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AUCTION EXPRESS: The sinking of Chrysler's Norseman

OCW Columnist Ron Kowalke ruminates on Chrysler's submerged concept car - the Norseman; the upcoming auction of the impressive Jay Weinberg collection; and offers auction summaries from Mecum Kansas City, McCormick Palm Springs and Barons Christmas Classic.

Noting that several concept cars have been offered for sale in previous Arizona auctions, and now reading that General Motors will be offering for sale a portion of its Heritage Collection to raise cash for the beleagured automaker to continue operations, I began wondering about a concept car from the past.

Chrysler Corporation’s Norseman concept was lost at sea in July 1956. After its design was completed by Ghia in Italy, it was being transported back to the United States — to begin its show circuit tour — aboard the Italian passenger liner Andrea Doria when the ship collided with the Swedish freighter Stockholm in the Atlantic Ocean in thick fog. Just hours after the collision, the liner sank off the coast of Massachusetts with all of its contents, including the Norseman.

Due to the great depth at which the Doria rests on her side on the ocean floor, a recovery of the Norseman has been deemed near impossible. Several deep sea divers have been killed trying to access the inner chambers of the ship during sport dives or souvenir hunts.

I wonder: has anyone has ever attempted to re-create the Norseman as a project along the lines of General Motors’ concept Corvette Nomad (whereabouts unknown), which has been replicated several times?

Worldwide Auctioneers has announced that it will sell a selection of collector cars and an extensive assortment of antiques from the collection of Jay Weinberg, all offered without reserve. The auction will be held on April 3 and 4, 2009, in Escondido, Calif.

Worldwide Auctioneers will offer for sale a significant
portion of the 250-car Jay Weinberg Collection on
April 3-4 in Escondido, Calif. Included in the auction
will be this 12-cylinder 1938 Packard convertible coupe.
(Weinberg Collection photo)

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“The Weinberg Collection includes an impressive array of select American Classics spanning six decades and a wonderful selection of antique furniture, porcelain, paintings, glass and sterling silverware,” said Rod Egan, managing director and chief auctioneer. “It is always a pleasure to be able to offer our customers such a fine array of automobiles and historic pieces from around the world.”

According to Worldwide Auctioneers Car Specialist John Lyons, the auction will consist of approximately 100 cars from Weinberg’s 250-car collection. He added that Weinberg, a California real estate developer and avid car collector, has decided to thin his collection to a more manageable size. “It’s a wonderful collection that represents many great eras of automobiles,” Lyons emphasized.

Included in the auction will be a 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible, ’56 Packard Caribbean convertible, ’40 Oldsmobile 90 convertible coupe, ’38 Packard convertible coupe, ’56 DeSoto Fireflite convertible equipped with dual quad carbs and the Hi-Way Hi-Fi sound system, ’54 Kaiser-Darrin convertible, ’11 Buick 14 five-passenger touring and ’61 Pontiac Bonneville convertible equipped with Tri-Power and four-speed manual transmission.

For the full list of consignments, call 260-927-0000 or visit

B. Mitchell Carlson reporting

Mecum Auction’s Fall High Performance Auction was held in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 5 - 7. A total of 429 collector vehicles were offered, with 209 declared sold. This represents a 48.7 percent sell-through rate. Total sales, according to Mecum, reached $4,007,415.

Mecum presented for sale a 27-car offering from the Mark Wilson Collection at this auction, with all vehicles selling at no reserve. The collection featured a cross-section of muscle cars and vehicles spanning all the major American manufacturers, with a turbocharged Volkswagen thrown in for variety.

It had been a year and one weekend since Mecum held an auction in the Kansas City area. This past spring, it conducted a series of Saturday night televised auctions in Indianapolis during the tim frame usually reserved for the K.C. spring sale. The spacious Kemper Arena/American Royal Center ensured that high temperatures in the 30s and a chance of light snow wouldn’t put a damper on things. The current economic malaise was enough to accomplish that.

There’s no doubt that the market has changed significantly in the last two years. Examples of this change at this sale included the second-to-top-selling car, a 1970 Plymouth Superbird, offered at no reserve from the Wilson Collection. Even equipped with the base-level four-barrel carbureted 440-cid V-8, two years ago it was a sure bet to pull over $100,000 — with $150,000 being plausible. At this sale, it could do no better than $82,750. Another vehicular barometer was the ever -popular 1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28. Also offered at no reserve from the Wilson Collection, this textbook number two condition car sold for $43,500. Two years ago at this venue, an identical condition Z/28 sold for $70,000.

The “Pick of the Sale” was the 1959 Chevrolet Apache 10 pickup with what was billed as a “dealer-installed” four-wheel-drive conversion. That anyone would’ve had a dealer install a conversion kit two model years after four-wheel-drive became a factory option seems a bit off kilter. Even if this was just a plain-Jane two-wheel-drive pickup, the selling price of $11,000 was low enough. As proof, a Midwest collector car dealer bought it.

Time will tell if this was the leading or trailing edge of a “market correction.” We’ll know more in mid-March 2009, when Mecum returns to Kansas City to continue its tradition of a K.C. spring sale.

Jason McCormick reporting

Over the three-day event held Nov. 21-23 in Palm Springs, Calif., the McCormick auction crew sold 306 of the 542 collector vehicles offered. Total hammer sales of $4,813,530 were recorded, including a 5 percent buyer’s commission. This figure was within $100,000 of the previous year’s November auction, which was a pleasant surprise considering the state of the economy.

Noteworthy sales included a left-hand-drive 1964 Bentley S3 - $38,000; ’41 Graham Hollywood - $34,000; ’67 Chevy Corvette convertible, 427-cid - $110,000; and, ’71 Mercedes-Benz 280SL - $45,675.

This auction was also streamed live on video from McCormick’s Web site, with 12 vehicles selling to out-of-country buyers bidding online.

For the entire results of this auction, visit

Barons ended 2008 on a high note, with its Christmas Classic and collector car sale at London’s Sandown Park on Dec. 9. More than 50 percent of the 70-plus cars on offer sold, with the company achieving a sale figure of $510,000 (gross) — its highest ever.

Surrey Hall was packed with cars and buyers. Bidding was enthusiastic across the board. A number of lots sold for more than the top estimate, including the 1962 Jaguar XK-E that achieved $48,500 and ’87 Jaguar XJ-S 5.3 HE coupe that sold for $11,725.

Both vehicles have a fascinating history, having been owned by the world-famous bodybuilder Charles “Wag” Bennett, who is best-known for discovering Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bennett was one of the judges in the 1966 Mr. Universe competition in London in which the 19-year-old Schwarzenegger took part. Bennett and his wife Diane invited the impoverished teenager to live with them and their six children and took over his training. Schwarzenegger went on to win the Mr. Universe competition in 1967. In later years, would refer to the Bennetts as his “British parents.”

“Wag” Bennett died in 2008, and the cars were later found by his family in a garage where they had been stored, undriven, for many years. They were only discovered when the property had to be cleared due to a compulsory purchase order, and were offered for sale by the Bennett estate.

For a complete list of cars sold at this auction, visit

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