The stories heading into Dana Mecum’s 36th Original Spring Classic were legendary—from the highly publicized “Black Ghost,” a 1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger R/T-SE, to the recently discovered 1970 Rapid Transit System Cuda—and the results were stunning. The accountants haven’t revealed the total dollar-count from the Indy-based auction, but the rumors point to a staggering figure from the approximately 3,000 vehicles that went over the block in the eight-day time period. 30 special collections were included in the large lineup, and accounted for 400 specialty cars and trucks. These collections represented themes, such as “Meticulous Mustang Collection and More,” with its unique and low-mileage Fox Mustangs, and “the Hustle for the Muscle,” giving a look back at the historic muscle car era of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Mecum Auctions have become a spectacle extending beyond the auction itself, with a vendor midway, prestigious presentations of vehicle collections and themes, and the Dodge Thrill Ride program for fans and attendees to experience the raw excitement of Hellcat-powered vehicles. As MotorTend+ broadcast the Mecum Auctions live, the HOT ROD staff spent several days perusing the pavilions and halls of the Indiana Fairgrounds, digging up the biggest stories.
From the high-energy show-opening each morning to the last car going over the block at the end of the day, the excitement was nonstop. Here is a list of the most mondo-money-generating machines that produced breathless drama, excitement, and brought in a total of $9,350,000.
10. 1970 Plymouth HEMI Superbird: $605,000
We have seen plenty of wing cars go over the Mecum block and score big money, but this is only the second time we’ve seen one of those cars equipped with an automatic transmission. This 1970 Plymouth HEMI Superbird is one of just 77 total cars to be delivered with a slushbox. HOT ROD recently featured another unique 1970 Superbird, one that was outfitted with special instrumentation to measure aircraft emissions data. That one wasn’t for sale, but did come out of a rare Mopar collection that went to Mecum earlier this year. This rare ‘Bird grabbed the tenth-highest price at Dana Mecum’s 36th Original Spring Classic and closed out the $9,350,000 tally that the top cars brought in.
9. 1967 Shelby GT350 Fastback: $632,500
The modern-era Shelby GT500 vehicles might come standard with a supercharged engine, but in 1967 that was a rare option, with just 33 of them produced under the GT350 moniker. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this supercharged 1967 Shelby GT350 went for $632,500. This vehicle is flawless after receiving an extensive restoration (over 2,000 hours) by the talented group at Cobra Automotive in Wallingford, Connecticut, to bring it back to the original spec. This car is marked as Shelby number 02311 and its history is listed in the Shelby Registry for fans and potential buyers to research.
8. 1931 Cadillac Series 452 V-16 Convertible Coupe: $660,000
The 1930s saw a quickly evolving world, as the United States dealt with the Great Depression and Europe saw major political shifts that eventually led to World War II. Despite the economic and political challenges, the time period also ushered in the Art Deco era of automobiles. Car manufacturers embraced the elegance and the style overflowed in many models. The 1931 Cadillac Series 452 V-16 Convertible Coupe is one fine example of it.
The Caddy we watched go over the Mecum block is an award-winning model, having collected CCCA National First Prize, AACA National First Prize in 2008, AACA Cadillac-LaSalle Senior, First in Class at the 2020 Amelia Island 25th Concours d’Elegance, and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Third in Class in 2008. It transferred ownership for the right sum of $660,000.
Related: See the Hot New Colors and Sport Trim of the 2024 Cadillac Lyriq
7. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible: $660,000
Utter the phrase “one-of-four” around any car enthusiast and they will instantly know that vehicle will demand big money at a Mecum auction. In the case of a rare 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, it was the unique color combination of Tuxedo Black exterior paint with blue accents that put it in that grouping. Going one step further, this particular vehicle is a one-of-one in this color combination with the 427/400-hp engine under the hood! Mecum Auctions did a wonderful job of displaying its award-winning pedigree as well as the extras it comes with, such as the original owner’s manual and optional hard top. All-in, this Corvette left the Indiana Fairgrounds after its new owner cut a check for $660,000.
6. 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition: $660,000
Ford jumped into the modern supercar market in 2005 when it unleashed its GT model, a vehicle based on its 2002 GT40 concept car. The mid-engine vehicle celebrates Ford’s racing legacy and its LeMans victories over rival Ferrari. The first modern generation of the Ford GT ran for the 2005 and 2006 model years, during which time just 343 Heritage-package cars, featuring the famed Gulf livery, were built. The one that went over the block in Indianapolis has just 930 miles on the odometer. The engine is a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 with four valves per cylinder, and boasts 550 hp. The GT came from the same collection as the 2020 Ford GT Heritage model that fetched $1.375 million. This 2006 model garnered $660,000 from a lucky buyer.
