This 1939 Ford Deluxe station wagon, one of the most desirable Ford woodies, with hydraulic brakes and gleaming bird's-eye maple panels, sold for $247,500.
Dingman's top seller, a 1936 custom Ford cabriolet with coachwork by Gläser, made $396,000.
A 1937 Ford half-ton pickup V-8, one of two trucks in the sale, embraced, in RM's words, "the best of both worlds, a completely original face with the heart of a hot rod." The pickup received the same engine upgrades as Ford's passenger cars; it featured a flathead engine with Offenhauser aluminum heads, twin carburetors, and Fenton exhaust headers. Estimated at $25,000/35,000, it surged to $55,000.
A 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr coupe, another Westmoreland restoration, finished in the fast lane for second place. It was sleek and handsome in gloss black paint with beige cord cloth upholstery. The Zephyr, with its 110-horsepower L-head V-12 engine, quickly breezed by its $125,000/175,000 estimate to a rousing $330,000 finish. Hailed as one of the most attractive designs of the 1930's, the new Zephyr style attracted imitators for years to come. This coupe was awarded Best of Show at the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club in 2007 and the club's Peter Gregory Award for Best in Class; it also has Antique Automobile Club of America Junior and Senior credentials.
This 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Sportsman convertible sold for $253,000 (est. $240,000/280,000). Henry Ford inspired this model because he wanted a car he could drive to the beach at his Long Island home. It was a favorite of the stars; Ford presented the first Sportsman to actress Ella Raines.
Ford Service shield porcelain sign, 45" x 31", $16,100.
One of the countless Dingman automotive neons that overachieved big time, an oval Ford/ Mercury/ Lincoln-Zephyr, 71" x 71" x 10", went at $33,350 (est. $14,000/18,000).
RM Auctions, Hampton, New Hampshire
by Dick Friz
Photos courtesy RM Auctions
"Automobiles are hollow, rolling sculpture"the words of the Museum of Modern Art's former curator of architecture and design Arthur Drexler were convincingly reaffirmed at the $9.8 million RM Auctions sale of the collection of Michael Dingman in Hampton, New Hampshire, on June 9 and 10.
RM stands for Rob Myers, founder and CEO. RM Auctions' corporate office is in Blenheim, Ontario, and the firm holds at least four major car auctions a year in different parts of the world. RM holds five of the top ten all-time records for vintage cars sold at auction.
Flathead Fords (with Ford's innovative V-8 powerplant with the valve-in-block design), imports, and scores of vintage neon and porcelain signs consistently trumped presale estimates at a dizzying pace. The collection's avowed classics, inimitably graceful Art Deco-styled vintage automobiles, represented virtually every Ford year and body style from the 1930's and '40's. The journey down memory lane was a pleasurable venture that included more than 1000 transportation-related signs and other relics of a bygone era.
The sale attracted bidders from 34 states and intense global interest from auto enthusiasts from Europe, South America, and the Middle East. First-time clientele constituted 37% of the bidders participating. The fee of $150 included a catalog and two admissions to the preview and auction. The phones buzzed constantly, punctuated by the staccato bid-calling of auctioneer Brent Earlywine. The Internet added to the thrum of rapid-fire raises.
The consignor, Michael Dingman, is a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and sometime racecar driver. He served as the director of the Ford Motor Company for 21 years. We first met Dingman over 40 years ago when he was the CEO at Wheelabrator-Frye and we were invited to attend a company tennis outing. His spacious clubhouse was wall-to-wall with carousel and cigar-store figures and trade signs from his world-class folk art collection.
Dingman's first love, however, was vintage automobiles. Though his father was a Buick man, Dingman was attracted to the "blue oval" even before he could drive. His first collector car was a 1947 Ford five-window coupe.
RM's June sale was part two of Dingman's holdings. The first ran in June 2006 and tallied over $8 million. Dingman told us that he and his family got together and made the agonizing decision as to what to put on the block, as many items had strong sentimental value. This by no means spells the end of the Dingman collecting saga. An RM staffer remarked, "You should see the galaxy of 'keepers' lined up in the second level of Dingman's gallery."
