Captain America - Under the hammer

Published: 10:36AM Apr 21st, 2011
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The recent auction of all the American vehicles (and a few others) that appeared in the recent Captain America movie filmed here in the UK was widely anticipated by fans of American classic cars. We went along to watch the proceedings...

Captain America - Under the hammer

1937 Chrysler Royal Police Car £4816

Earlier last month there was nervous expectation among the classic car enthusiasts gathered in the large marquee erected behind the pits at the Brooklands Motor Museum. The event was the fourth auction organised by ‘Historics at Brooklands’ and was centred on the sale of a diverse collection of cars and trucks, which had been used in the filming of a forthcoming blockbuster from Marvel Films, due for worldwide release this summer.

Captain America: The First Avenger is the first Marvel production to be made in the UK and as the action takes place during the Second World War, a fleet of some 70 Thirties and Forties vehicles had been assembled for scenes that were shot last autumn. Though the plot has been kept under wraps, it appears the vehicles were required for a chase sequence through the streets of Forties New York. It was filmed in Manchester and Liverpool, which were suitably modified for the occasion. With the sequence in the can, the cars could then be sold.

There were an unprecedented number of potential bidders visiting the museum on the previous day to view the fleet of some 50-plus vehicles and other classic cars due to go under the hammer. The reason was simple. The announcement that the majority would be auctioned with a low or no reserve meant that attendees could ‘bag a bargain’ or two, a rare opportunity to acquire a genuine, steel-bodied, pre-war American car, for not much money.

The majority of the vehicles were relatively bland two- and four-door sedans, plus a coupe or two. They were for the most part ‘background’ vehicles, resprayed sober colours, which were not required to move, so many were not in the best condition.

Potential bidders were therefore encouraged to carefully scrutinise the fleet in advance and examine the paperwork. Although duties had been paid on all imported vehicles, it was stated that some would require substantial remedial work before they could be submitted for the initial MoT test that would be required to pass for UK Registration. On the day bidding was brisk, if a little hesitant at first. It was clear that this was the first auction some people had attended, resulting in good-natured banter from the auctioneer.

A number of vehicles went under the hammer at remarkably reasonable prices, particularly the light commercials. There were also some surprises. It was clear that the immaculate ’38 International Harvester Panel Van would achieve a sensible price, and so it did, selling for £10,752, including fees. Similarly, many bids were submitted for the two half ton pick-up trucks, a smart green and black ’41 Chevy and a similar year maroon GMC with an attractive patina, achieving £7392 and £13,720 respectively.

However, the excessively weathered ’33 Dodge recovery truck, with a guide price of £1000 to £3000 and complete with bullet holes, sold at an amazing £11,424, despite decades of inactivity in the searing heat of the New Mexico desert! The new owners of the ’39 Dodge stake-bed truck (£3360) and ’42 Chevrolet pick-up tipper (£5152) will have been pleased with their acquisitions, paying well under their guide prices.

Similarly, if the winner of the ’37 Dodge ‘Frontier Oils’ petrol tanker (£3696) can get it roadworthy for a reasonable sum, he’ll have quite a talking point at car shows.

Previously UK registered cars included Richard Coney’s ’48 Dodge D25C, which sold for a reasonable £5824 and a wonderful ’48 Chrysler Windsor sedan found a new owner at £9744. Hot rod material was scarce, though the two ’41 Ford coupes provided potential, one selling for £3696 and the other for £6608. Military enthusiasts fought for a ’43 Dodge ambulance (£6944) and two ’42 GMC 6x6 trucks (£8848 and £4032). Film buffs grabbed two of the V8 powered ’37 Chevrolet ‘stunt taxis’ at £4592 and £6720.

Although several vehicles failed to meet their reserves, production company executives approved the top bids. The ‘42 Chevrolet School Bus did not sell, but a deal was struck later with the highest bidder who agreed to pay £11,200. Apparently, a conversion to a motor-home is planned for long distance touring. Some bidders won several vehicles and at least one, a 1941 Chevrolet sedan, was offered on eBay within a few days. Overall, the film company judged the sale a great success and it just remains to be seen how many of the vehicles auctioned will actually appear on the silver screen.

Words & Photography: Richard Coney

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