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.
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.
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.
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
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.