RM cofounder Mike Fairbairn later affirmed, "We are delighted by the results. The Dingman collection was without question one of the finest of its kind." Reflecting the exceptional condition, quality, and pedigree of the entries, 73% of the automobiles surpassed high estimates. In this no-reserve sale, 100% of the about 900 total lots sold.
Setting a shining example, the overarching favorite of the Dingman sale was an impeccably restored 1936 custom Ford cabriolet. The black beauty, with coachwork by Gläser of Dresden, Germany, quickly left the $225,000/275,000 estimate in the dust at a rousing $396,000. (All prices include a 10% buyer's premium on cars and 15% on signs, pumps, and other auto-related memorabilia.) The original owners, the Westermanns, a prominent German Jewish family, purchased it in 1936. Later, they loaded family, money, and valuables into the Ford and fled Nazi Germany, destined for England, where they bought the prestigious Hotel de Paris in Bray. The Westermann family owned the car until the 1980's. It passed through various British owners before it was acquired by Dingman in 2008.
Dingman, wishing to return the cabriolet to its original appearance, commissioned an exhaustive $340,000 makeover by renowned restorer Kevin Westmoreland. Its transformation as a true show car is confirmed by the green and blue ribbons that were displayed on its grille. The cabriolet was awarded the 2011 Pebble Beach Best in Class and completed the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Other Dingman auto best sellers included a 1938 Ford Deluxe station wagon, in a configuration that elevated the wagon to passenger car status as opposed to utility use, $209,000 (est. $100,000/130,000); a 1940 Ford Deluxe station wagon, $203,500 (est. $120,000/150,000); a 1940 Standard station wagon, $192,500 (est. $120,000/ 160,000); and a 1947 Ford Super Deluxe station wagon, $192,500 (est. $110,000/ 135,000).
All six of the top Ford station wagons or convertibles, among the 16 offered, were the ever-popular woodies-so called because richly grained and finely varnished wood was bolted to the frame in its rear body work. Henry Ford introduced the first woodie in 1929. Woodies enjoy a special cachet among car cognoscenti and as part of pop culture. They were immortalized in a 1963 Jan and Dean number one hit, "Surf City": "I bought a thirty-four wagon, and we call it a woodie."
Four sports car imports were showcased: a 1986 AC Autocraft MkIV Cobra, $170,500; a 1989 Aston Martin Vantage Volante, $192,500; a 1989 Porsche 911 Speedster, $77,000; and a 1992 Porsche 911 turbo America Roadster, $140,250. The two Porsches finished well shy of estimates. By way of explanation, an RM spokesman indicated that certain Porsche collectors are purists, and there may be occasions when entries with extensive modifications and upgrades are not their preference.
The oldest entry in the auction, a 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton, served for the past 11 years as the Dingmans' vacation car at the family enclave in Nassau, Bahamas. It sold for $60,500.
Hundreds of neon signs, many of outlandish size and proportion and in all kinds of vivid colors, transformed the RM showroom into a glittering spectacle the likes of Las Vegas.
The impact of advertising signs in the automotive industry was emphatically underscored recently when Ford Motor Company got its ice blue oval logo out of hock after pledging it in 2006 toward a $23.5 billion loan for restructuring. "We were pledging our heritage," said Ford's executive chairman, William C. Ford, Jr.
For many years Dingman collected only cars. When approached by an acquaintance asking if he'd be interested in buying a few signs, Dingman, though hesitant at first, made the deal and soon exhibited his signs with his Fords. When he showed his wife, Betsy, his first neon sign, she concurred it was "absolutely beautiful" and tentatively agreed that he "couldn't have just one." After a tireless quest for more and better, Dingman became the preeminent sign collector with the largest privately held collection in North America.
All advertising signs are graded by condition, and most rated in RM's 7-9 grade range, good to near mint. Though condition is important, content was Dingman's first priority. "Signs tell a story. They have something to express," he said.
