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2015, G. DAVID

Car Collector

Volume VIII, Issue 2



Car Collecting Today

High RPMs

Classic Rides
Reports From the Field
Oldsmobile (1897-2004)
Cadillac (1902- )
Allant (1987-1993)

Corvair (1960-1969)

= Clickable Link

High RPMs

GDY Nets
On the Web

Scottsdale Spectacle 2

Ron Pratte,
Car Collector

Pics That Caught

My Eye
CCC Forum

All the AZ auction hubbub

is over. I admit to having
watched some of it. This
month I, and fellow ol ride
owners, have a few comments on the doings in AZ.
I have resolved, not in the
sense of a New Year Resoltuion, but more as a determination, to put some miles
on my rides this year. The
opportunities to do so are
manifest with all the car activity taking place in WI in
2015. First on the list is a
car show judge training in
Chicago come February. I
may attend? I should also
attend the Chicago Auto
Show, if for nothing else than
to get a handle on the current market

February Automotive Milestones

1-1898 Travelers issues 1st
auto insurance policy
2-1923 Gas mixed with Tetraethyl lead (TEL) sold for 1st
time in U.S.


3-1948 1st Cad with tailfins

4-1922 Ford acquires Lincoln
from Henry Leland
4-1941 76-year-old R. E.
Olds received his last automobile patent for an internal
combustion engine design
5-1952 1st "Don't Walk" sign
installed in New York City
5-1970 AMC acquires Kaiser-Jeep Corp.
6-1954 Mercedes 300 SL
"Gullwing" debuts at NYC Int'l
Auto Show
8-1936 GM founder Wm.
Durant filed for bankruptcy
9-1909 Indy Motor Speedway incorporated with Carl G.
Fisher as president
11-1932 Ford announces
new V-8 engine
12-1898 1st fatal car crash
happened in Great Britain
15-1902 Olds runs its 1st
national auto ad in Saturday
Evening Post
16-1852 Studebaker founded
17-1911 First self-starter
installed in a Cadillac
19-1954 Ford T-bird born in

prototype form
22-1923 1,000,000th Chevy
23-1893 Rudolf Diesel received
German patent for diesel engine
24-1909 Hudson Motor Car Co.
24-1968 AMC debuts AMX
28-1932 Last Ford Model A

- Stay warm & read a car pub!

GDYNets on the Web

Find GDYNets on the web:

Behind the Block


February 2015


site to discuss the newsletter,
the hobby and our cars.
Car Collector Chronicles
Saved 62 -Our 1962 Olds
convertible, Ransom Eli Olds
and things Oldsmobile related
web site.
The Gray Lady -1955 Cadillac
Coup de Ville web site.

SAVED 62: A website devoted

to our 1962 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 convertible. The site

also has a lot of information on
Oldsmobile cars and the company founder, Ransom Eli Olds.

THE GRAY LADY: This website features our 1955 Cadillac

Coup de Ville, lots of Caddy
information and an extensive
repair library.

DAVES DEN: -A site devoted to a myriad of interests.

Foremost is extensive information on the Steel City of Gary,
IN. There are also offerings on
steel making, U.S. Steel-Gary
Works, U.S. Marine Corps, M14
assault rifle, of course Oldsmobile, and the tragic story of the
murder of Gary, IN Police Lt.
George Yaros.

Car Collector Chronicles

Page 2

Scottsdale Spectacle

which make
up the annual
Arizona auto
auction scene
epitomize the
by the title of
the novel
The Ugly
American .

Every year in January the car auction houses host a gala for lovers of classic rides.
And every year it becomes more and more of a show. The excesses which make up
the annual Arizona auto auction scene epitomize the ostentatiousness represented by
the title of William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdicks 1958 novel The Ugly American.
Before we crunch the numbers, do let me get this off my chest. I watched some of BJ on The Discovery Channel. I became, and still am, infuriated, not with B-J, but with
The Discovery Channel. The modus operandi there was to cover two cars at best
crossing the block, then cut to commercials. The plural has to be emphasized in the
previous sentence as we are talking 8-to-10 commercials at a time before going back
and showing a couple more cars being hammered. Thankfully, for me, I was able to
record the coverage and make ample use of the FF button!
Hagerty Weekly News, 19 Jan 2015 sent out a summary of results. I do not vouch for
the numbers. I say this as I found another site with conflicting figures. Here is what
Hagerty said. Natch, the big winner in AZ was Barrett-Jackson. It sold 63% of all the
cars sold by all Scottsdale auction houses. That amounted to 1,599 of 1,617 cars offered at B-J being sold. A 99% sell rate aint too shaggy. A cool $131.9 Million
passed through B-Js bank account; 45% of all AZ revenues realized. The $292.8 Million paid by AZ buyers represents an increase of 18% over 2014 revenues.
While the average price of all cars sold was $115,729, that figure pales in comparison
to the top sellers. Surprisingly, B-J was not the leader in terms of either the top sale
price or the highest number of million + dollars cars hammered. RM Auctions gets the
nod for the most expensive ride, a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM Coupe which sold for a mere
$9,625,000! B-J was way behind (#6 on the list) with the $4 Million Dollar sale of Ron
Prattes Futurliner.
When it comes to million dollar plus sales, here is who did what: RM Auctions sold 17
cars for over a million, followed by Gooding with 11, Barrett-Jackson with 9, Bonhams
with 4, and Russo & Steele with one. With but a few exceptions, the Top 10 sales consisted of Ferrari cars. In fact, 2015 proved to be a very good year for marques with
names ending in I.
For those who like tables, Classic Car Auctions summarized the AZ auction results
as follows:
Auction Tot Earnings
$1Million +
House ($ million)
Sales __
Gooding 52
Bonham 25
Russo &
Steele 17.2

