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Auction Hunter's Paradise

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Auction Hunter's Paradise

Geoff Maxted
September 30, 2013

Antique Car Barn Find Chevrolet Impala
There are car auctions and there are car auctions. In this country there’s a lot of trade at the auction houses but it rarely springs any surprises. In the USA things are just a bit different. It seems that barely a day goes by without some magnificent barn find or other and sometimes many cars can be involved.

Such was the case over this weekend.

Once again America's love affair with the car was on full display as thousands of people converged on a muddy field in rural Nebraska for the auction of one of the nation's largest collections of vintage Chevrolets.

Antique car buyers mingled with history buffs and ordinary folks who just wanted to show their kids the cars of days gone by at the weekend sale of some 500 vehicles (500! In a small Nebraska town!), owned by the late Ray Lambrecht, who was the local Chevrolet dealer for 50 years.

Well over a million dollars in sales took place on Saturday. Some of the sales so far have included:

A 1958 Chevrolet Cameo Pickup with 1.3 miles on it, went for $140,000. Unlike the majority of the cars in the sale, it was kept indoors most of its life. There was no doubt that this was one of the top five cars in the auction, but few experts predicted it would top $100,000.

A 1958 Chevrolet Apache 31 Series truck went for $80,000.

The 1978 Corvette Indy pace car, with just 4 miles on the clock and most of the plastic and paper wrapping still on the inside, went for $80,000.

A white 1964 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop sold for $75,000.

A red 1963 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop, with 11 miles and a red cloth interior, sold for $97,500.

Until his retirement in 1996, Mr Lambrecht stored any unsold new vehicles in a shed, outbuildings, and behind a nearby grove of trees. Local people knew about all the cars and pickup trucks, but collectors and motor historians did not until the family decided to put them up for auction. "From the road, you would have never guessed that all of this was here," was one comment. More than 430 "new" cars and pickup trucks were pulled out from among the trees. Another fifty, in better condition, were moved out of the buildings.

People peered into and poked around the engines, doors and interiors of row after row of cars and trucks. One enthusiastic bidder called it the car geek equivalent of the Woodstock rock music festival of 1969. Food vendors pulled their trailers into the field, and portable toilets lined every exit which may suggest what the food was like. Soft drinks and beer were readily available.

Motel rooms were impossible to get anywhere near the town of Pierce, with some attendees staying as far away as Omaha, 145 miles to the southeast. In Norfolk, Nebraska, 14 miles south of Pierce, workers in fast-food restaurants and convenience stores were renting out rooms in their homes to accommodate the weekend crowd.

"Yeah, things like this don't happen much," said one contractor with laconic understatement.

In a similar story, an Austin Allegro was put up for auction after being found in a shed near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Nobody came. In fact, three families moved house because it lowered the tone. This may not have actually happened (as far as I know) but it makes the point - only in America.

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