The 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan coupe features all-original interior to go with a 90-horsepower in-line-6 that sits under its long hood. The vehicle’s owner, Bill Scheffler, describes the car as “Utterly, if improbably, fantastic. Drives very much like a modern car, gets buckets of favorable attention, often of the ‘My dad had one of these’ variety.”
Below is the article as it appeared on The New York Times website.
A Modest Car for a Man of Means
By JERRY GARRETT
Published: April 22, 2010
The glossy catalogs thunking into mailboxes in the weeks before a major collector-car auction have been known to reduce sober adults to drooling daydreamers. I know this from experience.
Page after page of perfectly restored vintage cars, accompanied by vignettes describing each beauty’s provenance, have tested my restraint repeatedly, temptations held in check only by the values of the Aston Martins, Duesenbergs, Ferraris and Pierce-Arrows I desire most.
Occasionally there are exceptions. One that caught my eye recently was a mere Chevrolet, tucked near the back of RM Auctions’ catalog for its winter sale in Phoenix. The presale estimate was $45,000-$65,000, and the car would be sold with no reserve.
It was a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan coupe a woody, in surfer parlance, painted the color of a Bing cherry that spent most of its life prowling California’s Pacific Coast Highway. But sandwiched in the auction lineup between a 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom and a 1953 Packard Caribbean convertible, would this beauty even be noticed?
It was. When the Chevy crossed the block, bidding quickly escalated between a phone-in bidder and a gray-haired gentleman sitting with his wife in the center of the room.
“I don’t think the paint is original,” an RM auction official had told me. “But it suits this car quite well. One of this car’s best features is its almost perfectly preserved, all-original interior.”
Outside, the car wears three horizontal bands of gleaming chrome accents, wide whitewall tires and come-hither fender skirts. Under the long hood sits a 90-horsepower in-line-6.
The on-site bidder was Bill Scheffler, who had discovered the Chevy when the RM catalog arrived at his home in Westport, Conn. "I’ve been looking for one of these for 5 or 6 years," he said.
Mr. Scheffler, who owns a small collection of post-World War II collectibles and serves as the chairman of the Fairfield County Concours d’Élégance, said he was born in 1948, so there was an emotional connection. Bidding stalled at Mr. Scheffler’s $37,500. Going once, going twice.
The telephone bidder slid in a bid of $40,000.
“Didn’t appreciate that,” Mr. Scheffler said. He waited, waited, waited then bid $42,500.
The phone bidder hung up. Sold.
With a 10 percent buyer’s premium, the final price was $46,750, at the low end of the estimate.
“I got it at a fair price, maybe a little bit of a bargain,” Mr. Scheffler said, as the Chevy was equipped with the rare dealer-installed Country Club wood trim package.
Still, it was a Chevy.
“These cars without the wood trim,” he said, “aren’t worth much more than, say, $20,000.”
Mr. Scheffler said that while he had the means to purchase a more expensive car, this one offered what he was looking for: an emotional connection.
“Why some cars are more valuable than others is always an interesting conjecture,” he said in an e-mail message. “In some cases, the reason is clear: exceptional rarity, exceptional provenance, exceptional stories attached to the car.”
At auctions, the spirit of competition also comes into play.
“It’s as simple as two people wanting the same one object, price be damned,” he explained. “And in some cases, like this one, the car is both rare and unusual in one way or another. And then there’s the beauty in the eye of the beholder aspect.”
“The car is rolling art,” Mr. Scheffler said, “and price is only one of several considerations that enter into the transaction. It is very cool, and that cool factor hijacks value considerations, at least for the right user.”
Now that the Chevrolet has been a member of the Scheffler household for a few months, Mr. Scheffler was ready to offer driving impressions.
“Utterly, if improbably, fantastic,” he said. “Drives very much like a modern car, gets buckets of favorable attention, often of the ‘My dad had one of these’ variety.”
To sit in it is to take a trip back in time. “Not only does the car perform well mechanically, but both the (wind up, like an old wristwatch) clock (made in Connecticut) and the AM radio work flawlessly,” he continued. “How cool is that?”
To read this article on The New York Times website, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/automobiles/collectibles/25FLEETLINE.html.