Specializing in Corvettes and Classics

Articles - Week ending September 23rd, 2011
For Articles in the Archive, click the title below:
Shill Bidding
Is Your eBay Expert and eBay Idiot?
To Restore or Not to Restore, That is The Question.


Each year in February and again in November Keith McCormick and family host their Palm Springs Exotic Car Auction, most recently located at the Spa Resort and Casino right in the heart of Palm Springs. My wife and I have attended this event at least once a year and sometimes twice simply because the venue has something for everyone. My wife can go shopping along the quaint streets of Palm Springs, get a massage, or hit the salon while I walk through the lot ogling over 600 cars, check out the auction, take some notes, bid and occasionally sell.


Invariably each and every time we go to this auction there are one or more cars similar to something I already have in my ever evolving collection and other than something I’m really interested in bidding on (there’s at least one every year) these are the cars that always peak my interest the most. After all, if you own something you’ve put quite a bit of money and time into what better way is there to gauge what its worth than to observe a similar item as it changes hands? Price guides are one thing, but real live sales or even real live non-sales with real live bids will give you a pretty good idea what your similar car is really worth on the open market.

That being said…Some of the people in Palm Springs this past November are freaking nuts. Nuts as in Jack Nicholson in the Shining nuts, really off the deep end, and I’m saying this despite the madness working in my favor.


One of the favorites, if not the favorite of my collection is my 1964 Corvette Stingray roadster. If the mid-year Corvettes produced from 1963 to 1967 have a red headed stepchild it the ’64 model, yet it’s always been one of my favorites. The poor 1964 Vette doesn’t have the privilege of being the first of arguably the best series of Corvettes, nor does it get the big block or side pipes that came later in the series, but I’ve always adored how simple the car is. There are no distractions to take anything away from the fantastic lines of the car. I’m one of the few that looks at a C2 Corvette and considers side exhaust, a stinger hood or two tone paint a distraction more than a benefit.

That being said, the ’64 Vette is still a C2, so in the end it’s still the best of what Corvette’s have been, so it’s still in high demand even if it wasn’t first or fitted with a 427.


This year in Palm Springs there were four…count ‘em four 1964 Corvettes crossing the block, all on Saturday afternoon and all within 45 minutes of one another. Three roadsters and one coupe all in a day and all at the same auction, guaranteeing the McCormick auction had my undivided attention between 12:15 and 12:55 so I could gauge the value of my own roadster in the real world.


This is where the madness starts.

The first car to cross the block was a roadster finished in the same color as my silver blue baby that rests in my garage. I’d call this comparable to my car with some give and take here and there. The give was it had a 100% numbers matching drive train, whereas my car has a rear end from a 1965 model but is otherwise a numbers matching car. The take is the paintwork on my car is far better, finished over a 9 month period by McJack’s Corvettes in Orange County three years ago.

number 155 had good paint, a bit lighter than it should be (Code 912 silver blue is hard to get just right, Jack had to re-paint my car when he missed, but he did and now mine is spot on) and decent driver quality chrome with some light pitting. The interior was finished in white, navy blue and black, leading me to believe at least one of those colors wasn’t original, although with the way cars were ordered and assembled in the 1960’s you can never tell for sure. The owner claimed the mileage was “believed” original at 71,000 miles, which is code for “that’s what the odometer says but I have absolutely no paperwork to back up that claim”, in other words without paperwork the mileage claim is about as good as me claiming I used to date Gwen Stefani without having pictures to back it up. Overall this was a very nice, almost totally correct 1964 roadster and the bidding was brisk.

The bidding stalled at $46,000, which even minus the modest 5% McCormick collects would net the seller $43,700 and that should have been enough to buy this car on any day of the week and twice at peak time on a sunny Saturday in Palm Springs. I wish I could just say, “Woo-Hoo” in my best Homer Simpson voice, click my heels and chalk it up to rising values on cars like my own, but reality is I can find a car like that all day for $46,000 and that’s from a dealer! Keep in mind the auction gets 5% from the seller too, so that means the high bidder was willing to pay over $48,000 for this roadster which is way too much. I’ll make you a deal if you want a car like that…Give me $42,000 and 2 months scouring the web and I’ll find you a good one, but the deal is I keep whatever is left of the $42,000 after I buy the car, so if I find one for $39,000 I keep the $3,000 for my trouble ok?

