Quick Q&A with Dave Magers, CEO of Mecum Collector Car Auctions

Odometer (Legend):  565,313

Odometer (ILX):  213,342

I shook hands last Friday morning with the CEO of the largest collector car auction in the world!  I was one of 11 journalists from the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) who were invited to an exclusive Q&A with Dave Magers during the opening weekend of Mecum Auctions’ first event in Phoenix.

Mecum is a powerhouse in the collector car marketplace, launched in 1988 with humble family beginnings but today hosting 14 auctions nationwide, each one at about $30 million or more in sales.  That’s a lot of steel & rubber changing hands each year (roughly 15,000 vehicles, actually).

While most of the Phoenix & Scottsdale community thinks of “auction month” as happening in January (see recent post from Barrett-Jackson), Mecum came to the Valley of the Sun at a time when it could have the exclusive spotlight.  It also operated out of a facility that more readily accommodated visitors with on-site parking and other niceties:  The State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team.

Dave invited us behind-the-scenes to learn more about what it’s like in his role and the thought process that goes into strategy for where / how to expand the Mecum enterprise.  Clearly he and his team are doing something right:  The Phoenix auction was just put into contract last November.  It was initially designed to accommodate 600 vehicles over two days.  That 600-vehicle registration cap was reached in a mere 48 hours.

After some additional rework and coordination, the event was reconfigured and expanded to sell about 1,400 vehicles over three days, closing out on Sunday just in time for a Garth Brooks concert to take over the venue the following morning.

I was greeted at the entrance to the main forum by 2 red LaFerraris, each likely valued at $3-4 million or more.  A small 8×11 sheet of paper in front of them said “Available for Immediate Purchase.  Text such-and such phone number.”  I failed to take down the number, but if any of my readers have a craving for speed and a fat wad of cash to blow, hit me up and I can probably find out where those cars ended up.

The lineup of cars looked a lot like other collector auctions I’ve been to, with a high volume of predominantly domestic makes and models from the 1950s through 1970s.  Other outliers were there, but fewer and farther between.  Dave indicated that the auction prides itself in “treating everyone equally.”  A bidder who purchases his high school dream car for $25,000 may in fact have more attachment to the car and more satisfaction in the bidding process than someone who plunks down $2M on an exotic car for an investment.  So the Mecum team treats everyone the same.  In thumbing through the booklet of available cars, I did come across a bit of an oddball find:  This 1996 Accord EX Wagon, lot #T110.  I’ll have to see what it went for.

Ever think about how most of these auctions cater to 50-60 year old men?  It’s no mystery:  They are the demographic with enough disposable income to buy their dream cars.  Knowing this, Dave and his marketing teams customize their messaging accordingly: If you’re 25, he wants you to follow the auctions online, and probably buy a ticket to come spectate.  If you’re 50, he wants you to come buy something.  He’ll always market toward 50-year-olds, just that the cars they’re looking for will evolve.

Dave’s concern is about a “gap” of vehicles between about 1980 and 1995 when cars (to most people, anyway) weren’t as collectible or desirable.  Guess what?  That’s where some of us thrive, and it’s clear from sites like Bring a Trailer that the 1980s and 1990s collector community is very alive and well (I’ve now auctioned 3 vehicles from that era and each one of them has far exceeded expectations).  Niche buyers and collectors of those types of cars just aren’t going to venues like Mecum as their marketplace of choice.  And that’s perfectly okay!

Speaking of which, does anyone want an absolutely insanely mint 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible?  Say no more.  It’s right here.

Someone in our group asked Dave about his personal cars.  When he’s not “touring” with his auction’s 33 semi trucks to destinations nationwide, Dave commutes 140 miles round trip per weekday (!) from Chicago to a Walworth, Wisconsin in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, but the two favorites from his collection are a Ferrari 458 Italia and a Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Gullwing.  A man of good taste indeed.

Many thanks to the Mecum team for their hospitality.  I have no doubt this year’s auction was a complete success and I hope you will enjoy coming back to the Valley of the Sun for years to come!

Here was a sweet Nova SS 396 that I saw.

In a few other updates:

Mom is still happily cruising around in her new RLX.  She had the OEM splash guards and spoiler installed this past week.  She also rolled the 22,222 milestone.  I hit the same milestone in my ILX in December 2012.

I added a sticker to the mirror in the cabinet in the garage.  “Eat, Sleep, Acura.”

And I finally took the chance to go through my old stash of license plates and do something decorative with them.

Some of them are now used as a border along the ceiling in the laundry room, which is the entrance to my showroom.

I saw this relic 1985 Celebrity while at the local pick-&-pull junkyard on Saturday.

