Car collector 'field of dreams' heads to auction
Vehicles sat at now-closed Chevy dealership for decades, some with fewer than 10 miles on the odometer.
It’s a car collector's dream: Hundreds of vehicles, stretching back to the 1950s and some brand-new, with fewer than 10 miles on the odometer, the original oil in the engine and the window sticker and protective plastic on the seats still in place. But they’re not all pristine, and only about 25 of the more than 500 cars were stored indoors over the years.
Later this month, thousands of collectors will descend on a small Nebraska town to see that this is not a dream but reality, albeit a highly unusual one. The man responsible for this rare mass of classic American iron is former car dealer Ray Lambrecht, now 95.
According to NPR, Lambrecht wouldn't sell the previous year's model after new models were introduced, and he also wouldn't sell trade-ins. So he stored them at his dealership or outside in a field, where some have been left for decades.
Lambrecht closed his dealership, Lambrecht Chevrolet in the tiny town of Pierce, in 1996 but is just now getting around to selling the cars he collected over the years via his unorthodox business practice. The cars stored inside include a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette Indy pace car, a 1966 Chevy Bel Air and a 1964 Impala.
“If you wipe away the dirt, [the cars are] shiny underneath,” said Yvette VanDerBrink, the auctioneer selling Lambrecht’s collection. The cars and trucks that sat outside for decades didn’t fare so well: A Chevy Deluxe from the 1950s has a 20-foot tree limb growing out of the bumper.
That won’t deter collectors. Even some of the rusted cars are still valuable because there are so few around. But the biggest draw is the brand-new old cars stored inside. “I would not be surprised to see them break six figures,” Jim Pickering, editor of American Car Collector, told NPR. “These are cars that were basically taken from the dealer and shoved out back and have been sitting ever since they were brand-new.”
While the car collection is one of a kind, the auction will also be unusual. “We're not washing them, and we're not getting them running," VanDerBrink said. A website VanDerBrink created that catalogues the cars has garnered more than 1 million views. There's also a YouTube video.
VanDerBrink expects as many as 10,000 collectors will make the trip to Pierce, a town of about 1,700, for the auction Sept. 28-29. “We've had calls from China, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Germany, all over the world,” she said.
VanDerBrink added that some Pierce residents are “shocked” at the interest the cars have generated. “To one person that isn't familiar with the hobby of collecting cars, you might look out there and say, 'That looks like a bunch of junk to me.' But to a collector, it's a field of dreams.”
This is amazing! It difficult to understand how this guy was able to stay in business for as long as he did. How he was able to keep so many cars without bankrupting himself is beyond my comprehension.
Too bad he let many rot in the open fields. You just don't know what people are thinking.
I worked for a Lincoln- Mercury dealer back in Massachusetts in the 60's and he had several cars with trees growing thru them, he wanted top dollar or they could sit and rot. Eventually he passed on and his family had to clean up his mess.
So sad to be able to own these vehivles and do nothing with them.
Mr. Lambrecht chose to sit on a gigantic inventory of autos that could have turned a very nice profit if they had been sold right after he acquired them. In retrospect, it's possible he might now reap an even larger profit from the estimated auction value of this American metal treasure trove. It will be very interesting to see the final tally after all of these cars are sold.
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