Mecum returned to Las Vegas for its second auction in Sin City this past weekend, and consigned over 800 vehicles for the occasion. The top spots were mostly taken up by rare, high-dollar prewar luxury cars and of course there was the usual mix of muscle cars, resto-mods, trucks and exotics, but as always a few cars slipped the cracks and sold for prices that made us wish we brought our checkbook. Here are the eight biggest bargains from the weekend.
The Century is Toyota’s flagship luxury sedan, a status symbol loaded with all the bells and whistles and with plenty of room in the back for VIPs and Yakuza bosses or just your friends and family. Toyota never sold the Century here, but thanks to America’s 25-year rule, Japanese market Centuries have been trickling in for the past few years. Like most old luxury cars, they’re not very expensive, but this price seems crazy cheap. The kicker is that the right rear seems to be sagging, so the air suspension likely needs a pricey service. That said, the rest of the car seems solid and it’s represented with just 47,000 miles. Plus, since it’s all Toyota parts underneath, it’s not like there are Mercedes or Rolls-Royce levels of service bills ahead.
The 280CE and indeed just about any 1976-85 W123 is an affordable way into classic Mercedes ownership, but this car was downright cheap. It does have over 140,000 miles on the clock, but it presents very well and has clearly been lovingly owned since new. Mercedes also built its cars like tanks back in those days, so this car has plenty of life left in it.
The fourth-gen Camaro SS, which was modified by SLP (short for Street Legal Performance) to get 320 horsepower out of its LS1 V-8 and included a composite hood and special suspension, is one of the more desirable Camaros of this period. This one is definitely a collector-grade example, too, with barely 10,000 miles on the odometer and a six-speed. The low mileage and like-new condition alone arguably could have seen this car top 20 grand, but it was bought for what amounts to driver money. While not a steal, it’s a solid value for an essentially like-new car.
OK, in terms of car per dollar, this ’23 is actually a terrible value at $19,800. It’s a 856-cc side-valve engine, which is so tiny you could probably fit it under your airplane seat and still have footroom to spare, that makes less than 10 horsepower. There are just two uncomfortable seats, and the boring plain metal dash has just one gauge – for amperes. It doesn’t even have front brakes, and it’s both 95 years old and French, so it probably breaks down a lot.
Then again, one look at this thing and it’s easy to fall in love with. It’s adorable, and it had just as many if not more people poring over it during the auction preview days as the six- and seven-figure prewar cars a few yards away. The upswept rear fenders and ‘Cul de Poule’ (ducktail) body style just add to the charm. Some cars make up in character what they lack in performance or prestige, and this is one of them. Mecum also put a $30,000 low estimate on it, so even though it’s a total ripoff in terms of horsepower per dollar, it seems like a great value in terms of charm per dollar.
For 1968, Ford dressed up the Mustang for Western customers with the California Special (California) and the High Country Special (Colorado). This dress-up package included fancy Marchal or Lucas fog lights, Shelby-style rear fender intakes, GT hubcaps, spoiler and sequential taillights. The California Special, also known as the GT/CS, is fairly rare and desirable in Mustang circles, and this one is unrestored but well preserved, has fairly rare Canary Yellow paint, and is equipped with a desirable four-speed that typically adds a 10-percent premium to the price. Nevertheless, when it came time to cross the block at no reserve, it changed hands at a price that would ordinarily buy a rougher car.
The earlier Cutlass Supreme 4-4-2 isn’t as fast or as iconic as the later cars, so of course they’re not as valuable. But 22 grand for this solid ’67 convertible is one serious deal, and the kind of price that would typically buy a project car. It could have brought another 10 grand without being expensive, but these kinds of things happen at no reserve auctions.
By the time the 300K rolled around in 1964, the high fins and much of the flash of the Chrysler Letter Cars were long gone, but it’s still a stylish and relatively valuable automobile. This one has the desirable 413/360-hp Wedge V-8, rare factory air conditioning, and a top that goes down. It’s also in really good #2- (Excellent) condition, but it sold for even less than average driver money.
This GT500 KR was restored in the ‘90s, but the work was high quality and it has been used sparingly since. It still doesn’t need anything, so when it crossed the block at no reserve and sold for barely more than project car money, it was clearly one of the best bargains of the auction. Not cheap, of course, but still a great deal.