On the third day of the 40th annual Barrett-Jackson classic car auction last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., the vehicle that brought the most money – a whopping $157,300 – was – wait for it – a pickup truck.
Of the 250 or so vehicles that sold that day at what’s billed as the “world’s greatest collector car event,” the highest bids weren’t on the featured 1968 Ford Mustang fastback. Or the 1965 Studebaker Champion Conestoga custom wagon. Or the Dodge Viper. Or any of the Chevrolet Corvettes. Or the 1969 Chevy Camaro SS convertible. Or the 1933 Ford Highboy roadster. Or the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr convertible. Or even the well-worn 1954 Buick Special convertible that was found in the Arizona desert. It was a pickup truck – albeit a highly customized 1955 Chevrolet 3100 — that was deemed worthy of the most money.
The ’55 3100 (pictured at top), nominated for a Goodguys award, features a new 6.2-liter LS2 Corvette engine, automatic transmission, custom suspension, power windows, power steering, four-wheel power disc brakes and air conditioning, as well as a Graphite Metallic Pearl painted exterior and red leather interior, with a mahogany-stained oak wood bed. The truck rides on 20-inch rear and 18-inch front wheels.
The cab of this 1940 Ford pickup was stretched 32 inches and suicide rear doors were added to produce a crew configuration, and the bed was shortened 10 inches to enhance its proportions. Power comes from a 500 horsepower, 5.7-liter, LS1 GM V-8 engine. The truck sold for $95,700 at Barrett-Jackson.
Spending $157,300 may pale in comparison to the $2.09 million someone would pay later in the week at the Gooding & Co. auction for a 2006 Ferrari FXX road racer, but there’s no doubt that pickup trucks have become genuine collectibles. The 1955 Chevy 3100 was one of 17 pickups up for bids that day, and the day before that was something of a “pickup truck day” at Barrett-Jackson, with nearly 50 crossing the block and finding new owners.
At an auction-week seminar on car collecting, McKeel Hagerty, whose family-owned company is the world’s largest insurer of classic vehicles, was asked what “sleeper vehicles” are just about ready to wake up the hobby. His response: 1950s and 1960s pickup trucks, which he said are an especially good way for newcomers to get involved because they’re relatively inexpensive to buy and spare parts are plentiful.
“Pickup trucks are a great way to start for young people,” Hagerty said, “and they’re remarkably easy to work on.” Hagerty also said you get the added bonus of practicality — you can use your classic truck for weekend home-improvement errands.
This 1955 Ford F-100 pickup was created for Sylvester Stallone's movie, The Expendables. Modifications by West Coast Customs included a 347 cubic-inch Ford/Edelbrock engine, revised suspension, a Ford 9-inch diff and flat black paint. The grille was inspired by the 1950 Mercury in Sly's 1986 movie, Cobra. The truck sold at Barrett-Jackson for $132,000.
Hagerty, who owns a 1962 International king cab pickup that formerly was used by a logging business, said at least two categories of classic trucks are becoming popular with collectors. In the first category are 1948-56 Fords with flathead V-8 engines, for which there are lots of parts so they can be “lightly hot rodded,” Hagerty said. In the other category are 1968-72 Chevrolet pickups. Hagerty said that by this time GM was making a better product than its competitors, and “the trucks have pretty good looks, too.”
A third category, made up of hard-to-find trucks, is made up of ‘50s and ‘60s models from manufacturers such as Studebaker and International Harvester.
Even those who tend to focus on the higher end of the collector vehicle market appreciate the appeal of classic pickups.
This aqua and black 1957 Dodge D-100 Sweptside pickup carries a 315 cubic-inch Hemi V-8 connected to a two-speed, push-button transmission. It also has two-speed windshield wipers and a hardwood bed. The Sweptside was a new body style for Dodge in 1957. The truck sold at Barrett-Jackson for $62,700.
“There’s a great romance to old pickups,” said Donald Osborne, a classic car collector, appraiser and writer. But, he warns, driving a classic pickup may not prove to be quite the romantic experience you might expect, especially compared with an automobile from the same era.
Driving an old truck may not provide the same smooth ride as floating down the road in a big, nautical Detroit sedan from the same era, Osborne said. Driving an old truck, he said, can be an “agricultural” experience.
Dave Kinney, who has bought, sold and appraised classic cars for many years and is the founder of a collector-car pricing guide now sponsored by Hagerty, noted that pickups from the ‘50s and ‘60s “are cheap to restore, and you can use them to move things around.”
While people would think you’re a rich snob if you flaunted your wealth by driving around town in your million-dollar roadster, “nobody hates you” when you’re in an old pickup, Kinney said. “No one thinks you are a rich bleep,” he said. “You get thumbs up, not middle fingers.”
Offered at the Silver auction, this three-quarter-ton 1964 International Travelette tow truck has a Chevy V-8 under its hood. Auction price not available.
This 1956 Volkswagen Type 2 three-quarter-ton Transporter pickup featured fold-down sides and tailgate and a lockable and weatherproof cargo area beneath the bed. The truck crossed the block at the Russo and Steele auction. The truck sold for $36,300 at Russo and Steele.