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Auction Express: The news behind the numbers

Old Cars Weekly auction expert Ron Kowalke looks ahead to some upcoming auctions and recaps some of the highlights from a couple of recent sales in the old car hobby. Check out the highs and lows, and what some very interesting cars fetched recently when they crossed the block.

Wartime Alfa Romeo headliner at
Worldwide Hilton Head auction

Worldwide Auctioneers announced that a 1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Tipo Sport Cabriolet by Touring will headline its third annual Hilton Head Sports & Classic Car Auction on Nov. 1. One of only two ever built and finished in red with parchment interior, the car is offered for sale with original engine, chassis and aluminum body. “This magnificent automobile was deservedly awarded a perfect 100 points by the CCCA,” said Rod Egan, managing partner and chief auctioneer. “It is beautifully presented and its sale quite literally represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance any serious collection with an extraordinary automobile.”

A matched pair of Maseratis will bring yet more Italian performance and style to the Hilton Head sale. Stablemates for the past 25 years, the 1963 3500 GT Vignale Spyder and ’63 Sebring 3500 GT coupe are both race and rally prepared, black with black interior and presented for sale in excellent mechanical and cosmetic condition. They will be joined on stage by a ’69 Lamborghini Muira P400.

The Hilton Head sale is held in conjunction with the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

The auction’s full color catalog is available for a fee, and includes auction admission for two and limited seating.
For more information on this event, contact 800-990-6789 or visit

Forrest Clark Collection Auction
Way back when life was a bit slower, Forrest Clark could be found playing tops with other kids. Clark gained his nickname “Toppy” from his competitive edge and winning area top tournaments. He was one of eight kids who were mostly raised by his mom.

Clark was born in Sabetha, Kan., on Aug. 15, 1911, on the way to Elk City, Okla. He saw many changes. He learned to drive with a team of horses, and then came the Model T Fords and other cars. His first memory of a family car was a Reo. They also took long trips from Butler to Spickard, Mo., long before air conditioning and paved roads, to visit family. 

The whole family piled into the family car and went to visit Toppy’s grandfather, who was a Grundy County judge. Toppy also remembers other trips, and that it was good there were kids, because they pushed the Reo home most of the way from Oklahoma.
Clark began driving at a young age, and this started his love affair with cars. When the Model A Fords came along, he thought they were the best. He courted his wife in a 1937 Chevrolet, his father-in-law’s car.

Early on, Clark mowed the cemetery lawn for money. He eventually attended pharmacy school and became Rich Hill’s (Missouri) pharmacist. And if he wasn’t dispensing pills, he also operated a pawn shop.

Many children in the area were given half dollars and silver dollars whenever they met Toppy. He liked to gamble and also always looked for a deal. He loves Cadillacs and big cars. Clark recalls many trips with buddies such as “Titanic” Thompson and road trips to Kansas City to gamble. With one fortunate winning spree, he came across a deal and bought his only son Terry a car, which is in the auction.

Clark collected and bought many cars over the years. In Toppy’s lifetime, he has made life-long friends with fellow car collectors. He has lived to a good old age of 97, and his motto is: Drink good whiskey, cold beer and collect old cars. Terry Clark boasts that he’s seen every car museum and most casino lobbies in the West. Terry played behind his dad’s pharmacy in an old 1937 hearse. He would pretend he was rescuing accident victims.

Terry remembers riding on trips with his dad and making sure they stopped at every salvage yard and clump of cars; “Diamonds in the rough, boy. That’s what they are,” Toppy would tell his son.

Now Clark is older and Terry and his wife Frieda are moving to Austria in 2009, and it is time to sell both of their collector vehicle collections. VanDerBrink Auctions founder Yvette VanDerBrink will conduct the Forrest “Toppy” Clark and Son auction on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. at the Nevada, Mo., Fairgrounds.

Oct. 31 is preview day with a band and barbeque in the late afternoon. The auction will take place the following day with police, hearse, ambulance, fire, automobile advertising and other gas and oil memorabilia and older parts. The car collection will be sold beginning at 1 p.m.

This sale includes rare cars such as a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible with Tri-Power, ’29 Cadillac four-person sport phaeton, ’53 Pontiac ambulance/hearse, an assortment of Model A Fords including a Victoria model, ’48 Lincoln V-12, a trio of ’56 Thunderbirds and a ’57 Studebaker. For truck lovers, there is a Diamond T and Model B Ford.

All vehicles will be sold with no reserve to the highest bidder. There is also an assortment of original ambulance equipment, sirens and red lights, police items including badges, patches, decals and hats along with an assortment of signs, toy vehicles and more.
For more information on this sale, call 605-201-7005 or visit

Fall Carlisle offers “Original Hour”
While the third annual Fall Carlisle Auction was a success from a presentatiion standpoint, the sale’s final numbers won’t support the “go get-’em” effort given by the auction staff nor the fine line-up of collector vehicles presented. The culprit behind the decrease in numbers, as well as being the talk of Fall Carlisle both at the auction and the swap meet held at the fairgrounds (story included in this issue), was the slumping economy and what effect this downturn might have on the collector vehicle hobby’s future.

