Paul Wilson: Automotive Fun, Fortune & History in a Nebraska Soybean Field

1958 Chevy Cameo

1958 Chevy Cameo

Having a life long interest in collector cars, I can’t tell you the number of rumors I’ve chased down to find nada at the end of the hunt…

A few of my dream searches came true. I tracked down a 1938 Talbot-Lago T-150 CSS in a shipping container in the back yard of a residential neighborhood in Southwest Missouri. Unfortunately the guy knew what he had and there was no buying it.

I heard a rumor about an attorney’s estate in Brookside where there reportedly was a 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sport Special. He’d bought it at the factory in Milano, toured Europe with his wife then shipped it back to the states and, being an attorney, managed to fabricate “paperwork” for a car that should have never left Italy. That car did find it’s way to my garage.

I stumbled across a one of a kind open wheel vintage race car at a Lawrence, Kansas automotive swap meet. It was in baskets and mostly complete. I just had a feeling about it, so it too came home and I was right.

1960_Alfa_Romeo_Giulietta_Sprint_Vintage_Race_Car_For_Sale_Front

1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sport Special

But rarely is there a rumor as mysterious as a man who had saved 497 cars out on his farm. Ray P. Lambrecht, who owned and operated Lambrecht Chevrolet in Pierce, Nebraska (a town of 1,500) was that man and the rumor turned out to be true.

Ray owned his Chevrolet dealership from 1946 until 1996, selling new Chevys to families all over the Midwest and across the country.  Ray and his wife, Mildred, ran the dealership for 50 years with only one employee, their mechanic, and worked six days a week.

Ray was the original no bicker price guy; he gave his customers one price and that was it, no negotiating. This was his business model until he retired. To say Ray was eccentric would be an understatement. If he felt a used car trade-in wasn’t safe enough or good enough for his customers, it didn’t go to a wholesaler like many dealers do today. It simply went to his soybean field and there it laid. Never to be touched again.

1965 Chevy C-10 Pickup

1965 Chevy C-10 Pickup

Even more inexplicable are the cases where Ray ordered fleet vehicles. In one example, there were about ten mid 1960’s C-10 Chevy pickups, all sitting side by side – all with one to five miles on them. Yes, there were trees growing through the beds of a couple of them. And yes, many of them had sat out in the elements for nearly 50 years. But some of them only had zero miles on them and came with window stickers and MSO’s. And Ray saved every piece of paper for every car on his farm.

Finally Ray figured the time had come for the cars to move on to someone who might appreciate them. So he decided to stage an auction, and what an auction it was. It took place this past weekend. The Lambrecht family contacted the VanDerBrinks, a father/daughter auction team to handle the honors. As best I can tell from people I’ve talked to, there were no expectations as to how much the collection would bring or who would even show up.

No one that I know got an exact count, but local police estimate that between 10,000 and 18,000 people showed up for the big sale. Event organizers said people traveled from as far as Norway and Brazil to see the sale in person, and more than 3,800 had registered online to bid at an auction website by mid-day Saturday.

No one expected anything quite like that, but the surprises didn’t end there.

1962PlymouthBelvedere_01_700Friday’s sale was for personal items from the dealership like new Old Stock “NOS” parts, signs, etc. In one case, a 1960 Chevrolet Police siren, still in its original box, brought $1700.00.

Saturday and Sunday the cars were auctioned. First up on the block, Ms. VanDerBrink sold what they guessed would be the crown jewel of the collection; a 1958 Chevrolet Cameo with just over a mile on the odometer. The bidding went wild and the car sold for $140,000. A 1978 Corvette went for $80,000.

Bob Esler, the owner of Bob’s Garage in Westfield, Indiana, bought a four-door 1964 Bel Air station wagon for $30,000. The car had 326 miles

1963 Chevrolet Impala

1963 Chevrolet Impala

Another bidder spent $97,500 on a red and white 1963 Impala with 11.4 miles on its odometer ande the manufacturer’s plastic still on the seat along with a yellowed typewritten window sticker displaying its original price of $3,254.70.

The bids began to decline after the first 10 cars went for a total of $676,500. The auction house did not release a figure for total sales, but the number appeared to be about $3 million. Prices do not include the buyer’s premium.

