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Classic car auction: A rare chance to nab a legend

Fine vintages up for bid at classic car auction

Published October 19, 2012

In the world of vintage American muscle cars, the 1968 Shelby GT500KR — the KR stands for King of the Road — has few peers.

A classic low-production, “big block” muscle car, the Shelby GT500KR is all about going fast thanks to great gobs of raw horsepower. The ’68 GT500KR came equipped with a 7.0 litre (428 cubic-inch) Cobra Jet V8 engine rated at 335 horsepower, mated to either a three-speed automatic or an optional four-speed manual transmission.

Like many of its peers, the GT500KR was built in coupe and convertible form. For the 1968 model year only 518 copies of the convertible were produced, a number which has turned the car into a rare bird. Few of them ever hit the open market, but when they do the asking price is steep. According to Conceptcarz.com, an American auto enthusiast website that tracks auction sales, the average sale price for a convertible is $173,735 (U.S.), based on figures dating back to 2004.

Shelby collectors and aficionados in Greater Toronto will be pleased to know that two of these legendary machines (a coupe and a convertible) will be hitting the auction block right in their own backyard, when the Toronto Fall Classic Car Auction returns to the International Centre in Mississauga next weekend (Oct. 26-28).

Among the many rare and immaculate machines up for bid, is the one on the cover of the event catalogue: a 1968 Shelby GT500KR finished in Highland Green with a deluxe black interior, complete with a 428 Cobra Jet engine, a factory-original four speed-manual gearbox and a white drop top. According to event organizer, Collector Car Productions Inc., only 183 were built with the green/black colour trim so prospective buyers had better have deep pockets.

Perusing the lot list of the Toronto Fall Classic Car Auction is like taking a trip through automotive history, and while many of the cars are the sort one would expect to find in a museum (1915 Ford Model T, 1939 Buick McLaughlin), there are also plenty of that you’ve probably parked beside on a trip to Walmart (1995 Toyota Celica, 1999 Ford Expedition XLT Eddie Bauer Edition).

With such a broad diversity of cars on offer, one wonders how the entry for this auction (now in it’s 24th year and run semi-annually) comes together.

Collector Car Productions owner and president Dan Spendick, a 55-year old, self-confessed “car guy” originally from Blenheim, Ont. tells Wheels that the auctions aren’t put together with any overriding theme in mind — the vehicles up for bid are based entirely on those that contact Spendick’s company looking to sell their car. With the fall auction less than a week away, there are more than 270 cars entered and the list is growing daily.

“The Shelbys are well-represented. We have a ’55 Crown Victoria Glasstop, (which) won best of show at the Crown Victoria Nationals. There’s a ’69 (Plymouth) Road Runner, that was purchased a couple of years ago at one of the major auctions in the States. The (owner) has — with all of his fees, taxes and shipping to get the car home — $170,000 invested in this car and he’s running it at no reserve (minimum sale price) here in Toronto,” Spendick said.

Spendick says that the rise in popularity of auctions like his — which typically attracts about 15,000 to 20,000 attendees over the course of a weekend — is driven not only by the visibility of celebrity-filled, mega-rich auctions like the ones staged by Barrett-Jackson in the U.S. which are broadcast across North America on Speed Channel, but by the emotional connections people have to the automobile.

“People go there and they’re so passionate about old cars because it brings back memories of their younger days when they were going to high school, or when they were dating or when had their first job. It’s so neat to watch these people,” he said.

Spendick says auctions like his are as much for those who enjoy spending time surrounded by rare and pristine cars as they are for those involved in the buying and selling. Although he hasn’t done any research, Spendick estimates that at least half of those who attend his auctions do so as spectators.

“When you see so many classic cars under one roof, the auction becomes a better car show than most car shows. People come not only to bid, but I would say the majority come for the entertainment value,” Spendick said.

One long-time attendee who will have a vested interest next weekend is Al Webster, owner of Al Webster Classic Cars, who will have five pre-1960 cars entered. A former owner of 400 Auto Wreckers in Holland Landing, Ont. Webster is also a former supermodified race car owner and builder who has been an auction regular since the 1980s.

Now 80, the Richmond Hill resident, who has been a collector since 1972, owns 15 cars and says that his supercharged 1937 Cord Sportsman — a car he’s owned for 40 years — is his favourite.

When Wheels spoke to him, he was in the midst of getting his cars ready for the Toronto auction, a process that involves his entire family. His son Bruce helps restore and prepare the cars. Daughter Susan handles the accounting for the business and Joan, his wife of 59 years, handles email correspondence from intrepid journalists.

There’s nothing better than sharing your passion with those you love, is there?

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