Top-selling neons included a Chevrolet clock, cataloged as "unique," that featured a light-up clock face and neon script, $41,400; an illuminated sign that spelled out "Eat," 36" x 100" x 10½", $12,650; a "Taxi" in an arrow, 59" x 26"x 14", $2875; and a "Bar," 32" x 40" x 15", double-sided with pointing finger, $5750.
A "Garage" sign using incandescent lighting, 85" x 20" x 6", sold for $9775; a Ford Monarch sign, 72" x 46" x 3", realized $5290; and a Ford Service Station countertop sign, 33" x 10", went at $5175.
Harking back to simpler times, a lot of 16 red and white wooden Burma-Shave highway signs sold at $3220. One pithy series read, "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and the speed offender."
Leading seller among ten gas pumps offered early in Saturday's lineup was a Sinclair Dino Premium model 76 computing pump that brought $5175. Four computing entries each rang up a high-octane $4313: Mobilgas, Texaco, Gulf, and Gulf Bennett.
For complete Dingman auction results and details on upcoming events, contact RM Auctions at (800) 211-4371 or check the Web site (www.rmauctions.com).
|Ford "Jubilee" three-piece neon, 96" x 42" x 17", $39,100.|
Ho-Jo's pie man neon sign with classic chef, boy, and dog imagery in seven colors, 75" x 109" x 9½", loomed large at $20,700.
Lincoln Mercury, double-sided neon with Lincoln's V-8 shield, 45" x 126" x 16", $37,950.
Piggly Wiggly grocer neon, with the pig mascot, 48" x 49", $10,350.
Collectors got the biggest kicks from the Route 66 signs that highlighted the petroliana porcelain and steel signs, which RM classified under the "nostalgia" heading. Twenty-one signs sold as one lot. Included were state signs from Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, and California. An Internet bidder won them for $29,900. The huge (6' wide) Coca-Cola neon brought $14,375.
Auctioneer Brent Earlywine and his spotters pick up bids from the gallery. Madaline Friz photo.
by David Hewett
Make no mistake; restoring vintage automobiles to as-new condition or to make them medal winners at shows, as Dingman did, is no business for those without very deep pockets. When someone travels that road, it has to be a labor of love. It is very unusual for a fully restored vehicle to resell for more than its restoration cost.
Want an example? Lot 802 in Sunday's session, a 1935 Ford Deluxe Phaeton (four-door convertible) was purchased in Colorado in 2001. It then went to restorer Kevin Westmoreland's Performance Restorations shop in Cleveland, Georgia, to be returned to original dealer-showroom-floor condition.
The cost? The restoration bill was $160,000, and that was ten years ago. When it sold on Sunday afternoon, it brought $88,000.
The first car offered, a 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton, had a Roush Performance Products-built flathead V-8 engine. Building this engine is a comprehensive process that added considerably to the restoration costs. Several of Dingman's Fords also had this feature.
A Roush-updated flathead V-8 is superbly camouflaged. From the outside, the engine appears to be nothing more than an extra-clean run-of-the-mill engine just as it came off the assembly line back when they first appeared on showroom floors.
A word about Ford flatheads. The engine block contains the rotating parts: a crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and a cam that determines valve openings and closings. Those components are basic to all reciprocating engines. Ford flatheads also had the valves in the block with the combustion chambers and passages for the fuel and air mixture within the bolt-on heads. The heads had no moving parts.
All of today's engines (even those made by Ford since 1954) have the valves in the head (for four- and six-cylinder engines) or heads (for eight or more cylinders).
The original Ford V-8s were equipped with a stock two-barrel carburetor; the distributor was positioned down low on the block within knuckle reach of the fan, with the fan-belt-driven water pumps either bolted to the front of the heads or mounted lower on the block. (If you ever owned one of those Ford motors you learned to carry a box of Stop Leak along with Band-Aids in the glove compartment.)
The original as-supplied Ford engine from the factory produced 85 horsepower. The Roush-built engine puts out 135 to 145 horsepower and does it silently and smoothly.
New cast crankshafts replaced originals; all rotating parts were super-balanced; and computer-programmed machine work opened up the air passages. New valves and valve seats of modern materials went into the block, and ceramic seals went inside the water pumps.
