The Positives and Negatives of Buying at a Classic Car Auction

It’s an automotive enthusiast’s dream. Head to an auction that features a list of classic cars, the type that had you gazing at the poster on the wall for hours. Up for grabs is a Lamborghini Countach, perhaps a Tucker Torpedo, maybe even a classic Ford Model T.

Niggling away is a question or two. How good will the car be? Why is it being sold? Let’s have a look at some of the ups and downs of buying such a machine at an auction.

One immediate positive is that the prospective buyer MAY be the only person looking for a certain car listed. Sure, this easily can be a negative if everyone’s after a Ford Falcon GTHO with three hundred miles on the odometer but if it’s something like a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air in reasonable condition, there’s a better chance of not so many eyes being on it.

Many classic cars come with paperwork. This describes the history of the car from the day it was sold at a dealership, its service history in detail, any restoration work, and the canny owner will have had this done by specialists. As a result, the car should be in as close to showroom condition as possible and with as little to spend on top of the final purchase price.

Reputable auction houses help behind the scenes by doing their best in ensuring a seller is not selling a dud. As an accepted rule, sellers via reputable auction houses are either known to the auction company through previous transactions, have been thoroughly vetted by investigation, or are a known vehicle investor.

The classic car family is a solid and tightly knit network. One particular American gent has made a living from buying and restoring classic cars then selling them at auction. This, as a result, has had him build a great network of people to call for advice and for assistance when required. If car XYZ is missing part LMN then a phone call or email generally has someone somewhere saying “yes, I can help”. This results in being able to source a genuine part, just like Rare Spares offers as a service.

However not all diamonds are polished. Although a good auction house will inspect the cars being offered for sale, sometimes human error creeps in and a car listed as 100% genuine may have parts that were hastily cobbled together from less than reputable sources to have it ready in time for sale. Thankfully these happenings are as rare as they can be.

Cost at an auction is always the big question. Again, most reputable auction houses will be able to price the car to the market value. There will be a reserve, a minimum asking price, but sometimes that can work against buyers that feel the market is asking too much, or, conversely, can see the expected asking price soar way beyond expectations, leaving buyers frustrated with what could be seen as artificially inflating the value and therefore affecting similar vehicles negatively.

Having a good knowledge of cars and the industry certainly won’t be seen as a bad thing. Not all rare cars are desirable and not all classic cars are expensive, so being able to research, shop around for the relative sales price of a car being eyed off will assist when you’re ready to buy. That way, at an auction and knowing what you’re prepared to spend will assist especially if there’s a choice of the car you’re aiming to purchase.

Finally, an easily overlooked item: what are you, as a new buyer, going to do with the car itself? Some people are in an envious position to be able to store cars in a properly maintained environment and keep them as an investment. However if you’re looking to be a driver of the car, let’s say a Porsche 356 Speedster, what about: parts, fuel, insurance, the actual drivability of the car? Some classic car owners bring them out for car shows, perhaps a drive day at their local race track, and unfortunately too many are driven there and are trucked away with mechanical issues that weren’t obvious when bought.

To use that well worn phrase, however, “at the end of the day” it shouldn’t be forgotten that a buyer of a classic car does so because they’ll ultimately wish to be happy, proud, satisfied, with their purchase. After all, that’s what Rare Spares aims for with our range of parts for Australian classic cars. 

Let us know your thoughts on what you look for in a classic car and perhaps the good & the bad you’ve experienced at an auction.

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Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history.

KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run.

Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd.

In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later.

As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place.

Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes.

In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel…

Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!

Volkswagen Beetle – The Peoples Car

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most instantly recognisable cars in the history of automotive manufacturing, and just as interesting as the silhouette of the iconic bug is the story behind its concept. In this article we will take a quick look at the history of the Beetle and delve into its Australian connection throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle date back to the early 1930’s when a Fuhrer by the name of Adolf Hitler proclaimed that the automobile, an at the time luxury afforded to only the very rich, should be available to the masses. Hitler specified that the ideal vehicle must be suitable for carrying 2 adults and 3 children at 100 km/h, while consuming no more than 7 litres of fuel every 100 km. Tasked with creating a vehicle to service the needs of the masses was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche set about designing and building three prototypes, branded only ‘Volkswagen’ (“The Peoples Car”), the very round, bug-like appearance of the car ensured it was colloquially referred to as the Beetle.

Throughout WW2, Porsche developed a number of military spec Beetles that served as the first to leave his Wolfburg factory. With it’s now distinctive rear-mounted air cooled engine, the military spec vehicles were near on indestructible and were even designed to float for a short period of time in case of emergency!

By 1945 production was in full swing and the first customer vehicles were spreading throughout the streets of Europe. Armed with a 19kw flat four engine, the early Beetles proved a massive hit with the public and at a price of only 990 Reichsmark, which was similar to the price of a small motorcycle; the Bug was a genuine option for almost all families.

Fast forward 8 years and importation of the Beetle commenced into Australia, with assembly of the Peoples Car commencing in Melbourne by 1954. Throughout the 60’s locally manufactured parts and panels were being utilised in Melbourne built Beetles, with work being undertaken at the now HSV owned Clayton manufacturing plant. As we’ve become all too familiar with in recent times, sales of the Beetle eventually began to decline and in 1976 all Australian Volkswagen manufacturing efforts were ceased and the workshop was sold to Nissan Australia.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first major re-design of the beetle took place and a look at the current Beetle finds a significantly different car to what was established way back in the 1930’s. The engine has been moved to the more traditional front mounted layout while power figures have increased with range topping models featuring in the area of 150kw. The unmistakable shape is still present and although not everybody’s cup of tea serves as one of very few modern cars that pay homage to their historical ancestors.

