CONCORD, N.C. (March 23, 2001) – A 1969 Corvair with only 943 miles on the odometer is just one of many automotive rarities that auction coordinator Tom Mack is bringing to the April 5-8 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
The Auction @ AutoFair, to be held Friday and Saturday, April 6-7, will see many unusual and desirable collector cars from all over the country cross the auction block, but Mack singles out the blue Corvair hardtop in his personal collection with special pride.
“It was bought new by an elderly lady in Indiana,” Mack says, “who became incapacitated or passed away before she could drive it very much. Her nephew inherited the car, but apparently didn’t have much use for it because he put it in storage.
“The car went through a few dealers’ hands before I bought it. The tires have been replaced because the original set was dry-rotted from sitting, but the interior is all original and still smells like a new car.”
When introduced in 1960 the Corvair was so revolutionary in design that it only shared some paint colors with the rest of the Chevrolet line — the body and mechanical components were all new. Eager to make a big footprint in the compact American car market, Chevy engineered a package so tidy and space-efficient that even the contemporary Volkswagen Beetle looked wasteful by comparison. Like the “Bug,” the Corvair created interior room by packing the powerplant into the car’s trunk; the missing driveshaft allowed a perfectly flat floor in the passenger compartment. Air-cooling the engine (á la VW) simplified the car’s plumbing, reduced weight and created a motor incapable of freezing in winter.
Most who bought Corvairs were pleased with their economy and uniqueness, but in 1965 a book by consumer advocate Ralph Nader argued that the littlest Chevys had a dark secret: under normal driving conditions the cars might spin dangerously out of control. “Unsafe at Any Speed” hit the shelves the same year the second-generation Corvair, with much-improved handling, was introduced. The Corvair’s soiled reputation, combined with the introduction of Ford’s sporty new Mustang, began a decline in sales that caused Chevrolet to pull the plug on its innovative experiment at the end of model year 1969.
Only 6,000 Corvairs were produced in that final year, 2,762 of which were two-door 500s like the one Mack is bringing to auction. It is doubtful there are any others with such low mileage.
“We’re going to sell it at auction with no reserve,” says Mack, “which means that the last person to bid on the car takes it home, no matter the selling price. This could be the bargain of the year for the right collector.”
Mack estimates the book value on such a vehicle to be in the $10,000 to $12,000 range.
There’s a ’68 Shelby Mustang GT-500 fastback in Mack’s collection that will be crossing the block during the Food Lion AutoFair. The gold musclecar features factory-installed air conditioning, a 428-cid big-block V-8 engine and full documentation.
“The key to maintaining the value of any rare musclecar is to show a paper trail that runs right back to the factory,” Mack said. “That’s true whether you are talking about one of Carroll Shelby’s Mustangs or a big-block Corvette. This 80,000-mile Shelby even comes with a copy of the original broadcast sheet, which means the owner can see every detail about the car’s construction as it moved along the assembly line.”
In the early ’60s Carroll Shelby, a former chicken farmer from Texas, stuffed a Ford V-8 powerplant into a lightweight roadster built by British carmaker AC and created one of America’s most enduring automotive legends, the 289 Cobra. The aluminum-bodied open car was lightning fast and immediately started winning races against Corvettes and, in some arenas, even Ferraris. Shelby worked his magic on Ford’s new Mustang and sold specially modified models known as GT-350s and, later, GT-500s. In the ’90s Shelby helped Dodge develop its awesome V-10-powered Viper roadster – a car recognized by most enthusiasts as a modern version of Shelby’s own Cobra. His ongoing legacy has increased the value of four decades of automobiles that bear his name.
“Shelby prices are climbing again,” Mack says. “One of his Mustangs recently brought more than $100,000, but this ’68 will be a lot more reasonable.” Speaking of musclecars, the granddaddy of that species will be represented at the Auction @ AutoFair.
“The Pontiac GTO is arguably the original musclecar,” Mack said. “I just bought a first-year model — a ’64 — that’s in excellent condition. It’s a white coupe, with original-style ‘redline’ tires and a four-speed. It sports the 348-horsepower/389-cubic inch V-8 with three two-barrel carburetor setup.”
Essentially, the GTO was nothing more than a mid-size Tempest two-door with a full-size Catalina big-block V-8. John DeLorean — better known these days for his short-lived, Irish-built sports car with gullwing doors — is credited with the GTO’s origin, but it was the Ronnie and the Daytonas song “Little GTO” that made the spunky “Goat” synonymous with performance and youth. Although it enjoyed a decade of production, the GTO became a casualty of the gas crisis in 1974 — a year that saw the three famous initials attached to Pontiac’s Nova-derived Ventura coupe. “For a lot of people, the GTO was what the ‘cool kids’ drove in high school or college,” Mack remembers. “The auction will be a good chance for someone to relive those happy times and drive home a great musclecar classic.”
Retail book value for a ’64 GTO is currently in the low $20,000 range.
A dozen other cars from Tom Mack Classics in Indian Trail, N.C., will be offered for sale during the auction, including a ’57 Buick Super (19,423 original miles, no reserve), a ’34 Ford phaeton, a ’59 Chevrolet Biscayne two-door (with 348-cid V-8, three two-barrel carb setup and four-speed transmission), a ’55 Buick Riviera and one of Jeff Gordon’s Chevrolet Lumina race cars from the ’94 season.
Although Mack’s been running auctions since 1984, this AutoFair marks his debut turn with the semi-annual collector car show and swap meet.
The auction, which is open to individual sellers and buyers as well as dealers, begins at 1 p.m. both days. Mack is handling pre-registration through his dealership at (704) 821-6225. Consignment fees are $149 per car for Friday and $199 per car for Saturday, with a flat $349 charged for each car purchased.
“Consignments are going well,” Mack says. “I estimate that we’ll have a good couple of hundred cars to sell at the AutoFair.”
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the four-day Food Lion AutoFair, which will feature more than 4,000 cars with 7,000 vendor spaces offering a full array of automotive parts and accessories.
Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $8 for adults; children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.
For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit the website at www.gospeedway.com.