The motor's lubrication system was updated; modern bearings and seals replaced the stock units. Electronic ignitions were almost always concealed within the old components, although one of the Roush-reworked Dingman cars (the '34 Phaeton) did have an alternator instead of a generator.
Other than that, the improvements were concealed and housed inside motors that appear to be original stock. Open the hood, and you couldn't spot the changes, but start the motor, run the car, and you would notice it.
Those improvements didn't come cheap. That insistence on perfection was evident on the finish of the vehicles. Most of the cars were painted black. Any flaw in bodywork and/or paint preparation is magnified on a black-painted body. The panels fit perfectly on the Dingman cars; long expanses of black-painted sheet metal were ripple free; and there were no runs, no drips, and no orange-peel on his pets.
The five Lincoln-Zephyr cars were absolutely stunning. Lincoln-Zephyrs and Lincoln Continentals are thought by many (this writer included) to be the most beautiful objects the Ford factory ever built. All Lincoln-Zephyrs were powered by a V-12 cylinder motor and were arguably the sleekest, swoopiest, sexiest cars produced by any American company from the late '30's to the early '40's.
The lowest-selling Dingman Lincoln-Zephyr, a 1938 convertible sedan, brought $132,000; a 1939 convertible sedan brought $176,000 (restoration cost, $215,000); a 1939 convertible coupe brought $269,500 (restoration cost, $200,000); a 1940 convertible coupe brought $187,000 (restoration cost, $185,000); and the winner, a 1938 three-window coupe, sold for $330,000 (restoration cost, $150,000).
If viewers were stunned by the Lincoln-Zephyrs, they should have been knocked over by the incredible group of 14 woodies in the collection. Thirteen were wooden-bodied station wagons, but there was also a 1947 Sportsman Super Deluxe convertible.
If a high-quality restoration on a steel-bodied car is expensive, think about the funds involved when a top-rated woodworker with highly developed refinishing abilities is added to the mix of first-rate mechanics, metal workers, upholstery and carpet wizards, and anyone else necessary to produce a car with no flaws.
Every piece of wood was removed, stripped, bleached to remove stains, and sanded. Every piece of metal, chrome, fabric, glass, and leather was returned to better-than-original condition. And remember, besides the expenses for skilled labor, there has to be added the price paid for the car and replacement parts. It's a lot to be reckoned with.
The highest-priced woodie was one of the later models, the 1947 Super Deluxe Sportsman convertible. The convertible drew a lot of interest and sold for more than any of Dingman's station wagons. Estimated at $240,000/280,000, it opened for $100,000 and cost the winning bidder $253,000. There was no indication of its restoration cost, but it had to have been substantial. That car had originally been completely restored in California, where it was an established contest winner. It was bought by Dingman and re-restored by Woody Works, a Meredith, New Hampshire, firm.
The non-Ford vehicle lots that sold on Sunday included the ultimate version of the 1992 Porsche 911 America roadster, one of only 207 built, with updates that added $83,000 to a $100,000 car. It had a turbocharged and intercooled engine, $10,000 worth of work on the cooling ducts for front and rear braking, and a custom fabric top. An Internet bidder paid $140,250 for the 1992 roadster, which is virtually a new car with only 3378 miles on the odometer.
All of the vehicles sold here were special in some sense of the word, but one was truly special and can be directly attributed to Michael Dingman's favored position on the board of directors. Lot 845 was a 2005 GT, Ford's very rare street-legal version of its racing supercar. Electrically limited to 205 miles per hour, the 550-horsepower GT is extremely coveted by those who collect racecars. Michael Dingman got the second one off the assembly line (only 4038 were ever made). With number 1 kept by Ford, Dingman's has the lowest serial number (number 2) ever available to collectors.
The earliest GTs were sold in 2003, and buyers had to sign an agreement giving Ford the right of first refusal if they decided to sell them within 24 months. And, yes, such nuances as low serial numbers make a big difference when it comes time to sell. Dingman's GT sold for $242,000.