5. 1971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR2: $715,000
It was known as “Zora’s Racer” and the 1971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR2 was designed to be a race car from the factory. They officially named this Corvette “ZR2,” after the model’s chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, and GM produced just 12 of them in a single year of production. The main attraction was the powerful 454/425-hp Mark IV big-block LS6 V-8, Muncie M22 four-speed gearbox, and the race-inspired suspension system. You couldn’t get many creature comforts, as the intention was for enthusiasts to run these cars hard on the track. This Corvette is a Bloomington Gold-certified vehicle and had a body-off restoration performed by Corvette Repair, Inc. The Brands Hatch Green-painted model has made the rounds of the muscle car community, from its residence at the Gilmore Museum to an assortment of car shows. It took $715,000 to acquire this one-of-twelve vehicle.
4. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1: $770,000
Where would the world be without Fred Gibb and his Central Office Production Order (COPO) number 9560? Sometime in 1968 the savvy Chevrolet dealer would go one step further than the Yenko Camaro in terms of performance. Gibb added the all-aluminum ZL1 427 to the popular 1969 Camaro chassis and a new model was born. Once approved by the GM brass of the time, the dealership ordered 50 units so it could legally compete in NHRA/AHRA Super Stock. Gibb would only sell 13 of the 50 orders, so GM picked up the unsold cars and redistributed the 37 remaining models to other dealers. By the end of the 1969 model run, Chevrolet had produced 69 ZL1 Camaros.
Fast-forward 54 years and the ZL1 Camaro has become one of the most iconic factory models ever produced. The Fathom Green model that went over the block at Mecum Indy only has 3,646 miles on the odometer, and a collector grabbed it for the ripe sum of $770,000. It is a frame-off restoration using period-correct NOS parts in a no-expense-spared build. The Camaro is documented as car number 36 of the original 50 ordered by Fred Gibb Chevrolet.
A fun side-note: We came across Ro McGonegal’s drag test of a ZL1 Camaro that appeared in a 1969 issue of Popular Hot Rodding, in which he managed a best of 11.85 at 119 mph with slight modifications before handing the keys to legendary Funny Car driver Dick Harrell. The experienced pro driver clicked off a best of 11.64 at 122 mph.
3. 1970 “Black Ghost” Dodge HEMI Challenger R/T-SE: $1,072,500
We aren’t speaking out of turn when we say the most talked-about car at the Indy auction was the 1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger R/T-SE that has been dubbed “Black Ghost. ” The infamous street racer surfaced in 2016, and the story has picked up momentum over the last year or so. Owned by Vietnam veteran and former Detroit police officer Godfrey Qualls, the car gained notoriety and mystique during the early 1970s. The Challenger has remained in the Qualls family since it was purchased, and Godfrey handed it over to his son, Gregory Qualls, before he passed away in 2015. The Black Ghost is just one of 23 Challengers built in 1970 that included a Hemi, four-speed, and coupe configuration. If you want to dive deeper, the car is a one-of-one 1970 Dodge Challenger with a Hemi/ four-speed package and the Gator Grain roof option. The vehicle was sold to a Florida-based collector who intends to preserve its legacy, and he paid over $1 million to do so.
2. 2020 Ford GT Heritage Edition: $1,375,000
Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of its 1969 LeMans victory with a limited-edition Heritage edition of its modern Ford GT supercar. Boasting wins in 1968 and 1969, the anniversary signifies the final win of the back-to-back accomplishment. The 2019 model wears the number 9 and the 2020 models are tagged with car number 6, and all wear the iconic Gulf livery, fitting for the GT as a nod to its history. The second generation of the modern Ford GT has been a sought-after supercar, and one lucky buyer dropped $1.375 million for a one-of-fifty 2020 Ford GT Heritage edition.
1. 1970 Plymouth Cuda 440 Rapid Transit System Show Car: $2,200,000
How did the OEMs attract attention to their vehicles back in the muscle car era? They commissioned custom-car designers and builders to create wild versions of various vehicles. Plymouth went all-in with this marketing tactic and ordered four vehicles for its Rapid Transit System tour. HOT ROD’s Steven Rupp delightfully broke down the history of the Rapid Transit System ‘Cuda, built by Chuck Miller and designed by Harry Bradley. Boasting just 967 miles on the odometer and carrying serial number 100005, it was hidden away for 50 years. The ‘Cuda wears the 1971 paintjob, also performed by Miller, as it was run with two different looks on the show circuit in 1970 and 1971. When the bidding stopped, the buyer forked over $2.2 million in bid price and fees in order to bring it home.
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