They don't draw the same big numbers as when a Duesenberg or Ferrari crosses the block, but classic pickup trucks are becoming increasingly popular with bidders at classic car auctions.
Part of the reason is their affordability. Another is that, just like brand-new trucks, they can carry a load or perhaps they're the salvaged parts needed for the restoration of another vehicle in a collection. Yet another is that classic pickups are, well, just too cool not to be part of any serious collection.
"It costs a lot less to restore a pickup truck," says Dave Kinney, a longtime vehicle appraiser and publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, which tracks classic car (and truck) prices.
"Look at a 1956 Chevy Bel Air and a 1956 Chevy pickup truck," Kinney says. "The truck has a tenth of the chrome, only two doors and one seat, and a rubber mat on the floor."
Kinney also notes "what appraisers call 'value in use' that comes with a classic pickup. "You can take the trash to the dump in a classic pickup and you'd never do that in your '56 Chevy [car]."
Kinney offers yet another reason why pickups have become popular with collectors: Drive your classic Bentley to the hardware store and people will think you're putting on airs. But, Kinney says, "No one hates you when you drive an old pickup truck. You're not showing off, saying 'look at me, I have lots of money.'
"Nobody doesn't like an old pickup truck," he adds. "They make you smile."
Though their recent popularity and the degree of some restorations has caused prices to increase, Kinney says well-restored classic pickups typically are sold for between $25,000 and $45,000, and six-figure bids are extremely rare.
The classic-car-auction season starts each January, primarily in the Phoenix area, but also with some 3,000 vehicles offered at the Mecum Auctions event in Kissimmee, Fla.
We've been scouring the catalogs for the upcoming auctions to come up with some examples of what will be available should you care to place a bid in Arizona at the Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele, Bonhams, Gooding, RM or Silver auctions or at Mecum's event in Florida.
1928 Ford Model A "AR" Type 76A (pictured above)
The R stands for Replaced and means this was an early production truck produced with parts replaced later in the model year. For example, early 1928 Ford cars had red steering wheels and a hand-brake lever on the driver's left. But the braking system was redesigned in March 1928 and the hand brake was moved as part of that process.
This particular "AR" is an open-cab pickup from the famed Oldenburg Family Collection and combines the sportiness of a roadster with the utility of a pickup truck. The engine is a 40-horsepower, 200-cubic-inch L-head inline-four that's linked to a three-speed manual gearbox. The color is Balsam Green over black fenders. Bonhams expects the truck to sell for as much as $30,000.
1931 Ford Model A pickup
Vehicles sold at classic-car auctions can be offered with or without reserve. A reserve is a minimum — and secret — plateau that the bidding must reach before the vehicle's owner agrees to allow its sale. Obviously, if you're the owner of a $100,000 vehicle, you want some assurance it won't be hammered off at, say, $62,500.
Among the vehicles being sold without reserve in Arizona is this 1931 Ford Model A pickup from the J.D. Parker Antique Auto Collection. Parker collected cars for more than 50 years, but he died in 2011 and many of the vehicles he collected are being made available.
Among them is this '31 Model A, which was restored seven years ago but almost immediately parked back in Parker's warehouse; the car has been driven only 64 miles since its restoration, Russo and Steele catalog reports. The restoration included rebuilding of the engine, brakes, tires, fuel system, exhaust, cooling system, wiring, interior, new wood in the bed (and elsewhere), new glass and window regulations, new vinyl top and re-chromed bumpers.
1937 Hudson Terraplane
Another pickup being sold without reserve is this 1937 Hudson Terraplane, which Russo and Steele's catalog reports may be one of fewer than 10 that survive from that model year.
Essex was a division of the Hudson car company. In 1932, Essex launched a new model, the Terraplane, available as a car or a pickup truck. The Terraplane was known for its powerful engine — it became a favorite with bootleggers. The pickup version featured a car-like interior, which was considered luxurious for the time.
Hudson dropped the Essex name in 1933 but continued to produce Terraplanes through the 1938 model year.
The Terraplane pickup being offered at Russo and Steele underwent a frame-off restoration in 2011 and features two rare factory options — a rear bumper and bumperettes. It also has a heater, tool boxes and side-mounted spare tire.
For the 1937 model year, Dodge updated the design of its half-ton pickup and also upgraded the dashboard with safety in mind: Flush-mounted controls and knobs reduced potential injuries in a crash. Also updated was the 218-cubic-inch L-head six-cylinder engine, which provided 75 horsepower through a "synchro silent" three-speed manual transmission and new four-point suspension.
This example will be offered at the Silver auction, and the auction houses notes its rarity because post-Depression production numbers were low to begin with and so many "were beat up on farms and dirt roads." Pre-auction estimate for this truck is $29,000 to $49,000.
