Just as it does every January, the Mecum Collector Car Auction descended upon central Florida for the largest automobile auction in the world. The event grows larger every year. This year, more than 3,500 vehicles were scheduled to pass across the auction block over the 11 day event at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, including some exceedingly rare and one of a kind automobiles.
One such automobile was GT/109; a 1965 Ford GT Competition Prototype Roadster. The car was built with the primary purpose of winning the 24 Hours at Le Mans, and it succeeded. Henry Ford II famously once declared “If I can’t buy Ferrari, I’m going to beat Ferrari.” That was essentially the genesis of the Ford GT project.
At Kissimmee, GT/109, simply one of the rarest cars on the planet, saw a bid as high as $10 million, but that failed to reach the reserve, which is the minimum dollar amount an owner will sell a car for.
Another such automobile, and perhaps even more rare, was the 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake. Think of a Mustang on steroids, and then amplify that by a factor of ten. Automotive legend Carroll Shelby deserves all the blame for this one. Expecting to cross the block at between $1.2 and $1.4 million dollars, the hammer fell after bidding reached a staggering $2.2 million.
And while rare cars come equipped with high prices, there were more than enough “consumer grade” cars offered for sale, and there were more than enough would-be buyers on hand to drive them home. St. Augustine resident Pat Whelan, owner of the St. George Tavern on St. George Street, was one such bidder. With an auction assistant by his side, Pat kept his focus as the bidding climbed. When the hammer fell on the convertible BMW, the Mecum machine kicked into gear to get all of the required paperwork filled out to finalize the sale.
And Pat was smiling.
“The thing I like about Mecum is the excitement of buying. You can get carried away real easily.” This wasn’t Pat’s first visit to a Mecum auction. 11 years ago he bought his 1966 Corvette when the auction was held in a tent. “11 years later I still have my same bidder number!”
Getting a bidder badge is easier than you think. Follow the instructions on the Mecum website and, for as little as $100, you can throw your hand in the air as your dream car rolls before the auctioneer. The best part is that your bidder badge is good for every day of the auction. Not only does it beat paying $30 a day admission, but you just might drive away with a new car.
Automobiles aren’t the only things sold at a Mecum auction. “Road art” is a major draw for a lot of bidders. Gas station signs, old point-of-sales displays, kiddie amusement rides, restaurant signs and old soda machines always draw a large crowd, and are auctioned off each morning prior to the automobiles.
And lest you believe that the only vehicles auctioned off are exotic sports cars and classic American muscle cars, fear not. This year saw Prevost motor coaches (think Rolling Stones tour busses) and even a full-blown fire truck pass through the auction arena.
And don’t think you have to sit in the auction arena to fully enjoy the experience (although, let’s face it, that’s pretty addicting). There are a myriad of things to see around the grounds and exciting things to do, including taking the Dodge “Thrill Ride”. With a professional driver behind the wheel, you experience what it’s like to be buckled into the 707 horsepower that’s found in the Dodge Demon and Hellcat Challengers. It’s 15 seconds of tire-squealing adrenaline rush that pins you into your seat for the duration and guarantees that there’s an ear-to-ear smile spread across your face as you exit the vehicle.
So, whether you’re a car collector, an automotive enthusiast or are just hoping to find a nice buy on a good used car, the Mecum Collector Car Auction is where you need to be.
Learn more about the Mecum Collector Car Auction at www.mecum.com. Photography by Steve Parr.