Monday, April 21, 2014
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
This family photo which was provided by Jeannie Stillwell, daughter of Ray Lambrecht of the Lambrecht Chevrolet car company in Pierce, Neb., shows Mildred Lambrecht, wife of Ray, and their son Mark in a brand new 1953 Corvette, in front of the dealership.
The most valuable vehicles were stored for decades at a nearby warehouse, until a heavy snow collapsed the roof. Some were damaged, but many were saved and moved elsewhere. And the models at the dealership are among the best preserved, even as the building gave way to bats and holes in the roof.
The rest of the cars sat under trees at a nearby farm the Lambrechts owned, in the company of trade-in vehicles he didn't want to resell. Years passed, and trees started to poke through fenders and rusted pickup beds. The dealership's longtime mechanic lived on the farm, but when he died, his family moved away. Vandals and thieves pounced.
Ray and his wife, Mildred, retired in 1996. Ray, 95, and Mildred, 92, live in town, but the couple's health has declined. They decided to sell the collection so others could enjoy the cars and pickups, Stillwell said.
News of the auction enthralled the vintage car community, where rumors have swirled for years about a quirky Nebraska dealer who held on to his old vehicles. Nowadays, most classic cars have new paint jobs, interiors and engines. A true "survivor" has most, if not all, of its original material.
"This kind of stuff is absolutely the rarest of the rare," said Mark Gessler, president of the Historic Vehicle Association in Gaithersburg, Md. "You can see plenty of cars that have been restored. We want to ensure that we're celebrating the original craftsmanship, the original technique. It's a touchstone of our past."
The low-mileage cars and pickups will likely generate the greatest interest from collectors, who view them as works of art to be displayed, said Jay Quail, executive director of the Chicago-based Classic Car Club of America. Quail said he often sees old cars on eBay billed as classics, even though they're refurbished.
"I'd look at it and think, 'My God, it would have been worth way more if you just hadn't touched it,'" Quail said. "It's like having a Picasso in your garage. Collectors will pay for a car that's totally unmolested."
At the same time, Quail said it's difficult to savor a barely-driven beauty.
"As a collector, do I just want to have the car sit?" he said. "If I bought a '63 Corvette with only one mile on it, I don't think I'd enjoy it very much. You couldn't drive it."