Auction Circuit Secret: Classic Pickups Are Still Affordable


1956 Ford F100 Big Window

Spending a week at Mecum Auctions' event in Monterey, Calif., a few weeks ago left me with an important takeaway. While many would-be buyers focused on one-of Ferraris that went unsold at $23,000,000, there is a part of the collector car universe that is still affordable: classic pickup trucks.

These trucks, to me anyway, fall into three distinct categories: pre-World War II trucks that have been restored to a high standard or are in original condition, post-WW II trucks in original or restored condition (mostly Chevrolets) and modified trucks, mostly the iconic, yet ubiquitous, 1950s Ford "Effies." Most of these Effies seem to be powered by the equally ubiquitous small-block Chevy V-8. (I continue to be surprised at just how few sport small- or big-block Blue Oval V-8s there are.)

Unlike the exotica that populate the high-end collector-car marketplace, you don't see many "barn finds" in the classic truck categories. Such trucks, if they were used on a real farm, were usually used until they would run no more and were left to rot in the fields. There they returned to the earth in the form of iron oxide, better known as rust.

In the classic pickup marketplace one auction house dominates: Mecum Auctions. When you see pickups at other auctions like RM, Gooding & Co. and Bonhams, they are rare, usually prewar, pickups that end up selling for far more than mere mortal enthusiast collectors can afford. There are exceptions, but not many. You will occasionally see an interesting postwar pickup at Russo and Steele, but it's usually a modified big-block truck owing to Russo and Steele's muscle-car roots.

When you look at what Mecum Auctions sold in Monterey in August, you can see that early 1950s Chevrolet trucks, especially those in restored condition, sold well. If there is a sweet spot in the market right now, it centered squarely at $25,000. These trucks, in original or restored condition, will likely never be cheaper than they are now. If you happen to be in the market for one of these classic pickups, keep an eye on your local Craigslist and snap one up before the sellers read the auction reports.

Unmodified Fords, especially restored or in original condition, starting with the fourth generation from 1961 to 1966 are gaining traction. If I were to choose a Ford pickup for my garage it would be the beautiful, essentially stock, driver-quality 1965 F100 equipped with an aftermarket, under-dash air conditioning system that sold for what I thought was a reasonable $17,000.

What you're not seeing at auctions in any appreciable numbers are Dodge trucks. When they do appear, they are usually modified with sporting first-generation Hemi V-8s. What hasn't yet appeared is the truck counterpart of a classic Mopar muscle car equipped with a modern 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, but don't be surprised if this trend takes root during the next several years.

Below are selected results from Mecum's Monterey auction.

1989 Dodge Dakota convertible

Sold (by selling price)

  1. 1932 Ford Roadster Pickup, $60,000
  2. 1954 Chevrolet 3100 Five-Window Pickup, $45,000
  3. 1954 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup, $27,500
  4. 1953 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup, $26,000
  5. 1953 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup, $26,000
  6. 1951 Ford F1 Pickup, $25,000
  7. 1965 Ford F100 Pickup, $17,000
  8. 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Rampside Pickup, $14,000
  9. 1960 Ford F100 Pickup, $11,500
  10. 1989 Dodge Dakota Convertible, $4,500

Unsold (by highest bid)

  1. 1940 Willys Pickup, $40,000
  2. 1941 Chevrolet Pickup, $30,000
  3. 1956 Ford Pickup, $35,000
  4. 1934 Dodge Flatbed Pickup, $30,000
  5. 1959 Dodge D100 Utiline Pickup, $25,000
  6. 1952 Studebaker Pickup, $25,000
  7. 1969 Ford Bronco, $24,000
  8. 1935 Dodge Pickup, $20,000

If you are interested in any of the unsold trucks, contact Mecum Auctions as many sales are concluded after the auction.

If you missed out in Monterey, don't despair: Mecum's Dallas auction runs through Sept. 6. (scan your local cable listings to find the NBCSN listings — today, 6:30 to 9:30 PM ET; Saturday, 12:00 to 3:30 PM ET). Below I've highlighted more than two dozen pickups that merit your attention. Not sure what to look at in Dallas? I'd suggest the 1981 Jeep Scrambler or the 1978 Jeep J10. There aren't many good Jeep J-Series trucks left, so if you can find an original or restored J-Series truck, snap it up.

  • 1925 Ford Model T Pickup
  • 1946 Chevrolet Custom Pickup
  • 1948 GMC COE Flatbed
  • 1953 Ford F100 Pickup
  • 1955 Chevrolet Napco Series 1 Pickup
  • 1956 Ford Big Window Pickup
  • 1956 Ford F100 Pickup
  • 1959 Chevrolet Apache Pickup
  • 1959 Chevrolet El Camino
  • 1960 Ford F100 Pickup
  • 1965 Chevrolet Custom 20 Pickup
  • 1965 Ford F100 Pickup
  • 1966 Chevrolet C10 Pickup (author's pick)
  • 1969 GMC 1500 Pickup
  • 1970 Chevrolet El Camino
  • 1970 Dodge McMullen A100 Pickup
  • 1971 Chevrolet Cheyenne Pickup
  • 1971 Chevrolet Short-Bed Pickup
  • 1972 Chevrolet 454 Pickup
  • 1972 Chevrolet Cheyenne Super Pickup
  • 1978 Jeep J10 Pickup
  • 1981 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler
  • 2000 Chevrolet 3500 Hauler (to tow home your auction acquisition)

Mecum Auctions images


1941 GMC CC100


 1934 Dodge Pickup


1981 Jeep CJ-8


1934 Chevy 3100 Pickup


1959 Dodge D100 


1966 Chevy C10


1956 Ford F100


1934 Dodge Flatbed Pickup


1955 Chevrolet NAPCO Series 1 Pickup



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