. The cars he picked to show included (with year of participation in parenthesis) a 1930 Auburn 8-98A Convertible Sedan/Cabriolet (2014), 1938 Custom Imperial Town Limousine (2007), 1951 Mercury Woodie (2015), 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham (2013) and 1958 Imperial Ghia Limousine (2008.) Some readers may also having taken the bus trip I organized one summer day back in the early 2000s to visit Ed’s collection in Metro Detroit.
Ed was bitten by the “old car” bug in 1958 when he bought his first car, a 1936 Ford Cabriolet and fixed it up to concours condition over a four-year period. So “bitten,” he went on to collect an impressive inventory of cars that included not only the early Fords initially collected from the 1930s, but also adding Cadillacs, Buicks, Chryslers and especially Packards. His collection grew by 2001 to a point where he was forced to build an extension to his publishing company in Farmington Hills in order to house his them all. As his tastes matured over the years, he was especially drawn to “personality” cars with interesting histories. By 2015 his collection had expanded to 119 antique vehicles plus memorabilia. It was said to be the fifth-largest private collection in Michigan. Says Ed, “I never bought an old car as an investment, only because I liked the way it looked.”
Ed did a risky thing and offered nearly all of his cars at no reserve. I think that both Ed and the other owners who placed their cars for sale at the Auburn event would agree with my assessment that the market is getting a little soft. As with most of the finer auctions around the country, RM Auctions projects a price range on each vehicle. Many of Ed’s offerings sold within the price range that RM estimated. Some went way over the top estimated price, but many sold under the low range price. Happily, I quickly add, the great majority of the prices paid were within 10 to 20 percent of the estimated low range price. By the time you read this column, prices paid for the vehicles sold at Auburn will be posted on the RM Auctions website if you are interested in what his collection sold for. Go to rmsothebys.com and click on results.
I invited good car friend, car collector and master photographer Jim Long to accompany me on the Auburn trip and we spent nearly the whole day Friday witnessing the bidding on the Meurer Collection. We did take a break or two to visit a portion of the nearby Car Corral (where hundreds of vehicles are displayed with price tags) and twice trips were made to the Amish ice cream stand for the homemade treat.
At big shows like this, there are always a few cars of special interest to me. One that caught my eye was Ed Meurer’s 1938 Chrysler Custom Limousine that RM Auctions estimated would sell for between $30,000 and $40,000. This was the car that Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President Kennedy, ordered when he was U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain between 1938 and 1940. Surprisingly, its provenance meant little to bidders as the gavel came down at only $23,000. As a Mopar guy, I always like to see what the Chrysler letter series performance cars sell for. Ed had three of the magnificent beasts in his collection and buyers rewarded Ed with bids that all fell in the range of prices suggested by RM Auctions. His 1956 300B white hardtop sold for $38,000 (range $35,000- 45,000), a black 1959 300E convertible brought $72,500 (range $60,000-$70,000) and the bright red 1961 300G coupe drew a high bid of $41,500 (range $40,000-$50,000).
Sometimes RM got it wrong with their estimate of sale. An absolutely breathtaking 1947 Packard Eight Custom Super Clipper Club Sedan fastback sold for $48,000, outpacing the RM estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. I’m sure that sale raised Ed’s spirits. Certainly the bargain of the day was Ed’s clean and lovely 1981 Cadillac Coupe DeVille (minus the ubiquitous vinyl roof) selling for just $1,600 (price range: $5,000-$8,000.) I could almost have purchased the Coupe DeVille from the balance in my checkbook.
Jim and I ended the day by rewarding ourselves with a nice dinner. On Saturday morning we left our motel early to meet up with Cord owner Mike Heminger of Benton Center (see last week’s Cord article). He had invited us to visit Auburn’s Eckhart Park to enjoy the large selection of A-C-D vehicles on display at the annual Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg meet and car show. An added treat at that visit was meeting up unexpectedly with Ed Lucas. Readers who attended the Krasl/Lake Bluff Concours will recall Ed as the fundraiser’s outstanding narrator during the Pass in Review afternoon event. Also during the weekend I had a nice chat with South Haven car collector Red McFadden.
Later in the morning we sauntered back to the nearby RM Auction Park to take in the Saturday auction action. There were a slew of big ticket automobiles on tap for buyers to bid on. Unfortunately by mid-afternoon we became “auctioned out” and decided to head for home and missed the action on some highly promoted cars, like a 2019 Ford GT (I’m thinking I read that it was the first to be put up for public auction) and several desirable Ferraris. One of the rarest offerings was a 1966 one-of-a-kind Duesenberg Model D concept designed by Virgil Exner Sr. Fritz Duesenberg, son of legendary Augie, attempted in the mid-1960s with a partner to bring back the fabled performance marque, but lack of financing ended the effort after only the concept vehicle had been created. RM thought the Model D would fetch between $300,000 and $350,000. I thought even higher, but it sold for a surprisingly low $175,000. The RPM Collection, a motor vehicle company out of Fishers, Ind., offered four splendid Mopar muscle cars in outstanding condition and I expected them to bring top dollar. Instead none reached the minimum bid needed for a sale. They included a 1969 Dodge Dart GTS 440 Coupe (no sale at $57,000), a 1971 Plymouth ’Cuda Coupe (340 engine and a no sale at $59,000), a 1971 Plymouth ’Cuda Convertible (340 engine and a no sale at $133,000) and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda Hardtop ($135,000.)
Most noticeable at my visit to the RM Auction Park at Auburn was the company’s continuous efforts to make improvements, such as bright red carpet on the concrete floors in the big barn buildings, large new banners on the interior walls and a new auction stage configuration with big screen graphics with digital data showing such things as vehicle next up for bidding, price paid for last vehicle sold and price offered by bidder instantly in pounds, euros and Canadian dollars.
Overall my two day visit to the RM Auction was delightful. The media VIP parking privileges and complimentary admission made it even more enjoyable. Even having to dodge hundreds of golf carts and pay ridiculous prices for food, it was a wonderful way for a car guy to spend a couple of days. Readers who like cars and have not visited Auburn over Labor Day weekend should put the event on your bucket list and pay a visit to Northeast Indiana next year.
• Trivia answer: 2003 on the Dodge Ram. It was the third-generation of the V-8 with the hemispherical combustion chambers.
Dar Davis founded the Lake Bluff Concours and chaired the event for many years. He has been writing this column since 1999. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What year did Chrysler revive the latest iteration of the Hemi?