Shelby, Impala and a merry-go-round headline Auctions America

Marco R. della Cava
Automotive Contributor

Some guys can’t resist buying and selling cars as hobbies, but John Scotti was compelled to do so even though his day job amounted to the same thing.

The longtime Montreal-based car dealer had, over the decades, amassed an often revolving collection of cars that he finally decided needed to be pared down big time. Those 450 vehicles anchor the Auctions America event in Auburn, Ind., May 8-10, which car aficionados can tune into on NBC’s Sports Network cable channel.

“There are so many reality TV shows out there that have to do with cars in one way or the other now that it was kind of a natural (for NBC) to want their own program,” says Gord Duff, car specialist for Auctions America, the Auburn-based house that Kruse International sold to Canadian-headquartered RM Auctions in 2010. “The excitement generated in those moments of sale can’t be faked.”

The Scotti collection is a vast and varied no-reserve treasure trove, whose often low-mileage fare ranges from average used-car deals (fancy a 1981 Oldsmobile Toronado for $10,000 to $15,000?) to rather unique finds (including a 1981 MGB Mark IV with 10,000 miles for $20,000 to $25,000 that looks much like it did in 1981).

Other notable lots include a German-made 1979 Volkswagen Beetle convertible with only 30,000 miles from new, which at between $15,000 and $20,000 would be a fairly inexpensive way to make a statement with one of the most reliable and fuel-efficient machines from decades past. There’s also a commanding 1939 Packard Super Eight convertible four-door sedan ($50,000 to $65,000) with a dashboard that belongs in a drawing room. And one particularly striking machine rolls not on four wheels but three: a 1936 Triumph 5/5 with its sidecar ($30,000 to $35,000), a black beauty that slows traffic with its retro appeal.

“John owns about eight new car dealerships, so often he’d grab a car and drive it and bit then just keep it in his garage, which is why you’ll see Ferraris and Lamborghinis for sale in this auction with low miles,” says Duff. “In the end though he decided it was time to get this giant number down to maybe 50 or so cars, just to keep it manageable.”

A few other lots from the rest of the Auctions America line-up can’t be ignored. One is a 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS 409 Lightweight Sport Coupe ($140,000 to $160,000), which still carries its Zintsmaster Chevrolet livery from the days when it represented the company in a range of stock car victories back in the day. With only 5,000 original miles on the odometer, Duff calls the car “a time machine, one that has special meaning because it was raced here in Indiana and we’re now selling her in Indiana.”

Another automobile worth a look is a 1969 Shelby GT 500 Fastback, which “at between $120,000 and $130,000 can be had for less than what a full-blown restoration would cost you,” says Duff, noting that among the car’s original documentation is the sales order from an Iowa dealership as well as recognition in the Shelby Registry.

Also of note: seven Chrysler “Letter Cars” from the collection of Richard Rigoli. Spanning the years 1955 to 1962, the Chrysler machines where moveable automotive feasts that were harbingers of the muscle car era to come. This instant-collection of classic 300s (which lent its name to the company’s current sedan) includes a 1955 C-300 Hardtop, 1956 300B Hardtop, 1957 300C Hardtop, 1969 300F Hardtop and Convertible, 1961 300G Hardtop and a 1962 300H Hardtop.

And lastly, if you’re looking for something completely different, how about a … merry-go-round? In 2011, General Electric converted an historic 1941 Allan Herschell 36-foot carousel with 30 horses, two chariots and two chickens from electric to solar power. The company than showed the result off at that year’s South By Southwest tech-confab in Austin, Texas, before taking it on the road as part of a national campaign to promote solar energy.

“It’s all painted white with colorful LED lighting and comes with a 2005 International to tow it,” says Duff, adding that it represents the epitome of depreciation while promising you’ll be the hit of every birthday party in town. “GE spent $1 million on this, and it should go for $80,000 to $100,000. I’d say that’s a deal.”