It is next to impossible to discuss the AZ auctions

without mentioning Ron Pratte. He sold a GM Futurliner for $4 Million. The proceeds of that sale he donated to charity. He also sold the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special for $3 Million. With respect to both of
these vehicles he may have broke even in terms of purchase price vs. sale price.
He also was the owner and seller of Howard Hughes
1953 Buick Roadmaster. Hughes, being paranoid, had
an extensive air filtration system installed on the car,
along with a 24V system so that he could jump start his airplanes. Pratte bought the
car in 2005 for $1.65 Million. The 2015 $110,000 hammer price included the buyers
10% commission. OUCH! All tolled, Prattes 140 car collection sold for $35 Million.

Page 3

Car Collector Chronicles

Ron Pratte, Car Collector

So, who is Ron Pratte? As the man abhors the limelight, it is

not easy to find information about him.
Pratte is 67 years young. He lives in AZ. At the ripe age of
20, prior to making it big, he found himself wearing a flak
jacket and Army fatigues. Young Mr. Pratte was a U.S. Army
grunt with the 1st Air Cavalry. He served in Nam in 1968.
During that year his unit took part in the Battle of Hue. Having
secured the ancient capital, the 1st Air Cav was next called
upon to help in the relief of the Marines at Khe Sanh in Operation Pegasus. With that task accomplished the outfit next waged Operation Delaware,
which resulted in the capture of the A Shau Valley.
Another member of the 1st Air Cavalry at this time was Max Cleland. Cleland, the Director of the VA under President Carter, was a triple amputee due to wounds received in the
battle for the A Shau Valley in May of 1968.
Having endured the horrors of war, it is understandable how and why Ron Pratte is such
an ardent supporter of the Armed Forces Foundation. For this I and my fellow vets thank
you, Ron!
I can state that his projected net worth is in the area of $350 Million. He made his money
in the construction industry. He formed Pratte Development Co. and transformed it into
one of the largest wood framing and concrete foundation businesses in the country. The
company concentrated on the building of single-family homes in AZ and NV.
Pratte was so astute a business man that, even though he was riding high financially, he
saw the bubble was about to burst. To avoid the consequences inherent in the coming
housing crash he sold his enterprise to Pulte Homes while the housing boom was at its
He began collecting cars in 2003. His wealth is such that no automobile was beyond his
rich, if he so desired. Consequently, his collection included a lot of both first and last off
the production line vehicles. His collection was/is not limited to cars. For example, at B-J
he also sold off more than 1,600 pieces of automobilia. These items alone netted 4.9 Million Dollars. The top dog among them was a 1930s Harley-Davidson neon porcelain sign.
It sold for $86,250.
In addition to cars, Pratte is
an admirer of vintage air
planes. He keeps them at
Stellar Airpark in Chandler,
where he has a residence.
Stellar is a private airpark
which he renovated at no
cost to the owner association. The airpark is developed around the concept of
being able to live with ones
airplane. You may land your
aircraft and taxi home.
Of course, for Ron Pratte it is not a matter of living with one airplane. He has many. In
his plane collection one will find a Super Corsair, a Ford Tri-motor, Bell 47, Beech 18, and
a P-51. Ron Pratte claims a reason for selling his cars now is so that he may focus his
time and attention to the enjoyment of flying his airplanes.
I have not mentioned a wife, children or family because, I just dont know, and have
found nothing. As I said, the man enjoys his privacy.
The car collecting world will indeed miss Prattes presence and influence. He was in the
hobby because of his love for the cars, not for money, fame or attention. His conservatorship has helped to preserve automobile manufacturing history. For that all fans of ol rides
are indebted to him. We owe him a huge thanks!

