Spring Carlisle 2019 featured a two-day auction during the Thursday and Friday of the event, offering nearly 500 cars. The auction commenced at Noon Thursday and from 2:00-3:00 PM that afternoon, Carlisle Auctions featured the “No Reserve Hour” where 22 consecutive cars went to the highest bidder.  We quickly realized that for a car enthusiast interested in newer collectible cars there were downright bargains to be had in one hour.  Following the end of the No Reserve hour, we reflected on what we would have bought with $15,000 to start a fantasy collectible car collection. Here’s what we came up with for even less than that.

Lot T161: 1990 Mazda Miata – $2,000

“Stunned” is the first word that comes to mind when we witnessed the hammer fall for only $2,000 on this clean Mariner Blue 1990 Mazda Miata.  That’s more than half of Hagerty’s Online Valuation Tool estimate for a #4 “Fair” Condition car and $500 less than the NADA Collectible Car Appraisal Guide’s “Low” value.  Several attendees could be heard saying, “Wow, well bought!” For that money, we’d quickly replace the ridiculous oversize chrome wheels and fix the passenger side hood and headlight door alignment.  Though mileage was not provided, these first generation “NAs” are notoriously reliable and easy to work on, making them excellent entry and fun cars into the collector car hobby.

Lot T166: 2004 Ford Thunderbird – $5,600

While the color of this Vintage Mint Green (a modern interpretation of Sea Mist Green found on the original ’55-’57 models) 2004 Ford Thunderbird might turn off some potential buyers, as far as we’re concerned it works on a personal luxury two-seater such as this example. Ford was on a roll in the early 2000s and capitalized on the popular neo-retro trend when it launched a modern version of the beloved ‘55-’57 Thunderbirds.  With a straight body, nice paint, and a presentable black leather interior (accented by mint green seat belts), we were very surprised to see this example hammer for $10,000 less than the Hagerty Online Valuation Tool #4 “Fair” value. If you love the looks of the original T-birds but prefer modern performance and convenience with a luxurious ride, you can’t do much better than an eleventh generation Thunderbird.  Many of these examples were foolishly purchased on the premise that they would quickly climb in value. Since that never materialized, it’s easy to find low-mileage examples.

Lot T166: 1981 Chevrolet Corvette – $4,000

This Blue-over-Blue Leather 1981 was a textbook example of why you can’t sell your collectible car if your pictures suck!  We were surprised to watch this driver-quality C3 automatic-equipped with glass T-Tops hammer for only $4,000.  While this price is right in line with the Hagerty Online Valuation Tool for a #4 “Fair” condition example, trust us when we say this car looked much better in person even on a rainy morning compared to the lousy grainy pictures the owner submitted for the auction.  While we’re the first to admit 1981 Corvettes are not the most desirable C3s, we’ve always liked the look of the elongated front end and they do have an interesting history as this was the year Chevrolet converted transferred production from St. Louis to a new facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Depending on where and when Chevy produced this example it may have a hidden interesting history.  At worst case, for $4,000 you could turn this into a nice Restomod with no harm, no foul.

Hopefully, the lesson from this example is two-fold.  First, we hope these examples illustrate that you don’t need a lot of money to get a fun, collectible car.  Second, if you’re going to buy a collector, vintage, muscle,  sports car, or classic truck at an auction always attend the first day if you’re looking for the best deals.