Auction Circuit Secret: Classic Pickups Are Still Affordable

Mecum T254 1956 FORD F100 BIG WINDOW PICKUP DA0914-193245_1 II1956 Ford F100 Big Window

By Richard Truesdell

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.

Mecum T161 1989 DODGE DAKOTA CONVERTIBLE CA0814-190033_2 II1989 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

Mecum T252 1941 GMC CC100 PICKUP DA0914-193243_1 II


 1934 Dodge Pickup

Mecum F117 1934 DODGE PICKUP  CA0814-190569_1 II


1981 Jeep CJ-8

Mecum T106 1981 JEEP CJ-8 DA0914-193097_1 II


1934 Chevy 3100 Pickup

Mecum W98 1954 CHEVROLET 3100 PICKUP DA0914-192849_1 II


1959 Dodge D100 

Mecum T159 1959 DODGE D100 UTILINE PICKUP CA0814-190131_1 II


1966 Chevy C10

Mecum W168 1966 CHEVROLET C10 PICKUP DA0914-192919_1 II


1956 Ford F100

Mecum W107 1956 FORD F100 PICKUP DA0914-192858_1 II


1934 Dodge Flatbed Pickup

Mecum F106 1934 DODGE FLAT BED PICKUP CA0814-190558_1 II


1955 Chevrolet NAPCO Series 1 Pickup

 Mecum S33 1955 CHEVROLET NAPCO SERIES 1 PICKUP DA0914-193684_3 II



Do you take Visa or Discover?

Do you take EBT?

hahahahahah @Michigan Bob

I wish the new trucks had the style of these old one"s! No matter who built it!

Do you take a check?

Nice trucks.

First up this is my first comment in this article. It appears the person who is attracted to me is again producing comments under my name.

As for the pickups I do think the 1934 Chev 3100 is actually and probably a 1954.

I do like the old Dodge flatbed. I remember as a youngster here in Australia quite a few vehicles of this vintage used by the small farmers around where we lived.

Many were of British origin and some US trucks. These are all very nice and desirable vehicles.

The article brings up an interesting point that got me thinking.

It states that most of the Fords had a SBC or BBC swapped in.

I presume it is due to the mass availability of parts and aftermarket support.

I think that the original powerplant is part of what makes an old car/truck what it is.

Ford had many solid engines, so I do find it a little surprising that those doing these restorations are not more interested in the original powerplants.

I like all of these trucks. If I were interested in another truck I would buy the 89 Dodge Dakota Sport and use it for a weekend drive but not haul in it. For $4,500 it would be an interesting truck to own and it would be a great conversation piece. I don't know how much it would appreciate in value but it is rare enough that if it is kept in pristine condition it would gain some. I remember when these came out, they were short lived but if you want something unique they are unique.

@HEMI MONSTER - I agree.

If one is going to put a ton of work and money into a truck it should be true to the brand.

If I pop a hood on an old Ford, I want to see a flathead V8 not a SBC.

The old saying must be true, "Anyone can make a Chevy go fast."

In the aftermath of the Mecum auction, here's how the trucks I cited fared.

1925 Ford Model T Pickup: No sale @ $19,000
1946 Chevrolet Custom Pickup: Sold @ $39,000
1948 GMC COE Flatbed: No sale @ $40,000
1953 Ford F100 Pickup: No sale @ $48,000
1955 Chevrolet Napco Series 1 Pickup: Sold @ $28,000
1956 Ford Big Window Pickup: Sold @ $36,000
1956 Ford F100 Pickup: Sold at $32,500
1959 Chevrolet Apache Pickup: Sold at $30,000
1959 Chevrolet El Camino: No sale at $40,000
1960 Ford F100 Pickup: Sold at @ $21,500
1965 Chevrolet Custom 20 Pickup: Sold @ $15,000
1965 Ford F100 Pickup: Sold at $16,500
1966 Chevrolet C10 Pickup (author's pick): Sold @ $17,500
1969 GMC 1500 Pickup: No sale @11,000
1970 Chevrolet El Camino: Sold at $37,000
1970 Dodge McMullen A100 Pickup: No sale @ $45,000
1971 Chevrolet Cheyenne Pickup: Sold @ $14,500
1971 Chevrolet Short-Bed Pickup: Sold @ $43,000
1972 Chevrolet 454 Pickup: No sale @ $31,000
1972 Chevrolet Cheyenne Super Pickup: Sold at $26,000
1978 Jeep J10 Pickup: Sold @ $23,000
1981 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler: Not sold @ $24,000
2000 Chevrolet 3500 Hauler (to tow home your auction acquisition): Sold @ $20,000

My prediction? A year from now $28,000 for the 1955 Chevrolet Napco Series 1 Pickup is going to look like a bargain.

I have to give props to Doc Johnson Crystal Jellie Ballsy Dong for having the balls to strike out in a different direction with the plastic.

With that being said, It was not a success because people do not like big change from the familiar.

My wife and I looked at one 5 years ago. It was nice and it rode very well. It had decent power as well. I liked it much more than my wife.

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