While famous for his recordings with Buffalo Springfield, then Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, followed by a long career as a solo artist, Neil Young is also known to revheads, partly for the ‘59 Lincoln he converted to electric power, but also for other, conventionally-engined classics. A handful of these recently went to auction in the US as part of a large offering of musical instruments and related items, model trains, collectables and other memorabilia from the Grammy award winner.
Conducted by Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on 9 December, ‘Property from the Collection of Neil Young’ saw three classic cars consigned, with a Buick leading the way.
The Buick Skylark convertible was first produced in 1953, Buick’s 50th Anniversary year, and joined the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Fiesta as star turns at the GM ‘Autorama’ travelling auto show that year.
While officially part of the Roadmaster series, the Skylark was really a standalone model, with standard wire wheels, different side trim and body changes that saw the car sit a full four inches lower at the windscreen compared to a standard Roadmaster ragtop.
With Buick’s new 322ci V8, automatic transmission, 12-volt electrics and power everything, the Skylark was a halo car for Buick and priced accordingly. At US$5,000 new, it was easily the most expensive Buick you could buy in 1953; 40 per cent dearer than a standard Roadmaster convertible and more than double the price of a Buick Special soft top.
One of only 1,690 built for 1953, Young’s Skylark was also the first example off the production line, which made it additionally desirable. Restored and personalised with ‘Customized for Neil Young’ identification on the steering wheel boss, the Skylark carried a US$300,000 high estimate, but would achieve US$400,000 (AU$500,000 approx.) to be the top-selling item at the auction.
Also exceeding its estimate was a 1941 Chrysler Windsor coupe. Claimed by Young to be previously owned by Steve McQueen, what made this example interesting was its ‘Highlander’ interior trim. One of three special upholstery options offered by Chrysler in 1941, Highlander featured a mix of tartan cloth and leatherette. Against a US$20,000 high estimate, this rare Chrysler sold for US$35,200 (AU$44,000 approx.).
The third and final car auctioned was a 1948 Buick Roadmaster with a hearse body by Flxible. An Ohio company that started out building motorcycle sidecars, shipping them all over the world (including Australia), Flxible moved to producing bodies for buses, as well as hearses and ambulances, in 1924.
While they produced these bodies on Cadillac, Pontiac and Chevrolet chassis, Flxible seemed to prefer Buicks and used them exclusively from after World War II until 1965, when they ceased car-based hearse and ambulance manufacture.
The Young connection comes from the use of a ’48 Flxible hearse by The Squires, one of Young’s early bands, as their road tripper to haul instruments and gear between gigs in the early 1960s. Dubbed ‘Mort’, the hearse also served as the inspiration for Young’s ‘Long May You Run’ track from 1976. While that original hearse is long gone, the Grammy winner would later buy another ’48 Flxible Buick hearse, the example auctioned by Julien’s, that he called ‘Mort II’.
Flxible’s combined output of only 646 ambulances and funeral cars in 1948 makes these vehicles very rare, so the US$10,000 high estimate seemed low, but like the other cars at this auction, the hearse also exceeded expectations to sell for $31,250 (AU$39,000 approx.)
Full results and further details at <a href="www.juliensauctions.com">www.juliensauctions.com</a>