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Car Corner
Kruse Antique & Classic Car Auction

May 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

Back in March I visited Kruse's Antique and Classic Car Auto Auction in New Braunfels, Texas. I read about it in the paper and just had to go. I don't have the money to buy a car yet, but wanted to see if it would be worth trying to get a classic car at an auction. As luck would have it it rained pretty badly the day I went. I took my 6 year old son to the event. He was a real trooper. I only wanted to get an idea of the cars that would be available, and whether a decent price could be paid for a car. (Note: I only learned the following week that Kruse was a huge auction company that ran auctions all over the place. I think they have recently been bought up by eBay, but don't want to spend the time to confirm that.)

As far as my son was concerned the best car there was the Batmobile (from Batman Returns).

The auction was a three day event. I went on the last day, Sunday. Because of this I am sure I missed seeing a lot of cars that were already auctioned off. (About a week or so after the event Kruse posts the results of the auction online. You can see the results of the San Antonio/New Braunfels auction here.)

The Cars

As I said... it was raining, I was with my 6 year old son, and I attended on the last day of the auction. I did not get the opportunity to see the cars as well as I would have liked, and am sure that I missed a lot of cars that must have passed through the day before... when it wasn't raining. I did learn that it is possible to get a decent car at a decent price (assuming that the auctioneers were not lying about the cars... which is information they relay from the owners, and should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Given the brief window of opportunity, I was only able to wait for one car that would be a car I would be willing to bid on. It was a 1967 Pontiac Tempest Convertible with a 326 engine. It was maroon with a black interior and top. The car looked like new. Really. The picture in the table below does not do it justice. (Note: I learned that my digital camera really sucks at taking pictures of cars indoors. The image you see here was heavily modified in Paint Shop Pro to look as good as it does.)

I waited for this car to come on the auction block. I couldn't make out everything said about the car, but I did catch a couple of details... most important being that the car had a frame off restoration. Assuming it was true, then I think it was worth the $10,300 it went for. The car could make an excellent daily driver classic 60's convertible. A possibility could also be to make a GTO replica out of it. This would piss off the purists, and would probably hurt the car's value. For me, I would get a car like this to enjoy, and not for the investment. Turning it into a GTO would make a great project for me and my sons when they are a little older. Until then I would just drive the car as is, and research what it would take to make it into a GTO replica. As a daily driver the first thing I would do with this car would be get new wheels and tires that improve the looks and handling/safety of the car.

I noticed a couple of cars that had prices on them. I can't remember them very well, but do remember them being out of line... and that's without doing research. For example, I saw a 1967 Mustang GTA. It had a price of $22,400. Ouch! I would do some serious searching before dropping over 20 large on a Mustang.

As for cars in the parking lot... in the rain, remember... I saw a few cars that I really liked, as well as some inside that looked very nice. In the table below are the cars I noticed while walking around. I looked up the details on the Kruse site to see what (if anything) they went for (cars that sold have their bid price in red). 

Car Kruse Page Picture Final Bid/Sale Price
1967 Tempest Convertible Details tempest.jpg (56233 bytes) 10,300
1967 Corvette Details vette.jpg (44691 bytes) 21,500
1970 GTO Judge Details judge.jpg (37714 bytes) 15,000
1965 Mustang Fastback Details stang.jpg (42159 bytes) 12,600
1969 Road Runner Details 69rr.jpg (43450 bytes) 9,000
1970 Road Runner Details 70rr.jpg (48643 bytes) 14,750
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Details belair.jpg (52022 bytes) 12,000
1967 GTO N/A gto_gold.jpg (47939 bytes) N/A
1967 Camaro RS Details two_camaros.jpg (52387 bytes) 17,500
1969 Camaro Pace Car Details pacecar.jpg (33683 bytes) 23,750

I really enjoyed seeing the 69 Road Runner. When the original Road Runner came out in 1968 it was a shot at GM. With the Muscle Car being only 4 years old (the 64 GTO was the first) GM's lineup of Muscle Cars was getting too luxury and option laden. Plymouth went back to the original formula -- intermediate body style, BIG engine -- and drove it home with the Road Runner. It was a 2 Door Plymouth Satellite with a police suspension and taxi cab interior with a 383 or 426 Hemi engine. And it sold cheap, with rubber floor mats being about the most luxurious item on the car. The 69 at the Kruse auction was like that. It was a factory stripper with a big engine, 383 in this case. It even had the cheapo half hub caps. Very cool! Too bad $9,000 was not enough to meet the reserve. Nine grand seems fair to me, but oh well.

If you look at the details page for the 1970 Road Runner the picture is wrong. For starters, the picture is of a 69 Road Runner, not a 70. And the color doesn't match the description. My picture is correct. I don't know what the reserve was, but almost $15K seems like a lot of money for a non-restored car.

