We recently posted an article about four low-mileage 1980s Caprices crossing the Mecum Kissimmee auction block in January 2019. At the end of the web post, we said Old Cars editor Angelo Van Bogart might bid on one of the three low-mileage coupes at the Mecum sale (the fourth Caprice was a station wagon). Well, he did just that and won the 1984 Caprice Sport Coupe.
Angelo says the winning bidders of the 1981 and 1982 Caprice coupes at the auction bought better than him, but he’s very pleased with his purchase. We’re sharing his first-time Mecum bidding experience to help other potential auction bidders contemplating the process.
About two weeks before the start of the Mecum Auctions Kissimmee sale, I noticed there would be three Caprice coupes with 17,000 or fewer miles crossing the block. Realizing my high-mile 1985 Caprice Landau coupe would eventually need a little work and my 1981 Impala coupe project would need a LOT of work, I sold my cars to go after one of the low-mileage cars at Kissimmee. But which one?
All of the Caprice coupes at Mecum were Sport Coupes without a vinyl top — a big plus in my book. They also had the other options I was looking for: V-8, heavy-duty F41 suspension, tilt wheel, power windows and locks — all the goodies you would want in an ’80s GM luxo boat. Each was ordered new by Don Pulver who, beginning in the ’60s, would often buy a car he liked (usually a full-size GM car or Corvette), drive it for the summer, park it indefinitely that fall, then repeat.
Two of the Caprices were gleaming black coupes that had been spit-shined down to the cars’ original white sidewalls before pictures were taken for Mecum’s website. The third was a more forlorn-looking white 1984 coupe that hadn’t been given the same attention. It had recent blackwalls with dirty handprints from the Walmart employee who mounted them; a broken body-to-bumper filler panel; and an ugly antenna on the trunk for a very “Miami Vice” Motorola car phone. Between the General Lee-like trunk lid-mounted antenna and the Caprice’s generally dirty appearance in the website photos, the car looked like it had just finished a “Dukes of Hazzard” chase scene down a dirt road.
This white '84 Caprice would cross the block just minutes before the prettier black coupes, and I figured most bidders would bypass it for a chance at one of Pulver’s black coupes. Since the white Caprice was probably the sleeper of the three coupes, I figured that was the Caprice I would bid on.
In trying to figure out how much the cars would sell for, I went to Mecum’s website. The company has sold a few low-mileage Caprice coupes at past auctions: a 1987 Landau coupe with 167 miles for $15,000 in 2015 and a 1985 Landau with 12,000 miles for $9500 in 2012. A “slick top” 1984 Caprice Sport Coupe that is optioned almost identically to those in the Pulver collection — it was even black — just sold on eBay in October 2018 for $10,400. I guessed the black 1981 and ’82 coupes in Mecum’s sale could fetch $11000 or more and the white ‘84 coupe would probably fetch less — about as much as I could sell both of my Chevy coupes for.
With just two weeks before Mecum would auction Pulver’s coupes, I didn’t have time to sell my cars before a more qualified audience. To expedite the process, I listed them on Facebook Marketplace. The scene on FB Marketplace is filled with more bottom-feeding window shoppers than Craigslist, but that’s only because it only takes FB "wannabuyers" just one key stroke to make an inquiry. After one week and 40-50 inquiries, I had four or five actually serious buyers. One week before the auction, my ‘85 Caprice Landau sold for $5000 and my ’81 Impala sold for $2000. After fees, I figured I would need about $10,000 to bid.
I went to Facebook land and asked if anyone would be at Kissimmee and could inspect the Caprices there for me. Old Cars reader and friend Jim Caffrey said he could check them out for me while he was there. He looked over the cars and gave them his approval. Then we used Facetime video so he could show me the cars in live video while I asked him for close-ups of specific parts. Jim collects low-mileage cars, so he was the perfect guy to go over the 13,000-mile Caprice himself.
Friends and Old Cars subscribers Tom and Kathy Truhlar read my editorial about my interest in the cars and dropped me an e-mail, even offering to transport the car off the auction grounds if I won. With a good inspection and a way to move the car, I was ready to bid.
In understanding the fees and the auction process, the Mecum Auctions staff that I contacted was extremely helpful and made the expenses and bidding proceses very clear. It made me more confident in the buying process and helped me determine my budget.
Cash in hand, I registered for the Mecum Kissimmee sale. Registering can be done by calling a buyer’s assistant or online. I registered online. There was a $200 standard bidder registration fee (it would have been $100 had I registered before the sale began). Since family obligations prevented me from attending the sale, I bid online. There was a 12% bidder’s fee on top of the sale price for bidding online and a 10% bidder’s fee for an on-site winner (the minimum bidder’s fee was $1000). I provided a scan of my driver’s license and then chose to wire my deposit, which was half of my available credit line at the sale. Since my max bid was $8000, I wire transferred a $4000 deposit on top of which my bank added a fee ($30).
The Caprices sold the last day of the auction and thanks to the inter-web, my family and I were able to watch them cross the block live. Just hours before the auction, I dropped my bid down to $7500, but I figured I didn’t want to lose the car over $500, so I re-upped it to $8000. That would probably be a mistake.
The white 1984 Caprice coupe I had bid on was indeed the first to cross the block. I’ve covered a lot of auctions for Old Cars and Old Cars Report Price Guide, so I have a good idea of what’s going on during the fast pace of an auction. There didn’t appear to be any other bids on the car and eventually the bidding went up to $7000, then $7500. Since there was a reserve, the auctioneer was allowed to go up to my max bid — probably the only bid — because my bid was below the reserve price. Then When the auctioneer said he had an $8000 online bid, the reserve was lifted. With my wife and kids watching, I yelled, “That’s our bid!” The auctioneer kept looking for another bid; we did, too, but it never came. In short order he called, “going once, going twice...sold!” and we won the car.
The excitement wasn’t over for me, though. I waited to see how much more the black coupes would sell for. When the black 1981 Caprice coupe crossed the block, it took until the auctioneer dropped the bid to $7000 before an on-site bidder raised his hand. A second bidder brought the price to $7250 and there it sold. I was a little sick to my stomach knowing one of the prettier black Caprices could have been bought for less than the dirty white coupe. Hindsight is always 20/20.
A few lots later, the slightly better-equipped black 1982 coupe crossed the block. This one went to $8000 before it was declared sold to an on-site bidder — the same figure we paid. This made me feel a little better about the price we paid.
When it came time to settle with Mecum, we initiated the final wire transfer, to which Mecum charged $100 (cash and check payments do not have such fees). With about $500 in taxes on top of the final bid price and fees, I had to make a finally payment of about $5500 to Mecum and that’s whenI realized my bank wouldn’t allow online wire transfers of more than $5000. So after an in-person stop at my local banking office, and another $30 wire transfer fee, I completed the wire transfer and Mecum signed the title into my name. The total was about $9500 — not bad considering it’s probably worth around $10,500.
Tom and Kathy Truhlar picked up the car for me, as promised, and I was happy to learn the window sticker was still in the glove box.
Did I get a good deal? I think so, but I am not 100% sure yet. I haven’t seen the car in person, but those who inspected the car think so. Did I get the best deal on a Caprice coupe at this auction? No — I believe that advantage goes to the on-site bidders who bought the black coupes.
Given the number of low-mileage 1980s Caprice coupes that were at one sale, I think we all benefit from the market being flooded (the black coupe buyers especially). However, the other winners had the advantage of their cars selling after the white car that we won.
If I were to do it all over again, I would bid in-person at the auction, and I would still bid to win. Even if that meant going to my max bid.