American Pickers’ top automotive picks are better late than never

We asked. We begged. Pretty sure there was even some discussion about offering a writer’s first born.

Once, twice, then three times we pleaded. The answer never changed: No, no and no.

OK, so Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, stars of the The History Channel’s American Pickers, are just too doggone busy for an interview. At least that’s what their PR peeps told us. So our questions about their biggest auto-related picks went unanswered – and our rabid interest in catching the show every week waned too.

But guilty pleasures are guilty pleasures, and we recently went on a binge-watching spree to discover what we’ve been missing. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon a “Best of” episode that answered many of the questions we wanted to ask Mike and Frank ourselves.

So, without further ado, here is a list of American Pickers’ “Biggest Buys,” which also includes a few non-automotive items that are still pretty cool:

  1. 1931 Lionel State train set – This one turned out to be a not-so-solid buy, so it’s probably best to get it out of the way first. Purchased for $8,000, the set was valued at $3,400 – a loss of $4,600 for the boys from Iowa.
  2. 1948 Airstream travel trailer – Purchased for $8,000 and repaired for an additional $3,000, it was traded for a classic Indian motorcycle plus $5,000.
  3. 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood – A win. Bought for $9,500 and shipped for $500, the Fleetwood was valued at $14,500.
  4. Elephant head – Don’t ask. Kind of weird. Purchased for $9,500, the head was sold to Jack White of Third Man Records for $6,000 plus $6,000 worth of stuff that Mike wanted. A win for everyone except the elephant. Moving on.
  5. Vincent Motor and David Mann painting – Win-win. The Vincent motor was purchased for $10,000 and is valued at $12,000; the Mann painting cost $5,000 and is valued at $8,000.
  6. Zundapp RS 750 motorcycle with sidecar – This was a great buy. Purchased in Europe for $10,500 and shipped for $1,000, the German-built Zundapp was immediately sold for $18,000.
  7. 1958 Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 Guitar – Named for one of the greatest guitar players in history, and perhaps the most desirable Gretsch model, the guitar and two amplifiers were purchased for $9,500. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys bought the Gretch and one of the amps for $10,000.
  8. 1960s Dodge A-100 custom van – Dodge’s answer to the Ford Econoline and Chevrolet Van, the A-100 was purchased for $11,000, shipped for $1,000 and valued at $15,000.
  9. 1914 Henderson Cycle Car – Antique Archeology bought the diminutive Indianapolis-built cycle car for $12,000 and sold it for $14,500.
  10. 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle – Purchased for $20,000, let’s just say it’s worth much more than that. No surprise that Mike kept it for himself.
  11. Von Dutch Harley-Davidson XA VW motorcycle – Built around 1966 by pin-striping legend Von Dutch, the Harley-Davidson XA is powered by a 36-hp flat-four Volkswagen engine and has some Moto Guzzi components. Mike paid $21,000 for it and added it to his personal collection. The rare bike has been displayed at the National Motorcycle Museum and in Antique Archeology’s Nashville shop.
  12. 1935 Auburn Phaeton 653 – The last year of production, the ’35 model was given an attractive facelift by designer Gordon Buehrig, creator of the gorgeous Cord 810. Purchased for $26,500, shipped for $1,000 and repaired for $10,000, the 653 is valued at $45,000. We did the math for you – that’s a $7,500 profit.
  13. 1939 Indian Aristocrat motorcycle and 1930s Indian Chief motorcycle – The 4-cylinder Indian known as “The Aristocrat” was purchased for $30,000, while the rigid-frame Chief (with 1939 motor and 1935 tank) was acquired for $10,000 and repaired for an additional $4,500. The bikes’ combined value is $58,000, which puts Antique Archeology $13,500 in the black.
  14. Two 1954 Nash-Healeys Mike and Frank scored a pair of ’54 Nash-Healey coupes at an old AMC dealership in North Carolina. They bought a red, Cadillac engine-powered one for $21,000 and nicer grey model for $25,000. According to the Hagerty Price Guide, a ’54 Nash-Healey in No. 4 (fair) condition is valued at $36,800. Two big wins on this pick.
  15. 1910 Royal Pioneer motorcycle – Due to a fire that destroyed the Massachusetts factory and put the company out of business, fewer than 500 Royal Pioneers motorcycles were built. American Pickers found one. Royal Pioneer advertising claimed the bike was “built absolutely without regard to cost;” it appealed to sophisticated buyers who simply wanted the best. Mike purchased one for $55,000, and again, it comes as no surprise that it isn’t for sale. Bonhams sold a Royal Pioneer six years ago for $92,000.
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    The photo of the 1935 Auburn Phaeton 653 looks like the inside of a 1955 or maybe a 1956 chevy right hand drive. Why does it look like this? I saw a right hand drive of a 1957 chevy in Cape Town Africa and I know they made right hand drive for other counties. So what’s up with all this? Did GM copy a 1935 Auburn? I own two 1957’s and had family and friends own 1955 and 1956 Chevies.

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