The History Channel broadcast highlights of the auction live and I’ve got it on DVR to savor later when my week calms down after First Friday. Take a look if you get the chance; its something you likely wont ever see again.

And if you’re a car guy like me, there’s simply no comparison.

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13 Responses to Paul Wilson: Automotive Fun, Fortune & History in a Nebraska Soybean Field

  1. mike t. says:

    autoblog was reporting the take was closer to $4 mil. i think i read that ’63 impala had a 327 in it. nice.

    that is one cool ass alfa romeo. looks a little like a DB5 with an edsel front end.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Mike, the one guy bought a “new”, I think, 68 Chevelle to take home and part out for a car he was restoring! It’s the one that was in an old building the roof caved in and crushed the top. Why not graft the roof from your car onto the Lambrecht car?? People, never can figure them out.

  2. harley says:

    I saw part of that deal on Monday…one of my clients collects vintage cars..
    it was crazy…in the middle of the field were thousand of people for this
    auction.
    the cars were with 1-10 miles on them…never driven…
    but the announcer said many of them would never see the street…too
    much work needed…and the mechanical parts would all probably have
    to be replaced.
    this is a cool story….and you could see the rusted cars in the field that
    just been there for decades.

  3. mark smith says:

    Paul
    I did an urban blight series back in 2009. These 2 gems are still sitting next to a trailer house thats worth about 3 bucks, as far as I know. http://midtownmiscreant.blogspot.com/2009/10/no-change-here-believe-that.html

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Isn’t that amazing? They could sell those two and move from a meth lab to a really nice crack house, at least!
      The Talbot was behind a $50K, well kept little 50’s ranch, all alone in a rusty old shipping container. Google the image and at what it is. I didn’t take the time to look up current value but its astronomical today.
      You’re correct on the auction take; while the auction firm was not releasing the exact numbers, people there tracked it from $3-4M. Amazing, regardless of which is more accurate.

  4. Libertarian says:

    When word of that stash first broke, my co-workers and I went on drool fest while we scrolled through all the pix.

    I knew that Cameo would break the 100K mark.

    Did anyone see what the 1953 Corvette pedal car went for? Last check, an online bidder was at $6,500, or there about.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Lib, don’t know how much you follow the collector car market but there’s been a new trend in the last two years or so, finding what’s called “barn fresh” cars and leaving them totally as it.
      I saw a rarest or rare Bugatti sell at auction that was barely dusted off from how it was found. While many think these cars won’t be restored because of cost, parts availability, etc.; totally wrong.
      Many of these most rare models will be preserved as is, lightly cleaned and saved as an as is “Lambrecht” museum piece.
      Look for these cars to show up a year down the road in major car auctions where they could bring twice what they did in Nebraska, not only as a Cameo pick up with 3 miles, but the newer value will be a LAMBRECHT Cameo truck with three miles!
      Watch it happen. It’s going to be a new category.

  5. mark smith says:

    Cars in barns is another good website if you haven’t checked it out.

  6. expat says:

    These old cars give me a stiffy… Almost as cool as motorcycles but not quite. Give me a panhead chopper and a vintage ford panel truck to carry it in when things go tits up. That’s like having two sexy ladies who take turns keeping you happy when the other is PMSing.

    It looks like you’re a restore guy not a custom guy. Personally I like old rat rods, chopped lowered roofs, etc. Stuff that would make resto guys cry.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Oh how WRONG YOU ARE, Expat. I’m a huge rat rod fan. I’ve been looking at all the VW stuff you can do. Extended beams, Ford wire wheels, some cool stuff. Too bad the “budget rat rod” philosophy is now as pricy as a restomod!
      I’m too busy boat lusting right now though to appease that love too!

  7. balbonis moleskine says:

    This is why I only drive classic american sedans with action figures glued to all body panels. Taking advantage of two collecting bubbles

  8. Orphan of the Road says:

    This Saturday is The Ralph Wayne Backyard Nationals. Old motorcycles, some restored, some pre-restoration on display. Maybe the last one.

    Plus all the gawkers bikes and trikes.

    He keeps her shiny shiny
    He keeps her running like a dream
    ‘Cause she’s the closest thing to a dream
    That he’s ever seen
    She’s the one he never sold
    Some things are classic, some things are just old
    He keeps her shiny shiny
    He keeps her running like a dream

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