Most of Jeff Begg’s friends and family didn’t know about his “dirty little secret”—a mega-stash of classic cars, vintage racers, speed parts, and motorcycles in Springfield, Michigan. Unfortunately for those who knew him, it wasn’t until his recent death that Begg’s treasure trove came to light. The whole vintage horde goes up for auction on June 15, but we’ve picked out some of the highlights of his racing and speed part collection for you to enjoy.
The Begg Collection sale is part of an impressive slate of VanDerBrink auctions throughout the Midwest this summer. (Here’s a tip: Save some dough for the 100-car Barn Find in August.) Begg’s collection will be sold off during a one-day auction, with major items available for online bidding. If you plan to attend in person, however, drag along a friend—it’s a double-ringer, which is kind of like going to Coachella with both Kanye and Post Malone performing simultaneously. Basically, don’t forget to pack your Dramamine.
We combed through this mechanical mass to bring you some auto racing highlights from Begg’s collection, with a focus on race cars and speed parts. (Check out the two-wheeled machines here.) These lots, though niche, will likely command a hefty penny if more than one fanatic shows up to the auction and a bidding war ensues.
This tiny race car is called a “midget.” The Begg Collection is loaded with these pint-sized racers. The midget in this particular lot is too new to be an antique yet too old to be a modern race car, so it will likely go cheap. Despite the lack of provenance or age, the gorgeous yellow-and-blue livery with real pinstriping makes the ride a viable candidate for a restoration. Once restored, the car could be an awesome vintage circle track racer eligible to compete alongside the more desirable vintage Kurtis midgets. Less money, same fun.
“Riley carburetors are like hen’s teeth. I’ve never seen this many in my life,” says race car restorer and hot rod builder Josh Shaw. From the 1930s to ’50s, Riley sidedrafts were the choice carburetors for every Indianapolis 500 competitor. There are more than 20 listed in this auction, varying from the 1.5-inch model used for midget racers to the 2-inch model used on Indy roadsters.
This Chevy-powered midget is the closest thing to a modern race car in the auction. That said, it is slightly older than those that are winning Saturday night races at your local circle track. The powerplant is a fuel-injected four-cylinder engine, and the chassis, though a year isn’t given, looks to be from the mid-aughts. Still, the car is well within the rulebook to compete in a midget race like the Chili Bowl and could be picked up at a fraction of the price for a modern contemporary.
If there ever was a reason to attend this auction, this is it. An anonymous source points out that this unmachined Miller engine block is likely one of four blocks commissioned by Preston Tucker for the proposed XP-57 Peashooter plane intended for service in WWII combat. The Peashooter project was abandoned in 1941 after Tucker’s financing ran dry, and as compensation for owed wages Tucker gave designer Harry A. Miller the remaining engine blocks. The dimensions from the pictures and the fact that the engine is unmachined suggest that this is the engine in question. We imagine you’ll have to confirm that in person, though.
The lack of details and photos have us wavering on the value for this Ford engine. From the blurry images, it appears to be an aluminum Ford-Cosworth DFV engine used in Formula 1. Let us know in the comments below if you can ascertain more than alloy (LM 25) from the digits stamped into the side of the block. Regardless, you definitely want to check this one out in person. Make sure to rummage through the pallet of parts that come with it, too.
There are a couple of these tiny flatheads listed in the auction. While they are too small to be dropped into a hot rod, they are ideal for garage decoration. This particular flashy yellow block comes replete with Edmunds racing heads and a chrome Stromberg carb. Think of it as the coffee table book of engines—looks nice for your guests, but nobody will ever really use it. You can even purchase additional hop-up parts for your minute motor in the same auction.
The only full size race car in the auction is a 1972 open-wheel dirt racer. The Radio Hospital team was once a force on local short tracks throughout the Midwest. This particular car was campaigned by National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Rollie Beale throughout the early ’70s. Wound up by a Gaerte-built small-block Chevy with Hilborn injection, this ride would be an absolute blast to compete in amongst the vintage ranks.
Much like the Formula 1 Ford engine listed above, you will have to inspect this engine in person to arrive at its true value. From the pictures and the abundance of midget cars, this is like a 110-cubic-inch Offenhauser engine. This displacement is less desirable than, say, a 255-cubic-inch Offy, but it could still fetch upwards of $15K.
After his passing, Jeff Begg left behind literally tons of unmarked antiques in exceptional condition. That’s bound to happen when you keep your collection secret from even your own family. Let us know if we missed anything particularly eye-popping.