PIERCE, Neb. (AP) — A handful of barely driven vintage Chevrolets fetched more than half a million dollars on Saturday at an auction that drew thousands of car buffs from around the world to a small northeast Nebraska town.
Bidders and gawkers crowded shoulder-to-shoulder for the auction in a muddy field just west of Pierce, a town of about 1,800. Spectators in helicopters and airplanes circled overhead as the lead auctioneer, Yvette VanDerBrink, inched down the auction line on a wooden platform hauled by a pickup.
Event organizers said an estimated 10,000 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.
The auction of more than 500 old cars and pickups was expected to continue on Sunday. Organizers said they hadn't yet totaled the bids for the roughly 50 most high-profile, low-mileage classic cars and trucks, which were auctioned on Saturday. As of midday, six of the most valuable models had sold for a combined $545,000.
The collection belonged to Ray Lambrecht and his wife, Mildred, who ran a Chevrolet dealership in downtown Pierce for five decades before retiring in 1996. Unlike most dealers, Ray Lambrecht stashed many of his unsold cars in a warehouse, at his farm and other spots around town if they didn't sell in the first year.
The first vehicle sold — a sky-blue, 1958 Chevy Cameo pickup driven 1.3 miles — secured the largest bid at $140,000. Another bidder spent $97,500 on a red and white 1963 Impala with 11.4 miles on its odometer, the manufacturer's plastic on the seat and a yellow typewritten window sticker displaying its original price: $3,254.70.
Lyle Buckhouse, a retired farmer from Hankerson, N.D., poked his head Saturday into a 1963 Chevy Corvair with 17.2 miles on the odometer. Moments later, the self-proclaimed "Corvair guy" was hunting eagerly for the bidder-registration tent.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Buckhouse said. "That's why I came down here. You just don't know what you're going to see."
Bob Esler, the owner of Bob's Garage in Westfield, Ind., bought a four-door 1964 Bel Air station wagon for $30,000. The car had 326 miles.