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1971 Chevrolet Chevelle

Story and photos by Jerry F. Boone

SCOTTSDALE, AZ. -- Perry Dodd watched the numbers on the big board above his ’71 Chevelle as the auctioneer worked the crowd.

The first bid as it rolled onto the block was $7,000.

Dodd knew the risks of bringing a car such as the Super Sport to a no-reserve sale like the annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in the Arizona desert.

He also knows the rewards.

Dodd has been working the auction for 25 years. He began as one of a half-dozen detailers helping to prepare cars for the auction block, but in the past few years his crew from European Detail Specialists has been the only shop invited to the show.

During the week-long sale, his crew applies their talents--it may be as simple as a daily dusting to a full-scale detail job--to roughly a quarter of the cars to be sold.

But none was as special to him as the Chevelle.

“For years I watched people bring cars to the auction and turn a nice profit on them,” he says. “I decided I’d give it a try to see if I could do the same.”

Within the first few bids the price jumped into the teens.

Dodd found the Chevelle in the on-line classifieds. The asking price was “$24,000 firm” but he managed to buy it for $21,000.

“It was relatively stock except for a couple of engine modifications,” he says. “It wasn’t pristine, but it was a nice, solid car.”

Dodd says he wouldn’t have touched a thing on the car if it was a “matching numbers” Chevelle, but he was told the engine wasn’t the original one.

“At that point I had to consider what to do with it,” he says. “If the numbers all matched, it would be worth much, much more...but I also couldn’t have bought it for $21,000.”

He opted to explore the “resto-mod” market, which allows some modest modifications to the car as long as they don’t radically change the character of the car.

The end result is a striking combination of the new and old.

The bidding slowly climbed up, but then stalled as it reached the high $20,000 range. For a brief while, Dodd thought he might be in trouble.

“We took it mostly apart to clean up the engine bay and the inner fenders. We added chrome valve covers to make the engine stand out a bit more and then chopped the springs three inches.”

The 454 has Merlyn heads, tuned headers and a Flowmaster exhaust, which allows the mildly-cammed engine to breathe better and gives it a healthy exhaust note,

Dodd also opted for 20-inch wheels and low profile tires, replacing the stock 15-inch rims and taller rubber.

A partner with a paint shop changed the trim color to update the style and Dodd’s crew at the detail shop when through the interior, replacing everything from headliner to carpets.

“I’ve put just enough miles on it to kinda regret selling it,” he says. “A guy can just get in this thing and drive it.”

The drive-ability is a big part of its appeal.

“Matching number cars may be worth more, but they end up being garage queens,” he says. “I think people in this market...at this auction...want something they can get into on a nice day and hammer it.”

Dodd says he did about 90 percent of the work on the car and has hours and hours of sweat equity in the project, along with a total out-of-pocket investment of about $27,000. With the entry fee and seller’s commission, he had about $31,000 in it before it goes to auction.

“I’m hoping to get $40,000 for it, so if it stalls at $28,000 or $29,000 I’ll be suicidal,” he jokes.

Suddenly, the auctioneer was calling for a bid of $37,000. There were two people bidding and neither was apparently willing to let the other one win.

Dodd has done reasonably well with three earlier cars he brought to Barrett-Jackson.

His first auction car was a low mileage BMW Bavaria that he got at almost no cost and turned for $18,500

The second was a 1966 Corvette that fetched $137,000.

His best investment was a ’57 Cadillac El Dorado Barriatz. He bought the car for $48,000 and invested another $20,000 into it before bringing it back for sale.

“The auction was at Las Vegas and that’s a ‘Vegas style car,” he says, “so I figured it would do reasonably well there.”

To draw attention to the car, he hired impersonators to play Elvis and Marilyn Monroe when the car went across the auction platform.

“The crowd loved it,” he says. “They really got into it and the bidding just kept going up. It did $150,000.

“I’m sure that having Elvis and Marilyn in the car added another $20,000 to it.”

There is no Elvis to help promote the Chevelle.

Only the auctioneer.

“Spanky, the auctioneer, was really working for me. But he knew what I wanted to get out of the car, and once bidding went above that figure, he knew I’d be satisfied. But there were only two bidders and the bidding was beginning to cool.

$52,000 once. $52,000 twice. Sold at $52,000!

“I wasn’t too concerned,” he said after the sale to a Canadian collector. “Prices had been strong all week, and getting an auction spot Thursday evening was perfect.”

Dodd says the “profit” on the car isn’t as much as it may appear to be.

“The only costs I figured into it was what I spent out-of-pocket,” he says. “If I had to pay someone to do the work I did...and I had hundreds of hours into it...the amount of money I made on it wouldn’t be near as much. It works for me because I can do the work myself.”

See related interview with Barrett-Jackson’s Craig Jackson.

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