Mecum lends helping hand to student
You can tell that the collector car industry is changing as 2017 kicks off. There’s a maturity settling into the specialty car field with involved professionals looking beyond immediate profits and giving thought to what the future holds for a pastime that for many is transitioning from a hobby to a business.
Take Wisconsin-based classic car auctioneer Dana Mecum for example. Time was when old car auctions were held under striped tents and all that counted was headline prices. Today’s auctioneers, like Mecum, are changing that. On strictly a business level, they are doing a better job of vetting the owner histories of the cars they sell and making sure that vehicle paperwork is in order.
In Mecum’s case, however, his commitment to the industry goes beyond such things. He is helping to sponsor hobby events like the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (www.mcacn.com), serving as president of the Harry A. Miller Club (www.harrymillerclub.com) and sponsoring serious historical research projects.
We asked him why he took on this responsibility on top of his travels all over the country to do auctions. “Because it’s fun,” was the simple answer he gave. “I mean, I wouldn’t be in the car auction business if I wasn’t a car guy first. This is the one weekend of the year I don’t have commerce in mind. If people come up to me here and want to talk about selling cars, I don’t even talk to them.”
Mecum brought eight cars to the meet at his own expense. He said that he tried to grow the club several years ago, then looked at the situation and decided that the culture of the club and the laid back atmosphere at the meet were the important things. “We have a banquet and a social picnic,” he said. “Everyone gets to relax and have a Wisconsin brat and beer and just have a wonderful time. And you know, to try to build it to be more, you’d potentially destroy all that.”
According to Mecum, it’s a club and it’s an old-fashioned meet. “Most car things today have some business orientation, but there’s no business orientation here,” he said. “We get enough entry fees for the cars to pay for the track and the ambulance and the lights and that’s it. And people say that this is my passion, but for me it’s beyond passion; this is my life.”
Dana has also been supporting a historical research project connected to the famous Elgin Road Races held in Elgin, Ill. Maurice Dyer, who is on the board of directors of the Elgin Historical Society, said that the first Elgin Road Race took place in 1910 and brought 50,000 people to Elgin, Ill. The races were an on and off thing for over two decades before racing on public roads was discontinued. In 1933, the city of Elgin hosted another road racing event in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair. This event included America’s first advertised stock-car race.
“Luckily, I’m here today with Zach McClure, a student at McPherson College,” said Dyer. “He was prepared to educate people about the Elgin Road Races. Zach is working on a double major in automotive restoration and history so, of course, he is interested in automotive history. He has just gotten started on a project that involves researching the Elgin Road Races. He’s about five or six weeks into it and already has 200 pages of information. I told him that his Senior Scholastic Paper is going to be an editing project for a writing project.”
McClure is the recipient of a scholarship to McPherson College sponsored by the Elgin Historical Society. That’s another reason why his senior project will focus on the Elgin Road Races. “He is very interested in early auto racing,” Dyer explained. “When I talked to Dana Mecum and told him about Zach, he offered to bring him to the Millers at Milwaukee. He sponsored him to come up here. Zach will also go to Mecum Auctions headquarters where he’ll study with their researchers for a period of time. He’ll eventually have enough facts to not only do a scholastic paper, but maybe magazine articles or a book.”
Dyer applauded Mecum for supporting McClure’s studies. “Of course, Zach is interested in talking to anyone else who has information, photos, memorabilia or recollections related to the Elgin Road Races,” he said. McClure can be reached by calling 1-660-654-0636 or emailing zfmcClure@gmail.com