I like that the Vette sold for $21,500. The car was very nice looking in the lot. And the price seems reasonable for that era of Corvette, even if it wasn't stock. I would have paid that if I was in the market for a sixties Corvette. I didn't even think the Camaro Pace car was going to be auctioned. I love that it sold for a reasonable price. That is one rare Camaro Convertible and it looked great. I don't know if the 67 Camaro that sold for $17.5K is in the picture above, but if it is one of them then it was a good buy. A mint condition, big block, 4-speed Camaro RS with working hide-a-way headlights... cool. Too bad it wasn't a convertible.

I am sure I missed plenty. When I was driving away I saw a mid sixties four door Lincoln Convertible being towed away. It had a No Reserve sign on the windshield, so I know it was being towed home by its new owner. Checking the results page showed it went for $5,200.

The Reserve

I mentioned that the Tempest above had its reserve removed mid-auction. In case you didn't already know, a reserve is a price the owner sets as the minimum they are willing to accept. I can understand this to a degree. Clearly you want to avoid the possibility of someone buying your car for almost nothing and taking a huge financial loss. But I think the reserve system on classic cars in auctions is abused by the sellers. I have seen cars on eBay and the like, and there current bid is quite high yet still hasn't met the reserve. If you put a car on the auction block you take your chances that you could get a lot for it with a decent bidding situation, but ultimately you should be expecting to sell the car... period.

The Two Road Runners in the table above should have sold. Although the GTO Judge is rare, I still think it should have sold as well. These bids were reasonable. After all, it is an auction filled with people with cash in hand.

I think a lot of the reserves used in these auctions is a way for the seller to just get more then the car is worth. If you want too much for a reserve then sell it privately... not at an auction. Come on, in this day and age there are hundreds of places you could advertise a classic car on the Internet and get global interest in the car... if the price was not out of line.

An auction brings a bunch of people to the table ready to spend money. This means you can be sure to sell your car. Remember, the reserve is supposed to be the minimum you are willing to accept, not how much you think the car is worth or how much you want to spend on your next house. Put a reasonable reserve on it, or go elsewhere to sell.

The Plan

If I were going to attend an event like this with the intension of bidding on cars I would make a plan to see the cars as early as possible and determine their worth. Here is how I would handle an auction.

First, I would determine how much money I have to spend on any car. This is important as it will allow me to narrow in on cars I can afford, and not be disappointed during the auction.

Kruse posts the cars that will be available for auction on its web site well before the event. For an auction that publishes the list of cars, this is the first stop. With budget in hand I would select as many cars as I would be willing to bid on. I would then research them on the internet and record going prices. This information would be used to determine the most I would be willing to bid on the individual cars.

With enough cars researched I would head to the auction at the earliest possible time to view the cars in person. Here you must do the best you can to determine the condition of the cars, and the upper limit to bid for each one. Also, get the schedule of when the cars will be auctioned off.

I would narrow the cars to ones I would really like to own. Then I would rank them in a combination of order of preference/order of auction. This should be the hardest part. From what I saw most of the cars are put on the auction block in some order. If the car you want the most is near the end of the auction you might have to pass up on a great possibility only to be out bid on your dream car. Ordering your choices is the most important thing.

I would try to put together a list of at least five cars... in the order they will be auctioned. You can try to use this information to determine when you need to be at the auction. But be careful. The Tempest I saw go for auction was "cut in line" and I don't know if it was just late or actually being put on the block out of order. It is feasible that you will spend a lot of time at an event like this. Plan on most of the day (or days) and you won't be under pressure.

With a handful of cars and their going rates I would return to the auction on the second and third day with the intent to bid on each car. Take them in order... which is why it is important to rank them well. If you really wanted that 5th car, but end up with the 2nd car on your list you need to be prepared.

Bid on each car in order. Make sure not to go over your upper limit. Remember, if you did your research right you can just go home and buy it on the Internet the normal way. (This being the case I would bookmark any car for sale that matches what your bidding on so you can go home and buy it without looking all over again.)

Of course, this doesn't mean I might not jump in on the bidding if I saw a screaming deal going by. Oops.

Conclusion

From what I saw at the auction, and the results of this auction posted to the Kruse site, I think it is a very worthwhile event. I was disappointed that many more cars didn't sell, but enough did that if you are not locked in on one particular car there are good deals to be had.

I plan to attend next year's auction. I won't have a lot of money to buy a car, but I will work it out with my wife and bank to see how much I could put toward buying a classic car. I could envision having around $5,000 cash for an auction next year. If I borrowed another $5,000 I might be able to go into the auction with $10,000. Something on par with a restored Tempest Convertible would be really nice parked in my new garage.

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