Special feature: Vintage machinery auctions

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle


Deals on Wheels recently checked out two vintage machinery auctions

The last couple of months have produced a bumper crop of classic vehicular memorabilia as older generation restorers and collectors decide to pass on their pride and joy to another generation of enthusiasts to love and enjoy.

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This 1949 open-top Ford V8 fire appliance fetched a high price

The terminology ‘love’ might seem like a bit of an overkill when on the face of it all we’re only talking about a few bits of metal pieces joined together with a multitude of nuts and bolts, be they of the Whitworth, SAE, or metric variety.

However, if you dig a little deeper, it seems this whole collecting thing is mostly about reliving memories of days gone by.

Vintage delights

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Alastair Beer, from Alastair Beer Auctions, with a factory-built Oldsmobile tractor 

I recall a conversation I had a few years ago with a newly-appointed operations manager of a well-known Auckland transport museum, in which he boldly stated that nobody was interested in old vehicles anymore.

That statement certainly hasn’t been vindicated if the large turnouts at the two recent vintage and classic vehicle auctions conducted by Alastair Beer Auctions are anything to go by.

The first one of these two auctions was held on behalf of iconic rally motorsport enthusiast, transport operator and truck parts proprietor, Barry Phillips in Drury, South Auckland.

The event was attended by a large contingent of men, women, and children, all eager to get their hands on a lot of goodies that had in previous years either cost their owners a lot of time and money to restore or to purchase in a restored state.

While there are obviously two schools of thought when it comes to making a commitment to restore an artefact to its former glory, one being that there may be a dollar to be gained from the effort, and the other being the satisfaction of making something look all bright and shiny again, in the final analysis, it all boils down to people deriving pleasure from knowing a job has been done well.

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Both auctions saw a good turn up of vehicle enthusiasts

Pontification on motivation aside, these auctions provided a fantastic full day’s entertainment for the entire family, even if it’s only to see just how long the auctioneer’s voice can hold out over the course of six hours or so of constant calling – at full noise.

EFTPOS cards were swiped and wallets were opened wide to dispense their contents as punters made a dash to pay for their purchases on the day of the Barry Phillips auction back in September.

However, a little more than two months later at the Awakere auction, dollar amounts paid for lots seemed a tad more subdued, although, most items did sell on the day.

Going once, going twice…

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This beautiful example of a Commer TS3 was passed in

That been said, at the September Drury auction, an immaculate, almost completely restored Commer TS3 painted in Barry Phillips’ father’s company livery was passed in at around the mid $20,000s—a vehicle that in reality should’ve fetched a much higher price, while on the other hand, ordinary-looking motor industry signs reached prices ranging from $100 to $800 and more.

The surprise of the day was a 1949 open-top Ford V8 fire appliance, which sold for what seemed a particularly high price.

The V8 fire truck came complete with hoses and an operational firefighting pump and also included a couple of slightly-later period fire helmets.

Other items up for sale on the day were an immaculately-presented early 1970s Dodge fire tender, which was passed in, and a weird-looking Oldsmobile tractor, a rare item that was a genuine factory-produced tractor.

There were a number of them produced by General Motors out of their Oldsmobile factory during the Second World War and they were used in a number of situations, including farming and at aerodromes for towing multiple jittny trailers with bombs on them out to the waiting bombers. A very rare item for sure*.

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Trucks in need of repair were up for grabs

General items also included a partly-completed 1938 Diamond T cab and chassis, a beautiful little IH McCormick Farmall A tractor which was passed in, 1997 Saab 900S convertible, a 2000 Volkswagon Beetle, a tandem tilt deck trailer c/w alloy ramps, along with a large selection of cream cans, milk cans, barrels and classic fuel cans.

Restored fuel bowsers and oil bottles in racks are always snapped up in fairly short order at auction time, and the Barry Phillips auction was no exception to that rule.

Part of the entertainment at classic auctions is the multitude of old vehicles that transport the punters to the venue especially on fine days, with the pick of the day being a tidy two-tone green Thames Freighter light truck, complete with period canvas cover.

Barry Caufield auction

On 20 October, collectors flocked from all parts of the County to descend on Awakere in the Bay of Plenty, about an hour’s drive from TePuke to get a slice of the action. Items up for auction came from Barry’s personal collection, along with a number of entries from other collectors as well, with Barry saying that he was downsizing his collection in order to focus on his collection of Kenworth and Pacific trucks.

There were vehicles and machinery of all sizes and ages ranging from tractors and farming equipment from a bygone era to extremely large mobile wood chippers and log stackers to an immaculate FC Holden ute.

While it was obvious that a portion of the items up for grabs were merely being bought for their scrap metal value, one metal merchant was overheard saying that it would be a shame to scrap one of the vehicles he’d won on the day, as it was "far too good for that", leading one to hope that it might eventually wind up in somebody’s tender care in the long run.

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Martin Cropp was delighted with his purchase

Martin Cropp, a bidder, who farms at Pongakawa, about 50km from Awakere was lamenting the fact that a 1964 one owner Ford Trader he had on his watch-list would probably go for much more than he’d ever be able to afford and much less, justify to his wife.

In fact, only moments before the bidding started, he said he would really love to own the vehicle, but was dreading to think how much it would go for—a price he reckoned would be way out of his reach. The auctioneer started at $1k and up went Martin’s hand; the old Trader was on the market.

Those standing close to Martin could feel his tension and we all waited for the bidding to rise, but nobody else placed any further bids, leading to one extremely happy auction-goer.
Take a look at the photo included and see if you think he got a bargain or not.

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This immaculately rebuilt GMC even caught the dog’s attention

The truck was assembled by the Ford Motor Co in Wellington and there aren’t too many of these relics around these days, so in this writer’s opinion, it would have had to have been one of the best buys of the day.

The engine started and the brakes worked fine, and while Martin says he’s cleared a space in the barn for the old Trader, he says he’ll eventually treat the old girl to a full restoration, but in the meantime, it will be put to work on the farm, as he says it runs like a sewing machine.

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