Five red-blooded American cars up for grabs in blue-blooded Greenwich
Greenwich, Connecticut, is one of the wealthiest towns in America. A bastion of old-money WASP-iness, it’s stereotypically home to people who love boat shoes, sailing, pastel clothing and, more often than not, European cars. You’re much more likely to see a Porsche than a Pontiac there, which is why it surprised us to see that the most interesting cars on offer at Bonhams’ annual Greenwich auction aren’t from Maranello or Coventry but Detroit. The sale, held right on the water in conjunction with the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, will feature the usual mix of Jags, Porsches, Alfas, and Maseratis, but here are five of the home-grown V-8s that we’ll be keeping an eye on.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Baldwin Motion Phase III
Estimate: $200,000 – $250,000
Back in the golden age of muscle cars, the Big Three offered plenty of ground-pounding street machines straight from the factory. It should have been enough to keep the speed freaks happy, but for some of the crazier folks out there, even 350 or 400-plus horsepower on ‘60s tires just wasn’t enough and there were several speed shops and dealerships more than willing to take care of them. One of the most famous outfits was Long Island’s Baldwin Motion, a partnership between Joel Rosen’s Motion Performance shop and dealership Baldwin Chevrolet.
The most coveted Baldwin Motion setup is the Phase III. Each car got a dyno-proven engine and a litany of drivetrain upgrades. The Phase III also included numerous body modifications, so these were no sleepers, and the cars came with the famous Motion Performance guarantee, “We think so much of our Phase III Supercars that we guarantee they will turn at least 120 mph in 11.50 seconds or better with a driver on an AHRA or NHRA-sanctioned drag strip.”
While a lot of people know Baldwin Motion Corvettes and Camaros, a Phase III Chevelle was available as well. Only two or three buyers actually ponied up the cash for one, however. For reference, Chevrolet sold over 600,000 Chevelles/Malibus in 1970 alone. This car is represented as one of that small handful. Its early history isn’t known, but the consignor found it and restored it. Sadly, it was missing that all-important drivetrain, but he fitted a correct LS6 454 block, TH400 automatic, and 4.11 rear end with Motion modifications like aluminum manifold and heads, ignition, dual fuel pump, side exhaust, bulging L88 hood, and Torq-Thrust wheels. Another (and possibly the only other) Phase III Chevelle is more desirable with its matching numbers original running gear, and it sold way back in 2014 for $192,500.
Estimate: $300,000 – $400,000
A quick look at the specs on this ’64 coupe: 375-horsepower Fuelie, 4-speed, 36-gallon fuel tank, 3.55 Positraction, F40 suspension, metallic brakes, and radio delete, and it’s obvious it was a race car from the start. And race it did, with SCCA A-Production history during the 1964 and ’65 seasons and a handful of wins in minor events. NASCAR great Cale Yarborough also showed he could make right turns, too, and apparently drove the car at the Daytona Continental 2000 Kilometers race. Since restored, it has crossed the auction block repeatedly but never sold. Rated by us as a #2- condition car, it hammered not sold at a $400,000 reported bid in Kissimmee 2016, again at a $225,000 reported high bid at Mecum Harrisburg 2016, and one more time at a $250,000 reported high bid at Kissimmee 2017. The car still carries a reserve at Greenwich, but maybe the fourth time’s the charm.
1962 Ford Galaxie 483
Estimate: $80,000 – $100,000
Among the biggest and baddest engines of the early 1960s was an experimental, 483-cubic-inch (7.9-liter) version of Ford’s FE (contraction of “Ford-Edsel”) series V-8, built before NASCAR’s 7.0-liter limit went into effect. Capable of 500-plus horsepower, the 483 didn’t make it into many street cars, but the story here goes that there was a Texas family who towed a horse trailer with their 405-horse 406 Galaxie. They wanted even more power, so their local dealer told them of a Grand National stock car engine, one of the aforementioned 483s, that was available. They went for it and ordered the engine through Holman & Moody.
The family apparently still used their now 500-horse two-door sedan for towing rather than the drag strip, then it sat for years before a recent full rebuild on that monster of an engine. Finished in bland Corinthian White with matching steel wheels and hubcaps, it almost looks innocent until you notice the side exhaust and small 483 badges. Or hear it fire up.
1953 Facel Ford Comète
Estimate: $45,000 – $55,000
To be fair, because this car is more of a Ford in French designer clothes and a veteran of the California Mille, it’s more Bordeaux than Bud Light and probably more to the tastes of a yacht club crowd in Connecticut. It’s too interesting not to include, though, and under the hood is a Ford flathead V8.
But even though it is a Ford, the Comète never officially sold in the States. Delivered through Ford SAF (Ford’s French subsidiary), it was built by Facel, which would later gain fame with the grandiose Chrysler-powered Facel Vegas. Reliable American grunt under European coachbuilt sophistication is always a tempting combo. This car was bid to 44 grand on Bring a Trailer in 2015 but didn’t sell. Bonhams, though, is offering it at no reserve and proceeds go to charity, so it should at least meet its low estimate.
1965 Ford Galaxie 500 M-Code “Cammer”
Estimate: $300,000 – $400,000
You might think that the R-Code 427 was as good as it got for a 1965 Galaxie, but apparently not because this car was fitted with the famous experimental single overhead cam 427, given the rather unimaginative nickname “Cammer.” Built with NASCAR racing in mind to maintain Ford’s edge against the new Chrysler Hemis, the Cammer never got to hit the speedway since the officials gave a hard no to this low-production engine. The Cammer went on to great success in drag racing but the engine, aka the M-Code 427, was never offered for public road use.
This ’65 Galaxie supposedly had an M-Code fitted for testing purposes at a secret Ford Speed shop in Watkins Glen, then made its way into the hands of a Ford employee who drove it on the street. At some point, the Cammer engine made its way into a boat and the car sat. The current owner found and fully restored it with a replacement M-Code engine. The history may be a little murky but, if legit, this is an important car and an unusual buying opportunity. And with 657 claimed horsepower, it’s hard not to want this car.