The spigot of bad economic news got cranked wide open during the days of Fall Carlisle’s sale, held Oct. 3-4 at the Carlisle Expo Center. And, understandably, this might have caused more than a few potential buyers to place a death-grip on their wallets. Nonetheless, a selection of 191 collector vehicles was presented, of which 70 were declared sold on the block. This represents a 36.6 percent sell-through rate. In comparison, looking back at this same auction one year ago, there were 217 vehicles offered, of which 86 were hammered sold for a 39.6 percent sell-through rate.

New this year was a Friday evening line-up of collector cars presented during the “All Original Hour.” Approximately one dozen cars that were low-milage originals were driven onto the block, and a brief history was given for each explaining why the car had brief miles registered on its odometer. The standout among these featured vehicles was a 1956 Studebaker Sky Hawk hardtop with only 2,800 original miles. The South Bend, Ind.-based automaker produced only 3,050 of these beauties, and most likely this is the lowest-mile survivor of that group. When the flurry of bidding ended, the seller accepted $42,000 to release the Hawk.
Other noteworthy sales included a two-owner original 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible that sold for $27,750. The magnitude of that low selling price for one of the hobby’s most desirable collector cars was not lost on auctioneer Brent Earlywine when he congratulated the buyer and added, “You can take it to Hershey next week and double your money!” Another in the head-scratcher category of desirable cars selling for low money was a wire-wheel-equipped, white-on-white 1960 Ford Thunderbird hardtop that was let go for $7,400.

Two other Ford sales worth noting were a pair of rumbleseat-equipped Model A Fords, a 1930 landau convertible coupe and ’31 roadster. This pair of breathtakingly restored Model As sold for $27,000 and $25,000, respectively, and were my selection for buyers getting the most beauty for their buck.

“Red” Dellinger Estate Sale
On the Tuesday prior to the start of Fall Carlisle, Landis Auction Service conducted a public auction for the estate of Donald “Red” Dellinger in Mechanicsburg, Pa. This Sept. 30 sale featured Dellinger’s cars and trucks — mainly Citroens — shop and shop tools, parts, memorabilia, gun collection and residence. Approximately 100 enthusiasts of the France-based marque gathered on the Dellinger property to bid on items from his collection and reminisce about “Red” and all his contributions to the old car hobby and promoting the Citroen brand.

Dellinger was a longtime Pennsylvania Citroen dealer and enthusiast. His personal car collection included a restored 1938 Citroen Type II-B convertible, restored ’55 Citroen Type II-BL Traction sedan, original ’72 Citroen DS-21 sedan and a rough ’39 Citroen pickup comprised of a Citroen chassis, Perkins diesel engine and Ford body panels. The remainder of the vehicles in the sale were either Dellinger’s daily drivers or work/recreation vehicles or parts cars that included several DS-19 sedans as well as a 1962 Renault Caravelle convertible that was offered without a drivetrain and sold for $4,300. The remaining parts cars all sold, ranging in price from $75 to $900.

The ’38 Citroen convertible attracted spirited bidding. It eventually sold for $74,000 while the ’55 Traction sedan was bought for $18,000. The ’72 DS-21 sedan sold for $12,000 while the Perkins-powered pickup found an ambitious restorer who paid $2,000 to try and breathe new life into the project.

Watching Dellinger’s collection and property that he amassed over his lifetime get sold off bit by bit just reinforced the old adage that old car hobbyists never really own anything. We’re just merely caretakers preserving the vehicles and memorabilia for the next buyer.

Malcolm Sprinkle Estate Sale
The Malcolm Sprinkle Estate Sale was held in Columbia, Tenn., on Sept. 25. Occasionally, car collections come up for sale and the vehicles offered are presented in conditions that are unimaginable.

Malcolm Sprinkle always had a love affair with cars, and I asked his secretary when it began. She answered, “I started working for him in 1973, and he was already collecting then.” I asked if he ever sold any of his cars and her reply was “occasionally.” Locals would often approach him about selling the cars that were stored outside, but he was adamant about not selling.
He had vehicles both inside a pole barn and scattered throughout a field behind his house. Many of the vehicles were in good condition when they had been parked, including a one-owner (Spinkle’s aunt) 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop and several convertibles. As the weather took its toll over the years, rust set in and tops deteriorated. Some cars that had been left with windows down became a haven for animals. Then floors began to rust out and vines grew in. Some had their doors rusted shut. Others cars got inside privileges. Some fared well and only slowly deteriorated.

When the sale started, the auctioneer noted that a lot of people had inquired about why had Sprinkle allowed his collection to rot. He jokingly responded that if the cars were in better shape, the buyers would be paying more.

The noteworthy cars in the sale included a 1962 Chevy Corvette that had been stored outside. Showing only 69,000 original miles, it had accumulated a foot of leaves on its floor, but still sold for $35,000. Across from it was parked a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with only 2,800 original miles. It still had its window sticker and was on the MSO. It sold for $28,000. One of the more stellar survivors was a Plymouth Road Runner with its original paint, 383-cid V-8 and four-speed. It sold for $20,000.
All vehicles offered were declared sold.

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