Next up was lot number 165 which was a pretty white roadster, similar but not quite as nice as the silver blue ’64 that crossed the block first. It had matching numbers, a 4-speed, slightly pitted chrome and a nicer interior than the earlier example. The mileage was quoted and “believed original at 61,000 miles”, and while I’m going over the car allow me to regale later with stories about my years dating Debra Messing and Ali Landry…at the same time.


Where was I?

Oh yes, the white car. All in all it was very nice, although I consider white a bit of a crutch, but since that’s my personal opinion and I don’t speak for everyone let’s move on to the bidding…

Once again the car soared easily to the mid $40,000 range and it should have changed hands, so the madness just kept growing.

I’m going to skip over lot 169 for now because it was the only coupe of the bunch and focus on the last 1964 roadster of the day, lot number 171. Lot 171 is probably the one of the roadsters I’d have bought if I was in the market, even though it had a crate 350 matched up with headers instead of a numbers matching motor matched up with factory exhaust. It was finished in red (original color according to the trim tag) with excellent driver quality paint, new emblems, freshly re-chromed bumpers, a new black interior, a new black soft top and a new set of Crager wheels. I say this is the one I’d have bought because the crate motor was recent and ran like a top, the headers would sound great on the open highway and the fact it wasn’t original should mean you can get this fun driver on the cheap, well south of $40,000.

Ok, back to the madness. This car hit $42,500 and still didn’t sell. That comes to $40,375 in the seller’s pocket and in the end that should be more than enough to pay for a non-numbers matching, non-correct fun little driver to tool around in on weekends. I know the seller on this car personally and he’s a smart guy, but he claims he can sell this hodge podge Vette for $44,000…if he can more power to him, but if a buyer pays that I’m calling that buyer a sucker.

Like I said, I personally own one of these roadsters, a real nice one, but I have to chalk this up to temporary insanity because even as a proud owner of a 1964 roadster I just don’t think it’s worth close to $50,000…In fact I know it isn’t, I watch the market too much. I will go as far as to say the events of that Saturday did inspire me to go shopping for a few cars to sell, specifically 1963 to 1967 convertible Corvettes, numbers matching or not.

So we’re left with the maddest madness of the day, which was lot 169. This was a 1964 Corvette like the rest, but a coupe instead of a ragtop. The car was finished in correct silver blue paint with a white interior, all numbers matched and no claims were made about the mileage, but this was a nice car whether it was documented or not. The only knock I can think of is the fact it had an automatic transmission, and overall I’d rate this car in solid #2 condition…A really, really nice driver.

Remember what I said about the ’64 model being the red headed stepchild of the mid years? Well it’s even truer for the coupe than it is for the convertible and historically a good ’64 ragtop will price out the same or close to a good ’64 coupe. One year older and you’re a spiffy 1963 Split Window Vette worth upwards of $10,000 more than a similar ’64 because of a thin strip of fiberglass in the rear window, one year newer and you have an upgraded interior and more engine options. In the end you’re still one dynamite coupe, but definitely the last one picked for dodge ball from 1964 to 1967 if all conditions are equal.

The car had trouble starting, but once the auction driver got out of the car and the owner got it he managed to turn it over and pull it up to the block, where bidding was surprisingly furious over this car. Up, up and away it went, all the way to $46,000 where it stopped with a thud. The owner, still seated in the driver’s seat adamantly refused to negotiate, stating $50,000 was what it would take to get this car. Fifty thousand dollars for a 1964 coupe?!? To a buyer that’s $52,500 for a car I can find all day below $45,000…To put in in technical terms the owner is nuts, even more so when his self-proclaimed fifty thousand dollar automobile failed to start once the bidding stopped and had to be pushed out of the tent.


To put this in perspective I recently missed out on a 1963 Split Window coupe that I offered $42,500 for that sold for $44,500, both prices a steal I admit, but it proves if you’re patient they’re out there. The seller of the ’64 coupe was infuriated and embarrassed when the auctioneer called out, “Are you sure it won’t go for $46 now?” as the crown laughed and he frantically tried to start his car, but in my opinion he deserved every bit of the embarrassment. He was greedy and should have sold the car at $46,000 and taken the almost $44,000 he’s have netted in the sale. Point of fact if he’d kept his cool he probably could have negotiated on the spot with Keith McCormick and asked Keith to do the deal for a discount, which he probably would have done and consequently the seller could have walked with $44,000 or more.

Madness I tell you.

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