Do you own an early model Volkswagen Beetle? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comments section below.

5 of the Best Australian TV Car Commercials

Australia has been home to many fantastic car ads over the years, with manufacturers pushing to appeal to our unique mannerisms and sense of humour. In this post, we look at 5 of the best car commercials that have hit Australian’s TV screens over the years.

Subaru Outback – Made For Australiana - 2015

This clever Subaru Outback ad, which was based on the original Australiana skit written by Billy Birmingham, received extremely positive reviews when it hit screens in 2015. The narrator expertly twists the pronunciation of Aussie towns, animals and phrases to piece together a 90 second clip outlining an epic Subaru Outback road trip. The ad has received well over 2 million views on YouTube, cementing it as one of the most popular Australian Car ads in history.

 

Football, Meat pies, Kangaroos, Holden Cars - 1970’s

This 1970’s Holden ad is arguably Australia’s most iconic car ad. To this day, the tune is still familiar to anyone whose ears have been graced with the chant of: “Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars”. The aim of the ad was to entrench Holden Cars as a brand that was to be associated with all things universally considered Australian. Featuring clips of iconic Australian locations such as the Sydney Opera House intertwined with shots of the era’s Holden cars; this ad is an interesting look back at Australia in the 70’s.

 

Honda HR-V - Dream Run - 2015

The Honda HRV ad titled “Dream Run” is one of the most well produced Australian car ads of the last 5 years; featuring everything from a transformer like HR-V to a talking dog. This ad takes viewers inside the lucid dreams of main character ‘Brian’, who at every step is being told to ‘wake up’. Fortunately for Brian, magically a Honda HR-V appears and he’s able to get away from everything and everyone who’s trying to end his incredible adventure. “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics serves as the perfect backing track to this weird and wacky ad.

 

Toyota Hilux – Baby Come Back - 2011

Tragedy strikes in this 2011 ad when a man’s Hilux roles off a cliff and into the ocean below. The incident results in the character slipping into a deep depression, as he’s unable to cope with the loss of his beloved Ute. As the grief proves too much and the man walks alone along the beach at the scene of the accident, he is amazed to stumble across his washed up Hilux. Unbelievably, the Hilux is unscathed and starts without issue. This ad was well received as it not only gave a funny portrayal of the ‘tough-ness’ of Toyota’s Hilux, it didn’t take itself too seriously, which is a trait many of the target audience could associate with.

 

Holden Ute - Thunderstruck - 2001

Although maybe not as creative or cutting edge as some of the others on this list, this ad succeeded in capturing the dreams of many of the car’s target market. The ad portrays a SS Ute cutting loose in a deserted field, resulting in a huge tornado and storm. With AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” playing in the background, this ad was successful in outlining that the SS was a car not to be messed with. Interestingly, this ad was produced pre-hoon laws, at a time when many manufactures were pushing the limits of what was allowed to be shown in TV ads.

What is your favourite Australian TV car commercial? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know below in the comments section.

Falcon Favourite - John Bowes Favourite Falcon Racer

When it comes to motorsport icons, it’s hard to look past John Bowe. With a successful career that spans over four decades and the only driver in Australian motorsport history to win an incredible six National Championships in four categories, JB has forged his own path and his own legacy. Although Bowe is known to steer anything with four wheels, he has been affiliated with the blue oval for some time and here we will take a look at the man’s favourite Falcon as Australia bids farewell to the iconic model.

It’s no secret that JB has been behind the wheel of many memorable Fords over the years. Who can forget the incredible Shell Sierra RS500 or the iconic AU and BA Falcons, the aussie hero has even been known to pilot classic frames such as a vintage mustang in the TCM Series. With so many amazing cars, you’d be surprised to know which one stole JB’s heart, the EBII that he drove to victory at Bathurst in 1994. Holding off five pursuing Holden’s late in the race, JB and Dick Johnson thrilled onlookers to take the win in one of the most intense Bathurst 1000’s ever, a moment that is still etched in every motorsport fans memory.

At the end of 1994 the car was converted to EF specifications with a different roof, front guards and boot among other things being added. Soon after, the vehicle claimed another win in the 1995 V8 Supercar Championship. It’s no surprise that JB’s favourite Falcon racer is the one he has had such a positive success from. The car itself was originally built by Jimmy Stone at DJR, with every part meticulously planned to extract maximum performance and drivability.

Although there was somewhat of a raining success, the Falcon faced tragedy when it was involved in a crash in 1996 at Phillip Island Circuit, bouncing around on its tail, roof, nose and finally into the wall at the Hayshed after a collision with Craig Lowndes. With the crash taking place at 235km/h Bowe was lucky to walk away, however the iconic Falcon met its maker in race car heaven.

With so many stories to tell, both on the track and off, it is sad to say farewell to one of the blue ovals most beloved offerings. However with such a great community and availability of spare parts, we know that the falcon will live on for many years to come.

What is your favourite Falcon? Make sure to head over the comments section of the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments.