B. Mitchell Carlson and John “Ziggy” Zwinger reporting
HAMILTON, Ill. - Ralph Bauer was a regular figure at collector car auctions throughout the Midwest and in Arizona, in addition to a regular attendee at Back to the 50’s. He was noted for specializing in collecting flathead V-8 Fords and Metropolitans for his collector car dealership in the northwest St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Mo. His unexpected passing late in 2020 forced the sale if his collection and inventory by the family, who opted to consign with noted Hamilton-based based Sullivan Auctioneers.
Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the auction was conducted only online from Sullivan’s offices and broadcast on Proxibid.com. The first day consisted of a live auction, with prime pieces of Ralph’s Automobilia interspaced between the automotive lots. On the second day there were two timed online only auctions – one for the remaining Automobilia and the other of shop tools, supplies, and fixtures from the two buildings Ralph leased for his cars adjacent to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. While that site was closed on the auction days of February 1st and 2ond, the thee days previous hosted a public inspection of the cars and other items in Chesterfield, where we had a chance to inspect them for this report.
Starting promptly at 9 a.m., auctioneer Jim Huff started calling the first lot for the over 600 registered bidders online and ready to go. Active bidders were from as far away as England, the Czech Republic, and Dubai; yet as could be expected, a majority of the cars were bought by those from the upper Midwest. Such was the case for the top sale of the day, the 1958 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop. Sporting a four-barrel 348 V-8 and Powerglide automatic, it sold to a bidder from Macom, Ill., for $62,000.
Overall, with over $1.3 million generated on the 41 cars and scooters, sales were very strong, buoyed by the fact that Sullivan didn’t charge any buyers’ fees at all – even on Proxibid, which is highly unusual. Sullivan’s auctioneers stating “we pride ourselves on being buyer friendly” multiple times over the course of the live proceedings. Without factoring in a buyers premium, bidders were willing to bid a little extra to get one of Ralph’s cars. Generally, this was also the same for the two online only timed auction rings, the only thing that may have put a damper on some smaller lots is that there was no shipping services offered and the buyer’ had only the three days after the online auctions to collect their goods from the Chesterfield location – from full-sized cars to posters of cars.
The following is a representative sampling of the cars – and some from Bauer’s collection.
1958 Chevrolet Impala
2-dr HT, Condition #2, sold for $62,000. The high sale of the day. Powered by a four-barrel carbureted 348-cid V-8 and backed up by a Powerglide automatic transmission, this was the top sale of the entire two days and three total auction rings of sales of the Ralph Bauer estate. He actually bought this well restored car at the 2019 Mecum Spring Classic auction in Indianapolis, as essentially has remained unchanged since. In addition to factory optional power steering plus dealer accessory fender skirts and door handle trim, it has modern air conditioning. Since the restoration, its seen some use and as such shows some light wear and soiling, including some wrinkling of the interior door panels. That mentioned, it’s still a very eye-catching car that saw a lot of bidding activity, opening at $50,000, ending with the high bidder from Illinois. In the background is some of Mr. Bauer’s Petroliana enameled signs, most notable the huge Hudson gasoline 4-panel 20 by 8-foot sign, selling for $2,500.
1951 Studebaker Commander State
2-dr conv, Condition #2, $29,500. “Our Pick of the Sale.” 1951 was a landmark year for Studebaker, as it was the final year of the “bullet nose” and the first full year that an automatic transmission was available (introduced mid-year during 1950) plus the innagural year of their overhead valve V8 engine, offered only in the Commander models. In this top-of-the-line State series (the only way to get a V8 convertible this year), it was a 120 horsepower 232 CID unit. This example was restored in recent years and presented exceptionally well. While some may think that the original Plaza Gray is a dull as a chalkboard, I’ll remind them that plain gray has become a popular color on modern Ford performance vehicles like the F-150 Raptor and Shelby Mustangs. Still, while that may have put a few people off, it meant that the high bidder from Wisconsin got one of the few good deals on a car here, and a highly authentically one at that. As such, it earns out Pick of the Sale choice.
1959 Edsel Corsair
2-dr conv, condition #2, sold for $35,500. Mr. Bauer bought this final year Corsair in 2012 at the Charlie Thomas collection sale conducted by RM Auctions sale of the in Grapevine, Texas. Fitted with a dealer accessory continental spare tire kit, this older refurbishment looks pretty decent, yet shows some aging and less than concise restoration work. Good paint, to include on the undercarriage, yet the side trim is dull and has lots of light dings (although those pieces are hard to find, especially years back when the car was repainted). The interior shows some yellowing on the white vinyl portions of the upholstery and white plastic fittings. While it has a newer gas tank, the old dual exhaust system is rusting out. The top also has some staining that should be tended to by the new owner. As such, it sold strong enough for the shape it’s in. It’s parked below a rare post-War era single-sided Lincoln-Mercury neon on enamel sign that sold for $4,600 (left) and a AAA APPROVED single-sided neon on enamel sign that brought $1,700.
1956 Cadillac Series 62
2-dr HT, Condition #3, sold for $36,000. This Series 62 is rather well equipped, with optional factory installed air conditioning, Autronic Eye headlight dimmer, power windows, and signal-seeking AM radio. The repaint was done quite well a few years back and still looks good. The original white vinyl with light green cloth insert upholstery is quite good, showing little wear even if there’s some wrinkling of the door panels. The 365 CID V8 now has a modern Edelbrock 4-barrel carburetor feeding it. Overall, this is a quite presentable driver-grade Caddy that opened at being bid at $35,000 and got only one more bid to sell at a price that’s stronger than it’s peers would be in the current market. Perhaps this would be closer to correctly priced if it was in a more popular color combination, but while light yellow with dark green metallic is in character with the 1950’s, it’s hardly the top choice of most collectors. That’s part of why there was only two bids when the pre-bidding went live here.
1959 Metropolitan 1500
2-dr conv, Condition #3, sold for $21,750. A bit of England, Kenosha – and Yokohama, Japan. With the hood down, this 1959 Metropolitan (not a Nash, as stated in the catalog, as that brand ceased to be after 1957) looks like a rather well restored convertible. Open the hood, and something doesn’t look quite right, as it’s powered by a 1.3-Liter Datsun 4-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission from a B-210, along with its front disc brakes. One of the reasons this was done was that Mrs. Bauer doesn’t drive a manual transmission, so this gave her a Met of her own to cruise around it. Just shy of being in number 2 condition, the signs of light use and some soiling barely put it into strong three condition territory – not that the car is modified. The high bidder here was from Kenosha, WI, so they may have some explaining to do to all of those former AMC plant workers in the area why a native son – albeit mostly from England – now has an engine from land of the rising sun.
1936 Ford Deluxe
2-dr roadster, Condition #3, sold for $49,000. While a number of Ralph’s flathead Ford’s sported aftermarket performance parts – both period and modern – surprisingly this rumble-seat roadster was bone stock under the hood. From the oil bath air filter right down to the correct shade of green paint on the oil pan. One rather hard to find option this did have was a set of optional chrome artillery wheels. It also has an accessory AM radio, fog lamps, vent wind wings, greyhound hood mascot, and trunk rack. Combined with the continental type rear spare tire, with the rack folded down, this had a rather long rear overhang. The car looks to have been cosmetically refurbished several decades back, with good paint but chrome that’s starting to show its age. The cloth top is also showing some heaver soiling, yet the seats still look quite good. This sale was a bit strong compared to the normal market, but not by much, yet coupled with the dynamics of this no-reserve zero buy fee auction made it the perfect storm for what should be a nice cruiser-grade roadster from one of the most popular years of early V8 Fords.
1956 Ford T-Bird
2-dr conv, Condition #3, sold for $39,000. Which is more of a facade? Equipped with only a soft top (now fitted with a replacement Haartz cloth rather than the original vinyl), plus optional automatic transmission, power brakes, power steering, full tinted glass, and power door locks. Also has a modern air conditioner, plastic coolant overflow tank, and 1961-62 Sports Roadster style Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels added. Overall, this is more of a good older cosmetic doll-up than a restoration, yet presents very well. Almost a very low two condition, but since its more of an old used car underneath, it’s more of a strong three than it appears. Speaking of being less than it appears, it was parked in front of a replica 1950s Texaco gas station, with all the authentic trimmings with it – to include gas pumps, oil can racks, and signage. While those real pieces of Petroliana sold individually, the false front gas station only sold for $150 - a pretty good deal if you have enough “man cave” to disassemble it and put it back together inside of. As for the T-Bird, that was less of a deal, selling for a retail plus $39,000.
1941 Packard Series 1901 One Twenty
2-dr conv, Condition #3, sold for $42,500. Sporting its original serial number tag on the cowl, stating that it was sold new by Morgan Motor Company in Pasadena, Calif., on Sept. 5, 1941, the original owner probably breathed a sigh of relief in buying this stylish Packard six months later, with the US an active participant in World War II and civilian auto production cut off for the duration. In a similar sense, the bidders here, being almost a year into the mess that COVID-19 imparted, were locked into something of a battle for this regal convertible. The older presentable restoration opened at $29,000-$30,000, it was essentially a horse race between two bidders – one from Illinois and one from Kansas. When that bidding war was won, the car was heading back west.
Sullivan Auctioneers Ralph A. Bauer Estate Sale
- Chesterfield, MO (simulcast live online from Hamilton, IL) Feb. 1 and 2, 2021
- All 41 motor vehicles offered were declared sold at no reserve, 100-percent sell-through
- No buyers premium, regardless of medium
- B. Mitchell Carlson and John “Ziggy” Zwinger, reporting
For condition rating explanation CLICK HERE
1932 Auburn 8-100a 2d sed DSM. condition #3 $42,000
1939 Cadillac 60S 4d sed DSM. condition #2 $35,500
1956 Cadillac 62 2d HT A/C. condition #3 $36,000
1958 Chevrolet Impala 2d HT 348cid/AT. condition #2 $62,000
1993 Chevrolet Corvette 40th anniv 2d cpe 6spd/35k mi. condition #3 $15,250
2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser 2d PU mod. condition #3 $10,750
1959 Edsel Corsair 2d conv. condition #3 $35,500
1930 Ford Model A 2d rds nom 136cid 60hp V8. condition #3 $19,000
1932 Ford Model B 2d conv mod/NOM 22cid V8/rumbleseat. condition #3 $39,000
1934 Ford V8 2d conv. condition #3 $48,500
1936 Ford del 2d rds rumbleseat. condition #3 $49,000
1937 Ford del 2d conv mod/Evans hds, Offenhauser 2x2/rmblst.condition #3 $48,000
1938 Ford Del 2d cpe Offenhauser heads. condition #3 $27,750
1940 Ford Del 2d conv. condition #3 $43,000
1951 Ford Cus 2d cpe. condition #3 $16,500
1953 Ford Crestline Sunliner 2d conv AT. condition #3 $42,000
1956 Ford Fairlane Vic 2d HT 312cid/AT/Ford of Canada. condition #3 $30,500
1956 Ford T-bird 2d conv S/T only. condition #2 $39,000
1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner 2d HT conv NOM 351cid/AT. condition #3 $48,000
1965 Ford Mustang 2d HT 1964 1/2 prod/NOM 289cid V8 4bbl. condition #3 $18,500
2004 Ford F-350 Lariat 4d 1t car hauler 6.0L diesel/AT. condition #3 $30,500
1938 Lincoln Zephyr 2d cpe street rod/NOM 302cid V8/AT. condition #2 $55,000
1946 Lincoln 76 2d conv OD. condition #3 $44,000
1948 Lincoln cont 2d cpe. condition #3 $25,500
1962 Lincoln cont 2d cpe derham (1 of 2). condition #3 $36,500
1949 Mercury Eight 2d sed mod/nom Chevy 327cid/AT. condition #3 $31,500
1959 Metropolitan 1500 2d cpe faux taxi. condition #3 $15,250
1959 Metropolitan 1500 2d conv NOM Datsun 4cyl/AT. condition #3 $21,750
1960 Metropolitan 1500 2d conv. condition #3 $20,000
1962 Metropolitan 1500 2d cpe mod. condition #3 $9,000
2001 Monaco Windsor 1d RV Class A/36ft/8.3L Cummins diesel.condition #3 $33,000
1941 Packard 120 1901 2d conv. condition #3 $42,500
1951 Studebaker Commander State 2d conv AT. condition #2 $29,500
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