Every car that will be sold at the Mecum Auctions April 23-25 at Bartle Hall has a unique history, and that history is why some people are willing to spend more than $100,000 to acquire a classic.
It is why thousands of people fill Bartle Hall for those three days, some of whom are mesmerized by the action, watching as bidders fork over six figures for a vintage car. It is why the event is televised on NBC Sports Network.
Two cars to keep on an eye on at this auction are a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible and a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz from the Wilder Corporation, based in Clearwater, Fla.
All nine cars that the Wilder Corporation is bringing come from the Branson (Mo.) Auto & Farm Museum, which is owned by Maurice Wilder, the owner and sole stockholder of Wilder Corporation.
“We have been to several of the other Mecum Auctions, (in) Indianapolis (and) Kissimmee (Fla.),” said Tom Merrell, general manager at Wilder Corporation. “Kansas City, geographically, is a lot closer than the others, so we decided to send some to Kansas City.”
The Corvette and the Eldorado Biarritz are two of the four cars featured on the front page of the Mecum Auction website, and for good reason. While Merrell wouldn’t reveal the reserved price for either car, he dropped a hint at what they are worth.
“The last ’57 Biarritz that we saw that sold at the Kissimmee auction … did $165,000 and a similar Corvette, a ’67, did right at $130,000,” Merrell said.
“Both Mr. Wilder and myself will be there. We are looking forward to it because we have never been to the Kansas City auction before.”
The story of how Wilder got involved in the Branson Auto & Farm Museum is as interesting as the vintage cars he is bringing.
In 2011, Wilder loved a car he saw at the museum so much that he bought it. A little later, the owners of the auto museum approached Wilder about buying the museum, and he did.
The museum was destroyed in February, 2012, by a devastating tornado. It was rebuilt in 2013-14 into a 90,000 square-foot facility with one half being dedicated to classic and antique automotive history and the other half to farm implements and equipment history.
The name was changed to The Branson Auto & Farm Museum. Most of the vehicles are for sale, and the museum is always looking for interesting cars and tractors to add to its collection.
“All the cars we are bringing to Mecum are at the museum in Branson,” Merrell said. “These cars are coming from different places. Some are coming from private collections. The Biarritz is one from that scenario.
“The Corvette came from a private collector in Florida. He had a 37-car collection, and we purchased the entire collection. One of the cars was restored at Branson Auto & Farm Museum by a gentleman who ran the recon shop before the tornado.”
When the museum has two models of the same car, one of them will be taken to an auction to be sold.
“We actually have another ’57 Biarritz in the museum so we have a representation in the museum,” said Bernie Ter Keurst, controller at Wilder Corporation.
About once a month, Merrell flies out to the museum, which is at 1335 West Highway 76, in Branson. “There is nothing like it in all of Branson,” Ter Keurst said.
Merrell said it is the perfect activity for tourists looking for something to do when they are not seeing one of the many shows.
“We have a considerable (number) of steam tractors, (an) 1800s wooden corn planter and things like that which are really unique to the farming industry over the years,” Merrell said.
“We like to think at this point, with 90,000 square feet and the assortment of what we have in there between the classic antique cars and the farm equipment, that it is probably one of the nicest, most up-to-date museums in the Midwest.”
Merrell’s mind, though, will be on cars April 23-25. Merrell and Wilder will fly in on April 23 and in the following two days they will observe the bidding process on the cars they brought. Merrell added that they might also purchase a few cars.
“The thing we have found with the Mecum sales is the opportunity to get a higher quality car,” Merrell said. “And there is a bigger variety of cars.”
When the bidding starts, Wilder and Merrell will be no different from the single car owner who spent a year restoring a car, hoping it sells for the reserved price that was set.
It is all part of the game that makes the Mecum Auction fun to watch.
“We have reserved prices on all cars,” Ter Keurst said. “It is a matter of judging the market and feeling out the waters and seeing what happens at the time. We make a judgment call as it is happening whether you want to lower your reserve or not. You have to feel the pulse of the audience.”
At the last Mecum Auction held in Kansas City, Dec. 4-6, a 2005 Ford GT sold for $290,000, which was the highest price for a car sold at the Mecum Auction in Kansas City.
One of the things that makes the Mecum Auction fun is the price range for the 700 vehicles that are at the auction. Some cars go as low as a few thousand dollars.
“One thing we have noticed with the Mecum Auction is it draws some of the more knowledgeable car collectors,” Merrell said.
For that reason, Merrell believes the ’67 Corvette and the ’57 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz will attract attention.
“In the ’50s, the Biarritz turned out to be one of the classic collectable cars in the country,” Merrell said. “The same is true for the Corvette market in the ’50s and ’60s era. The reason we picked these two cars is because we think they will bring premium dollars since they are frame-off restored quality vehicles.”
For more information about the Mecum Auction in Kansas City and the cars that will be featured there, visit www.mecum.com.
Mecum Auction in Kansas City
WHEN: Gates open daily at 8 a.m. April 23-25. Vehicles begin at 1 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
WHERE: Bartle Hall, 301 W. 13th St., Kansas City
TICKETS: $20 per day for adults; children 12 years and younger are free