Auction madness distorts value of some gems

The most shocking thing I saw on TV this last week wasn’t the totally bogus touchdown call by the replacement refs who handed the game to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

It was the sale of a car at the Las Vegas Barrett-Jackson auction. A 1937 Ford House Car, one of only six camper-style cars ordered built by Henry Ford himself, brought only $24,000. It was a nicely restored piece of American history and it went for less than what most people pay for a new daily driver these days.

Adding insult to injury, the next car across the block, a lipstick red 1955 Cadillac convertible, brought exactly twice what that olive green Ford camper sold for. Don’t get me wrong, the Caddy was a nice car.

But according to my favorite old car reference book, Cadillac churned out more than 8,000 copies of that model that year. My guess is there are several hundred of them still kicking around out there.

It was a stunning example of a system out of whack. Television auctions, with all their hype and flash, have driven collector car prices out of the reach of most of us.

But in this case, a car that should have commanded a lot more respect (and dollars) seemingly got lost in the shuffle.

It drove home the point that many of my older classic car buddies have been making for years now: The future of that part of the hobby is really at risk if younger guys don’t appreciate the early iron and get involved in preserving it.

I’m glad somebody got a steal on the Ford House Car, but I worry about what it says that such a rare car was so easily overlooked by so many.