2007:The Year in Review
The Little Deuce Coupe, the iconic ’57 Chevy and a time-capsule Belvedere were headline makers in the old-car hobby during 2007. The favored Ford hot rod turned 75, the most-collectible Chevy turned 50 and the Plymouth turned from pristine to “Christine” during its half-century in an underground tomb.
As 2007 kicked off, the 75th anniversary of the ‘32 Ford — affectionately called the “Deuce” — made headlines as the Petersen Automotive Museum announced a “Six Days of Deuces” celebration. The Los Angeles site was certainly a fitting place to honor an icon of the hot rod hobby that started in Southern California.
Ripples rocked through the hobby at the annual Arizona auctions when journalist Keith Martin had his press credentials revoked at one sale for allegedly making disparaging remarks about the auction company. Weeks earlier, Martin had been released from his role as a television commentator for the event because of his suggestion that the muscle car market might melt down. Adding to the controversy, mudslinging and lawsuits accompanied high prices at some auctions. Nevertheless, records were set both in attendance and prices paid.
In Pasadena, California, a former partner of the late Mickey Thompson was convicted in the 1988 gunning down of the famed land speed racer and his wife Later, the man would file motions for a new trial.
In Bowling Green, Kentucky, the remains of Zora-Arkus Duntov, the first Corvette chief engineer, were interred at the National Corvette Museum.
The Phoenix Art Museum announced that it would present a “Curves of Steel” exhibit highlighting streamlined cars. In a colder part of the country, The Collectors Foundation of Traverse City, Michigan, announced first quarter awards of more than $104,000. Recipients included The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle; the Missoula Transportation and Restoration Museum in Missoula, Montana; and the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, among others.
March brought word that the government was considering putting the Model T Ford on a silver dollar to commemorate the car’s upcoming 100th anniversary. A Senate bill called for up to 500,000 of the coins to be minted. In Brillion, Wisconsin, newspaper owner Zane Zander finished his 7-year effort to build an exact copy of the 1953 Corvette Nomad show car. He exhibited it at several “World of Wheels” events.
In China, the Nanjing Automobile Company started building a new MG sports car on March 27. MG, which had started as Morris Garages, was one of Britain’s best-selling roadsters during the post World War II sports car boom.
On April 2, the doors of the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania, opened for the first time. The focus of the museum was on how cars and trucks changed America. In Salt Lake City, the Antique Classic Auto Museum of Utah opened. Among the 100 cars on display at the new collection were a Pierce-Arrow, a Stutz and a Cord.
On April 24, in Philadelphia, a classic car broker who swindled actor Nicholas Cage and other clients, before escaping to Spain, was sentenced to prison and a stiff fine.
A growing trend in car collecting was the rapid disappearance of one junkyard after another, as the value of scrap metal rose dramatically due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specialized auctioneer Yvette Van Der Brink was doing her best to help collectors get to the cars first. Her “Dean’s Auto Salvage” sale, first advertised in May, offered 254 Minnesota rust buckets to hobbyists.
June 30 in Concord, North Carolina was the kick off for the 25th annual Great American Race. The 4,000-mile long motorsports marathon was won by Bob LaBine of Phoenix, Arizona and his 15-year-old nephew Charlie Wheeler of Lone Tree, Colorado. Their Model A speedster took the $25,000 prize.
On June 15, 2007 a 1957 Plymouth was unearthed after spending 50 years in an underground vault. The car, known as “Miss Belvedere,” had been buried in a time capsule on June 15, 1957. Everyone was hoping the car would be in mint condition, but when the cover came off it was actually mildewed and moldy. Oh well, the big “Tulsarama” party surrounding this event was still fun.
On June 16, a Corvette drag racing car doing exhibition burnouts in Selmer, Tennessee, went out of control and killed six young spectators. Aprroximately 23 others were hurt in the incident.
Untouched original old cars were in the spotlight as the summer arrived and the concours season began all over the nation. Perhaps helped along by the rising cost of restoration work, unrestored and well-preserved automobiles of the past were becoming more and more cherished. In July, the organizers of the annual Pebble Beach show announced that nearly 20 untouched original cars would compete for awards “in all their tattered glory.” And “Barn Cars,” an exhibition of forlorn cars found stashed away in barns and garages, opened at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in New York.
Tulsa, Oklahoma was in the news again on July 14 when a brownish red spray, possibly related to a hotel renovation, descended on show cars attending the 35th annual Pontiac Oakland Club International convention. The mishap was picked up on the national news wires and gave POCI tremendous nationwide exposure.
In a year that honored the ’57 Chevy multiple times as a 50th anniversary model, one of the standout events was held August 19 at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR and Chevrolet Motorports teamed up to hold a ’57 Chevy cruise in conjunction with the 3M Performance Nextel Cup 400-mile race.
On August 19, the Duesenberg Mormon Meteor owned by Harry Yeaggy, of Cincinnati, Ohio, took top honors at the 57th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was, the first time in years that an American Classic (as well as a Duesenberg) had won at the prestigious event.
A revival of the Milestone Car Society — a group first founded in 1971 — was set for the Glenmoor Gathering in Canton, Ohio. Inspired by writer Dick Langworth, the MCS was originally an attempt to select “Classics Cars” of the postwar era.
Also in September, the Department of Art History and Design at Notre Dame University joined with three other groups to launch an exhibit of Virgil Exner’s car designs. Exner was best known as Chrysler’s top designer in the 1950s and early 1960s and brought us the such design icons as the 1955 C300 Chrysler and the 1957 Plymouth Fury.
In October, a horde of more than 20 unrestored vintage cars was discovered in a barn in Maryland. The vintage vehicles included a 1917 Empire touring, a 1925 Pierce-Arrow Model 80 sedan, a 1923 Dagmar, a 1912 Pierce Model 36 Brougham, a 1937 Packard 12 and a 1931 Renault Town Car.
In conjunction with the AACA Fall meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania, RM Auctions presented a sale of over 117 vintage classics, including 65 rare and unrestored cars from the museum estate of Helen Swigart. Highlights included a completely original 1911 Oldsmobile Limited 7-Passenger Touring, believed to be one of only three known surviving examples and the only one that has never been restored. It sold for $1.65 million. A 1929 Duesenberg Model J Double Cowl Phaeton, one of only three built, also sold for $1.65 million
At the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, car designer Chip Foose led a team that turned an unrestored 1954 Ford sedan into a shiny convertible. All work on the car was completed during the week-long show and the entire build will appear on an upcoming episode of the “Overhaulin’” cable television show. Another car in the spotlight at the annual Las Vegas trade show was a ’55 Ford Thunderbird that a New York restoration shop restored for free for a 9/11 survivor.
On November 5, law enforcement agencies in Farmers Branch, Texas, raided Unique Performance, a company that was building the Mustang GT500E Super Snake replica. Over 61 vintage cars were confiscated after it was discovered that their serial numbers had been removed.
On November 24, a collector car show was held in Baghdad, Iraq. It included a special Mercedes 500 K that Adolph Hitler gave to the King of Iraq, several vintage American cars and a Rolls-Royce once owned by President Abdul Salam Arif.
The Chicago Automotive Trade Association announced plans to seek 1901-era cars for display at the 100th Chicago Automobile Show in February 2008 .
On December 3, Bonhams sold the world’s oldest surviving Rolls-Royce for $7,188,421.90, breaking price records for both a Rolls-Royce and a veteran (pre-1905) car. The 1904 Rolls, which was purchased by a UK collector, is the only Rolls Royce old enough to take place in the prestigious London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.