My observation from watching several hours of B-J auctions over the past week is that bone-stock originality of all cars - and trucks - from our era is no longer prized as it once was. Modification for driving comfort, safety, and updated appearance actually seemed to carry a considerable premium in the market this time, almost without exception. If it was tastefully done, mods seemed to bother the bidders not at all. Even the TV commentators would often be heard to make note of alterations and comment, "No harm there".
Perhaps it was not a correct perception, but it even seemed to me there was a line of demarcation in bid prices that had beautiful as-original cars generally falling under $50K, and nicely done mild-to-wild modifieds typically reaching over that $50K mark - sometimes by a huge amount. Bidders also seemed to be reaching for anything that would set the car on the block in some prominence over its fellow production-line peers. A history of famous name ownership perhaps - such as the Bob Lutz claim of this C300 - or a record of gaining racing laurels as this one again claimed. What commanded the excitement and the dollars of the bidders in the B-J auction was a singularity that made a car stand where its comparatives could not. And sometimes it was a high degree of customization that appealed.
The times they are a-changin'. Somebody ought to write a song by that name. When I first became interested in the hobby, true automotive survivorship was the only thing we knew and prized. Then around thirty years ago - maybe more - folks started creating "as new" show cars, even from junk yard relics, right down to the inspection stampings. There was no shame at all - even pride - in having a trailer queen that was not allowed to have its tires soiled. When I first met up with the 300 Cub folks, it honestly surprised me that members relished driving their 300s all over the country - and even beating on them. They said they enjoyed that and fixing them more than keeping them as ready as possible for a concours. That was new to me then, but I have to say its been a lot more fun to treat my old-timers that way - including my C. As long as there is water to clean them up again, and parts and friends to fix them, I'll keep on enjoying the pleasure of hitting the road with these oldies - until the day my kids sneak my license out of my wallet and shred it.
So in a way what we are seeing at the auctions is an extension of what we in the 300 Club have long felt about our old Brutes. We want to hit the road and enjoy these old cars while we still can. And like us, other owners are now looking for eye candy, comfort, convenience, and reliability in their old-car driving experience. They will even pay what premium it takes to buy the road-worthiness of a modern drivetrain.
The ranks of we old folks who are able, and know how, to fool with these relics of ours are thinning now. If it takes this turn to modernization to preserve the interest of yet another generation in the hobby, before the self-drivers give us the boot from our roads, I'm all for its happening. The alternative can only be internment in somebody's museum until .......what?