5 August 2011

Reggie Jackson's cars are a hit at Spring Auburn

Home runs weren’t the only thing Reggie Jackson collected during his Hall of Fame baseball career. At one time, the slugger owned more than 100 classic automobiles.

“Mr. October” still collects cars, but he was in a selling frame of mind at the rain-plagued Auctions America by RM Auburn (Indiana) Spring Sale last month. Four of Jackson’s automobiles crossed the block, three of which sold: a 1965 Shelby GT 350 ($247,500, including buyer’s premium), 2005 Ford GT ($176,000) and 1965 Pontiac GTO coupe ($67,100).

Jackson also took part in a panel discussion on Saturday morning of the three-day event along with Hagerty magazine columnist Wayne Carini, host of TV’s Chasing Classic Cars; Joe Bortz, concept car collector and historian who once owned five of 12 GM Furturliner buses that traveled around the country during the 1950s; and Glenn Bator, a vintage motorcycle expert.

Jackson, 65, said his love for automobiles began at an early age when he and his five siblings would sit on their Pennsylvania porch after dinner and compete for “points” – and snacks – by naming the make, model, year, official color and license plate number of each car that passed.

Jackson, who has pared down his automobile collection to 50 or so cars, said he attends “four or five auctions a year… mainly because I have personal relationships with the people there.”

Jackson’s biggest advice for potential car buyers is to “bring along someone with significant knowledge” to appraise a potential purchase before pulling the trigger. “It’s worth paying them $500 or $1,000 a day,” he said. “It could keep you from making a $30,000-$40,000 mistake.”

Jackson’s cars weren’t the only vehicles with celebrity provenance to cross the block. A 1960 Chrysler Crown Imperial Convertible (once owned by actor Jack Palance) sold for $82,500, while a 2008 Tesla Signature Series Roadster (Leonardo Dicaprio) went for $73,000. Also finding new homes were a 1952 Hudson Wasp Convertible (Steve McQueen) for $55,000; a 2001 Jaguar XK8 Convertible (Wayne Newton), selling for $24,750; a 1989 Bentley Turbo R Sedan (Ryan O’Neill and Farrah Fawcett) that found a home for $17,875; and a 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe (John F. Kennedy, Jr.), which sold for a paltry $5,390.

In all, the auction generated more than $6.75 million in sales and had a sell-through rate of 66 percent despite two days of rain and sometimes-modest crowds. The top seller was a 1932 Duesenberg Model J Five-Passenger Sedan, which was considered a bargain for $404,250, while a 1932 Duesenberg Model J Dual-Cowl Phaeton sold for $375,000. Joining those vehicles – and two of Jackson’s cars – among the top five sellers was a 1938 Packard Twelve All-Weather Cabriolet ($152,900).

Perhaps the most anticipated vehicle to cross the block was a 1953 GM Furturliner. The well-worn bus was displayed next to one of its brethren, beautifully restored No. 10, which is owned by the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States (NATMUS). Despite plenty of pre-auction buzz, the Furturliner was a “no sale” after bidding stopped at $340,000, well below the reserve.

Bortz, speaking about the Futurliners during Saturday’s panel discussion, said “all collecting can be reduced to five words – ‘I have it, you don’t.’” So when a restaurateur wanted to gut five of the buses and turn them into eateries, Bortz knew they deserved a better fate.

 “They are really special,” he said. “If you have one, it sets you apart.”

Carini spoke about the importance of unrestored vehicles, and said “people are finally getting it – that cars are only original once, whether there’s a nick in (the paint) or a tear in the upholstery.”

Jackson agreed, saying his collection is made up of approximately half original and half restored cars.

“Unlike some collectors, I can enjoy a car by looking at it,” he said. “It’s what’s in your heart. Buying for the love of it is more important than buying for investment.”

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