1954 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 5-window short bed
While it may look stock, this '54 Chevy pickup has been customized with a 350-cubic-inch small block V-8 topped by an Edelbrock manifold and 600-cfm carburetor. Designed for daily driving, this truck also has an 8-inch Ford rear end, Mustang II front suspension with rack-and-pinion power steering, power brakes and other updates, including a stainless-steel gas tank. It will cross the block at the Silver Auction in Arizona.
1957 Dodge Sweptline
Sometimes pickups come with a bonus. For example, this 1957 Dodge Sweptline to be sold at Mecum's event in Florida has a 1959 Eagle Cushman motor scooter in its bed. One bid, two vehicles! Why? The owner of the truck's father was a Cushman dealer in the 1950s.
Speaking of the truck, it's a frame-off restoration in Pacific Blue and White with a 314.6-cid V-8 with push-button automatic transmission.
Sweptline, of course, was Dodge's answer to the Chevrolet Cameo Carrier and was created by grafting the rear fenders from Dodge's two-door station wagon to the sides of the pickup box.
1959 Chevrolet 3100 Apache Fleetside Deluxe
Crossing the block at Bonhams sale is this 4x4 pickup, which is among those featured on the 2013 Hemmings Vintage Pickups calendar.
This Apache is, indeed, a classic, because it rides on a NAPCO 4x4 system. In 1942, the Northwestern Auto Parts Co. of Minneapolis began offering its "Powr-Pak" 4x4 conversion. The NAPCO system proved its capability on U.S. military trucks in World War II, and by 1956 GM offered the NAPCO setup as a regular production option. But 1959 was the last year for that arrangement; in 1960 GM started engineering its own 4x4 option.
Bonhams reports this '59 Chevy 3100 Fleetside Deluxe NAPCO truck has been restored to a level normally only seen on high-end passenger cars. It features Bombay Ivory and Frontier Beige paint and chromed bumpers, grille and hubcaps. It also has factory-optional two-speed windshield wipers and heavy-duty radiator.
The interior shows the correct woven-pattern cloth, AM radio, heater/defroster with all-wheel-drive operating instructions on the dashboard.
The truck won "Best Non-Passenger" vehicle honors at the 2011 Desert Classic Concours and is expected to sell for as much as $85,000 at the auction.
1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Not all the auction action is in Arizona. Mecum Auctions will parade some 3,000 classics across the block in Florida, including this 1970 El Camino SS, which is expected to fetch north of 100 grand.
Why? The '70 El Camino was a Chevelle from the bench seat forward, so it could be ordered with Chevy's big-block V-8. There's a 454-cubic-inch, 450-horsepower LS6 engine in this pickup, which was restored to factory specification by Jen-Jac Restorations of Savannah, Ga.
In addition to the big engine, the truck has a close-ratio Muncie M22 "Rock Crusher" four-speed gearbox and 4.10 Positraction rear end. It also has power steering and brakes, a cowl induction hood (with hood pins), five-spoke Super Sport wheels and Firestone Wide Oval tires.
The color is Tuxedo Black with a white SS stripe and black bench-seat interior.
2011 Toyota Tundra Clint Bowyer custom
A pickup doesn't have to be old to be classic and collectible. Consider this 2011 Toyota Tundra customized by NASCAR Spring Cup driver Clint Bowyer, who, according to the Barrett-Jackson auction catalog, was inspired by the weathered trucks he saw as a youngster growing up in Kansas.
Bowyer even had the Red House Custom Paints in Kansas create the truck's special weathered look by countless sessions of applying Sherwin-Williams Planet Color paint and then sanding for the right visual effect. Even the door jams and truck bed get the same attention to visual detail.
Period-correct body modifications and accessories include a custom vertical-bar grille atop white bumpers, wooden bed stakes, a wood bed floor and a decorative gas tank, Barrett-Jackson notes. There's also a custom louvered tailgate.
The truck rides on 20-inch Smoothies wheels with custom chrome center caps. The seats have Mexican blanket-style inserts.
1925 White Model 15-45 Yellowstone Park touring bus
OK, technically it's not a pickup truck, but Gooding & Company's docket includes a 1925 White Model 15-45 Yellowstone Park Touring Bus that's just too cool not to include in this roundup.
The vehicle is an icon of a bygone era when the national park offered tours in a fleet of 90-such open-air buses with four rows of seats. This example, which spent 14 years shuttling visitors to Yellowstone, has had the same owner since 1965 and was restored by the same people who had maintained it when it was in the Yellowstone fleet.
Expect to spend between $110,000 and $130,000, Gooding says, adding that since its restoration the bus has made several trips to national parks and to elevations to 11,500 feet.