He served in
Nam in 1968.
[H]is unit
took part in
the Battle of
Hue, the
relief of the
Marines at
Khe Sanh in
resulted in
the capture of
the A Shau

Car Collector Chronicles

Page 4;;

Behind the Block

There is quite a lot that goes on at the auctions which may not be noticed by distant or casual observers.
It is interesting to hear from those present in AZ, as well as from those who know and love old cars and
like me do not have an abundance of surplus cash to throw around. For your reading pleasure I present
some of those observations.
A fellow Oldsmobile owner in attendance at B-J noted that with respect to the 442 cars none had
documentation showing that they were in fact genuine 442 cars. On these cars he also noted the use of
hardware store phillips screws to attach lower side moldings to the car and bumpers that were peeling
like a bad sunburn!
Oldsmobile cars were not alone in this regard. There were Cadillac-LaSalle Club members in the
audience at B-J. In viewing one Caddy it was noted that in replacing the trunk pan the restorer simply
eliminated the spare tire wheel well. Maybe he thought it wasnt
really necessary? This car also had an aftermarket AC unit
installed and according to the consignor the engine connected to
a 3-speed hydramatic transmission.
A 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz was observed to be sporting
the wrong air cleaner. On this car, whoever restored the engine
bay had the wrong color on the engine and PS pulley, as well as
an incorrect valve cover color and paint scheme. This vintage of
Cadillac has vacuum winshield wipers. While the vacuum motor
was present on the firewall, it had not a single vacuum line
connected to it. Were they hoping no one would notice? The
rear wheel wells painted red. Its inner fenders were painted the
wrong color. Notwithstanding these deviations from the factory
build, the B-J catalog descripion says the higly detailed engine compartment is meticulously executed.
The B-J hype on a 1955 Woodill Wildfire is remarkable for its inaccuracy. The catalog description
Car Number 9961 is probably the last one of only seven or eight manufactured by Woody Woodill
circa 1953-54. This red Wildfire was featured as the main car in the the racing movie Johnny
Dark, filmed in 1953 and released in 1954. Tony Curtis played the hero driver, and his girlfriend
was Piper Laurie. The Wildfire was the co-star in another picure, Written on the Wind, with Rock
Hudson and Dorothy Malone. Includes a written statement dated July 19, 1980 that this was the
only production Wildfire known to exist at the time. There are several kit Wildfires that survive.
You can identify which are kits because they are smooth in the back end with no trunk lid.
In actual fact, serial number records from Wildfire indicate Car Nr. 9961 was sold on April 15, 1955. The
movie Johnny Dark was filmed in late 1953 and early 1954. Car Nr. 9961 did not exist when the movie
was made! These same records also show the car in question is in fact a kit car, not a production vehicle.
The accuracy of B-Js representations on Lot 1046 appear to leave just a bit to be disired, I would say?
At B-J when the hammer drops, the sale is not necessarily final. At least that was the case with several
cars crossing the block this year. Nevermind that reopening the bidding violates the terms of the auction
and may be in violation of AZ law. If no one complains or sues, B-J is free to do as it will.
Another interersting observation involved the sale of the Futurliner. While Ron Pratte gave the sales
proceeds to the Armed Forces Foundation, B-J did not see fit to donate its buyer commission. It held fast
and required the buyer to pay it a tidy $400,000 for the privilege of buying the Furturliner at B-J Scottsdale!
Now that is what I call a real showing of class on the part of B-J?


Oldsmobile and Tucker were cut from the same cloth. A 1941 Oldsmobile served as a buck for fabrication of the Tucker "Tin Goose." As each part of the new Tucker body was finished the original part from the
Olds was junked. So when they got through about the only parts that remained from the original body
were the roof, which had been completely reshaped, and door handles, window mechanisms, locks and
hardware parts that were the same whether they came from another automobile or from the manufacturers bins.
The term freeze plugs is a misnomer. The intended purpose of the holes on the side of engine blocks is
to support the inner sand cores during casting and to remove the sand after casting. The proper term for
the devices that fill these holes is "core plugs." It is doubtful the engineers that designed these engines
were concerned about blocks cracking because someone left water in them during freezing weather.
They were aware of the existence of ethylene glycol, as well as its intended function.

Car Collector Chronicles

Page 5;;

Pics That Caught My Eye

Pretty Sharp. Do like the

use of the Edsel grille.

A 1937 Oldsmobile

Ok, Ive had my say for the month. Now its your turn! I invite/encourage submission
of your comments, opinions and article contributions. I also ask that you please help
spread the word about our publication. Everything sent shall indeed be reviewed by me.
Submissions should be sent to CCC at
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