Gearheads re­visit their best days at Me­cum auto show

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - Kieran Ni­chol­son: 303-954-1822, kni­chol­son@den­ver­ or @kier­an­ni­chol­son

About 1,000 Amer­i­can mus­cle cars will be sold by the time the 2017 Me­cum Den­ver auc­tion runs out at the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter on Satur­day.

Roy and Linda Di­etz wan­dered the floor of the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter on Thurs­day, look­ing over hun­dreds of ve­hi­cles at the Me­cum Auc­tion. They had no in­ten­tion of bid­ding on a car — but they were tempted by a 1964 Ford Fal­con.

“It was our first brand new car,” Roy Di­etz said.

They traded up for a Ford Galaxie 500 af­ter two years, be­cause their fam­ily was grow­ing, he said. “We needed a big­ger car.”

Still, spot­ting a sim­i­lar Fal­con on the floor at Me­cum trig­gered a flood of mem­o­ries for the Au­rora cou­ple who have been mar­ried 58 years. They’re not alone.

“It’s an emo­tional drive, not a fi­nan­cial drive” for most peo­ple, Me­cum CEO Dave Magers said.

Nos­tal­gia fu­els a big part of the Me­cum ex­pe­ri­ence, Magers said. Like the guy who goes to the show — Den­ver’s runs through Satur­day — look­ing for a 1968 Chevro­let Ca­maro. Why? Be­cause he brought his girl­friend to the prom in one all those years ago.

“It’s a piece of your past you

will never for­get,” Magers said. “Think about some of your fond­est mem­o­ries, and they’ll in­volve cars.”

Me­cum, which holds auc­tions around the coun­try, hosted its first Den­ver event three years ago. It was suc­cess­ful. The sec­ond show grew, and this year’s show is big­ger still, cov­er­ing three days. The first two auc­tions here were two-day events.

Be­fore leav­ing Den­ver, Me­cum will have dis­played and sold 1,000 ve­hi­cles, from mus­cle cars to pick­ups, an­tiques to new cars. The old­est ve­hi­cle at the Den­ver show was from 1912, the new­est 2017.

On Thurs­day an auc­tion­eer wear­ing a cow­boy hat used the fa­mil­iar rapid-fire ca­dence to so­licit bids. “Can I get…Can I get…$5,000,” he trum­peted as a clas­sic Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle rolled across the stage.

Plenty of bid­ders filled the auc­tion area seats, while spec­ta­tors who were watch­ing but did not bid, filled seats far­ther from the stage. Mean­while ad­di­tional show at­ten­dees wan­dered the hall, tak­ing pho- tos and videos of their fa­vorite rides. About 15,000 au­to­mo­bile en­thu­si­asts are ex­pected to at­tend the three days of the show.

Lance Smith of Strat­ton, with a cloth in one hand and a squirt bot­tle in the other, buffed a fi­nal shine into his 1972 Chevro­let Chev­elle. Owner of Her­itage Clas­sics, Smith buys and trades clas­sic cars, res­tores and sells them.

He thought of keep­ing the Chev­elle for his 16-year-old son, Lance, but the 454-cu­bic-inch en­gine, with 450 horse­power, could be over­whelm­ing, per­haps even trou­ble, for a be­gin­ner driver.

“It’s been all hopped up,” Smith said.

Smith hoped to get about $40,000 for the Chevy Chev­elle, which some en­thu­si­asts re­fer to as “The Ul­ti­mate Mus­cle Car.”

Me­cum of­fi­cials hope some cars are able to rally on the auc­tion block, push­ing prices up to six fig­ures and above. “I’d be dis­ap­pointed if there isn’t,” Magers said.

In Colorado, a clas­sic Ford Bronco or a Toy­ota FJ Cruiser, off-road ve­hi­cles able to roam back-coun­try trails, could fetch big bucks. Or an or­ange 1975 Corvette could catch the eye of a Bron­cos fan.

Wil­lie Rutz of Lake­wood, who re­stored and sold cars for decades and is now an ap­praiser, sees high-end auc­tions in a sim­ple light.

“All it takes is two peo­ple bid­ding against each other,” Rutz said.

A 1970 Amer­i­can Mo­tors Cor­po­ra­tion mus­cle car, “The Ma­chine,” caught Rutz’s at­ten­tion. An­chored by the most pow­er­ful en­gine ever pro­duced by AMC for a pro­duc­tion car — 390 cu­bic inches, 340 horse­power, V-8 — it sports a white paint job with red and blue trim.

“That’s a neat, old car,” he said smil­ing.

Roy and Linda Di­etz, who spied the Ford Fal­con, leaned on logic to fight off the bid­ding bug.

Linda drives a four-wheel drive Ford F-150 pickup. “I can see where I’m go­ing,” she said.

Roy drives a BMW Z3, a James Bond car. “That’s my lit­tle baby,” he said.

If they were to bag the Fal­con, he said, “we’d need a big­ger garage.”

Photos by Hy­oung Chang, The Den­ver Post

About 1,000 Amer­i­can mus­cle cars, clas­sics, hot rods and new ve­hi­cles will be sold by the time the 2017 Me­cum Den­ver auc­tion runs out at the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter on Satur­day.

By Kieran Ni­chol­son

Don Kvas­nicka, left, and his fa­ther, Rick, check out a 1967 Pontiac GTO, one of the mus­cle cars of­fered for sale dur­ing Me­cum’s third auc­tion in Den­ver.

Hy­oung Chang, The Den­ver Post

Peo­ple look at vin­tage cars be­fore the auc­tion be­gins.

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