I had a couple of friends over on Saturday night:  Michael S (in a white 1993 Integra GS) and Michael O (in a blue 1988 Legend L).  It was fun to have some new guests in the garage for a little bit.

Michael S’s Integra just completed the 150,000 mile mark and Michael O’s Legend has 190,000.

Finally:  A friends recently made some fun acquisitions, including Ryan here (at left) picking up a 1992 Vigor.

Then Chris, here at left, picking up a 2016 MDX Advance.

And Ira, who snagged a brand new Civic Si that nearly perfectly matches his NSX!  Oooh, that blue!

Congrats, guys!

25 Responses to “Quick Q&A with Dave Magers, CEO of Mecum Collector Car Auctions”

  1. Cool post. It’ll be interesting to see if in 10-15 years, when our generation is rising into the prime collector spot, if the target market of cars shifts from 50’s-70’s American iron to Japanese and German imports at the major car auctions. I think the Camaros, Mustangs, Bel Airs, and Challengers will always have a place, but we’ll start seeing names like Supra, Integra, M3, and Prelude begin to find their way into the market.

    Glad to see your Mom’s RLX is purring along. Any new updates on your fleet?

    Have a great week!

    • Totally agree with your thoughts on auction forecasting! Will be interesting to see how the collector market treats 80s and 90s cars in the coming years. No updates to my fleet, other than the fact that the SLX is in for a transmission service with Hon-Man. A couple of the cars will be going on a road rally this Sat-Sun up to Flagstaff so that’ll be a nice way to stretch their legs.

  2. What did that Lebaron do to deserve those hideous mudflaps? No. . . just, no.

  3. Ira Leventhal Says:

    Great read Tyson!

  4. That auction looked really cool. That’s pretty genuine of them to see each auction as something special and unique for each buyer – lets be honest though, if that Accord Wagon was a Manual, you would have submitted a bid or two… be honest, I’m right?!?

  5. Cool update – I really like that Nova SS, I could see myself in that. It’s interesting what you say about the gap between 1980 and 1995, I think it’s the same over here – you see very few pre-2000 cars here, and most vintage stuff is 70’s and earlier. It’ll be interesting to see if that shifts over time I agree.

  6. Always wanted to walk through a Mecum Auctions hall of treasures. That’s SO cool! Congrats to Tia for the big 2’s and those splash guards and spoiler really are a nice touch. The showroom area keeps getting better and better! Now for that door… 😀

    • Right! I have an appointment pending for door installation quote and I’ve already picked the one I want. Dang you.

    • I feel like a real Acura family member now (again, finally). This week I am hoping for rain just to wash the accumulated dust off the black paint… but will obviously detail again when the sun is back out!

  7. sixspeedmiata Says:

    Calling the Cardinals an NFL team is kind of stretch don’t ya think? I have a free wall for some of those extra plates as well, baby!

    • I’ve actually never been to a Cards game but I guess since they’re my home team I have to have a little team spirit! The venue is cool and seemed to work well for Mecum’s needs. Can’t imagine what it cost them to take over. Yowza.

  8. sixspeedmiata Says:

    next time you go pickin, I have a favor to ask. Brittanie is looking for some 2000-06 Mitsubishi Eclipse vents to take the place of her eyeball vents. 4 would do the trick, see what you can do, buddy.

  9. I think the “gap years” of automotive history will be well-filled with a LOT of different makes and models. Even though they aren’t necessarily the “traditional” classics with RWD and lumpy-idling V8s, plenty of people have plenty of nostalgia for clean examples of everything. CB7 Accords, E30 325i’s, maybe an oddball like a Mazda Navajo. Like you said, the BaT crowd.

    LOVE what you did with the license plates. I’ll have to send you a photo of what I did with mine – put them four-wide on some small wood strips and hung as wall art in a big rectangle behind my dining table.

    • Lol at the Mazda Navajo!! I just commented on a photo of one from RADwood Sonoma about a week ago – the license plate said “REBADGE.” Such perfection. I 100% agree with you that there is plenty of enthusiast interest in those ‘gap’ vehicles. It’s fun to be a part of that movement. And yeah send me a pic of your license plate art! I hope BRAKEL8 is there. Haha

  10. I love the plates display! Another great read, Tyson. Yours may well be the most famous garage in all of Arizona…

    Oh, and I am still LOVING my new ride.

  11. Wesley Adams (Midnight Mystery) Says:

    Sorry, I haven’t been on here mucy lately, but I love the new RLX in the family! I see a few around town where I am currently. One is black, one is white and one is silver. I’ve washed tge black one at work a few times now. They are such beautiful cars!!!

    It was cool reading the updates, the love abd enthusiasm for these old-“er” Hondas/Acuras is incredible! We just passed 247K on the RDX, she’s still going strong, man. Been averaging about 1,000 miles a week as of late.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: