Studebaker Stories:



By Chris, Vancouver, BC Canada

I was thinking about a tropical vacation when I remembered the Scottsdale auction. Two days later my father had agreed to come and the plane tickets were booked. We were transformed into little kids waiting for Christmas. My first vehicle was a 62 Falcon followed by other Fords, a Cadillac and Chevs but Studebakers have been part of my automotive vernacular since I was seventeen. September 1986 happens to be the month Crime Story aired on NBC with that two-tone green (hawk?). I really fancied that car. My friends had posters of Lamborghini’s on their walls.

While a 1959 Lark Wagon is a departure from my first Studebaker luvafair you just don’t see many two-door wagons these days. I had been looking for an early Chevy wagon before the auction. When I saw the Lark, things clicked.

The whole Barrett Jackson experience is really something to behold. The amount of cars being auctioned is amazing. There are also all of the vendors. Registering as a bidder is money well spent. It gets you and a guest into all the events for $500.00, which is about $150.00 more than the gate prices for the week. The events include the bidders only viewing (great time to get pictures), the opening night gala, and free drinks for the entire visit as well as better seating. If you happen to buy a car the next year is free.

Walking through the tents of consigned cars brought back memories of childhood. My father was naming this car and that year with these engine options. I was in the family station wagon all over again. My father could spot a car from what seemed like miles away. When we caught up the name on the back of the car was always right. Did I mention the Pontiac LeMans had two other kids, a wife and was pulling a tent trailer. That 350 and my father’s lead foot passed just about everything on the road. I remember seeing the needle go by 100 mph over my dad’s shoulder once. He was young and pissed off. The Camaro in front of us would only speed up as we tried to pass. Dad also recalled stories of attending auctions with his father as a young boy. My grandfather owned a car lot in Sarnia, Ontario before my time. I rarely hear stories about my grandfather because he passed at such a young age. The week in Scottsdale was about memories both old and new.

We saw the Lark wagon on the first day of viewing, tucked up in the back corner. My father thought I had strange taste. When you pick out a 59 wagon from that field of cars he probably had a point. Luckily the wagon was coming up early in the auction. Bargains are far between at Scottsdale but if you are looking for an inexpensive ride, Wednesday morning is the day for it. Advertised as a six the 259 was a pleasant surprise when I looked under the hood in the staging lanes. The auction only advertises the description the consignor submits. Three early risers bid on the car with the ever-present aid of a bidder’s assistant. What a misnomer that is. All they really say is spend more, spend more, how does this actually help me. Anyways the hammer fell and we were proud new owners of the Studebaker $9000.00 + 10% commission. Please sign on the dotted line, sir, and have your photo taken. Up to that point the auction had been fantastic.

Their service started to show some "paint bubbles" later in the afternoon. The event personnel were confused at times and the paperwork process took longer than expected. We also registered that afternoon for the memorabilia auction. The tent was nearly empty when we arrived. Craig Jackson was sitting with whom I assumed was the representative of the Von Dutch collection. Pieces were selling at about 25% of the projected sales price. Things started getting weird quickly as the man seated next to Craig started bidding up prices. After a discussion with the gentleman Craig soon left. The man then started out bidding the room on every piece in close conjunction with the auctioneers (I will assume this was a buy-back of sorts as the pieces re-appeared later on the floor). Auction lots were then simply pulled to the dismay of the small crowd. We were two lots away from the piece we wanted to purchase when it was pulled. I could see the Von Dutch knife in the display case but that was the closest I would come. Most of the remaining pieces were pulled before the auction quickly closed leaving the bidders baffled and upset. A no reserve auction means nothing if you are going to pull all the pieces in it. My father was beside himself; in fifty years of attending auctions he had never seen anything like it.

We later heard rumors of precedent setting buy-backs in the car auction. Curious how this works? A group of friends or associates help bid up a vehicle to a desired value hoping another bidder will jump in. If this doesn’t happen you take a 20% loss buying it back (commission in and out). On the surface this makes no sense until you consider it sets a precedent for that type of vehicle. The consignor happens to have three similar cars. The new precedent has increased the value of all four vehicles easily off-setting the 20% commission. I’m not sure about US tax law but I bet he can even write off the buy back price. The horse-trading days of the Wild West are not that far gone. You simply lubricate the audience’s wallet with liquor and whip them into a purchasing frenzy. Today with everyone wanting their fifteen minutes of fame if you stick a TV camera in their face the price goes up again. The thing that got me most was how many times the auctioneer got ahead of bidders and had to back track. All that said it was time to make shipping arrangements for the Studebaker.

Above is a picture of the car being unloaded in Vancouver. It passed our Provincial safety inspection and cruises on the highway with no problem. There are minor repairs to be done, some weather seals leak, and the heater fan needs to be checked, as does the fuel sender. It appears to be a ten-year-old restoration as evident by the 1996- 2nd place plaque in the glove compartment. The car show is forwarding me the winner’s name. Hopefully some new history will come to light. Here’s more food for thought about Barrett Jackson. I contacted the previous owner of the car. It was purchased from McCormick’s auction in Palm Springs. Their website revealed it sold for $5600 on February 25, 2006. Now that was a deal.

All in all it was a good experience. There were plenty of cars to see. The bratwurst is great even at four bucks a pop. The wagon is cool but more than anything it was a week away with my father. We met some really good people including Bob Shaw. Barrett Jackson is a spectacle and worth seeing if only once. In hind site three to four days is plenty of time to take it in.

Happy motoring.

Studebaker Results - Barrett Jackson 2007
Lot# 306 1959 Lark Wagon $9 900.00
Lot# 480 1951 Champion $15 400.00
Lot# 640 1957 Golden Hawk $56 100.00
Lot# 749 1947 Pick-up $83 600.00


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