Custom cars are changing the auction landscape

The C1-RS had its picture taken a lot at the SEMA Show this year. Many hand-fabricated parts are made of aluminum or carbon fiber. The car was a hit and an award winner at the 2012 Milwaukee Autorama.

Story and photo by John Gunnell

Rob Williams, general manager of The Auto Collections at the Quad (formerly Imperial Palace), says that the highly modified ’67 “Eleanor” Mustang shown on lobby posters for the Las Vegas attraction is the most popular car it has ever displayed in its 31 years. It is the actual car that actor Nicolas Cage drove in the Touchstone Pictures remake of “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

A placard near the car in the collection itself says that Cinema Vehicle Services built 11 cars for the 2000 film, four of which were destroyed. Three Eleanors were sold to private parties; two were kept by the builder and CVS kept two. Each car has slight differences from the others. The car in the Las Vegas auto collection is the “hero” car that Cage drove while performing his own stunts.

Gobs of money were spent modifying the movie Mustangs with body kits, functional side pipes, mag wheels, sport tires and a hood scoop. For stunt driving purposes, 650-hp (1000-hp on nitrous) 428-cid Ford V-8s were installed. An automatic transmission was substituted to make life easier for the stunt drivers. Obviously, the popularity of the Eleanor Mustang has little to do with originality.

In fact, the Eleanor Mustang symbolizes how the old-car hobby is changing today, and preview catalogs for some of the Arizona auctions really drives this home. For example, the Barrett-Jackson catalog alone showcases 222 vehicles consigned to the company’s January auction and close to 60 of them are hot rods or resto-mods.

Pictured at The Auto Collections at The Quad in Las Vegas is Eleanor, the famous Mustang from the 2000 action hit, “Gone in Sixty Seconds.”

In fact, the two primary cover cars for the catalog are the “Dragon” Mustang constructed by Ringbrothers of Spring Green, Wis., and a heavily-modified, 1962 Corvette C1-RS custom roadster displayed at the recent SEMA Show.

The C1-RS was the winner of the 2009 Goodguys “Street Machine of the Year” award and also took SEMA’s GM Design Award for “Best Hot Rod” that same year. The car was custom built over a one-year period for Barry Blomquist of Onalaska, Wis. The construction of the vehicle started with a Roadster Shop custom tube chassis fitted with Detroit Speed suspension bits and Afco remote adjustable shock absorbers. It rides on one-of-a-kind Forge Line three-piece wheels and has giant Brembo 14-in. ventilated six-piston disc brakes. Under the hood of the C1-RS is a Turnkey Engines’ 427-cid LS7 General Motors crate V-8 that serves up 618 hp thanks in part to fuel-injection on a cross-ram intake manifold. Behind the engine is a Bowler-built Tremec T56 six-speed gearbox that drives to a Ford 9-inch rear axle.

Every original Corvette body panel on the car has been modified, including many custom fabricated or custom machined items.

With some 28 percent of the headline cars consigned to the 2013 Barrett-Jackson auction falling into the modified vehicle niche, car collectors are left to ponder how they can assess the values of such cars and determine if a specific hot rod, custom or resto-mod vehicle is worth investing in. After all, there is no price guide available to help people gauge the worth of these very individualistic cars.

In the case of the Eleanor Mustang, the word on the street is that a quarter-million dollars was spent making changes to at least one of these professionally modified cars. Williams is currently offering The Auto Collections’ example for $375,000. That may sound high for a Mustang until its crowd appeal is considered. The car was seen and appreciated for what it is by millions of moviegoers — not just hundreds of thousands of hobbyists. Plus, it has been a bigger Las Vegas draw than the Classic Packards, Cadillacs and Duesenbergs exhibited at the Imperial Palace in its 30-plus years.

The modified vehicle market is not consistent, however. Cars constructed by famous builders such as Chip Foose, Jack Roush and Troy Trepanier inspire hot rodders and home builders across America to test the same ideas on their own creations, which often lack the pricey engineering, extreme build quality, skill and parts accessibility the professionals enjoy. Those professionals’ cars also enjoy a premium price when crossing the market for these aspects and the familiarity of their name.

Bidders planning to buy cars at the 2013 Arizona auctions should proceed with caution when purchasing a modified vehicle. They should do their homework before hand and get as many details as possible about the car they hope to own. Those details — engine, builder, components, workmanship — should then be compared to the sold prices found in OCW’s auctions listings for similar cars.

Whether that car being bid on is in the $30,000 or the $300,000 price range, the one thing you can be certain about is that it reflects the changes taking place in the old car auction industry today.


Eleanor Mustang fan? Check out more interesting ponies in Mustang: The Original Pony Car.

One thought on “Custom cars are changing the auction landscape

  1. Ronald Sieber

    This trend opens up another avenue for collectors: the custom or “outlaw” style. There is a shifting demographic of young, affluent enthusiasts that are investing in their passion, much like older collectors with the classics. All share a suspicion of and disdain for further investing in the stock market, which will no doubt trade sideways for the near future. Car values in many areas are rising and present a haven.

    Along with this, I predict that there will be increased interest in and demand for concept vehicles, especially ones that operate. These vehicles have come a long way from the rolling “dream car” displays of the 50s, and also represent an investing opportunity.

    It’s a good time to be investing in collectible cars. The trick is to determine which ones are, as well as how much they are worth. Aye, that’s the rub…


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